How Far Does the Reign of Alexander Iii Deserve to Be Called Reactionary?

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How far does the reign of Alexander III deserve to be called reactionary? When Alexander III became Tsar in March 1884, Russia was in crises, following the assassination of Alexander II at the hands of The People’s Will. There was a huge amount of pressure on Alexander III, not only to govern the world’s largest country, but also to be a good leader in an autocratic empire and restore the approach in which the slavophiles were demanding for. Reactionaries believed that the reforms of Alexander II disestablished the country by encouraging demand for further reforms; Alexander III transformed this opinion brining back harsher rulings to regain power and to deserve the title of a reactionary. The generally chaotic nature of the Empire following Alexander II’s death was suggestive of the need for strong leadership to stabilise the country. Alexander III made a series of conservative adjustments to his father’s reforms through his stern, authoritarian policies between 1881 and 1894. Radical changes to local government took place through the introduction of Land Captains in 1889, which had total authority in local administration and could override the authority of the zemstva. The introduction of Land Captains strengthened the autocracy and the position of the nobility in the countryside, giving peasants less freedom, contradicting the reforms in which Alexander II put in place. The increase of central control through the introduction of Land Captains establishes his power rather than benefiting the people of Russia, therefore making Alexander III a reactionary. Contrastingly, Alexander III did scrap plans to destroy the zemstva completely, consequently giving some power to the people. The zemstva was an elective form of local government, initially in rural towns but was extended to towns and cities, which had responsibility for elementary education. Despite the
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