Alexander II: Tsar Liberator?

‘Alexander II deserves the title of Tsar Liberator.’

Assess the validity of this view. (25 marks)

Argument: Yes he was much more of  a Petrine Tsar- willing to reform and therefore lose some power as a result. He was especially liberal to women, massive landmark change of Emancipation, changes in judiciary, military, education…But after 1863: much reversed. Then again after assass attempt in 1866, even further reactionary. Even before assassination, it could be argued that his reforms were often forced: such as Emancipation…and he simply wanted to appease the opposition groups and cling to power.

Emancipation: 1861, 1866

  • Historic, liberating moment where serfs finally gain their personal freedom: big personal importance
  • However, does he deserve the title? Arguably, his hand was forced: “better from above, than below”. And he did this for his, and his country’s, own gain such as better military: freestanding army: Milyutin brothers.
  • Also, arguably that he liberated them from the land, but were instead chained to the mir: peasants now farmed 20% less, probably even smaller due to partitioning whilst landlords retained 2/3 …
  • Did he really liberate the peasants? Personally, yes. But economically, still tied.
  • Probably the only change not to be reversed after 1863/66

Women

  • TRUBnikova Circle helps women in terms of societies, accommodation and jobs with gov support: women no longer repressed as mothers
  • But falls through after 1863: no longer liberator
  • First womens non-vocational secondary school 1870: Pirogov essay 1856- educate mothers so they can educate children etc
  • 60 women in St Petersburg Medical-Surgical academy in 1864: shows higher status
  • Although after Emancipation only jobs women could get was governess, school teacher or midwife…so not that much liberation really

Education

  • “All over Russia there was talk of education” Kropotkin
  • Modernised schools so not just gimnaziya students got to uni
  • Lower classes no longer restricted to primary school curriculum
  • But…even during good times only upper classes got to choose what they did in higher education
  • Tolstoy’s repression: no independent thinking, only classics, teacher state training colleges, 1871 only gimnaziya students go to uni
  • Some liberation initially, but then viciously clamped down upon…although not completely liberating at first.

Local government

  • Zemstvo: vitally important for the rest of the period
  • Hoskings the intelligentsia that flourished within these “believed themselves to constitute a different kind of alternate establishment”.
  • Liberation: allows political discussion for first time: petitioning, advising Tsar: finally grants a political voice
  • But: Not good for peasants: had to pay zemstvo tax and had little involvement
    • Nobles vote was worth more, they made up 40% of the zemstvo and the zemstvo was only in provinces where the nobles dominate: 19 provinces at first, then 37/70
    • Provincial Governors can veto zemstvo decision
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