Who benefited from Alexander II's Reforms? In this essay I will attempt to describe which social changes in Russia benefited from Alexander II's domestic reforms such as emancipation, legal, economical, educational, and censorship reforms. The emancipation can be seen as a half-filled promise by many and as a result only small groups of people benefited. Most peasants had huge debts place upon them when they were forced to buy their land from the nobility over 49 years, with overblown prices, and also with added interest.
However, in the Western Provinces, the authorities were much more European-influenced and took more compassionate measures with the freed serfs. While prices of land almost doubled in the non-black soil provinces, prices in the Western Provinces even dropped from an average of 184 to 183 million roubles. In these areas, the peasants seemed to profit from the new freedom to travel, marry, trade, and live without having the crushing and repressing debts that were found in other parts of Russia.
The nobles also had mixed fates after emancipation. Before, many were in large debts, and the liberation meant that they could clear these debts and start fresh, but many failed to do so. With their means of survival gone – the serfs – and now unable to finance their serfs for additional funds, many nobles almost collapsed, but there were those whose lives took a turn for the better. In the Ukraine and Georgia, many nobles entered the trade successfully and began new, secure lives.
The new found independence with steady profits was a welcome change for those who industrial skills supplied with a source of income, independent of the peasantry. However, the nobility still got redemption payments and it is calculated that between 1863 and 1872 they received 607 million roubles of compensation from the government and much of this was invested in industry, which can only have contributed to the industrial boom of the 1870s, benefiting the entire Russian population. Alexander II also reformed the legal system in Russia. Before the reforms, there had been much "corruption and bribery".
The nobles had a predilection in the previous system, but this new way of delivering justice inclined towards equality, which did not favour the nobility but benefited the peasants. For years, the peasantry had been cast aside as erratic and deceitful witnesses, but with an attempt at equality, the peasants stated to find their voice. And their class also emerged from these reforms that became well respected and reliable lawyers and judges. These, new, often liberally minded people were experiencing the benefits of these reforms without a doubt.
The economical changes that Alexander II promoted were largely positive to all of Russia. It was not so much as a change in law, but a renovation in outlook. Trade was promoted and pushed forwards. Grain exports grew extremely during his reign, and Russian trade with other countries expanded to a great extent. Domestically, things grew as well. In order to help assemble the country and attempt to encourage trade, Russia lunged head first in the Industrial Revolution and expanded her railway system from 7,000 to 140,000 miles.
Not only did this benefit the companies who contracted out to build the new system, but everyone in general felt the benefit of the new railway system and the expansion of internal and external trade. The new supply of Russian and foreign goods increased the standard of living in many areas; increase in good variety of quantity is an economic definition of improved standards of living. The baking system was improved, as now they were spread throughput Russia benefiting almost all of the population.
The Jews also benefited from these reforms as now they were allowed to live in the reign and work there, not only on the outskirts of it. The reform of 1863 increased the freedom of universities from government influence and yet appointments to academic posts were still closely vetted by the government. The setting up of large numbers of new secondary schools in 1864 can only have benefited the youth of Russia. However these reforms were altered by the new minister of education, Dmitry Tolstoy, who split the new schools in 1867 into 'classical' and 'realistic' categories.
Tolstoy also ensured that the fees were much higher for 'Classical' schools and this meant that only the sons of the wealthy nobility could attend, thereby safeguarding against the perceived dangers of educating the lower classes. Once again, although provision for education had been increased, it was the wealthy nobility who benefited most. Women particularly benefited from these liberal Reforms as now there were admitted in various Universities and had special courses created for them. The government also became more unified and organized.
The creation of a unified treasury and the establishment of government budgets for the entire Russian nation had a beneficial impact on the country, as an organized lead can control and direct the body with greater success and reward. Lastly, I think it is fair to say that Russia largely benefited from the reforms in censorship by Alexander II. Under Nicholas I, the censorship laws were way tight and restricting. After the assassination attempt on Alexander II, there were more restrictions, on the publishing companies, and even one periodical was shut down and many were given warnings.
Even though this was happening, progressive laws were passed omitting academic and educational groups from preliminary censorship. On the whole, books published expanded greatly, which benefited all. The availability of books increased literary rates and life quality of most Russians increased. Alexander II's censorship reforms were greatly beneficial to all. On the whole, peasants benefited more than the nobles. The economy, publishing companies, and the legal system were improved, leading to benefits all around.
Reforms in higher education, relaxation of censorship regulations, new developments in finance, trade, communications, and reform in the army were all towards the benefit of Russia as a whole, and aiding it to move away from a feudal society into a modern capitalist society. These reforms benefited the revolutionary minds of Russia in that they wanted to take things further, after all, autocracy still remained. This was an era of rising, now more and more radical intelligentsia were becoming attracted to the prospect of popular revolution as the only means to achieve proper 'great reform. '