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How far did the reforms of Alexander the Second popularise Tsardom?

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Introduction

How far did the reforms of Alexander the Second popularise Tsardom? This essay will focus on the reforms of Alexander the Second. The desire for reform was huge amongst the discontent Russian people. Nicholas had made a few reforms, particularly in the region of serfdom. Apart from the more remembered reforms banning the auction of serfs and the splitting of families, he also introduced reforms in the 1840s allowing a few hundred families freedom. However considering there were 22 million privately owned serfs in Russia at this time it shows the ineffectiveness of his reform and his more reactionary than reformist attitude. Alexander inherited a country on the verge of defeat in the Crimea; a country isolated in Europe; and which was dangerously weak. Politically Russia had an autocracy, unlike most of Europe, which survived largely due to the uneducated masses and the repression of any western thinking. Socially and economically Russia was hugely backward, particularly when compared to the industrialising European powers, with serfdom as a root of these problems. The major reform that Alexander is remembered for is the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861. In effect this reform freed all state and privately owned serfs. The emancipation was introduced as at the time Serfdom was becoming socially unacceptable both within Russia and internationally where serfdom was seen as a blot on Russia's reputation. ...read more.

Middle

The system was also only slowly introduced with only 43 of 70 provinces having a Zemstvo by 1914. The next logical reform was of the legal system. The old system, which operated like the witchcraft trials in Europe with a conclusion made almost before the trial itself, was abolished and in the new system defence councils were allowed. Judges were better trained and paid and were not removable from office by the government. Lower courts were established to replace the serf owner as local magistrate, but these still operated outside the new system. These reforms however were seen as the most thorough of the reforms, with the JP courts finally giving the poor a fair hearing. The most bizarre of the reforms made were the combined tempering of censorship and the introduction of autonomy for the universities. The introduction of autonomy of the universities allowed growth of the Russian intelligentsia, which would allow for growth of the middle and entrepreneurial classes having the effect of boosting the economy. There was also an expansion in primary and secondary education, with bias against poor students reduced. From 1865 the press were allowed to discuss government policy, which meant that there was a growth in educated public opinion. This increase was due in part to the growth in the number of educated people, and therefore and increase in those who would be potentially critical of Tsardom. ...read more.

Conclusion

It was also the only major reform, which did little to weaken the Tsars authority. The emancipation was a reform, which was socially and economically necessary. Although it freed the peasants from their original masters, most remained tied to the land or the mir, meaning the reform did little to popularise Tsardom as little changed. The Zemstva allowed the peasants somewhere to complain to nearer than the corrupt central bureaucracy, but voting power was in the hands of the Lords, so the peasants had little say in a system that had minimal impact on their lives. The reform of the legal system was the best thought out and made the peasants lives much easier, this was a reform that did improve public opinion of the tsar. The tempering of censorship and introduction of autonomy for the universities was a reform that was a huge risk, it had the effect of making people aware of the other ideas circulating in Europe and also allowed criticism of the Tsar, which lead to negative public opinion and ultimately repression. The change in attitude worked while it lasted, particularly in Finland, making the Tsar a more popular ruler than before. As said above the reform of the military was one of the few that posed no threat to the Tsars position. The reforms that the Tsar made had several effects, but overall did little to popularise Tsardom in the state it was, particularly in the light of a growing intelligentsia. ...read more.

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