Why did opposition to Alexander II grow in the 1870’s? Essay
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During 1870’s opposition towards Alexander II arose because of two reasons, one of which was his sudden reactionary attitude after an assassination attempt in 1866. As a result of this event, Alexander, who was at the time strongly influenced by conservatives, saw a reason for his unpopularity the western aspects he brought to Russia by his liberal reforms and therefore removed all liberal ministers he appointed before and replaced them with conservative nobility which led to more restrictions and tightening the rules after more liberal era.
This caused a wave of opposition to rise as many of liberal aspects of society were taken away, namely access to education as Dimitrij Tolstoy was appointed as a minister of Education. Tolstoy made the requirements needed to enter a university much harder to achieve by lower classes which angered the students and teachers. Intelligentsia therefore formed a more serious opposition movement.Another example of these restrictions was increased activity of the third sector, Russian secret police.
Pyotr Shuvalov was appointed as a minister of Interior and his main aims were to strengthen the police and the third section and to eliminate the opposition. Shuvalov’s actions however resulted in increased public fear of the third section and increased number of arrested radicals, but as the liberal reforms made courts fairer, most of the arrested were set free without punishment what encouraged people in radical and revolutionary activities as the fear of harsh punishment deceased.
The second reason for rise in opposition to tsarist regime were Alexander’s liberal reforms. These controversial reforms enabled people to criticize government and Tsar in open public, in which those who wanted further change saw a great opportunity and therefore wrote books encouraging people to join the opposition, namely the book called “What is to be done?” by Chernykevsky who shared his revolutionary ideas through literature as most of the members of radical intelligentsia did.
This had great impact on students who formed a strong core of intellectual opposition called “Young Russia” who called for revolution. As the educational reforms introduced a western and liberal subjects to Russian universities, number of radically thinking students which joined the intelligentsia in their call for revolution arose.
Court previously strict and feared became after Judiciary reforms a place for opposition to show off their spirit and attract public to their cause. As every issue was rewritten in the newspapers, therefore radicals made speeches in which they called for revolution and radical thinking and as the jury was made up of peasants these revolutionaries were usually set free, making the opposition appear even more attractive and powerful. Namely the trial of 193 during which 153 out of 193 populist revolutionaries were set free and others received only light punishments, resulting in government looking incompetent and weak.
In conclusion the rise of opposition was inevitable as the liberal reforms gave Russian people only a taste of freedom, for which they desired and eventually caused them seek radical and revolutionary ideas and activities. Alexander tried to correct his mistakes, which he saw in the western influence on Russia and liberal reforms, by reactionary attitude which stimulated the opposition to grow.