The Reign of Tsar Alexander III - Russia

Notes on the reign of Tsar Alexander III 

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How successful was the reign of Alexander III?
Key Questions:
1. What problems did Alexander III face when he became Tsar?
2. How did Alexander deal with threats to Russian autocracy?
3. How far did Alexander bring about political and social change?
What problems did Alexander III have to deal with?
1. Alexander III faced problems keeping the large multiethnic empire together.
2. His father had begun a program of reform and it was expected that Alexander III would continue
He had no choice.
3. There was pressure from advisors to modernize and reform the Russian Empire ­ making it more
Western European.
4. Alexander III would be required to restore order, set Russia on the course of political, social and
economic stability. He had no idea of politics. Because his father was killed when he was young
and it was unexpected, he had no training and therefore no knowledge.
5. Legacy left by his father ­ the assassination had horrified Russian society and Alexander III had
never been involved in politics.
6. Alexander was not in favour of his father's modernization programme. He wanted a return to more
conservative ideas ­ absolution ruling ­ a dictatorship.
7. Radical thought's started to emerge in Russia. Many of the educated radicals believed that the only
way to modernize Russia would be to eradicate Tsarism to kill them off. These were extremists. To
get what they want, they have to be extreme.
8. The entire social and political system of the Russian empire was threatened by the prospect of
removing the Tsar.
9. Those who wanted reform in Russia varied from moderates to extremists ­ they all wanted different
types of reform. But they all wanted to change the political system.
10. Extremists like the `Peoples Will' were nihilists they just wanted to destroy the Tsar's rule and give
power to the people without a clear plan.
The Policies of Alexander III:
Alexander launched a programme of repression (removal of threats and opposition) in Russia.
Liberal ministers from his father's government were removed.
Russian Orthodox church gained a more prominent role under the leadership of Konstantin
Alexander III published a formula in April 1881 ­ it said political power resided with the Tsar.
It was decided that the `People's Will' would be destroyed in wake of the assassination.
Government would control the court system ­ they could arrest and put on trial political oppenents
without the help of a jury. Thousands were exiled to Siberia, where they would either die in the
extreme weather conditions or work in terrible conditions.
Press freedom was severely restricted ­ 14 major newspapers banned 188289 liberal tendencies.
(censorship came back massively).
Foreign books were rigorously censored by the Okhrana ­ the secret police.
Universities were strictly controlled ­ only the wealthy could attend & many lost their
selfgovernment. This was to stop peasants from going to university, so they raised tuition fees.
Extremists groups and the People's Will operated underground. An attempt was made to
assassinate Alexander III in 1887. The Okrhana arrested anyone linked to the plot.

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Many of the reforms passed by Alexander II were removed. The position of Land Captain was
introduced. This individual would ensure laws were enforced rather than a Justice of the peace.
Elections to the Zemstva (local government) were restricted. Doctors and teachers couldn't stand
from reelection.
Russia became the most repressive state in all of Europe. Radical ideas came from all of the hatred
of the idea of the rich running the courts etc.…read more


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