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How successful was Alexander II in transforming Russian Society

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How successful were Alexander II's reforms in transforming Russian Society? Despite being donned 'The Great Reformer' by various historians, there are two sides to the opinion of Alexander II. Although he emancipated the serfs, brought about military, government, judicial, educational, censorship, economic and church reforms, society was unsatisfied. E. Radzinsky, author of 'Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar' suggested that he was 'two-headed', with one head for reform, the other for the past, which may be proven in his retracting of reforms due to fear of how much power the people of Russia were acquiring, yet in terms of transforming society, through change and modernising, he was successful. In 1861, just 6 years after coming to power, Alexander II emancipated the serfs. Such an action was revolutionary, yet he was not without his reasons. He assured a group of Moscow noblemen that "it is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below". The Ukase meant serfs were free men, they could marry, create businesses, have rights and own property without need of approval from the landowner who previously owned them. They could keep the land they previously farmed and the landlords received compensation from the loss of land. This was a huge undertaking, to completely change the Russian system of serfdom, and it brought about enterprise and the seeds of modernisation. ...read more.


Mikhail von Reutern, the Minister of Finance from 1862 - 1878 ensured there were taxes, budgets and a watch on government spending. Tax-farming was abolished, whilst banks were allowed credit facilities. Subsidies were spread to encourage the creation of railways and foreign investment in Russia was encouraged. The mining and cotton industries also thrived and national growth did too. This was a big step towards modernisation, exports meant industry and railways meant transport, which also assisted the moving of modern military weapons and soldiers, Russia was moving forward. Ttaxation was fairer now, and that idea of equality spread to the judicial system. In 1864, Dmitrii Zamyatnin modelled a new system on western ideas. There were different types of courts, Volost courts to deal with emancipation, minor offences and the like, with judges who were elected unbiased peasants. The judges were paid more, which meant there was less corruption in the system, and careers in law began to emerge with the greater education system. Open courts meant the public could view sentencing and be deterred from crime, and the press were free to document court cases. Surprisingly, the issue that triggered many reforms such as economic and the emancipation due to the shame in Crimea was the last to be brought about. The military reforms began in 1874, a while after the defeat.. ...read more.


The Ministry of Internal Affairs also still held the right to fine and prevent some publications in the media. The Military reforms were not without drawbacks either. Illiterate peasants (of which there were still vast numbers, despite the spread of education) could not benefit from the new training, and officers were still largely the product of nepotism. The army was still in essence peasant conscription and despite the railways, supply was far from perfect, as the trains were slow to develop and spread. Alexander II, the man with whom Queen Victoria herself fell in love with, the 'tsar liberator' and the man who transformed a system that had not changed for 300 years was certainly 'the great reformer'. He revolutionised almost every aspect of Russian society, and despite the fact that it may not have lasted, he still managed to begin modernisation for Russia. He could never satisfy the whole country. Before his death, there were many attempts on his life, and many were close. But he brought about greater equality, rights and hope. He showed the Russian people that change was possible, and strengthened the economy. Even though he grew scared of the nationwide liberation, the Loris-Melikov constitution is proof enough that he didn't want the country to stay oppressed. Even on the day he was killed, he tried to transform Russia. ?? ?? ?? ?? ISABELLE NICOL - 6PSS - HISTORY September 24, 2011 1 ...read more.

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