Alexander Ii and the Emancipation of the Serfs

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Jeff Kaetzel Fall 2012 Alexander II and the Emancipation of the Serfs Alexander II emancipated the serfs in 1861 primarily because of his deep religious convictions. Religion played a key role in Alexander II’s decision to emancipate the serfs because it served as an avenue through which he could address the pressures he faced from both his advisors and the sociopolitical developments in Russian society. The emancipation of the serfs was not a new concept in Russia. Alexander II used the previous autocrats’ push towards emancipation as a platform to launch his own emancipation efforts. He was able to utilize the previous autocrats’ work as a springboard for his reign to complete the act of emancipating the serfs. Other motives for emancipation stemmed from the religious ideologies held by Alexander II. Striving for a “common good”, Christian charity, and equality were all factors that contributed to Alexander II’s push to emancipate the serfs. Religious ideology permeates the language used by Alexander II in his emancipation edict and speeches. This use of language reflects the deeply held religious convictions that he held and used as inspiration for many of his decisions. Alexander II used his religious convictions to justify the emancipation of the serfs. When Alexander II signed the edict emancipating the surfs on 18 February, 1861, it was in response to the changes going on in Russian society during the mid-1800’s. Peasant unrest was on the rise throughout Russia due to the extreme disparity between landholders and serfs. “The matter of the liberation of the serfs...I consider to be a vital question for Russia, upon which will depend the development of her strength and power.” (Kaiser and Maker)[1] The notion of emancipating the serfs was not unique to Alexander II. He was able to emancipate the serfs because of the foundation that had been laid out
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