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'To What Extent Did Tsar Alexander III's Reign Mark A Major Change From That Of His Father?'

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Introduction

Emma Sims 13SKL 'To What Extent Did Tsar Alexander III's Reign Mark A Major Change From That Of His Father?' The reign of Tsar Alexander II was one that demonstrated a great change in action, attitude and policy to that of his father, Tsar Alexander II, 'The Tsar Liberator.' Historians have long labelled Tsar Alexander II as a Liberal, reforming ruler and his son as a reactionary, oppressive heir to his legacy. Hingley argues that his thirteen years of reign were spent '...systematically destroying all of his father's work. The choice facing Tsar Alexander III when he ascended to the throne was a difficult one. There were two routes that he could follow: to continue the tentative steps that his father had made into reform or to back track into Conservatism in an attempt to strengthen the autocracy. By the time of his accession the Tsarevich had already been heavily influenced by his tutor, the ultra - conservative, Pobedonestov, and was thus firmly set against his father's policies concerning reform. This influence that Pobedonestov held continued into Tsar Alexander III's reign. Hite describes Pobedonestov; 'He believed that autocracy was the only possible basis of government for Russia and that Tsar Alexander II's reforms were criminal acts.' Van der Kiste describes Tsar Alexander III as '...never the most original of thinkers...' who was incredibly influenced by his mother's confessor Father Bashanov and the '...arch conservative...' Pobedonestov. It was Pobedonestov who impressed, so vigorously, upon the Tsarevich that reform was dangerous and should be prevented at all costs. ...read more.

Middle

Tsar Alexander III however kept to his repressive approach when dealing with the revolutionaries responsible for his father's death. Again, this marked a departure from the reign of Alexander II, with a very public showing of the Tsar's war against terrorism. Tsar Alexander III also ignored pleas from the liberals to treat the revolutionaries with deference. Tolstoy even wrote to the Tsar citing '...liberal indulgence...' as one of the reasons that terrorism had flourished and asking him to use '...Christian forgiveness...' against the extreme groups. Where Alexander II had recognised the great need for reform after the revelations that the Crimean War had brought, Alexander III saw the best means to deal with a situation or crisis was to employ reactionary measures. The measures that had been taken by his father on the morning of his death for the limited elected representation on official bodies to be charged with advising the Tsar on legislation are one such example. It was thought, and feared, by those such as Melikov that the reactionary Tsar would disavow these proposals immediately. However, to the surprise of many he ordered a series of ministerial conferences to discuss the proposals. Pobedonestov increasingly dominated these, and in the end he had scored a decisive blow against Liberalism. It would seem, like his father he could also be indecisive. The Tsar stated his resolve to uphold the autocracy: 'In our great grief God's voice bids us boldly take the helm of government, trusting in divine providence and believing in the strengths and truth of the autocratic power which we called upon to confirm and defend from all encroachments for the good of the people.' ...read more.

Conclusion

Tsar Alexander knew that Russia must avoid conflict, to be able to get on with the processes without interruptions or any unnecessary depletion of her reserves. The comparison between two Tsars of Russia, father and son is a natural one to make. However there are various and often contradictory interpretations of both Tsars and their reigns. It is this that makes it difficult to draw comparisons and distinctions between the two Tsars. However, it is safe to say that, in answer to the question, that there was indeed a great difference between the two reigns. Whereas Tsar Alexander II has been described by Mosse as '...a disappointing liberal...and an inefficient autocrat.' Tsar Alexander III is seen unequivocally as an autocrat, and has never been seen as a liberal. However, it is far too simplistic to merely state that they were polarised in the methods of reign. Tsar Alexander III embarked upon industrialisation, which, though he never meant it to be, can be seen as a reforming action. His father, had toyed with the idea of reform but had drawn back, appalled at what he had unleashed, desperately back tracking most of the reforms. His son finished this off for him. Yet, there is distinctive evidence to suggest that, just before his death he had planned a far-reaching reform. Melilikov was unable to persuade Tsar Alexander III of this though, and that legislation proved to be defunct. However, much as t is possible to draw some vague, if not tenuous comparisons between the two tsars it must be acknowledged that the reign of Tsar Alexander III marked a great change and movement away from that of his father, Tsar Alexander II. ...read more.

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