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"Alexander II transformed the lives of the peasants" How far do you agree?

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Introduction

?Alexander II transformed the lives of the peasants? How far do you agree with this view? Alexander II did introduce a number of reforms in terms of changing the lives of the serfs, which were quite revolutionary for that period of time. The serfs were a big aspect of Russia?s life as they made up approximately 90% of the population and it was in Alexander?s interest to modernise Russia and with this idea in mind he introduced the Emancipation Edict of 1861 which was, in essence, supposed to be a dramatic change and thus would mean agreeing with the statement. However, to say that Alexander transformed the lives of the peasants, that is to say he completely changed the lives of the peasants, is rather inaccurate and it could be argued that, although many aspects were reformed and dealt with, peasants were living in similar conditions from the beginning of the period to the end. Economically, there were times in the period of Alexander II?s reign that the peasants? lives did improve with the economic liberal Minister of Finance Michael Reutern who increased awareness of the government to promote economic development actively. ...read more.

Middle

Basically, the peasantry went from being under control from the landlords to the harsh hands of the Mir who made sure no peasant could emigrate unless all payments were made. Therefore, it seems clear that economically the peasants underwent no transformation as they shifted from one restriction to another, from the landlords to the Mir. A transformation to the peasants? lives was completely restricted by the Mir. It could be argued that, socially, Alexander II succeeded in transforming the lives of the peasants by abolishing serfdom and making the peasants genuine Russian citizens. They were now free and allowed to marry whomever they wished and were given decent civil rights: they were no longer ?owned souls? but normal people able to reach a better standard of living and this is evident with the kulak class who were a class of richer peasants. Education was also improved under Alexander II who realised the need for the serfs to be educated in order to fully achieve modernisation. On average, peasants farmed 20% less land than before Emancipation and they were also given a portion of arable land. ...read more.

Conclusion

There was a genuine lack of political freedom and since the peasants weren?t really being seen as equals and being exploited, there perhaps was no intention to create their representation anyway. It is clear to see that Alexander II was firm on keeping his autocratic powers and therefore, as a result, politically, there was hardly a transformation to the lives of the peasants. While there was a focus on industrialising and modernising Russia, and even though there were attempts at changing the lives of the peasants in order to so, it is evident to see that the peasants' lives were quite unchanged. In terms of economically and even socially, it seemed that the peasants had exchanged one master (the landlord) for another (the Mir) and no real freedom was given since redemption payments seemed to be more of a trap than a liberation as landlords could not bear to lose power. In essence, peasants, although having rid themselves of the title ?owned souls?, were not free and even though there were minor changes to the system of serfdom, a transformation was not achieved under Alexander II and therefore would mean to disagree with the statement. ...read more.

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