‘How Significant Was the Work of Reforming Leaders in Changing the Nature of Russian Government and Society in the Period from 1856 to 1964?’

1988 Words8 Pages
From 1856-1964 in Russia there were many reforming leaders who some may suggest significantly changed the nature of Russian government and society, certainly intentionalist historians stress the significance these individuals played in changing Russia. However a structuralist approach evaluates how circumstances such as, the state of the economy, war, famine, revolution and opposition, influenced how Russia developed, from a backward state to a world superpower. This resulted in significant changes to government and society, however despite this we can also see a lot of continuity, for example by 1964 the Russian population was still ruled by autocracy, and all leaders used repression to control the population. The reign of Alexander II reflected a more liberal age as he made numerous reforms, including the emancipation of the serfs which is described by intentionalist historian Tim Chapman as "the single most important law or decree issued by any tsar in nineteenth-century Russia". However it created land ownership problems which with the redemption fee system created bitterness amongst peasants and became known as ‘the great disappointment’ . His other reforms such as changes to the legal system, military and education, also gave Russian’s a greater freedom, however he didn’t provide the extensive changes to autocracy and society that radicals hoped for. As the population got a taste of liberalisation opposition increased, threatening the tsarist regime, forcing Alexander II to use repression to maintain control. Some historians suggest this shift from reform to reaction was directly related to the first assassination attempt on his life. However, Jonathan Bromley argues that there was no conservative shift as just prior to his death he agreed in principal to a national assembly. He suggests that the reign can be represented as a programme of ‘‘controlled
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