Alexander II did little to really improve the lives of the Russian people

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Alexander II was not as ignorant as Nicholas II – he realised that reform was necessary in order to stabilise and improve Russia. However, his inability to relinquish control as an autocratic power greatly inhibited the reforms he implemented; consequently reducing the effectiveness of his reforms and the improvements upon the lives of the Russian people.

A clear case of this is his most famous reform, the Emancipation of the Serfs. On the forefront, it seems as though it was a huge success and greatly improved the lives of the Serfs of Russia in giving them social freedom and land – however, digging deeper, it is clear that this happy image of freedom was merely an illusion. In the process of attempting to appease everyone, Alexander II forfeited the full extent of the improvements that the reform had to offer. This was mainly due to his fear of a rising proletariat state (economic self-sufficient peasants) – clearly remarked upon in Karl Marx’s ideas - reflecting his autocracy obsessed mind. Evidence of such forfeiting is shown by three measures the Tsar implemented within the legislation. The first was that there was to be a 2 year transition period which the Serfs had to maintain the same obligations as before, the second being that common land were given to major land-owners (in the hope of appeasing them) as otrezki – which meant that accessing these “cut off lands” required a fee, further fiscally robbing the peasants – and, probably the most deceitful measure, the peasants had to pay redemption payments to the government for 49 years (with 6% interest of course). Such measures greatly crippled the Serfs even more so than when they were in service to their owners! Furthermore, the fact that on average, peasant families now farmed 20% less than before the emancipation and household serfs came out of the emancipation with no land at all clearly exemplifies Alexander II’s lack of improvements for the Russian people.

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The creation of the zemstvo as new representative bodies for the people in 1864 may seem as a huge improvement for the lives of the Russian people – as do the Dumas set up in 1870; it is important to note that in larger cities, commandants ran the Dumas and only those who paid trade taxes or were on the property register were granted the vote, obviously meaning that the poor peasants (who made up the vast majority of the population) who couldn’t pay the trade taxes or own property, were not granted the right to vote, thereby dismissing their ...

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