Alexander II is sometimes called the Tsar Liberator. Is this an accurate interpretation of his reign?

Authors Avatar

Alexander II is sometimes called the Tsar Liberator.

Is this an accurate interpretation of his reign?

Serfdom was on the verge of being eliminated in Western Europe by 1848. However in comparison to Western Europe, Russia was the only European state yet to emancipate or attempt to emancipate its Serfs, this represented the backward nature of Russian society. However Serfdom was engraved in the Russian hierarchal society hence the reason for which serfdom was still present in Russia during the mid 19th century. Nevertheless by 1861 the emancipation statutes of the Serfs had finally been issued.

How was it that despite there being hostility from the gentry and nobility to the destruction of Serfdom and the centrality of which Serfdom had in Russian society, was Emancipation of the Serfs able to occur in 1861.   Did the emancipation of the Serfs take place due to Alexander II humanitarian concerns and sympathy towards Serfdom or was the emancipation of the Serfs an attempt for Russia to grow economically as well as politically in an attempt to retain its world status?

These questions have been debated as many historians argue that the reasons for the Serfs being emancipated were due to economical, political, military and moral concerns.

Russia during the mid 19th century was economical stagnated in comparison to countries such as Britain who saw a great economic boom through the industrial revolution, which consequently saw the boom of railways across Britain. Many educated Russians read the work of Scottish economist “Adam Smith” who argued that free wage labour was more productive than forced serf labour. This was significant as it reflected the Russian economy at the time whereby there was a low productivity of serf labour. Nobles were said to find it extremely difficult to extract from their serfs the resources needed to support their Westernised lifestyles. Hence it was argued that Serfdom was an inefficient way of using labour and as a result Russia’s agriculture would stagnate and so would the entire Russian economy. An aspect which Russia could not afford to allow as Russia was already in a debt of 54 million roubles by 1855, hence the government could not allocate any finance towards areas such as military which needed severe reforming and modernisation as was made evident through the huge defeat in the Crimean War.

Join now!

Moreover the serf owners would exploit serf labour to produce cheap grain for the market. However due the lack of transportation in Russia, serf owners were forced to sell produce at local markets instead of the bigger markets causing prices for produce to be very low which in affect effecting the economical growth of Russia. Instead as is quoted in “the advantage of free labour in theory”, Tsar Alexander II should have encouraged peasants to become petty entrepreneurs and it was not wrong to suppose that once the Serfs became free they would be lazy, instead they would work even ...

This is a preview of the whole essay