Modernization Movements in Russia After 1854

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Modernization Movements in Russia After 1854

Step One

Most people will agree that modernization in Russia started in the year 1854. But, before looking at these movements we must first look at the motivation and background of modernization. There are several theories on why the Russian state finally decided to reform. Some historians believe that there was a surge of "liberal humanitarian ideas within the higher ranks of state and society" (Freeze 170); these of course being Western ideas and culture. Other historians emphasize the economic factor: serfdom was becoming inefficient, estates were becoming less productive, and debts were growing. These factors may have played a role in leading Russia toward reform and modernization, but they weren't as significant as the Crimean War. This war was a complete military embarrassment for Russia. This just hardened the determination of Czar Alexander II, who was known as "the Czar Liberator" (Mosse 9). He was now more focused than ever to tackle the biggest problem, both socially and economically—serfdom. Almost 50% of the Russian population lived in legal bondage at the time. Though others had previously debated on what to do with them to help better their condition, little had been done. "The serfs still lived in total illiteracy, ignorance and superstition" (Adler 491).

Step Two
The first big step toward modernization was in 1859 when Alexander II emancipated the serfs. With this emancipation he also gave the serfs "a substantial part of the estate land that they had previously worked…" (Adler 492). The czar also made reforms in local governments, the judicial system, and army known as the Great Reforms. -local Government: Provincial and local authority was reorganized. A new county commission, called the zemstvo board, was elected.

-Judicial System: Before Alexander's complete overhaul, there was much corruption in the judicial system. But, in 1864 everything changed and they were now...
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