Why did Alexander II decide on a policy of reform in Russia?

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Defeat in the Crimean War showed up the need for c

  • ·         Russia was economically backwards. This was shown by the lack of money available after the war.
  • ·         Military weakness. Had no rail transport, submarines or armoured ships.
  • ·         2/3 of Russian soldiers died of starvation before they reached the battlefield.
  • ·         1 musket for each 2 soldiers. They were horribly underequipped.

The army was shown to be weak. They were lacking in technology which would've enabled them to compete against modern powers.(eg. ineffective communications (lack of electric telegraphs). There was also an outbreak of uprising by peasants who weren't happy about being forced into the army.

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Alexander II had a relatively liberal upbringing t

  • ·         Witnessed first-hand some of the problems that Russia faced. He'd travelled extensively around Russia.
  • ·         Teacher was a liberal romantic poet (Vasily Zhukovsky)
  • ·         Exposed to Western ideas through his travelling during his education.

His upbringing and personal observation of Russian struggles will have pulled him towards reform. He will have been influenced more so by the western influences he had during his education.

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There was growing pressure for reforms

  • Members of the intelligentsia such as Alexander Herzen wrote persuasively about the need for reform.
  • Serfdom was easily blameable for Russia’s weaknesses, especially in the Crimean war.
  • The country was yet to go through the same industrialisation as the west.

There was a rising belief in power to the working classes. People were also acknowledging Russia’s backwards economy and how they were lacking in agriculture and military technology.

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Change was necessary if Russia's economy was to gr

  • The population had doubled in the first half of the century and no matter how hard people worked, it wasn't enough to provide for all. Productivity levels remained the same which caused a crisis of supply.
  • Serfdom was widely seen as a political handicap as it prevented the development of modern methods. Serfs has no incentive to improve their methods as it wouldn't be a direct benefit for them.
  • Current systems weren't effective for landowners, who fell into debt trying to maintain tradition on a reduced income.

General recondition of Russia’s need to catch up with the West in order to reassert her great power. Many had recognised that serfdom was acting as a break to economic progress.

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Other things (Political considerations)

  • Despite his father’s authoritarian regime, he'd been unable to prevent the emergence of new social and political thought which led to "undercurrents of disloyalty".
  • Peasants unrest grew before the Crimean War. There had been more than 300 separate peasant risings plus the murders of landlords.
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