Alexander ’ s Motives Genuine Reformer? Wanted to benefit noble supporters? Moderniser? Autocrat or liberal?
What were the reactions to reform? Whatever his motives, Alexander II had radically changed the nature of the Russian state, and created a freer political atmosphere than had previously existed. His problem now was that he was caught between two sides. Conservatives resented the reforms, while liberals felt they didn ’ t go far enough.
The Polish Revolt 1863 Poland was a separate kingdom, whose king was the Tsar of Russia Relatively liberal treatment under Alexander II Polish nationalism nonetheless strong, and land reform a key issue These two factors fused to produce the Polish Rebellion in 1863.
The Polish Revolt 1863 Took nearly a year to bring under control Alexander granted freeholds to Polish peasants – without redemption payments Possible attempt to separate them from nationalist landlords General failure to quell Polish nationalism led Alexander to reflect bitterly on the ineffectiveness of reform.
Opposition in Russia Why did opposition grow following the reforms? Reforms raised expectations Political atmosphere was freer (relaxing of censorship) Education reforms enouraged wider literacy, and universities prompted growth of an intelligentsia.
Opposition in Russia Opposition not united Influential writers on the left included Herzen, Chernyshevsky, and Pisarev These writers did not advocate revolution themselves, but their different followers were more impatient. Chernyshevsky and Pisarev wanted fundamental transformation of Russian system
Revolutionaries Populists (narodniki) – wanted to realise revolutionary potential of peasantry Largely failed to revitalise an unwilling, conservative peasant class Land and Liberty developed from the narodniki, and later split, with one faction ‘ People ’ s Will ’, pursuing more violent actions. Nihilism – belief that nothing from the past should survive.
How important were the revolutionaries? By 1881, they had achieved no significant political change. They had failed to revolutionise Russia ’ s largest class – the peasants Their terrorism encouraged a counter- reaction from the government They succeeded in assassinating Alexander II in 1881 just as he was looking to pursue further political change (the Loris-Melikov proposal for a national assembly)
How important were the revolutionaries? Nonetheless, despite the apparent lack of achievement, the revolutionaries ’ methods and ideas presaged the later, successful, revolutionary movement of 1917.
Why did terrorism fail to overthrow the Tsarist system? Could not mobilise peasant discontent It offered no viable alternative to the Tsarist system Entrenchment of conservative interests
Reaction under Alexander III Reign characterised by enforcement of autocracy Police Powers increased Land Captains Russification BUT also industrial and economic growth AND Alex III did pursue some small scale reforms (factory inspections, Peasants ’ Bank)
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