James W. Meng

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Units: Foreword 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7


Russia during the second half of the 19th century.
7.1. Abolition of serfdom.

The "Great Reform" of 1861, which led to the liberation of the landlord peasants of Russia from serfdom, was the result of a crisis that engulfed various spheres of Russian society in the mid-19th century.

The industrial revolution that began in the country created the need for a free and skilled labor force. But due to the dependence on landlords that serfdom engendered, it was extremely difficult for serfs to become hired workers. As a result, the system of serfdom preserved poverty for the overwhelming mass of the population, leaving them with low purchasing power and thereby hampering the development of the domestic market, dooming the country to a generally backward state.

In the aggregate, peasant unrest increased, and the government felt threatened by the potential of another Pugachev-esque incident. Additionally, the widely spread ideas of liberalism began to affect part of the ruling elite, who became increasingly convinced of the danger of serfdom for the country. Ultimately, the abolition of serfdom was accelerated by the defeat of Russia in the Crimean war.

Tsar Alexander II, who was known for his educated, good-hearted, and benevolent nature, felt that there was a need for radical transformation in regard to the institution of serfdom. But he had inherited traditional views about the unique role of the autocracy, and about his power as a father to his country whose intention was to care for his subjects as children.

Basic conditions for the abolition of serfdom were established in the Manifesto and Regulations signed by Alexander II on the 19th of February 1861. It abolished serfdom, freeing 22.5 million land-bonded peasants. They were granted civil rights: land and house purchases, the right to start a family, to create industrial establishments, etc.

Each peasant received a basic homestead and an allotment of arable land, for which they had to pay a sum. 20% of this sum was paid to the landowner; the rest was paid by the state. The peasant then had to return the sum to the state with interest.

Arable land was first allocated to communities, who were considered the legal owners of the land and distributed it among peasant households by number of family members. Provisions for land distribution assumed the transfer of land into private ownership by peasants after the sum was repaid.

Communities were held responsible for the administration and collection of taxes. Community members responsible for various duties - elders, tax collectors, and others - were elected.

The "Great Reform" of 1861 accelerated the country's capitalist development, freed millions of people, and proved that large-scale reforms in Russia were possible and could even be carried out peacefully by the state at the highest levels. The reform itself had a beneficial influence on society and culture. But the interests of landlords and the state were given far more regard than those of the peasants, which in turn preserved many vestiges of serfdom, particularly the large landed estates and the great inequality they engendered among the broader population. These conditions, in turn, are viewed to have still slowed development despite the reform, and to have become contributing factors to the eventual revolution.

7.2. The reign of Tsar Alexander II the Liberator.

The reign of Alexander II was marked by a number of liberal reforms. In 1864, zemstvos were created - class-independent, elected representative bodies for local self-government in the counties and governorates. Their responsibilities included construction and operation of roads, establishment of medical and other public institutions, fire protection, etc. Zemstvos were, however, not permitted to engage in social or political activities - but they provided the first-ever forum in which peasants and nobles could discuss and debate issues of local life together.

One particularly important development was the introduction of judicial reform in 1864. It introduced formal equality of all classes before the law, judicial independence, public court hearings, participation of jurors, and competitive hearings that included both prosecution and defense counsel. This reform created the foundations of a modern legal system in the country, but remained incomplete.

A particularly successful reform was that of the military, intended to reduce the ranks of the army during peacetime. It also abolished corporal punishment, and introduced universal military service in place of peasant recruitment, while reducing service life to six years.

Gradually, though, Tsar Alexander II diverged from the planned course of reform after an attempt on his life in 1866. The Tsar, who viewed himself as the father of the nation, had introduced to his subjects various new blessings and freedoms, and was extremely upset by the ingratitude of "his children".

The political crisis of the late 1870s, caused by greater demands placed on the autocracy by liberals hoping to obtain greater political rights, had led to the emergence of a number of revolutionary organizations, forcing the Tsar to intensify his activities. A special commission was created in 1880 under General M.T. Loris-Melikov that received unlimited powers. While carrying out a policy of repression, Loris-Melikov put forth a liberal project for the creation of an elected legislative council of representatives of zemstvos and cities.

