Tsarist Russia - Alexander II

What was Russia like in 1855?

  • Russia had just suffered two disaterous defeats in the Crimean war in October 1854 and at Inkerman in November 1854
  • This war showed Russia's miliatry and administrative inadequalities disrupted much needed trade through the Black Sea
  • General Dimitri Milyitin came to the view that the army needed modernised
  • Russia's lack of communication and railways was another reason for the faliure
  • War was concluded when the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1856

Alexander II came to the throne in March 1855, and these two defeats lead him to want a reform in Russia

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Why did Alexander II decide to emancipate the serf

Why would Alexander II make a good Tsar?

  • The Historian Kochan said, he was the best prepared heir the Russian throne ever had'
  • He had travelled widely in Russia and Europe
  • He had a strict military upbringing

Reasons for the emancipation

SocialThere was a growing number of problematic incidents caused by serf unrest

Economic - Sefdom was the prime cause of Russia's inefficiency 

Political - Russia's backwardness had been displayed during the Crimean war

Moral - There was a danger of revolt from the serf based army and the system was recieving growing critisism

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Terms of the emancipation

  • The serfs were free this ment they could marry who they wished, own property and buisnesses
  • The local mir was made responsible for paying the repemption taxes
  • The freed sefs had to pay back to the state, redeption taxes in 49 years, including interest at 6% and only when this was paid, they could have legal title of their land
  • The household sefs recieved no land, just their freedom
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Results of the emancipation


  • Providied a greater drive to the modernisation of the economy
  • Kulaks (rich peasants) increased the size of their land
  • Some landoweners were able to pay off dept because of compensation 


  • Peasants had to pay redemption payments for land which they regarded as theres before the emancipation and some did not get as much as before
  • Some peasants fell into dept and subsistance farming continueed
  • Controls of the mir ment the peasants did not have full civil rights
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Other reforms - Success


Military: As before the reform, Genral Dimitri Milyitin came to the view that the army needed modernised. This was brough about after the two disaterous defeats in the Crimean war. Military was improved by setting up army schools so everyone was getting trained properly. Corbral punishment was also stopped and conscription was reduced. Serice in the army was no longer a punishment

Emancipation: This evidently was a success as anything that would free the surfs would be deemed as a success. Not only this, but the emancipation also gave a boost to Russia's economy. It also allowed railways to be built in Russia which also gave a boost to the economy as well as increasing military might.

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Other reforms - Faliure


Local Government: The govermnet was sore as a Imperable government - all power including taxes and law, was still held with the Tsar and had no control over the police. No state was ever independant. People were given the impression that a National Assembly would be granted but was never given

Education: Tight controls remained over schools and universities which was started by Dmitrii Tolstoy. Church powers over ruled many schools, and more traditional subjects were taught.

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The reaction

  • On 4th April 1866, a pure Russian Dimitrii Karakazov attempted to assassinate the tsar which led to a reflection of what went wrong
  • The assassination attempts gave conservatives the ammunition to attack the reforms and liberal ministers were replaced. 
  • For example Golovin was replaced by Tolstory who made changes to education
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