Alexander II

  • Created by: loupardoe
  • Created on: 13-09-18 13:34

the russian autocracy by 1855

the political context

the tsar

  • 1855- russia was an autocratic empire
  • at its head was a Tsar- took the title of 'Emperor and Autocrat of all Russia
  • 'Collected Laws of the Russian Empire', Tsar Nicholas I, 1832- 'The Emperor of all the Russias is an autocratic and unlimited monarch; God Himself ordains that all must bow to his supreme power, not only out of fear but also out of conscience'

the church

  • the Tsar was in name only the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church
  • was regarded by Orthodox believers as the embodiment of God on Earth
  • the vast lands of the Russian Empire were his private property
  • the Russian people were his childrne
  • Russians were taught to show devotion to their Tsar and accept their conditions on Earth as the will of God
  • the Patriarch of Moscow provided spiritual guidance
  • the Over-Procurator of the Holy Synod- government minister appointed by the Tsar to run church affairs
  • the structures of Church and State were entwined
  • archbishops and bishops at the head of the church hierarchy were subject to tsarist control over appointments, religious education, finances and issues of administration

the government

  • the Tsar's imperial edicts were the law of the land
  • the Tsar did have advisors and ministers- these were all chosen by the Tsar; no-one could do anything without the Tsar's approval
  • the Imperial Council, Chancellery- body of 35-60 nobles specially picked by the Tsar to advise him personally and provide their 'expert' opinion
  • council of ministers- body of 8-14 ministers in charge of different government departments
  • senate- supposed to oversee all the workings of government; largely redundant by 1855
  • Tsar and central government were based in the Imperial capital St Petersburg
  • regime depended on the provincial nobility for support
  • nobles hadn't been obliged to serve the State since 1785
  • many continued to do so
  • sense of obligation remained strong
  • all landowners were expected to keep order on their estates
  • tsars might choose to appoint a special committee to carry out an investigation or prepare a report
  • usually headed by trusted nobles
  • no need for the tsar to take any notice of their findings

the civil service

  • civil servants who made up the bureaucracy were paid noble officials selected from a table of ranks that laid down the requirements for office
  • 14 levels
  • rank 1- members of the Council of Minsiters
  • rank 14- covered the minor state positons e.g. collecting taxes
  • each rank had its own uniform, form of address and status
  • riddled by internal corruption and incompetence
  • orders were passed downwards from the central government to the provincial governors and to district governers and town commandants
  • one way operation
  • no provision for suggestions to travel upwards from the lower ranks


  • Tsar had the world's largest army at his disposal- 1.5 million conscripted serfs; forced into service for 25 years; made to live in a military colony
  • much smaller navy
  • absorbed 45% of the government's annual spending
  • higher ranks of the miltary were…


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