On the 1st of March 1881, revolutionaries assassinated the Tsar literally on the eve of the project's signing, thereby thwarting plans. Upon assuming the throne, Tsar Alexander III dealt with the revolutionaries and moved to a policy of counter-reforms.

7.3. Socioeconomic development during the second half of the 19th century.

Following the reform of 1861, the country accelerated the development of agriculture and increased production across all crops. Demand for industrial crops such as sugar beets, tobacco, and flax and increaded. Cultivation of cotton had also begun in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

By the end of the century, the grain harvest had nearly doubled, and exports had increased by five times. Russia at that time held the position of the world's largest net grain exporter.

In 1882, the Peasant Bank began operating, issuing loans for land purchases. A year later, all peasants who had not yet completed land redemption deals with landlords were transferred to compulsory redemption, under which the temporary land residence of those who had not yet completed a redemption was finally revoked. This applied to as many as 15% of peasant farms. Redemption payments also decreased. Over time, these measures contributed to the adaptation of peasant farms to the market economy.

At the same time, the many problems of agrarian development in Russia persisted. Increases in production were achieved mainly through cultivation of new lands, rather than through improvements in crop yield or efficiency. The land reforms did not actually offer peasants the opportunity to become owners of their land, which belonged to the community - and as populations grew, the amount of land owned decreased. In villages, socioeconomic tensions continued.

In the 1860s-1890s, Russia experienced an industrial boom. This was the result of state policy and of increases in demand for manufactured products; by the developent of the raw material base; and by the movement of many of the peasants into the industrial labor market as a result of land reforms.

By this time, an industrial revolution had been carried out, replacing manual labor with machinery in key industries. Fastest-growing was heavy industry: metallurgy, heavy engineering, oil production, chemical and electrotechnical industry. New industrial regions (the coal mines of Donbass, and the oil fields of Baku) formed. Labor productivity in industry increased by a factor of 1.5. By the end of the century, Russia produced a major component of the world's oil, pig iron, and cotton fabrics.

Also developing rapidly was small-scale industry and artisan production, particularly in the textile and food industries. Much of the equipment supporting these industries was purchased abroad.

Railway construction held an important place in the development of the Russian economy. In 1861, the total length of railways in Russia was roughly 1500km; by 1900, it was 48000km. Growth in the railway network influenced greatly the growth in metallurgical and machine-building production and connected various regions of the country to one system. Water transport (river and sea) also played a major role. Postal service continued to develop, and telegraph lines were established in large cities. By the end of the century, 32000 telephones had been installed.

After the industrial revolution, new social layers of entrepreneurs (bourgeoisie) and working class (proletariat) had formed in Russia. By the end of the 19th century, there were 1.5 million large and small entrepreneurs. The number of employees at the end of the 19th century totalled 10 million people. Of these, workers in large enterprises and railways were 1.5 million people.

But in general, workers mostly were drawn from the ranks of the peasantry. Once in the city, many hoped that for them, the factory would be only a temporary solution to the economic problems faced in their native villages. Workers' conditions remained challenging. The length of the working day was not regulated and could reach as much as 12-14 hours a day; wages were three times lower than in developed countries, and fines for violation of discipline could also reduce earnings.

In the 1880s, laws began to be passed to protect workers after pressure from workers' strikes came into play. These laws limited fines, established factory inspections, prohibited child labor and night labor for women and adolescents.

Growth in domestic and foreign trade also accelerated, and a credit and financial system formed. In 1860 the State Bank was established. City banks and joint-stock commercial banks were created with participation of foreign capital.

The process of industrialization in Russia initially demonstrated a very high growth rate, exceeding even the indicators of the advanced countries of Europe. The participation of the state in economic life combined with the financial and technical means of the west, as well as the availability of foreign investment produced an attractive economic climate. Overall, though, the massive geographic scale of the Russian Empire coupled with a general shortage of investment capital led to uneven development across the various regions of the country. Economic growth was also constrained by the class system, by the lack of civil rights among the majority of the population, the lack of an industrious culture, and so forth.

7.4. Societal transitions.

In Russia, a public movement in opposition to the autocracy was developing. The primary participants were members of the Russian intelligentsia, which advocated for civil rights and political freedoms and for improving people's living conditions. They believed that they held a special historical purpose and the ability to show the people and their country the way to salvation.

