Alexander II's Title as Tsar Liberator
Amid the Crimean Warå…‹é‡Œç±³äºžæˆ°çˆ of 1854-56, Alexander IIé˜¿æ·å±±å¤§äºŒä¸–
succeededç¹¼ä½ to the throneçš‡ä½ of the Romanov Dynastyç¾…æ›¼è«¾å¤«çš‡æœ of Czarist
Russia. Russia was finally defeated. He saw hopes of Russia's recovery
in reforms. During his reignåœ¨ä½æœŸé–“ in 1855-81, Alexander II carried out
a broad reform programme, covering the Emancipation of Serfsè§£æ”¾è¾²å¥´,
establishment of zemstvaåœ°æ–¹è°æœƒ, judicialå¸æ³•, educational, economic and
military reforms as well as relaxationæ”¾å¯¬ of press censorshipå ±åˆŠæª¢æŸ¥.
MosseèŽ«æ–¯ named him the "Czar Liberatoræ²™çš‡è§£æ”¾è€…". Yet the failure of the
reforms led to revolutionary plotsé™°è¬€ and he was even assassinatedè¢«æš—æ®º
From the lessonsæ•™è¨“ of Russia's defeat in the Crimean War, Alexander II
concluded that the root of many Russian problems was the outdated
serfdomè¾²å¥´åˆ¶åº¦. Both Czars Alexander I é˜¿æ·å±±å¤§ä¸€ä¸– (1801-25) and Nicholas
Iå°¼å¤æ‹‰ä¸€ä¸– (1825-55) had condemnedè´è²¬ this system. Owing to political
crises (frequent peasant riotsæš´å‹•), humanitarianismäººé“ä¸»ç¾©, liberalism, as
well as needs of military, industrial and agricultural developments,
the "Czar Liberator" issued the Emancipation Edict of Serfs è§£æ”¾è¾²å¥´è©”ä»¤ in
By the Edict, 34.4% of the Russian population was freed. The
government bought both lands and serfs from landlords. Mirså…¬ç¤¾ were set
up to manage the serfs. Yet ex-serfså‰è¾²å¥´ were required to repayå„Ÿé‚„ the
redemption moneyè´–èº«è²» for 49 years with interest. Besides, they needed
to shoulderè‚©è² èµ· the soul taxéˆé‚ç¨… and pay rents for the lands. Before
clearing all the debts, no ex-serf could leave the mir.
The Emancipation, however, brought about a hostå¾ˆå¤š of problems. The
ex-serf not only failed to get outrightç«‹åˆ»çš„ ownership of the land but
shouldered a lot of financial burdens. The land was also going to be
sliced upåˆ†æ‹† to all the sons of an ex-serf. A rise in the population
hence meant a decrease in the size of the land stripé‚£ç‰‡åœŸåœ° that the next
generation of an ex-serf could get. Thus, the ex-serf had little
incentiveå‹•æ©Ÿ to improve farming as the land would shrinkç¸®å° in size
during the next land distribution. Productivity failed to keep pace
with the rapid population growth. In addition, the lands which
landlords had sold to the mir were infertileä¸è‚¥æ²ƒ and limited in number.
During natural disasters, government reliefæ•‘æ¿Ÿ remained inadequateä¸è¶³.
Owing to hard life, many peasant riots happened in the rural areas.
Worst still, many of the rural youth disliked inheritingç¹¼æ‰¿ the burdens
of the redemption money and soul tax. They formed some rebelliousåæŠ—æ€§
organizations. Anarchistsç„¡æ”¿åºœä¸»ç¾©è€… and Nihilistsè™›ç„¡ä¸»ç¾©è€… were good examples.