Alexander the Liberator: The Success of His Reforms

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Ebba Henningsson2/09/2010
Why and with what success did Alexander II impose so many reforms? Alexander II (1818-1881) has on several occasions been referred to as “Alexander the Liberator” due to the emancipation of the serfs, which was one of the many reforms he imposed during his reign as Tsar of Russia. The emancipation, along with the reform of the military, the installation of a judicial system, an educational reform, combined with his other “smaller” reforms, are all reforms which created a more democratic Russia; liberal to a further extent, if you will. Alexander II was however the head of an autocracy in which he had absolute power which leads one to ponder as to what his incentives for these reforms were and how successful he was in imposing these? Alexander was the successor of his father Nicholas I who passed away during the Crimean war, and it can be argued that Russia’s defeat in this war, which was fought in Russia herself, is one of the main reasons for many of Alexander’s reforms. This defeat was a hard one for Russia who had been one of the leading military powers in the previous century as well as the personal loss it presented for Alexander. These defeats may very well have been the reason for the military reform, one problem that the Russian army had was the age of the average soldier who would be considerably older than those of the western powers. Alexander changed this by reducing the years of service a soldier faced from 25 years to 6. Conversely, a soldier who had served these 25 years returned as a free man. This meant former serfs, who constituted most of the army, would return younger with full military training creating two social classes on the country side, resulting in more peasant revolts. In order to prevent this Alexander found that he would have to remove the order that made them into free men, however to do this he would have to present some other enticement or solution to keep the army conscription rate...
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