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'Only Alexander II's policies made significant progress in avoiding revolution in Russia.' How valid is this comment on the government of Russia 1855 - 17?

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Introduction

'Only Alexander II's policies made significant progress in avoiding revolution in Russia.' How valid is this comment on the government of Russia 1855 - 17? It is perhaps rather limited to suggest that it was only the policies under Alexander II which improved Russia's chances of avoiding a revolution. While his policies can be seen as appeasing the most liberal of opposition, in which case avoiding revolution, in the same instance they unknowingly pushed Russia's current system closer to one. The policies created the landless proletariat, which would eventually undermine the key industry of Russia, namely agriculture, as people left the land for work in industrial cities necessitated by the need to keep up with industrialisation in other European countries. Furthermore the policies of Witte and Stolypin under Alexander III and Nicholas II cannot be discounted. Witte's help during the events of 1905 certainly was invaluable to the preservation of the tsarist regime and Stolypin's repression policies following 1905 were crucial in restoring order. Alexander II certainly had a liberal outlook on his role as tsar of Russia as once he took over the role in 1855 he immediately began to take steps towards emancipating the serfs. Moreover, once becoming tsar he also gave freedom of the press in 1958, further testament to his liberal approach. ...read more.

Middle

However, it seems that if the liberal ideas are tolerated in the long run this is going to bring about a revolution. Alexander III, who succeeded his father to the throne in 1881, abruptly changed policy. He took the exact opposite approach in attempting to help Russia's modernisation progress, whilst maintaining autocracy. Using Alexander II's approach meant that the there was risk of losing control of the reforms, thus the loss of autocracy, yet the conservatism approach taken by Alexander III meant Russia was in danger of grinding to a stand still and losing power. This method could also run the risk of angering the liberal minded into a seemingly inevitable revolution. Indeed, when Alexander III came to power he introduced what was called a New Conservatism. He did not reverse the reforms put in place but certainly did not encourage any more. Perhaps proof of the changing times in Russia is the fact that it would have simply been impossible for the reforms to be reversed. All that could be done, and certainly was done, was to simply make conservative amendments to the reforms of the 1860's. However, the idea of an autocracy is that it has ultimate rule and can put in place anything it wishes. ...read more.

Conclusion

In fact, his assassination seems to provide proof for this not against, as no revolution resulted due to his assassination. Alexander III and Nicholas II's conservatism approach seems to have worked less well, demonstrated by the mass protest in 1905. Witte however, managed to lengthen the life of tsarism for a little longer through his shrewd policies, but surely it was only a matter of time before the regime was ended. Judgement is slightly blurred though due to the intervention of WWI, which was the final straw for Nicholas II. Alexander II's controlled reform appears to have been more effective than New Conservatism's. However, though Alexander II's policies appear more successful than the no reform, yet forced industrialisation approach, they were ultimately wasted, as I believe he simply postponed the inevitable. He simply slowed down the process of revolution as for all Alexander II's liberal policies he never planned to abolish the tsarist regime. Many countries in Europe had been through a revolution earlier in the century and with a system of government as extreme as autocracy it seems inevitable one would have to occur. Furthermore, in modernising the country, of which few were in any doubt was essential, this bred new social groups, who, with desire for rights and opportunities were bound to challenge the current regime. Indeed with the rest of Western Europe enjoying such freedoms they would see hope for their ideas. The need for modernisation led to an unavoidable revolution. ...read more.

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