Final Exam - Michael Locke December 18, 2007 History...

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Michael Locke December 18, 2007 History 510:373 Final Exam Section I Between Tsar Alexander II’s “Great Reforms” and the demise of the Romanov dynasty, Imperial Russia pursued a policy of rapid modernization. While Russia succeeded in many ways, paving the road for the Soviet Union’s superpower status in the twentieth century, the Tsars, the bureaucracy, the workers, the peasants, and the intelligentsia all faced many challenges in becoming modern. Sergei Kanatchikov serves as a prime example of the average worker in the late nineteenth century, while Sergei Witte became the powerful but shortsighted Prime Minister who reformed the empire’s economy and bureaucracy. Tsar Nicholas II attempted to maintain imperial authority, while Vladimir Lenin encouraged social-democratic revolution. The challenges that accompanied modernization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led to mounting unrest and the demise of Russia’s once powerful autocracy. The first significant achievement in modernizing Russia was the emancipation of the serfs. As the most significant part of his “Great Reforms,” Tsar Alexander II officially freed both private and state serfs on March 3, 1861, 1 not without much opposition, difficulty, and complexity. The emancipation polarized the government bureaucracy pitting conservatives against “enlightened bureaucrats and liberals,” 2 a harmful division which persisted until the demise of the imperial government. The newly liberated serfs were no longer formally bound to their miserable conditions; however, misery, poverty, and hardship were not alleviated. The provisions of the emancipation allowed landowners to retain much of their land, leaving very little for the fifty-two million 1 Riasanovsky, Nicholas V., and Mark D. Steinberg. A History of Russia . 7th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005, 345. 2 Riasanovsky, 345
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peasants who remained bound to the peasant communes. The peasants were considered free, but judicial and taxation practices institutionalized inequality. Further burdens were imposed by the unmanageable redemption payments which additionally restricted the peasants’ economic freedom. 3 The emancipation of the serfs coincided with the liberation of America’s slaves, a clear indication of modernization, yet the peasant condition remained tenuous and cumbersome. The landowning nobility also suffered as a result of modernization. While the estate owning “fathers” fought against their “sons” who pursued “a fundamental rebellion against accepted values and standards,” 4 they also accumulated massive debt, and many were forced to mortgage their land holdings. Anton Chekhov highlights the nobility’s inability to adapt to modernization in The Cherry Orchard . Madame Ranevsky continues to pursue a lavish lifestyle as she complains, “I’ve always squandered money at random like a madwoman; I married a man who made nothing but debts.” 5 Ranevsky’s condition mirrored that of most landowners, and the
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2008 for the course HISTORY 373 taught by Professor Hellbeck during the Fall '07 term at Rutgers.

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Final Exam - Michael Locke December 18, 2007 History...

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