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"Was The Emancipation A Success?"

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Introduction

"Was The Emancipation A Success?" To emancipate is to set free, from legal, social or political restrictions. In this situation, the emancipation in question was regarding the end of 'Serfdom' - a sort of slavery binding the serf to their owner. A serf is an agricultural labourer who was tied to working on a particular estate. Although Russia had come to rely on serfs for labour and the economy, the serfs were holding Russia back. Serfdom presented a problem in that it obstructed free flow of labour. Therefore there were no modern methods in agriculture and Russia was falling behind the rest of Europe. Because of this the nobility found their estates were becoming less productive and the serf-owners themselves supposedly came to recognise the inefficiency of serfdom and the validity of criticism by Western liberal economists. Defeat in Crimea had shown that the army needed urgent reforms. ...read more.

Middle

The landowners opposed this idea. It was the serfs that brought them their income. It would also mean the partial end of the autocracy in Russia. Even so The Great Emancipation Statute was announced to the Russian people from pulpits throughout the country in February 1861. The Statute was both praised and criticised. There was civil unrest due to the shortcomings of the deal. There was no doubt about the reactions of the peasants. They were grievously disappointed. They could not believe that their beloved Tsar had not given them land along with freedom, that they would have to pay for holdings they had used so long. That some of them would have less land than they had as serfs, and that they would not be freed immediately. The arable land which the freed peasantry had to rent or buy was valued at about double its real value (342 million roubles instead of 180 million); yesterday's serfs discovered that, in becoming free, they were now hopelessly in debt. ...read more.

Conclusion

The redemption money therefore, in many cases, went to pay off existing debts. By 1905 the nobles owned 40 per cent less land than in 1861, mainly perhaps because they found their estates unprofitable and slowly sold off land to their peasants and others. The limited success of the Emancipation Edict proved to many that the Tsar's government was simply not capable of meeting the needs of ordinary Russians. It had in fact caused more revolutionary and terrorist activity. Agricultural methods were no more advanced and the nobles were no more financially well off, indeed it was frequently the opposite, than before. There was a strong reform in that the Emancipation set in motion an unforeseen and irreversible chain of events that forever altered the landscape of Russian life, but the actual immediate effects of the Emancipation and the way that the people received it, was not good. The freedom that the serfs had dreamed of was not realised and Russia did not achieve what it needed. Therefore, in general the Emancipation was not a success. ...read more.

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