To What Extent Do You Agree That Alexander II Put Russia On The Path To Revolution

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To What Extent Do You Agree That Alexander II Put Russia On The Path To Revolution?

One of the most significant phases of Russian history, the period surrounding the Russian Revolution of 1917, can arguably be seen as a direct result of the rule of Alexander II.  Alexander is well known for attempting to develop Russia through a number of reformatory policies, however, the effects of these reforms can be seen as creating a situation where revolution became inevitable.  Of these, the Emancipation of the Serfs can be seen as a vital aspect of the debate, and Alexander’s increasingly repressive nature can also be seen as an important factor.  The examination of policies such as this is crucial to establishing both whether or not Alexander II put Russia on the path to Revolution, and if so, which of these factors was the most significant.

The Emancipation of the Serfs is arguably Alexander’s most important measure; however its success has been greatly disputed.  In the words of Westwood, Alexander felt that “it would be better for serfdom to be abolished from above, rather than from below”.  He was aware that if something was not done to improve the plight of the peasants there was a chance that they would become hostile towards the tsarist regime.  The resultant changes made by Alexander were, although good in intention, by no means the perfect and ultimately left many, and not just the peasants, critical of the regime.  Despite the fact that feudalism had been abandoned in the late middle ages by the majority of European states, however, Russia remained firmly entrenched in the system and so can be seen as one of the key reasons for Russia’s sever backwardness.  In order to modernise Russian industry (the textiles, armaments and other military industries in particular), Alexander II the second felt that the Emancipation of the Serfs was essential.  In doing so, Alexander was constructing a situation which would ultimately lead to the downfall of the tsarist regime.  By industrialising Russia and improving the lot of the masses, he was sowing the seeds foe long-term unrest.  Added to this, the fact that the emancipation had not been a straightforward affair further worsened the situation.  The peasants were not freed; in essence, they had to buy their freedom through the payment of exceptionally long-term mortgages, known as redemption payments.  Accompanied with the social and economic reforms of Witte and Stolypin, industry was able to improve, and there are many examples of booming industrial cities. On the face of it, this can be seen as successful in achieving its initial goal.  However, the industrial unrest that this created can be seen as a much deeper problem for the Tsars, and one that can be arguably be seen as crucial in putting Russia on the road to industrial unrest. The peasants had long been radicalised, and now the cities were starting to follow this trend.  Leading figures such as Viktor Chernov, Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov were extremely successful in the great cities of the Russian Empire; moderate political parties were the exception.  It is beginning to become clear that there were a number of important effect that the Emancipation of the Serfs produced, and a number of these can arguably be seen as putting Russia on the path to revolution.  By boosting the economy and greatly enhancing Russian infrastructure, Alexander was making a situation of industrial unrest a great possibility in the years to come.  As well as this, the success of the Emancipation can be seen as an important aspect.  If the policy had been completely successful, the unrest that resulted could arguably have been avoided.  As it is, the dissatisfaction that resulted from the policy’s failure can ultimately be seen as firstly causing the October Revolution, and secondly the eventual Revolution which gripped Russia in 1917.

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Leroy-Beaulieu’s assertion that “the emancipation was followed by numerous reforms, administrative, judicial, military, even financial; yet all these reforms, prepared by different commissions subject to rival or hostile influences, were undertaken in isolation, in an incomplete manner, without coherence and without a definite plan” is a particularly critical view of Alexander’s efforts.  On the other hand, Westwood offers a much complimentary view of Alexander’s reign through his assertion that “with the possible exception of Khrushchev, no Russian ruler brought so much relief to so many of his people as did Alexander II, autocratic and conservative tough he was.”  On ...

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