Describing Tsar King Alexander II's Time in Power

Describing Tsar King Alexander II's Time in Power

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Describing Tsar King Alexander II's Time in Power

To a certain extent, Tsar King Alexander II was a false liberator,
however from closer examination, it is not clear cut and there are
strong arguments to suggest the contrary. The reasons for the view
that Alexander was a false liberator are that firstly, the Crimean war
saw Britain, France and Turkey dealt an unexpected and resounding
defeat to Russia, who until then was regarded as a superpower. This
therefore made change and reform inevitable? Secondly, his reforms
were limited in scope and therefore did not reform all that was needed
to be. Thirdly, and most importantly for the side for false liberation
is the fact that Alexander was simply trying to pacify his people. The
main points for Alexander being a liberator are that he made his
reforms for genuine reasons; he wanted to bring Russia inline with the
rest of Western Europe. Secondly His reforms were far reaching and he
did reform as much as he could under difficult circumstances. Finally
his reforms could be described as reactionary. During the course of my
essay I plan to weigh up the arguments, both for liberalism and false
liberalism and finally come to my own decision, explaining why I
believe he did what he did. Alexander II was 'isolated from his
people, unpopular with the educated and cut off from the bulk of
society…'

The Crimean war made Russia look like a 'has been' and a country
suffering from an era of no industrial advancement. Of course we all
know that the latter of the two statements were true, Russia was
falling ell behind the rest of Western Europeindustrially,
economically and in some regards socially. All the Crimean war did for
Russia was to show the Tsar these problems. Immediately Alexander
started to reform, he let the number of university places rise and
Nazimav project took place, allowing serfs their own land and lectures
were permitted. However slavery abolishment is hardly mind blowing in
its radical ness, people deserve freedom it is therefore just giving

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people a human right that was taken away from them, although the serfs
got land, they had to pay a sort of mortgage on it anyway so rent was
replaced with a mortgage. In fact only 50% of peasants made any sort
of profit anyway. This point could therefore be described as simply
attempting to pacify the people. As for the other point, surely
universities need to be allowed to give lectures as other wise how are
students supposed to learn. These reforms showed also show the
limitedness of his reforms. The 1861 emancipation of the serfs was
nothing more than a change in name for most, from serf to poverty
stricken peasants. Alexander cancelled tax bills, but to the many of
people who had arrears, it wouldn't make much difference if they had
to pay or not because they couldn't do so anyway. The Tar knew this
and so this reform could be described as a way of pacifying the many.
Many historians believe that even though Russia's largest social
group, peasants, who accounted for 135 million of 180 million
inhabitants of Russia, had no power in Russia in 1855 when Alexander
II came to the throne, it was a matter of time before they got a voice
and joined with the intelligentsia, workers and some of the left wing
parts of the military to make a quest for power of Russia. This is why
it is a common believe that Tsar Alexander's reforms were to pacify a
portentously life threatening group, and one who could change his, the
church and many of the nobilities way of life, which they didn't want,
which is why they were very right wing.

On the other side of the argument we have those who believe that Tsar
Alexander II was a liberator. If the Crimean war hadn't have taken
place many historians believe that the reforms would have occurred
anyway, Russia would have been crippled if it hadn't and no matter how
right wing one is, if change is the only way to survive, then change
will take place. Alexander knew that an educated people are a more
advanced people, and this is why he relaxed censorship, and allowed
papers to publish what they wanted. This allowed people to know the
truth and decide what they want, not what the government wanted to let
people know. He was also a where that reform was needed in industry,
and during his reign as Tsar, Russia's economy grew by four percent ,
due to reforms in industry. Alexander's reforms were far reaching, he
didn't reform just the lower class, and he passes the Universal
military act which meant the all men (including the nobility and
church) had to perform military service. This was not popular with the
upper classes as they did not want their sons to be in danger. This is
an example of the Tsar not passing reforms to 'pacify the people' and
it shows his reforms reached even the upper classes of Russia.
Alexander knew that he needed a stronger military and therefore needed
intelligent people in the military to make it a more efficient and
more effective fighting machine. This reform is one of the most
reactionary of the lot, he wanted Russia to be great, not for anyone
but for himself. He knew what the Crimean war had done to his country
and didn't want it to happen again. What he also knew is that to
control power in the far corners of Russia he needed governing bodies,
such as councils, so he created Zemstovs in 1864 which meant he knew
and was able to control what was going on in Russia, something all
rulers need to obtain nationwide law and order. He did this for no
other reason than to unite Russia, because at the time, you could be
in two parts of Russia and the people would be speaking different
languages and living under different laws. It was an era of necessary
reform which Alexander did to the dismay of many upper classes.

The view that many modern historians believe including myself, is that
although in many respects it was an era of liberalism there were
reforms that could be seen as false liberalism, the emancipation of
the serfs for example. It is a popular opinion that although the
Crimean war spelled disaster for the Russian government, it was also a
wake up call, that I believe was beneficial to Russia, economically,
politically and socially. Alexander II didn't have to make reforms, at
the time a revolution was not foreseeable, his position as Tsar looked
safe, however he did reform Russia, especially after he was shot at.
The fact that he made wide spread reform to both classes living in
Russia and upset both classes with his reforms as well, shows that he
was trying to advance Russia and bring it into line with the rest of
Western Europe. Therefore it would be sensible to say it was neither
an era of liberalism or false liberalism but one of essential reform
that closed the class gap (by creating new classes in between the old
ones) and advanced Russia's economic stature in the world, which led
to a 4% growth in the economy. After Alexander was shot at however one
can see that the reforms were especially aimed at the lower classes
and were definitely aimed at keeping people happy but only by passing
reforms that were beneficial to Russia, the Odessa trade union was set
up and universal military service was introduced. After 1866 the Tsar
was weary of his position but rather than arresting anyone who spoke
against him, he reformed Russia to Liberalise the minds of the many
and tried to be a liberator, although only 50% of peasants made some
sort of profit after the emancipation and reforms and 71% of the
Russians were illiterate, Alexander II was trying to liberate without
giving power to too many people so in some respects he was a false
liberator as well.

In conclusion for the answer of whether Tsar Alexander's time in power
can be classed as an era of liberalism or false liberalism, it can be
argued for, against or some people say neither one or the other, it is
not an open shut case, however the main argument is for an era,
neither of liberalism nor false liberalism. Although Tsar Alexander
made many reforms it is clear that he made the pre 1866 reforms were
for the good of Russia and the upper class, and post 1866 the reforms
were for the lower classes but were still beneficial to Russia.
Alexander tried desperately to catch up with Western European
countries economically, socially and politically, some were liberal
some were falsely liberalizing, although it could be argued although
the emancipation of the serfs looks like false liberalism it was to
keep Russia right wing and under control so it could also be seen as a
cleaver ploy by Alexander to keep the masses happy, this was a mistake
and he paid with an attempt on his life, there after he did not try
false liberalism again.
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