In 1855, when Alexander II, son of Nicholas I, came to power as Tsar of Russia he was faced by many problems. Russia, being the backwards place it was needed reform. The gap between the noble class and the peasant class was enormous and causing problems. The serfs were being treated horribly; the legal system and educational system were in desperate need of changes. There were also governmental issues that needed to be addressed. Russia could use as much reform as possible; Alexander II saw these needs and made every effort to fulfill them in the name of fatherland.
In 1859, there were more than 40 million peasants enslaved to either private landowners or the state, others served as servants on the estates of the nobles. These serfs were the private property of their owners, often beaten for no or little reason. They had no freedom; it was up to their owners to consent any proposed marriages. Since 1649, when serfdom was legally established as a means of attaching peasants to the land of the nobility, serfdom had been a key factor in making the noble families wealthier and making it impossible for the serfs to break out of their enslavement.
Although when Alexander II became Tsar he made it clear that he was not desperate to emancipate the serfs, but did make it known that freeing the serfs would be in the greater interest of Russia. He stated "it is better that emancipation come from above than wait for it to come from below"1, this showed that he felt whether he went about emancipating the serfs or not, they were inevitably going to get their freedom one way or another. The emancipation which solved problems for a short period of time caused disturbances which eventually broke out with force in revolts of 1905. By 1861, and with great effort, Alexander II succeeded in what has been called "the greatest single piece of state-directed social engineering in modern European history"2.
After the liberation of the serfs, Alexander II continued to make many...
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