Russian Emperor Alexander the Second, known as Alexander the Liberator for the emancipation of serfs, was born on April 29, 1818.
Alexander the Second was the Emperor of Russia from March 2, 1855 until his assassination on March 13, 1881. He was the author of major reforms of the Russian government system. Saint-Petersburg TV Channel tells about the most important of his reforms.
Peasant reform and emancipation of serfs, 1861
The Emancipation Reform of 1861 abolished serfdom on private estates throughout the Russian Empire. Alexander II started preparing the Emancipation Reform in advance authorizing the formation of committees ‘for ameliorating the condition of the peasants’ and laying down the principles of the amelioration in 1857.
The Manifest liberating the serfs was signed on February 19, 1861. Serfs gained the full rights of free citizens, including the rights to marry without having to gain consent, to own property and to own a business. The measure was the first and most important of the liberal reforms made by Alexander II.
Financial reform, 1863
The changes in the country’s economy due to the abolition of serfdom led to an increasing budget deficit. To redeem themselves from landlords, peasants were given loans for a period of 49 years, which led to an increase in the internal debt. Besides, Russia had a foreign debt and was issuing additional currency, which inevitably resulted in economic problems.
The principles of the financial reform were developed by Valerian Tatarinov who introduced obligatory financial planning and reporting for all ministries, departments and other state bodies. All the state income was concentrated in the state treasury, which was controlled by the ministry of finance. Controlling chambers were established, and the taxation system was reformed.
As a result, the financial system became more transparent and efficient.
Establishing zemstvos, 1864
Local government in Russia was remodeled by the statute of 1864, setting up elective local assemblies known as zemstvos. Their gradual introduction extended the area of self-government, improved local welfare (education, hygiene, medical care, local crafts, agronomy), and brought enlightenment to Russian villages as zemstvo village schools powerfully supported the spread of rural literacy.
Judicial reform, 1864
A new judicial administration based on the French model introduced security of tenure. A new penal code and a greatly simplified system of civil and criminal procedure were also adopted.
The reorganization of the judiciary system included trial in open court, with judges appointed for life, a jury system and the creation of justices of the peace to deal with minor offences at local level.
Military reform, 1874
The bulk of military reforms were enacted as a result of the poor showing in the Crimean War. Military minister Dmitry Milyutin carried out an extensive series of reforms affecting nearly every branch of the Russian military organization.
Military reforms included universal conscription, introduced for all social classes on 1 January 1874. Prior to the new regulation, conscription was compulsorily enforced only for the peasantry. Conscription had been 25 years for serfs that were drafted by their landowners, which was widely considered to be a life sentence. The universal conscription provided for all young people over 20 to serve in the army for 6 years. Corporal punishment in the army was banned.
Other military reforms included extending the reserve forces and the military district system, which split the Russian territory into 15 military districts. The educative role of military service was underlined by a marked improvement of military schools. Officers were better educated, and lower classes got a chance to improve their position by serving in the army.
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