Assess The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Alexander Ii’s Reforms Ib History Essay

1410 words - 6 pages

Assess the strengths and weaknesses of alexander II’s reforms.
During Alexander II’s rule, between 1855-1881, he can be greatly recognized for his modernization of Russia with specific references to his multitude of reforms. These reforms were implemented with the aim to gain popular support for the Tsarist regime from the Russia people, mainly the peasantry. They were introduced in hopes that they would maintain a strong autocratic rule within Russia. Amongst many he is known as the ‘Tsar-liberator’, which historian Westwood agrees. He believes that there was ‘no Russia ruler who brought so much relief to so many people as Alexander II did’, in contrast J. Granville stated that ‘the great reforms of the 1800s did not liberate the Russian people’. These two perspectives demonstrate that there must be both strengths and weaknesses associated with his reforms and shows that by Alexander attempted to commit to both autocracy and his liberal reforms he isolated himself from both.
Alexander’s social reform, known as the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 was considered one of his most radical efforts. Prior to the emancipation, the serfs made up 90% of the Russia population, despite their majority within the country they mostly illiterate, uneducated and treated as less that human. Discontent ran high among the serfs due to the oppressive rule they were under and were treated ‘as virtually incapable of governing themselves’(Pipes), thus Alexander II understood that to avoid serfdom collapsing from ‘below’ he would liberate them from above. The peasantry was granted land by the government and finally permitted civil rights. Once the emancipation was underway, it was evident that serfdom was a significant contributing factor to Russia not progressing as other Western powers were. The strength of the reform lay in the achievement of its short term term objectives, which can be seen in the reduction of peasant disturbances for the following 40 years and saw no major peasant rebellions. However, the weaknesses of reform became apparent with the former serf’s subsequent economic problems. Because they were forced to wait 2 years to be granted loans, significant trouble was seen to develop when serfs tried to support themselves. Despite the fact that they were donated land which formerly belonged to the land owning class, they were required to pay redemption fees for 49 years at 6% interest. The inadequacy of the lands the peasants were provided with in comparison to the value of the redemption fees saw a significant increase in personal debt and poverty, which consequently weakened the Russian economy and saw it spiral into debt. This weakness meant the peasants found it necessary to return as hired labor to the landowning class and ultimately maintained the nobles power. Historian Westwood saw the emancipation as a massive step forward for Russian society, but it can be understood that he is disregarding the significant economic problems that followed ...


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