One major social movement in Russia during this period was that of liberalism. The Russian liberals (K.D. Kavelin, B.N. Chicherin, K.K. Arseniev, etc.) advocated for individual freedoms and rights, for Russia's gradual transition to a constitutional monarchy, and for the cultural Europeanization of the country. But they criticized revolutionaries, particularly those who advocated for violent change to the social and political systems of Russia, and considered the necessary transformations only possible through peaceful reforms conducted by the autocratic state itself. Liberals felt that the optimal route to carrying out their task was by working in local government bodies - the zemstvos - to educate the people and influence the authorities to continue reforms with the help of the press. Russian liberalism relied primarily on the zemstvo nobility and intelligentsia, and mostly lacked support from entrepreneurs and private business owners.

Within the broader social movement in Russia during this period, perhaps the most powerful and active group were the revolutionary democrats - the Narodniki. Their ideology, Narodism (from the Russian "people") came into being during the 1850s and 1860s as the result of work by A.I. Herzen and N.G. Chernyshevsky. In an ideological sense, their movement denied the historical significance of capitalism and emphasized its negative aspects: exploitation of the people, the transformation of the peasantry into a landless proletariat, etc. Their ideology sought to provide evidence and support for a direct transition from capitalism to socialism; a state system based not on private property but on public property. Such a transition, in their estimation, could be best carried out by rural communities, where the notion of community property was already common.

Another ideology in the populist vein that appeared during the period was that of M.A. Bakunin, who asserted that the origin of most social inequality and exploitation was in fact the state. Thus he declared that the main goal of any struggle on behalf of the people should in fact be the liquidation of the state itself as a social system. This theory is now known as anarchism.

The Narodnik movement was united in hopes for a peasant revolution, which they believed would lead to the victory of socialism. When all attempts to conduct revolutionary propaganda among the peasants and raise them to revolt ended in failure, the Narodniks began using terrorism as a means of changing the social system. On the 1st of March 1881, members of the organization "Narodnaya Volya" ("People's Will") murdered Tsar Alexander II - the "Liberator", as he had become known for his liberation of the peasants. But no revolution followed.

In addition to the ideology of populism, which reflected the interests of the peasantry, supporters of Marxism (named for its principal theoretician Karl Marx) begin to appear in Russia around the same time. Marxism expressed primarily the interests of the working class that had emerged in Russia and elsewhere in Europe. In Russia, leaders of the Marxist movement were G.V. Plekhanov, V.I. Ulyanov (Lenin), who felt that the Russian proletariat constituted a force that could potentially carry out a socialist revolution in Russia.

7.5. Internal politics during the reign of Tsar Alexander III.

Tsar Alexander III (1881-94) came to power following the assassination of his father. He made great efforts to strengthen the state and the autocracy, which in his opinion had been weakened by his father's reforms. In toughening the political regime, Tsar Alexander III took into account the requirements of the capitalist economy and continued to transform the socio-economic sphere. A conservative and patriot, he sincerely believed that strengthening the autocracy and the state's patronage over peasants and workers was in the national interest.

By April 1881, the Emperor had signed a proclamation "On the Inviolability of the Autocracy", and dismissed all liberal ministers. Activities of the liberal press were limited, censorship was strengthened, and strict control was established over the educational system. As a result of the measures taken, the revolutionary movement was thrown into crisis and order restored in the country.

In the socioeconomic sphere, coexistence of liberal and conservative policies remained. Liberal measures included the establishment of the Peasant Bank, reductions in the amount in land redemption payments and taxes, and the introduction of legislation to benefit workers. The government also helped to strengthen rural communities, strengthen control over the peasants, and provide various privileges to landlords who, without state support, were quickly ruined. These measures limited economic incentives for the peasants, resulting in an agrarian crisis.

Meanwhile, measures taken in the fields of education and press did not achieve their goals, and instead aroused considerable dissatisfaction among educated society.

Broadly, the strict policies of security under Tsar Alexander III are now viewed to have undermined the authority of the autocracy and provoked dissatisfaction in various strata of society, resulting in an acute sociopolitical crisis at the beginning of the 20th century.

