To What Extent Did Alexander Ii Deserve His Title of the “Tsar Liberator?”

1731 Words Oct 21st, 2012 7 Pages
Does Alexander II truly deserve the title of liberator? To liberate is to set free (a group or individual) from legal, social or political restrictions. There is evidence to suggest that he disliked serfdom. Even his father, Nicholas I, believed that serfdom was an “evil palpable to all,” and Alexander II was certainly even more liberally educated than his father.

His arguably most fundamental reform was the emancipation of serfdom in 1861. As he said, “It is best to abolish serfdom from above than to wait until it abolishes itself from below”. This quote demonstrates his realization that reform was needed. Many saw serfdom as Russia's biggest handicap in development into a new modern era, to be the equal of other European powers. There
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Milyutin’s reforms made the army more civilized and efficient-the army was made to be more accommodating for the soldiers with the army methods being made more humane. This meant that training was made more relaxed and corporal punishment was banned. Shorter services meant that the army was no longer seen as a 'prison life sentence'. The success of the reform was due to the efforts of Dmitri Milyutin, not Alexander II, but overall successful nonetheless. Furthermore, the success of the reform was not measured in the number of victories in battle, but the way in which it introduced a sense of professionalism and discipline in soldiers. This gave birth to modern military strategies and more effective combat tactics.
In 1864, Alexander introduced a modern western-style judicial system based on the French system that was aimed to be “equal to all our subjects.” The salaries of judges were also increased, making them less likely to accept bribes, thus decreasing corruption. Further reforms included the opening of courts to the public, which drastically increased freedom of expression and opportunities of careers in law. As historian Hugh Seton-Watson argues, “the court-room was the one place in Russia where real freedom of speech prevailed.” However, the success of these reforms can be questioned as the police of the Third Section could arrest people on demand and political and military cases were soon