December 18, 2007
History 510:373 Final Exam
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
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
As the most significant part of his “Great Reforms,” Tsar Alexander II officially freed
both private and state serfs on March 3, 1861,
not without much opposition, difficulty, and
The emancipation polarized the government bureaucracy pitting conservatives
against “enlightened bureaucrats and liberals,”
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
Riasanovsky, Nicholas V., and Mark D. Steinberg. A History of Russia
. 7th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005, 345.