“Alexander II’s attempt to modernise Russia and compete with Western Europe were frustrated by the lack of foreign investment. Not until after his death did french money begin to pour into Russia. ” (Pierre Delgrange from his memoirs published in 1913, a French banker who spent many years in Russia) Using my own knowledge I believe the above statement to be partially true. I have looked at evidence that supports the statement and criticises it. Though first we must asses how valid is the interpretation made by Pierre Delgrange. After looking at the source there are a number of reasons why it is and isn’t valid.
Firstly seeing as Pierre Delgrange was a banker he should have known a lot about finance, he would have been an expert in his field. Being in his position he would have been a clever and intelligent man. Therefore he might have had some idea about the financial goings on in Russia. During the reign of Alexander II, Delgrange was an observer in Russia. He would have seen the events happening from a neutral point of view. Being French there would be no reason for him to be bias. He was in one way an eyewitness because he saw what was happening in the country.
So his memoirs should be classed as a primary source. As well as all of this he would more than likely have met Russian officials in his line of work, he would have been a very important man. Being a banker he might have socialised with those in positions of power and wealth. Although his judgement is interesting it would still be valuable to consult an historians view of Alexander’s II reign. An historians view would be able to provide a better perspective of the reign, it would be a more informed opinion. After all Delgrange was only a banker.
We also do not know if Delgrange kept a diary during his time in Russia, or that his memoirs were detailed. He might have written his memoirs from memory and he might have forgotten certain information. So in that respect we are clueless about how and when he wrote the memoirs. There can be no doubt about the importance of the period 1855-1881 in modern Russian history. During Alexander’s reign he brought about great reforms, which dragged Russia into the nineteenth century. Russia wasn’t without it’s problems and Alexander knew it was better to change than have change forced upon you.
Though how did the lack of foreign investment affect Russia? Well in truth with some of the reforms came money. The finance minister Mikhail Von Reutern (1862-1878) was entrusted with all of Russia’s financial problems. While all of the reforms were taking place Reutern had come to grips with some of the countries financial problems. He ended the wasteful amounts of money used by separate government departments, instead, the principle of overall control was given to a unified treasury. As well as this he also introduced a regular budget, which reduced corruption within the government.
He westernised Russia by overhauling the tax system and publishing the countries accounts, this lifted the lid on any secrecy Basically he had modernised and improved how the organisation of Russia’s finance system worked. By doing all of this Reutern provided capital to help with the construction of the railways. When Alexander ascended the throne there were less than 700 miles of track laid. By 1881 (the year of his death) over 14,000 miles of track had been laid. Reutern said this about the railways in 1870 “Without railways, Russia cannot be secured in her boundaries”.
From this quote it is clear that without a railway system Russia was vulnerably. All of this work demanded planning, a huge workforce, coal and iron, etc. The government encouraged big business and potential investors to build the lines, though not enough people were interested. So instead 1. 8 million roubles had to be borrowed to build the lines. Unlike Western Europe Russia couldn’t afford so easily to repay its debts. This was because the economy was so far behind the West. This is where Mikhael Von Reutern intervened. As well as all of the above he also encouraged the development of banks, which controlled loans and spending.
Eventually the success of his polices were acknowledged and in the late 1880’s French money started to come into the country in huge amounts. Before the foreign investment began to pour in, Russia received only a measly 100 million roubles from Western Europe. This was because foreign investors tended to avoid Russia. This may be because they didn’t believe the scheme would work. As well as the railways there were other reforms, which sought to westernise Russia. The minister of war Dimitrii Miliutin (1861-1881) learned from the previous mistakes made during the Crimean war.
He followed the Prussian army as a model and modernised the way Russia’s army was run. It was a top priority for the Tsar, as he knew the benefits of a strong military. The Crimean war had shown all too clearly the shortcomings of the military system. Miliutin sought to humanise the military and improve its efficiency in all aspects. In 1862 regional commands were set up in four areas. The aim was to improve efficiency by decentralising administration and supply. He also set up special military schools known as Junker schools which were open to all.
Miliutin’s reforms paid off more quickly and obviously than any other, with Russia’s spectacular victory over the Turks in 1877. So as well as the railways other reforms were benefiting the country. Not long after Alexander’s assassination Western Europe began to see the potential in Russia. France particular helped out the country when it invested heavily into Russia. This was just what the country needed. This in one way also brought about the “dual entente” The dual entente was an alliance between France and Russia that lasted from 1893 until the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Russia turned to France after they feared an attack by Germany.
After looking at certain evidence I have come to a conclusion. The reforms made by Alexander II did aim to westernise Russia. He didn’t have the amount of money needed to completely modernise Russia. There was foreign money there to build the railways but it came too late for him to see. After his death the French investment came in to the country and boosted Russia’s economy. Going back to the source I can tell that that Delgrange wrote his memoirs in 1913, some time after the event. Even so the interpretation seems to relate to the facts in history. So in my opinion Delgrange made a well-informed opinion about Russia under Alexander.