Land of the Russians:
Background of the origins of the Russian Empire:
Alexander II, the Tsar of all the Russia's, was to become known as the 'Liberator Tsar'. Beginning in the 1860's, he introduced a series of reforms which transformed the Russian social system, but failed to establish a firm base for his government. These reforms would range from the emancipation of the serfs, to creating a more equitable judicial system and changes in the systems of education. However, it is often argued that these changes were 'too little, too late' and, after a number of attempts on his life, Alexander would be assassinated in 1881, without having accomplished his dream of modernizing Russia.
Text reading: Chapter 2 'Alexander II- Liberator or Traditionalist 1855- 81 (Pages 24-63)


Emancipation of the Serfs
Alexander II realized, after Russia's loss of the Crimean War, that the medieval system of 'serfdom' would need to be abolished in order to transform Russia into a more modern society. In 1861, the government of Russia declared that serfs were now free.
THE GENERAL STATUTE ON THE EMANCIPATION OF THE SERFS (1861)
1. The serfdom of peasants settled on estate owners' landed properties, and of household serfs, is abolished forever....
2. Peasants and household serfs who have emerged from serfdom are accorded both the personal and the property rights accompanying the legal status of free village dwellers....
3. Estate owners, retaining the right of ownership to all land belonging to them, accord the peasants . . . the permanent utilization of their homesteads and in addition, in order to provide for their livelihood and the performance of their duties to the government and the estate owner, that amount of fields and other landed resources which is determined according to the principles set forth in the local statutes. 4. In return for the allotment assigned to them ..., the peasants are obliged to discharge to the estate owners, in labor or in money, the obligations defined in the local statutes.
Michael Lynch Review's the outcome of the emancipation of the serfs in History Today: Emancipation of the Serfs
After reviewing the notes/handouts and watching the dvd, 'Land of the Tsars', you should have a better understanding of why Alexander II thought it necessary to pursue his main reform of emancipating the serfs.
For homework, due Monday, October 5th complete the worksheet, 'Why was the decision to reform the serf system so controversial?'

Reaction to the reforms of Alexander II: Complete the timeline of events Revolutionary movements during the reign of Alexander II and the reading 'The first attempt on the Tsar's life' and review these questions in preparation for the in class essay on Friday, October 17, 2017.


1. How consistent were the domestic policies of Alexander II?
2. What problems did Alexander II face in 1855 and how far was he successful in solving them?
3. Why, in spite of his efforts to reform Russian institutions, was Alexander II assassinated?

Opposition to Alexander II's reforms
IB Question
Analyse the reasons for, and the nature of, opposition to tsardom in Russia between 1855 and 1894. (Nov 2005). Opposition to Tsar Alexander's reforms will encompass the growing intellectual middle class, and those with revolutionary ideas. However, there success amongst the peasants will be marginal, as they fail to achieve their conversion of the largest segment of Russian society.


Karl Marx's 'The Communist Manifesto' will resonate with various political groups across Europe, and in Russia. Read the condensed version of the Manifesto in order to understand the foundations of Communism. The Communist Manifesto
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Mark Steel, a British comedian, gives an overview of the life of Karl Marx and Communism, in its current form:

Answer the questions, as you watch the video:
Past Questions:
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Alexander II’s reforms. (Nov 2010)
  • “His measures of reform did not disguise his belief in the need to maintain autocratic rule.” To what extent do you agree with this view of Alexander II? (May 2010)
  • To what extent did Alexander II succeed in his attempts to modernize Russia? (Specimen paper)

Alexander III
Alexander III was not supposed to be the heir to the throne. The death of his older brother, Nicholas, in 1865, however, paved the way for this imposing, although rather unimaginative, man to take control of the Romanov dynasty. He was a much different ruler than his father, Alexander II.

Past Questions
  • Compare and contrast the policies of Alexander II (1855-81) and Alexander III (1881-94) of Russia.