To What Extent Did Alexander Ii Deserve His Title of the “Tsar Liberator?”
His arguably most fundamental reform was the emancipation of serfdom in 1861. As he said, “It is best to abolish serfdom from above than to wait until it abolishes itself from below”. This quote demonstrates his realization that reform was needed. Many saw serfdom as Russia's biggest handicap in development into a new modern era, to be the equal of other European powers. There were many conflicting viewpoints as to whether to abolish serfdom or not. Some argued that to abolish serfdom would be a "blow to morals and the security of the state." Others argued that if serfdom was not abolished then Russia would never catch up to the rest of Europe in terms of economic growth. Also, because serfs were the only people, aside from peasants, involved in agriculture it was not possible for Russia to move into new methods of agriculture. As the majority of the army was made up of conscription serfs, who were poorly trained, it was almost impossible for there to be a fully competent army while serfdom survived. The number of Peasant and Serf revolts was rising and Alexander II saw that one of the ways to reduce these was to eliminate serfdom.
He was largely successful in ushering in the end of serfdom and freeing millions of Russians, thus reinforcing his title as liberator but arguably he was unsuccessful in truly satisfying and recognizing the actual needs of the peasants themselves. The limited nature of the reform proved that the Tsar’s government was incapable of meeting the needs of ordinary Russians and ironically, incited only more revolutionary and terrorist activity. However, whether viewing the