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How Successfully Did Alexander Iii Supress Opposition?

By seboob Oct 17, 2012 1095 Words
How Successfully did Alexander III supress opposition?
Despite what we learn of the slow-witted, brash and aggressive young man that the Tsarovich Alexander III was, it seems that in suppressing his opposition in Russia his strong-minded and definitive attitude worked to his advantage. He made his first major statement when he executed the five members of the people’s will responsible for the assassination of his father, publicly hanging them as a warning to others of his policy with regards to those committing treason. Even from a young age Alexander had strongly opposed the opinions of his father, joining the ‘party of action’ in the debate concerning war with Turkey when Alexander II was all in favour of keeping the peace. This attitude he emulated with his counter-reforms where he made it very clear that Russia would remain firmly an autocracy, and that advisors were simply there only to advise. The ministers in favour of his father’s governmental reforms were made to resign which, alongside his counter-reforms, made very clear to all his intentions to take Russia back to a firmly Tsar-run state. Alexander had a hard-line attitude to those who opposed him, and relied on not allowing those with similar plans of opposing him to meet together. Students were banned from joining student groups, activists were forced into exile- By 1894, around 5,400 people had been exiled or sentenced to hard labour-and in 1894 an evangelical religious sect called Stundism was declared “especially dangerous” and its prayer meetings were banned. (This was part of Alexander’s plan to ‘Russify’ Russia, i.e. heavily discriminating against minorities such as Jews living in Russia.) The 1889 act said that crimes against state officials were to be heard in a special court without a jury; this undermined trial by jury and made it easier for political opponents to be dealt with in private and not leaving anything to chance with the opinions of others. Alexander also used his secret police, the Okhrana, to help him govern Russia by means of terror. Rather like the Gestappo the Okhrana were used to remove political opponents or those causing unrest, but The Okhrana also utilised infiltration to uncover opposition at its roots. Also in 1881, the Law on Exceptional Measures was passed to give the government the power to interfere with civil liberties; in this way they could confiscate property, arrest people, imprison or fine citizens, set up military courts and had many other powers as well-in effect giving them greater influence in court decisions. These measures made it easy for Alexander III to persecute and heavily punish those who stood against him without it coming to the attention of the media (though censored by the Okhrana anyway) or to the population of Russia. It was also easier for Alexander III to make popular decisions as the majority of the population of Russia were peasants, who believed they had a mystical bond with the Tsar and that if things were bad then it was the fault of the advisors around him not the Tsar himself. Alexander III played on this belief by the peasants in laws such as the one to end ‘temporary obligation’ which gave peasants an increase in the land they owned. The fees of not only the universities but also of the gimnazii- local schools were raised in 1887 to keep out the members of the lower classes. The church was also given a great deal more control over the local primary schools and was encouraged to establish church schools in the villages. Both of these measures occurred to keep education in the peasants down to a minimum as Alexander believed that education could encourage dangerous ideas and be a threat to his position. In 1883 Alexander passed laws that meant that people of any other religions than the Orthodox Church – these are known as dissenters – were not allowed to build religious centres, wear religious clothes or produce any propaganda. The punishment of exile to Siberia was promised to anyone who tried to convert a member of the Orthodox Church to another religion. Alexander made no distinction between political and ordinary prisoners, shown by the fact that they all had to walk from Tomsk and Irkutsk with a budget of 5 cents a day and only the nobles were allowed karts and a higher budget. This may have helped to maintain a certain feeling of equality among convicts; possibly there was a feeling that Alexander was, in his own way, fair? The converse of this is the fact that nobles were given 7 and ½ cents a day instead of 5 for everyone else on the walk from Tomsk to Irkutsk. Though this class division was a major part of Russian Heritage that had been readily accepted down through the years- 14% of Russian citizens were of noble class in the 1881 census-this could only serve to give opposition more cause to dislike Alexander. Though Alexander had put measures in place to stop students from meeting together, they still convened in regional unofficial societies known as zemylaschestva. Added to this, Individuals involved in illegal political movements used the united council (soyuzny soviet) to encourage unrest in students, to help affirm the opposition of the proportionally small educated middle class. Alexander’s strong conservative views lead to his policy of ‘Russification’ in which many of the minorities living in Russia that weren’t white Russians were persecuted and had limitations imposed upon them. Though each minority itself did not account for a large percentage of the population, combined they accounted for a large proportion. Though In 1883, Dissenters (people of other religions than the Orthodox Church) were given more rights, including being able to have a passport and being legally able to hold small religious meetings in their homes, Alexander’s Russification encouraged growth of nationalist movements within Russia. In 1893 Priests began to receive salaries from the state as a reward for upholding Orthodox preaching in Russia, further angering those whose religions were under major scrutiny and oppression from Alexander. Alexander III managed to be the only tsar who maintained peace throughout his reign. Though he persecuted and oppressed many people in an effort to reverse Russia’s recent social progress, in keeping the peace he excelled. Whether it was his demonstrations of strong will and brutality that imposed fear upon his subject, or simply that the peasant population that made up most of Russia’s citizens were happier with a conservative and traditional Tsar, Alexander was successful in suppressing opposition In Russia.

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