How far did the achievements of Alexander II, between 1855-1881, justify his claim to be the "Tsar Liberator"?

Essay by Lotsis April 2005

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This essay is to consider the achievements and reforms of Alexander II in the view of being a revolutionary liberator.

You can't really help thinking whether Alexander II's motives were entirely unselfish.

He probably got his intentions and reality mixed up. Maybe he really wanted to do good but his methods doomed his good thoughts straight away. So whose fault was it that the emancipation failed? The peasants are hardly to blame, they are, after all, the victims here. The nobility really showed off their selfishness and cruel-heartedness by giving the peasants a hard time about the land they were supposed to buy. Maybe Alexander should have kept an eye on the redemption payments, so that they would have been equally divided.

But what were the motives for the emancipation then? The Tsar realised that Russia was way behind the western countries and thus subject to possible invasion. Seeing that Russia was the last country in Europe to practise serfdom, he also wished to attract attention from western investors to help build up the economy again.

He probably wanted admiration and worshipping from the Russian people, particularly the peasantry. Also there was unrest amongst the peasantry which could have eventually broken out to a civil war, and as Alexander himself said, "it is better that emancipation come from above than wait for it to come from below". Even though he showed respect for the peasantry, he tried to be careful not to step on the advantages and rights of the nobility. In the end he only wanted to make everyone happy, but you can't please everybody.

He might have become a real "Tsar Liberator" if he had had the chance, but, sadly enough, he was assassinated before he got the chance to get the economy and social things in...