In the 19th Century, Russia had no zemstva, very little education,
industry and railway building, a biased judicial system and very few
freed peasants. Czar Alexander II, who succeeded Nicolas I in 1855,
went some ways to remedying these deficiencies through a series of
reforms. Alexander II became the great modernizer of Russia, walking a
delicate line between preserving Russia's Slavic identity and enabling
its people to benefit from Western advancements. For this reason he
was known to some as the ‘ Czar Liberator’. However, indeed he was a
liberator in name only.
Alexander II initiated substantial reforms in education, the
government, the judiciary and the military. In 1861, he proclaimed the
emancipation of about 20 million privately held serfs. It has been
described as "the greatest social movement since the French
Revolution" and constituted a major step in the freeing of labour in
Russia. Yet at the same time, it helped to undermine the already
shaken economic foundations of Russia's landowning class. The Czar
abolished a Russia tradition, the serfdom, which symbolizing class
struggle and feudalism. This was a very great step forward in the
modernisation of Russia.
Reforms of local government were closely followed emancipation. Russia,
for the first time, was given a judicial system that in important
respects could stand comparison with those of Western countries. In
1864, most local government in the European part of Russia was
organized into provincial and districts Zemstva, which were made up of
representatives of all classes and were responsible for local schools,
... middle of paper ...
...tion i.e. the secret
police set up by Nicolas I, with more arrests, imprisonment and exile
to Siberia. Czar Alexander II became even more conservative.
To conclude, the keynote of these reforms — and there were many lesser
ones affecting various aspects of Russian life — was the modernization
of Russia, its release from feudalism, and acceptance of Western
culture and technology. Their aim and results were the reduction of
class privilege, humanitarian progress, and economic development.
However, Alexander II was not a whole-hearted reformer. He used the
reforms to consolidate the Czardom, instead of catering the needs of
people, this could be clearly revealed by the abolition of serfdom,
returned of the reactionary rule and no any further serious reform.
Therefore, Alexander II could hardly called ‘Czar Liberator’.
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