Alexander II deserved the epithet Tsar Liberator', how far do you agree with this statement?

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‘To liberate’ means to set free from imprisonment or bondage and from social and economic constraints or discrimination. Alexander II is known as the ‘Tsar Liberator’ due to the emancipation of the serfs that took place during his reign and because of the many more liberal reforms he brought about, for example in the army and within education. He introduced a programme of reforms that was undoubtedly the most radical and far reaching of any attempted by a previous Tsar or a European government in the 19th century. However, a profound paradox ran through this programme. While it introduced a degree of personal and legal freedom previously unknown in Russia, it did so by an act of the monarch’s autocratic will.  It can be argued that his motives were not so noble or moral. The reforms did not achieve the anticipated results and were unsuccessful in combating the problems of the peasants.

Russia’s humiliating defeat at the Crimean war in 1855 was one of the most important factors for the introduction of the Edict of Emancipation. No longer could Russia hold her head high like she had done for the previous hundred and fifty years. There was little morale, and they did not keep up with military advances that were achieved by the British and the French. Alexander II was made more aware by the Crimean war of the faults in social and governmental systems of Russia. The early months of Alexander’s reign saw an unparalleled degree of discussion in intellectual, noble and administrative circles, and an unusual consensus in favour of change. The peasantry, too was in a state of unusual agitation. Under these pressures Alexander may appear less as a far-sighted reformer than as a dutiful ruler forced to confront challenges of great complexity.

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Alexander’s motives for granting emancipation are questionable.  There were many motives behind the edict of emancipation, that show that liberating the serfs was not the priority of the edict, indeed it was also seen as a way of strengthening the Tsar’s autocracy. Serfdom was seen as a threat to the stability of the country. As Alexander II himself remarked:  “It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for a time when it begins to abolish itself from below”. The Tsar was also motivated by his desire to benefit his noble supporters rather than the serfs. His motives ...

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