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How Significant Was The Work Of Reforming Leaders In Changing The Nature Of Russian Government And Society In The Period From 1856 To 1964?

2286 words - 10 pages

How significant was the work of reforming leaders in changing the nature of Russian government and society in the period from 1856 to 1964?

It is debatable whether or not the work of some reforming leaders changed the nature of Russia, as rulers such as Nicholas II had done little to reform, and only tried in an attempt to strengthen his own autocratic rule, whereas rulers such as Lenin completely changed the structure of Russian government and society, leaving significant impacts still recognised today in modern Russia.
Looking at the debate from a structuralist view point, it is plain to see that other factors, such as war, famine and peasant revolution played a heavy part in changing ...view middle of the document...

The two most significant reforms made, in my opinion, were the emancipation of the serfs and education.

The Emancipation of the serfs manifesto, released in 1861, had major impacts on Russian society. Addressed as the 'principal handicap to Russia's development'[5] it became undeniable that serfdom needed to be abolished in order for Russia to develop industrially and become equal to other European powers, such as Great Britain.
Land reforms made alongside the Emancipation proved deleterious to the finances of the state, a sign of this was the growing amount of redemption and poll tax arrears, which would be a feature for the next 20 years, as the land reforms proved damaging to the entire structure of Russia by creating deficits, impacting society greatly as it placed the peasant farmers at the mercy of their landlords and leaving them with unreliable crops, causing mass civil unrest in all but one provinces affected by this reform.
It is argued by Historians such as Carl Peter Watts that 'the real significance of the abolition of serfdom was the impetus that it gave to further reforms'[6]. In my own opinion, the significance of the Emancipation was that it highlighted the peasants 'inability to limit their demands and hopes'[7] showing that reforming leaders needed to make change to the exact standards of the Russian peasants.

Other key reforms were made to education, which were ‘notable in the reign of Alexander II’.[8] University students were free to study abroad for a year so had access to passports. This allowed them to experience Western Europe and constitutional governments, making comparisons between countries such as Great Britain and Russia. The students soon became aware of the backwardness of Russia and the need for change. A constitutional government rapidly became desirable in Russian society, but due to the belief that the autocratic rule of the Tsar was a God given right to the Romanov family, the reform would not come effortlessly.

The assassination of Alexander II had a traumatic effect on the reign of Alexander III, as he was 'deeply suspicious of the direction in which his father had taken Russia'[9] as he was aware that the reforms made had ultimately led to his father’s death. Abandoning his father’s plans to grant a Constitutional government, he declared that 'only "absolute autocracy" in the form it was practiced during Peter I and Nicholas I could fight the revolutionary movement'[10]
Because of this, it came as no surprise that the only reforms made during the reign of Alexander III were to strengthen the autocratic rule, and fight opposition, having significant impacts not only on Russian government, but society as well.

To fight the 'terror'[11], Alexander III introduced harsh security measures, which to some extent can be seen as reforms, to ‘correct what he considered as the too liberal tendencies of the previous reign’[12]
Police oppression was tightened and censorship was increased, this impacted...

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