Explain why Alexander II emancipated the Serfs (10 Marks)
Tsar Alexander II was a conservative who believed it was his divine right to rule Russia. This autocratic rule was described as tyrannical by many who visited Russia, especially so when it came to how the Serfs were treated, who were eventually emancipated in 1861. Alexander II’s conservative rule created causes over time, which led to the emancipation of the Serfs. This therefore makes Alexander II’s conservatism a major cause of the emancipation. As well as this, the conservatism may have caused a ‘domino effect’ of sorts, which in turn, could have led to the foundations of all of the other causes that led up to emancipation. These other causes are social, political, and economical factors that would have led up to the emancipation of the Serfs. It is interesting to note, however, that had the Tsar taken a more liberal look on his rule, the Emancipation may never have taken place.
Firstly, there are a few political causes for the emancipation, such as the bankruptcy of the Nobles in 1860. This was due to the inefficiency of Serfdom, and by this time, roughly 60% of Serfs had been mortgaged to the government. What this essentially means is that Serfdom was already beginning to come to a natural end. As the Nobles were the Tsar’s staunchest supporters, he was forced to emancipate the Serfs to allow the Nobles to refill their coffers and get out of their debt.
As well as this, with the rest of Europe beginning to make large economic progress, Russia was beginning to look inferior economically and industrially, and it was Serfdom that was holding them back, with the simplest solution to just emancipate the Serfs and allow them to become more productive. The main reason that the Serfs were inefficient was due to oppression from the Nobles, which, coupled with poor farming methods, gave inferior results compared to the rest of Europe. This oppression and poor farming was caused by the conservative rule of...