7.6. External politics during the reform era.

Russia's key foreign policy task as a nation during the reform era was to ensure favorable international conditions for the completion of reforms and the modernization of the country. At the time, Russia was impeded by various restrictive articles of the Paris Treaty of 1856, and needed the black sea fleet. Additionally, the country's economic and strategic interests necessitated closer bonds with Central Asia. Russia also to account for the increasing influence and aggression of the German Empire and Japan, and the strugle between external powers over various colonial holdings.

In attempts to bring its period of diplomatic isolation to a close, Russia endeavored to build a rapprochement with Prussia in the 1860s, which had by that time subjugated other German states to create the German Empire. In 1870-71 Prussia defeated France, enabling Russia to once again deneutralize the Black Sea to its benefit.

The final step in expanding the Russian Empire was the absorption of Central Asia in order to rival Britain, which had made attempts to penetrate this region via its largest colony, India. Additionally, at that time, the Central Asian states - the Khiva and Kokand khanates and the Bukhara emirate - practiced various anti-Russian policies and attacked the newly-affiliated Kazakh lands with some regularity. Economic interests were also taken into consideration: Russia needed Central Asia for its raw materials, particularly cotton.

In 1865, General M.G. Chernyaev successfully took Tashkent. In 1868 an agreement was signed by which Bukhara and Kokand, while maintaining the status of independent states, entered into a dependent relationship with Russia. Later the Khiva Khanate was also annexed in this manner.

In 1867, the Turkestan Governorate General was formed, the territory of which included present-day southern Kazakhstan and part of the territory of Central Asia. Adjutant-General K.P. Kaufmann was appointed territorial Governor-General. Religious tolerance was a foundational component of the relationship from the very beginning, as the Russian government understood the importance of Islam for the peoples of the East and in 1886, Muslims were officially equalized in religious rights with Orthodox Christians. The spiritual schools, mektebe and madrassah, were preserved, as was the kaziev (Shariah) court, which acted in parallel with the Russian court system. Construction of new mosques was permitted. Russian-language schools existed from the 1860s onward, and in the 1870s a mens' institution for pedagogical training opened. On Kaufman's initiative, a National Theatre and a public library were also opened in Tashkent, contributing greatly not only to the spread of Russian culture, but also to that of secular local culture. In so doing, the authorities sped the rapprochement of Central Asia with Russia, though the process was not without difficulties as the Russian government faced nationalist movements in the border regions.

In the process of its Central Asian expansion, Russia arrived at the borders of Afghanistan, which at the time was within the British sphere of influence, and in so doing relations became aggravated between the two countries. As a result of subsequent negotiations, in 1887 a treaty was signed that consolidated Russian territorial acquisitions in Central Asia and clarified the borders between Russia and Afghanistan.

Once Russia had established strict political control over its Central Asian territories, it began to make substantial investments of resources and government manpower. Remaining elements of slavery, cultural fragmentation and sectarian conflict were eliminated; and the regional economy was gradually making entry to the all-Russian market. Railways and factories were built in the region, and cultural ties with Russia likewise developed.

A new Russo-Turkish war launched in 1877-78, triggered by national liberation movements among the Slavic peoples of the Balkans in which Russia rendered military support to the Christian and particularly the Orthodox peoples who suffered under Ottoman rule. The combined efforts of Russian soldiers and the local population led to the complete defeat of Turkey. A subsequent peace agreement concluded in Berlin in 1878 transferred major territorial gains to Russia: several fortresses in the Caucasus and the mouth of the Danube river. In the Balkans, three independent Slavic states were created: Serbia, Montenegro and Romania, for which the peoples of these countries are still grateful to Russia. Bulgaria also received temporary autonomy.

The resulting situation in the Balkans nevertheless led to tension and deterioration of relations between Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Germany, which in turn led to a rapprochement between Russia and France. Ultimately, throughout the 1890s a number of different agreements on mutual assistance and joint military acion were signed into effect to address a potential attack on one of the signatories. This alliance became known in history as the Entente.

7.7. Russian culture during the first half of the 19th century.

During the 19th century, frequent interaction between noble and popular culture began to occur, resulting in many of the best works of the period. Russian culture of the time not only borrowed inspiration from the great achievements of world culture, but in many cases began to actually contribute substantially to its development. During the second half of the 19th century, a greater democratic element began to develop throughout Russian culture. Members of previously-underrepresented strata of society began to be more active in creative pursuits, and the life of the people became a leading topic.

