Alexander II and the Emancipation of the Serfs

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For what reasons, and with what effects, did the Tsar Alexander II Emancipate the Serfs?

“The existing condition of owning souls cannot remain unchanged. It is better to begin to destroy serfdom from above than to wait until that time when it begins to destroy itself from below”

After the defeat in the Crimean war Alexander II knew that he had to make new choices if he wanted Russia to get its reputation back, since it had lost its great martial power, which the country took pride in. Alexander II learned that the system that the country had been following all this time was not good enough and needed to change. Alexander II decided to do the emancipation of the serfs, which would benefit the country in both politics and economics as well as raise the industry level in the country since landowners would not be able to dictate what the serfs could and could not do.

Russia had many problems that were being blamed on serfdom like military unskillfulness, the scarcity of food around the country, over population in some areas of the country, civil and public disorder and finally a delayed industry caused by serfdom. In 1856, Alexander II declared to the nobility in Russia that the change was needed and this modification was that serfdom would end and the nobility would have to decide how.

“I ask you, gentlemen, to figure out how all this can be carried out to completion”

One of the main aspects in which the western countries were leaving behind Russia was that its industrial development was poor. According to P.A. Khromov the Russian empire had around 67.000 workers in the textile manufacturing and 20.000 workers in iron and steel industries, by 1843 Russia only had 350.000 mechanized spindles which compared to Britain or France was nothing since the French had 3.5 million mechanized spindles and the British empire had 11 million. Russia never really developed much of its technologies and chose different paths to follow since they kept



Bibliography: Alexander II. History Today Ed. Michael Lynch. 2 September 2003. History, Heathen. 1 September 2013 . Lynch, Michael. Michael Lynch takes a fresh look at the key reform of 19th-century Russia. . 2003. 2 September 2013 . Rieber, Alfred J. The Politics of Autocracy. New York, 1966. Terry Morris, Derrick Murphy. Europe, 1870-1991. London: Collins, 2000.

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