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To what extent did the emancipation of the serfs in Russiain 1861 improve the lives of the serfs?

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To what extent did the emancipation of the serfs in Russia in 1861 improve the lives of the serfs? "The grant of individual freedom and a minimum of civil rights to twenty million people, previously in bondage, was the greatest single liberating measure in the whole modern history of Europe." (MS Anderson) In 1861 the serfs or Russia were freed from what many people may class as slavery. The serfs had no basic human rights and were required to do whatever their landowner told them. However, some say the serfs didn't have such a bad life as some people make out and one the serfs were freed they actually got a good deal as opposed to others imp-lying they were tricked out of money and land. The quote from MS Anderson shows this point of view. The actual edict of emancipation is another thing that people think differently of. Some considered it to be a monumental achievement, highly generous of the Russian government, especially at this time. Others considered it to be a limited and useless act and not worth the paper it was written on. ...read more.


He had been handed Russia from his father Nicholas I. The national debt was high, the army was inefficient - both in its operations and structure, central administration was poor and riots from villages had spread across the country. There are many theories as to why Tsar Alexander II introduced the Edict of emancipation. Some say he did it to improve the economy as serfdom was considered to be preventing the modernisation and development or Russia. For example, the army couldn't be improved or expand because the serfs needed the land. Also the legal system couldn't be reformed, industrialisation was being prevented and education couldn't be extended. Without emancipating the serfs Russia would not be able to return to being one of the great powers as it once was. As Kavelin said "Russia is condemned to fossilise." The most probable reason for the emancipation of the serfs was that Tsar Alexander II did it to save his own neck. There was increasing rioting spreading amongst the villages across Russia and with growing unrest amongst 50 million peasants (a high percentage of the Russian population) Alexander could have been in fear of a revolution. ...read more.


This was an organised village community who had several responsibilities. They were responsible for collecting redemption payments and paying them to the government and also paying taxes. The Mir could issue or withhold a peasant's passport, redistribute land considering the sizes of families and decide on the whole villages' crop rotation. In some ways the Edict of emancipation helped to improve the lives of the serfs. It gave them freedom from their landowners, rights to own land, get married to whoever they liked and they couldn't be bought or sold. This would have improved their lives dramatically, the only thing I think that would have been seen as a major downside were the redemption payments. These were not only unexpected, but they left the peasants in debt for 49 years and they were paying over the land value in most circumstances. However considering the circumstances and the time I do think that the peasants were given a very generous package. They were given land and freedom. The government had basically ensured that the peasants would not have to live in slums or be homeless; they were basically taking care of the peasants' welfare. In America when slaves were freed (a similar situation) all they were given was their freedom, not any money or land. So in comparison the peasants were treated well by the Russian government. ...read more.

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