Emancipation: Success or Failure?
Mailbox Number: 029
Word Count: 2386
Hist 380: Modern Russia
Due Date: October 6th, 2011
The system of serfdom is where an agricultural worker in feudal Russia who cultivates land and belongs to a landowner. The emancipation of the serfs happened for a mired of reasons. Most of which are tied to Russia as a nation. The defeat in the Crimean war for example was a huge blow to Russia as a world power. The national prestige was lost as Russia lost the Crimean war to the allied powers of Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The humiliation that was felt through losing this war was based off of Alexander II’s viewing of a serf army falling at the hands of free men from Britain and France. This implied a certain lack of conviction that the militarized serfs portrayed. Alexander II felt that the best way to gain back military prowess was to free the serfs and give them self worth, and perhaps in turn give them something to fight for. There are three parts of the emancipation of the serfs. The first is of the defeat of the serf armies in the Crimean war. The great dishonor of the prize of the Russian empire could not be pushed aside so Alexander II did whatever it took to regain that military prestige. The second is whether or not the emancipation did the serfs any good. And the third is the view that the emancipation was due to the symptomatic unwillingness of the tsarist system to embrace much needed total reform.
Alexander II came into the throne in 1855 right in the middle of Crimean war, so he was unable to save the Russians from military defeat. However the war taught him a valuable lesson in the form of an idea. This idea was reform. Alexander II realized through the humiliation that was suffered that if he ever wanted to have stability, as well as peace at home and to be honored abroad then military and domestic reforms needed to happen. He declared that even in this dark hour that there was a silver lining Alexander II knew that the first step to reform was to get rid of serfdom. This was because of how inefficient it was the beneficiary was no one. This was the moment where he wanted every Russian to realize that under the protection of law, the Russians could begin to enjoy the fruits of his own labor.
The reasons that Alexander II dealt with during this period of time were simply put a list of pros and cons. The fear of peasant revolt was the biggest reason to move toward reform. If a peasant revolt were to ever happen then this would create a serious political challenge to the state. Stability in Russia is another reason that the tsar would move toward reform. If emancipation were to happen then you would solidify the opinion of the serfs and quell any ill feelings toward the state. This would both bring peace as well as stopping any peasants from even the inkling of a revolt. The movement of labor is another reason Alexander II should move towards reform. After the emancipation then serfs might feel the need to move to a city and enter into a factory. This would help with increasing the world prestige of Russia, as well as reversing the backwardness that every Russian was aware of. This movement in labor toward the social class of the worker would also help improve the economy. The worker would work and create a product that could be exported to create profit and would increase the areas where Russian economy is lacking, trade and national income.
The Tsarist worldview at this point was one of this: The Russian army of the great symbol of worth. As long as its army was strong Russia could afford to ignore its backwardness as a nation. But the Crimean defeat hand undermined this notion of Russia’s invincibility. Few now had reasoned objections to reform. Serfdom was not working. It failed to provide the caliber of soldier that Russia...
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