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Alexander II

Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


(1818–81), Tsar of russia (1855–81). He succeeded his father nicholas i during the crimean war . Although initially optimistic about victory, he became persuaded (e.g. by the talented Dmitri Miliutin) that there was no possibility of defeating the allies, and Russia sued for peace in March 1856. The Crimean conflict not only turned the new tsar away from engagement with international affairs but also highlighted the weaknesses of the vast Romanov Empire. His reign witnessed many – often far from successful – attempts to address these problems through the modernization of Russia's political and social system. The most important of these reforms was the 1861 Edict of Emancipation from serfdom . Although this earned Alexander the soubriquet of “tsar-liberator” and technically gave the serfs their freedom together with the right to own land, it was conceded partly because of a belief that it was better to grant such a measure from above rather than face mounting unrest from below. In reality the manner of emancipation was far from beneficial for many serfs, particularly as land was generally transferred to the village commune (see mir ) rather than to individual peasants. Alexander made numerous concessions to the gentry, which largely emasculated the measure. Although landlords lost their jurisdictional rights over peasants, the latter continued to pay feudal dues. A relatively ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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