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Why and with what consequences did Alexander II adopt more reactionary policies in the 1860s?

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Luciana Machado 11.11.04 IB History - HL Why and with what consequences did Alexander II adopt more reactionary policies in the 1860s? There is no doubt that Alexander II wanted to reform Russia and also that his goals were achieved to a certain extent. However, the key to understanding why the Tsar adopted more reactionary policies in the 1860s is to first access which policies these were and what events led to the need for more intransigent guiding principles. The development of local government was one of Alexander's typical reforms. At the moment of his accession there was effectively no elected local government and he felt that this lack contributed significantly to his administrative inefficiency, thus requiring a remedy. In 1850, whilst examining the terms of emancipation, many nobles from the Tver province went too far in new tsar's sight as they called for an independent judiciary, local form of government independent from bureaucracy. The spokesperson for the nobles was soon sent to exile. Another attempt happened in 1862; however, Alexander was not ready to neither tolerate a national assembly nor open a debate for that matter. Despite these events, he was still determined to reform the local government. In 1864, the government brought upon a measure of self-government in local affairs, called Zemstvas. Alexander II recognized the need for a reform but did not want to give power to the people, thus fearing a revolution organized by the under masses. ...read more.


The years preceding the reforms of Alexander II were ones marked by violence and terror, and to impel this feeling of concern, in 1863, a brutal revolution broke out in Poland. The Polish Revolt led to a growth of nationalistic feelings and a decline in radicalism, nonetheless representing a serious hazard to Russian autocracy. Reforms in the area of Education were also well achieved during Alexander II's reign. Until 1861, there was strict and repressive control, however, the Tsar appointed Golvonin as Minister of Education. Freedom of expression was permitted to a certain extent, which although benefited scholars and students, became the ideal breeding grounds for radicals and revolutionaries. It didn't take much time for a radical action to occur, as in 1866, a former student of Kazan University attempted to assassinate the Tsar. Alexander's reaction however, was understandably reactionary as he replaced Golvinin with Dmitri Tolstoy as the new Minister of Education. Tolstoy nonetheless, did have a great impact in educational areas. He established a far more 'classical' curriculum in the secondary schools, placing great emphasis on the study of Greek, Latin, and mathematics. Other reactionary responses were the restricted entry to Universities as well as also giving power to the Ministry to dictate the curriculum in schools and to control appointments. There was an uneasy balance being struck between progressive liberal initiatives and a desire to maintain autocracy. ...read more.


The Tsar became even more shocked with such movements, but the revolutionaries, had not yet actually succeed as due to reactionary responses from Alexander, these actions were contained by force, if needed. In 1878, another case that alarmed the Tsar was the one of Vera Zasulich. She was a revolutionary who shot and wounded General Theodore Trepov, military governor of St. Petersburg, after he ordered the flogging of a political prisoner, who was an associate of Zasulich. At her trial a sympathetic jury found her not guilty. Fleeing before she could be rearrested and retried, she became something of a hero to the populists. While she was against the terror campaign that would eventually lead to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, the incident incited more violence, and led to harsher policies by the government. The State immediately announced that all cases of 'resistance to the authorities, rebellion, assassination or attempts on the lives of officials', would from then on be dealt with by special courts. After two assassination attempts, one in 1867 and another in 1879, Alexander saw the new need to restructure the Third Section. This Russian Secret Police had to be stronger as the increasing violence was not being well dealt with. Reorganization in the Third Section meant more reactionary actions. Not only the Third Section, but all of Russia had to be dealt with extreme caution, as revolutionary roots were spreading. Such reactionary policies, however, were not enough to impede the successful assassination attempt of Alexander II in 1881. ...read more.

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