To What Extent Did Alexander Iii Undermine The Reforming Policies Of His Father?

1383 words - 6 pages

There is no doubt that Alexander III was one of the most fascinating figures of modern European history. He ruled as Tsar of Russia for less than 15 years, yet he changed the country more than many of his predecessors. Traditionally it is assumed that he was a reactionary, unlike the reformer his father, Alexander II, had been. However, as so often the case, this interpretation of Alexander III’s rule is not so undisputed. There is much reason to believe that despite some different policies, ultimately both men wanted to reach the same goals. Alexander III unquestionably did undermine the reforming policies of his father, but the underlying reasons for this are not so obvious.“The reign of Alexander II which began with bright promise, and changed to dreary stagnation, ended in tragedy. The Tsar-liberator was a victim of the unsolved conflict between social reform and the dogma of political autocracy”. This is a quote taken from Seton Watson, a famous historian, which perfectly sums up Alex II’s (as he preferred to be called) reign. Alex came to power in 1855, as a 37 year old man. He had received a very good, liberal education so he was well prepared for his upcoming task to govern.From the start of Alexander II’s reign was set to be different than that of his predecessors. With the Crimean war Russia had suffered a heavy, embarrassing, defeat on her own doorstep. Alexander knew something had to change in order for his country to be successful once again!“Alexander the Liberator” is a popular nickname many historians have given Alexander II. This is due to one vital reformation he initiated; he freed the serfs. In 1861 over 40 million serfs were emancipated. The motifs for this reform were questionable, possibly Alexander wanted nothing more than to avoid a revolution from the lower classes. The “free” serfs now had the right to own land and marry, yet for the land they “owned”, they had to pay redemption for 49 years. The Mir (local commune) was responsible for payments and could repartition land anytime it wanted to. The landowner kept one third of the land, usually the most fertile piece, so in practice the serfs did not greatly benefit from this change.Previous Tsars had kept Russia as an isolated country. Little was traded or exported; the emperors had little interest in European affairs. Different also in this aspect, Alexander II planned and built almost 14000 miles of railway by 1881, to not only increase military power, but also successfully export grain. Banks were established and settlement limitations on Jews were lifted.He had never been a military man, possibly because he had lived through and seen Russia’s defeat in the Crimean war. Despite, or maybe because of, this he reformed a great deal in this field; most importantly the military conscription was lowered from 25 to only 6 years. Military service was no longer a punishment for crime, and social class (officially) no...

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