Education, too, came to experience a recovery and increasingly occupied an important position in Russian cultural life. Several new universities were founded, and new technical schools emerged in step with the requirements of the increasingly industrialized economy.

The era of liberal reforms introduced class-independent secondary education, though tuition fees remained high. Classical gymnasiums were opened with an emphasis on mathematics and ancient languages; their graduates entered universities without exams. Real schools with intensive instruction in natural sciences and technical disciplines were also opened, as were womens' gymnasiums. While education was not universal, the overall literacy rate of the population increased substantially: according to the 1897 census, 21% of the population was literate, versus 4-5% prior to the 1861 reforms.

Many significant strides were made in science and technology. The Russian school of mathematics became world-famous. Lobachevsky's work on non-Euclidean geometry radically changed the scientific understanding of space. The work of mathematicians P.L. Chebyshev, A.M. Lyapunov, and S.V. Kovalevskoy also became world-renowned.

As previously, chemical science developed in close connection with industrial production. At the end of the 19th century D.I. Mendeleev created the periodic table of chemical elements. N.N. Zinin and A.M. Butlerov laid the foundations of modern organic chemistry.

In the field of physics, the names of A.G. Stoletov, A.S. Popov, and P.N. Lebedev became well known. Popov demonstrated the first radio receiver in 1895. Biologist K.A. Timiryazev investigated photosynthesis and proved that the law of conservation of energy could be applied to the organic world. I.M. Sechenov, founder of the Russian school of physiology, made great contributions to the fields of microbiology, anatomy, and surgery. I.P. Pavlov, the first Russian Nobel Prize winner in science, studied higher nervous activity.

Scientific development, in combination with economic needs, continued to contribute to deeper geographical exploriation of the further-afield territories of Russia. During the second half of the 19th century, travelers N.N. Miklukho-Maclay, N.N. Przhevalsky, and P.O. Semenov-Tian-Shansky explored Central and Southeast Asia and the Far East.

Meanwhile, literature continued to occupy a special position in culture, most clearly manifesting the intersection of noble and popular culture. Both narrative and poetic literature continued to develop, the major figures in the field remaining largely unchanged. In poetry, prominence began to be drawn to the work of realist poet N.A. Nekrasov, to the work of master of psychological and imagistic lyric poetry F.I. Tyutchev, and to that of the lyricist A.A. Fet.

Fine arts continued to develop primarily in the romantic and realist traditions, informed primarily by classical technique. Portraiture particularly was defined by the major works of I.N. Kramskoy, I.E. Repin, and V.G. Perov. The landscapes of A.I. Kuindzhi, I.I. Shishkin, and I.I. Levitan were likewise received with great acclaim, as were the historically-themed works of Repin, V.M. Nesterov, and others. Meanwhile, the "Wanderers" - so-called members of the "Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions" sought to bring art closer to the people, depicting primarily the daily life of the common man in their work.

Developments in music began to accelerate, particularly after the founding of the first conservatory in Russia, the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, by composer-conductor A.G. Rubinshtein in 1862. During the late 1850s and 1860s, the "Balakirevsky circle" or "Mighty Handful" of composers - M.A. Balakirev, A.P. Borodin, M.P. Mussorgsky, and N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov emerged. Together they made major, invaluable contributions to the national traditions of Russian composition and musical culture. Mussorgsky's operas Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina featured the Russian people as a main character of their very own. The operas Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov and Prince Igor by Borodin featured melodies inspired by those of different peoples of Russia. Perhaps the greatest composer of the era was P.I. Tchaikovsky, who created a new type of opera - Eugene Onegin, Queen of Spades, Iolanta - as well as a substantial body of ballet music (Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty) alongside a deep and well-developed oeuvre of symphonic and chamber music.

By the end of the 19th century, the gap in the level of cultural life of the major centers of Russia and that of its provinces had decreased dramatically; and the sphere of spiritual life of all social strata of Russian society had expanded. Multinational Russian culture began making increasingly significant contributions to world culture.