Alexander II 1855-1881

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Crimean War 1853-1856

  • At the time when Alexadner was appointed Tsar in 1855 the Crimean War was allready under way. 
  • It was assumed that russia would loose the war when the fort of Sevastapol was lost in September 1855 - a fort that 'couldnt be lost'.
  • Alexadner signed a peace treaty with Brittian and Fance in Paris, March 1856.

The failures of the Crieman War was the motivation for Alexander II to make reforms in the military. The battle of Alma (september 1854) was the first battle were Riffeled Muskets were used - however only by Brtitan and France. This gave the advantage to the allies along with there superior skill, numbers and innititivae. this allowed them to drive the Russans out of their strong position at Sevastopol.

At the battle of Balaclava in October 1845 a sucsefull operation that left the Russians so frightened by the cold courage of the Brittish troopers, they nevre again dared face them in open field combat. this battle was known as the brittish 'charge of the ligt brigade'. 

Alexander was fully aware that the disaster in the Crimea had to be addressed – Russia had to modernize. In the Crimean war every other man had a gun. The sheer size of the Russian army was not enough to defeat the enemy proper tactics had to be deployed.

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The Emancipation Edict 1861 (1)

Many Russians belived that serfdom needed to be abolished for Russia to truly modernise. The arguments for abolishing serfdom were as follows.

  • Serfdom stopped Russian industry growing as it restricted enterprise and the flow of labor
  • Serfdom prevented the modernisation of agriculture
  • The defeat in the Crimean war showed reform of the army was required. Serfs made up the majority of troops as once conscripted had to remain in the army for 25 years.
  • The numbers of revolts were rising.

In March 1856 Alexadner II stated

It is better to begin abolishing serfdom from above than wait for it to abolish itself from below’ 

Alexadner felt that if serfdom was abolished through the autocratic system then serfs wouldnt rise up in revolt but be loyal to the Tsar. 

In 1856 Alexander II set up a secret committe which would discuss the Emanicaption of serfs. But serfdom wouldn be abolished until 1861. 

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The Key Terms Of The Emancipation Edict (2)

The key terms of the emanicaption were;

  • Serfs were made free men. They could own land, travel and marry without interference
  • Serfs freed could keep their cottage and an allotment (the size depended upon the area of country)
  • Landowners would be compensated by the state for the land transferred to the freed serfs
  • Those freed had to pay a ‘redemption tax’ for 49 years with an interest of 6%. 

Although the serfs were now freed the emancipation edict in the short term was not totally successful in transforming the serfs lives for the better. As many serfs were worse off after being freed.

Land owners could keep the best land fro themselves and often the redemption tax placed upon freed serfs was at a higher rate than the value of land transferred to serfs. Often allotted areas of land for serfs were smaller than the land they worked on before the emancipation edict. 

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Local Government Reforms Alexander II

After the emancipation of the serfs, Russia was missing any sort of local government. Alexadner therfore appointed a commision in 1860 and by 1864 it was put into place under the name ZEMVSTVA. the zemvsta was a localsied assembly that helda  cetain edgree of power over local services and industry such as schooling. 

The zemvsta was an elected body of poeple of peasents, church members, townspeople and nobility. Howver in practise the nobility dominated the Zemvsta/

The creation of the zemvsta was significant as any degree of represenattion at a local level in a form of goverment seemed to be a step in the right direction for the modernisation of Russia, and a bette rlives for the emancpated serfs. 

 

Although the nobility dominated, the zemstvas creation was significant, as any degree of representation at local level in a form of government seemed to be a step in the right direction for the modernisation of Russia and a better change in the lives of freed serfs.

 

Alexander the second however wouldn’t approve of any suggestions of the delegates form the zemstvas forming any national assembly that could affect the autocratic power he held as tsar.

 

Although the creation of the zemstva was significant, alexander the second wanted to preserve his autocratic powers more than allowing the serfs any kind of political power.

 

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