Emancipation of the Serfs

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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 12-09-14 15:05

Alexander II

  • Prepared for the role of Tsar by his father
  • Well planned education
  • Widly travelled man
  • Strict millitary upbringing
  • Had a depth of knowledge about Russia's problems as he served on committees
  • Humane and sensitive person - more than his father
  • Strong belief in autocracy 
  • Patriotic, religious and conservative
  • Desired real change in Russia
  • Known as the 'Tsar Liberator' - due to the amount of reforms he introduced
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Problems at the Start of his Reign

The Crimean War

  • Humiliating defeat highlighted that Russia was miles behind modern European powers
  • Russia had not changed much since 1812
  • Difficulty in ending the war and clear threat of future attack 
  • Real changes was needed
  • Russian communications were woeful
  • Munitions industries inadequate
  • Administration was corrupt and ineffective
  • Discontent had spread in all classes

Alexander II brought in a number of important reforms, the most notable being the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861

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Reasons for Emancipation

1) The Crimean War - Russia was economically backward and soldiers equipment was inadequate. The army could not be reorganised until the question of serfdom was addressed

2) Personal Reasons - Alex was a humane man and had studies the problem of serfdom

3) Moral - There was a growing criticism of the immorality of the system

4) Peasant Unrest - This was growing

5) Economic - Stopped developing private enterprise, growing small amount of private emancipation, increasing famine, railway was needed

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Key Provisions

Land - all non state land belonged to nobles, serfs had to buy land they worked on. Peasants lost rights to woods and commons, domestic serfs not given land.

Personal - Peasants no longer owened by lords. Free to marry, trade, work as pleased. No longer forced to work or give money to lords

MIR (village commune) - power strenghened. Took over lords roles ie tax collection. Collectivly owned peasant land and collection of redemption payment. Had to agree if peasants wanted to leave.

Compensation and Finance - Lords compensated for land losses and peasants had to pay redemption payments. 

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Effects of Emancipation


  • The peasants were diappointed over the terms of emancipation.
  • 647 riots in the first four months
  • Peasants still had special courts and no full citizen rights
  • Gentry lost a third of their land
  • Massive population rose put pressure on the land

Military - Series of military reforms trained peasant reserve army was now possible


  • Key step to a capitalist economy encouraged the growth of railway, banking, industry and cities
  • Mir restriced the flow to the town
  • Agricultural production was not revolutionised
  • No natural surplus, quarter of farms not self sufficient

Political - Gentry resisted change and they lost power over serfs so demanded political power.

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