The term “reaction” refers to a backward change and the term “reform” means to overhul the situation and change it, most of the time for the better. Alexander II also known as the liberator, was the Emperor of Russia from 1855 to 1881. He was responsible for reforms of the legal system, local goverment, armed forces and the emancipation of the serfs, which was the the most important reform in 1861. When Alexander the Liberator died in 1881 his second son became a Tsar. Alexander III or Alexander the Peacemaker was the Emperor of Russia from 1881 to 1894. Alexander III cracked down severely on reform and revolutionary groups, prompting growing unrest. The main reform that Alexander II was responsible for was the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. This led to subsidence agriculture, which meant that farmers could only produce enough to feed themselves or their family. This meant there was not going to be enough food for the rest of the population, which could lead to starvation and there will be no exports.
However if the serfs wanted to be free they had to consenpate the new landowners and pay the redemptation taxes for 49 years. Their lives were regulated by the Mir, a commune system that collects taxes. Also the economy would become ineffective which would push Russia even more backwards than the rest of the world. When Alxender III came to power, the post of land captains was set up for a land owners to exploit peasents and the membership of the Zemstvos was restricted to landowners. Alexander III also launched a campaign of repression, and as said by Orlando Figes ‘ as so often during its political downfall, the old regime chose repression instead of compromise and thus created the political hostility of the zemstvos’. The second reform made by Tsar Alexander II was the Legislative reform in 1870. Alexander II introduced a first form of elective goverment in Russian history, although the electorate was limited to educated and whealthy. It was called the Zemstvo. Their powers were limited to functions such as elementary education. Also the elective local goverment was extended to towns and cities. However, Alexander III has made an ministerial change and sucked his fathers liberial ministers (Lris-Melikov and Ignatiev) to appoint Pobedonostsev as his chief minister.
Pobedonostsev was a firm believer in Autocracy, the Orthodox Church and Nationalism. Alexander III in April 1881 has issued a Manifesto stating that power was only in hands of the Tsar. He also set up a secret police called Okhrama to elimnate terrorists and oposition groups. Judical reform was another reform that Alexander II was responsible for. In 1870 the Tsar’s government has introduced trail by jury. However when Alexander III became the Tsar, the trial by jury has been removed and the statue of state security was set up for opponents to be This meant that ordinary Russians participated in the dispensation of justice. Also there was a number of reforms introduced to streamline the court procuders, these included: Modernaising the system and removing corrupt practices. Alexander III, on the other hand has increased the corruption. The 4th reform was the Relaxation of Censorship. The Russian empire had a greater freedom of expression leading to the development of an intelligentsia ( A cross-section of the educated, literate and more enlightened members of Russian society), which was a challenge to Tsar, as people will then want their country to be more developed just like France or Great Britain, and they might also have bigger chances to move up the pyramid of society.
There was also a relaxation of controls over the press and universities. Alexander III has made a huge change to the press. There were serere restrictions on foreign books and newspapers. Between 1882 – 1889, 14 newspapers were closed down for being too liberal: There was a lot of different ideas coming from different countries, cultural differences and different rights that women and workers have in the west. He has also made some big changes in education. Universties were places under government control in 1882, also tution fees were increased, which means that mostly wealthy people would be able to pay for the tutions. Access to secondary schools became very difficult for the sons of workers and peasents. The Church was put in control of primary schools, where they have used Indoctination to teach the kids what is ‘ good ‘ for Russia, this also had some impact on the Church as they had more support now. Alexander III ruled over the multi – ethnic empire, and one way for him to bring unity and cohesion was to adopt a policy of ‘Russification’ – the spread and dominace of Russian language, religion and culture. In 1885 Russian was made the official language for the whole Russian Empire.
All the documents had to be in Russian and all other languages were forbideen from school, which was, as Orlando Figes said, ridiculous “Trying to stamp out the native language was not just an insulting and demoralizing policy… it was ridiculous as well. Polish students at Warsaw University, for example, had to suffer the absurd indignity of studying their own native literature in Russian translation.” Area most affected was Central Asia because most of people were non-Russian but also Muslim. It was the Jews, however, who suffered the most under this policy. Organised attacks on Jews greatly increased during the reigh of Alexander III, these were known as pogroms. Reform made by Alexander III was a Financial Reform. The reform was under Finance Ministers Bunge and Vyshnegradsky. Alexander III wanted Russian Empire to change from Imperial Power ( land, army, church) to Great Power (Industrial Revolution, Urbanisation and more rights/freedom) but he didn’t want rights and freedom.
A land Bank was set up to encourage peasents to buy land and, also taxes on peasents were reduced to stimulate production. There was a drive to relocate peasents to Siberia to find more productive land, but it was very unlikely there will be any because of the very cold climate. There was a Foundation for more reform by Sergei Witte and attraction loans from Birtain and France. To conclude, most of the reactions to the reforms made by Alexander III weren’t positive. He wanted Russia to become a Great Power without rights and freedom, most of people were uneducated because they could not afford tuttion or it was hard for them to get to secondary schools. He was also brainwashing kids, so they know from a very young age what is “good” for Russia, also even though he was called the ‘peacemaker’, he adopted the policy of Russtafication, which led Jews, Muslims, Poles, Estonias and other nationalites to suffer.
The financial reform wouldn’t make much change to society, as Tsar Alexander III didn’t want rights and freedom in Russia, also sending peasents to Siberia to find productive land, which was quite impossible could have led to the loss of workers, because they could die in the terrible wheather conditions. On the other hand Russia had ideas coming from the west which could help the Industrial Revolution to happen. His reaction and a new reform was not able to solve Famine in 1891, because sending peasent to Siberia only took some pressure off the demand for land, but it couldn’t prevent the catastrophic femine.