Alexander II decreed the emancipation.

Essay by k8_07High School, 12th gradeA+, April 2003

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In 1861 in Russia, Tsar Alexander II decreed the emancipation edict for the serfs. In theory, this was to give perfect freedom to the millions of Serfs and State Peasants in Russia. The reasons as to why he did this can be seen in the years before he declared this emancipation.

Defeat in the Crimean War revealed weakness in the structure of the state that the men who ruled Russia had barely sensed or had not suspected at all, and that they feared would destroy the empire unless remedied immediately. The war cost Russia 600,000 lives. While St. Petersburg could boast that it commanded the largest army in Europe, poor roads, antiquated weapons, and low morale prohibited the effective use of that awesome potential power, but far more serious was a great wave of peasant unrest, which swept across much of the country. The defeat proved to the Tsarist autocracy in charge that Russia had fallen dangerously behind its Western neighbours, making it vulnerable to future attack and invasion.

Many liberal thinkers laboured long and hard over the reasons for Russia's great defeat. Looking to Western models and contrasting Russian society one element remained outstanding: the continued existence in Russia of serfdom.. Whether out of genuine progressive beliefs or merely a need for an effective conscript army when the next war developed, Alexander II initiated a period of reform in Russia with the February 19, 1861 Emancipation of the serfs

Alexander's second reason was that emancipation could subsequently be used as a way of progressing Russian reform policy. If the liberation of the serfs was to be executed in Russia, the nobility's manorial power would have to be diminished and civil rights granted to the peasantry. In this scenario further reform would have to be introduced to local administration and...