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Alexander III Government

The State-Political Development.

The state-political development of the country in the 80-es - the first half of the 90-es of XIX century.

Emperor Alexander III (1891-1894) was the second son of Alexander II and became his successor only at the age of 20, after the death of the Cesarevitch Nikolay Alexandrovich in 1865. Since that moment he takes part in meetings of the State Council and Committee of Ministers, he presides in the Special committee on gathering and distribution of means to starving men. Alexander Alexandrovich, who was initially trained for military career, studies the course necessary to become a monarch.

Even supporters of Alexander III considered him a person of " below average mind, below average abilities and below secondary education". However, the absence of talents and legerity was compensated by his natural common sense, intuition, experience and keen responsibility.

The tsar's assassination in May 1, 1881 first caused panic and confusion in the ruling circles. Alexander III appointed a regent in case of his death (his brother Vladimir). But neither revolution, nor anti-governmental actions followed that event. Alexander's III first steps on the throne were extremely cautious. The new autocrat waited and accessed alignment of forces in the high spheres of the government.

By the middle of March 1881 the police detained all participants of the murder of Alexander II. Their trial showed the turn of the public opinion from the liberal illusions to requirements of "strong hand" and rigid police measures. In April 3, 1881 five member of the "Narodnaya Volya" (A.I.Zhelyabov, S.L.Perovskaya, N.I.Kibalchich, T.M.Mikhailov, N.I. Rysakov) were hanged publicly.

Their execution became the first obvious symptom of the turn of the policy to keeping of autocracy.

Soon after the execution Alexander III in his letter to his brother Vladimir formulated his political credo "I shall never allow restrictions of autocracy which I find necessary and useful for Russia".

In April 29, 1881 a tsar's manifest made by K.P.Pobedonostsev was published. The manifest buried all the hopes of liberals for constitutional changes of the political system. It contained the intention "to strengthen and protect" the autocracy by all means 'against any efforts".

The basic directions of the activity of the new government were "eradication of sedition" and calming of the public. A special role in strengthening and protection was delegated to the Department of police, which activity got unprecedented scope after appointment of V.K.Pleve (1881-1884) and then I.P.Durnovo as heads.

On the 14th of August, 1881 Alexander III ratified "Regulation of measures to safeguarding of the state and public order".

The number of gendarmes increased considerably. Branches of the Criminal Investigation Department were founded everywhere for protection of public safety and order with spies, counterspies and provokers.

The strengthening of the punitive policy towards the revolutionary movement was accompanied by measures to calm down the peasant masses and weaken tension in the Russian society. The government took measures to consolidation and strengthening of the autocratic monarchy, and the elaboration of the policy against previous reforms began.

The concept of a new political course finally developed in the middle of the 80-es and declared firmness of autocracy, inadmissibility of any political reorganization, centralization of power and restriction of rights of local self-government, "full inviolability" of rights of nobility.

Alexander's III national policy was defined by literally understood orthodox patriotism and aspiration to merge all citizens of the Russian Empire in a kind of united nation. The ardently religious emperor and his nearest circle aspired to strengthen autocracy by means of militant great-power nationalism, forced russification and consolidation of orthodoxy.

The great-power nationalism was especially brightly showed in Poland and Finland. In the latter the turn of the national policy took place at the end of the 80-es - the beginning of 90-es; independence of mail service was abolished; Russian coin became obligatory. The Senate was reorganized (in 1892) in order to weaken its political influence.

In Poland the forced russification of the system education was going on, and teaching of all subjects was in the Russian language, the Polish bank was closed in 1885. The activity of the administration was directed to the transformation of Poland into Privislensky territory.

The process of russification in the Baltic region got a great scope through Orthodoxy. In total during the reign of Alexander III only 37 thousand people passed from the Lutheranism to Orthodoxy.

The national culture of Ukrainians and Byelorussians was discriminated, their languages were forbidden; Uniate Church was persecuted.

The process of baptism of pagans and Mahomethans in the Volga region, Central Asia and Siberia was accompanied by abuse and humiliation. In Alexander's III reign more than 8,5 thousand Moslems and more than 50 thousand pagans were inverted to Orthodoxy.

On Caucasus the Armenian Church was persecuted, and attempts of russification of Georgia were undertaken.

The policy of persecution and restriction was carried out against Jews. It was forbidden for Jews to get any property in countryside. In 1891-1892 special laws limited residing Jews in Moscow and Moscow province, about 20 thousand persons were moved.

The Policy of Counter Reforms.

Working out and realization of the policy of counter reforms.

Since June 1882 till the end of 1885 a new course of government policy was established, and general outlines of reforms in favour of local nobility were planned. The emperor and his suite chose the tactics of gradual and consecutive liquidation of "alien" for the Russian autocracy phenomena of previous periods.

The university charter of 1884 was the first step of the new government position. This charter liquidated the autonomy of universities.Henceforth rectors, deans and professors were appointed, the criteria were not scientific merits but their "religious, moral and patriotic orientation". Rights of scientific boards were limited, and the university court was abolished. University life was supervised by a curator of the district and a minister. The system of state examinations and payment by students for the right to attend lectures and practical training were introduced.

The years of 1886-1894 was the period of detailed working out of the general plan and concrete projects of counter reforms and their realization. The essential part of projects of counter reform was developed in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the main developer was the governor of office of the ministry, former district leader of nobility A.D.Pazukhin.

The project of the administrative counter reform was finished in the autumn of 1886. The important step in its realization was the law of district heads (July 12, 1889) who were appointed by the Minister of Internal Affairs from hereditary noblemen. It ought to replace the institution of arbitrators, district country tribunals and justice's court. They approved and dismissed officials of country administration, imposed penalties without trials and arrested peasants. The law of administrative heads increased the government supervision of peasants, subordinated them to administrative and judicial power of noblemen.

The next step was passing on the 12th of June 1890 of "Regulations of provincial and district establishments" that approved the class principle of elections to the local establishments and strengthened the government control of their activity.

After this counter reform the question of city self-government was put on the agenda. 'The city regulations" of the 11th of June 1892 considerably limited the autonomy of the city self-government but widened rights of the administration. The mayor and members of the town council were declared state employees, hence, were controlled by the administration.

The court reforms.

Cautious but insistent actions were undertaken against the "court republic" - court establishments of 1864. The sphere of competence of courts was consistently limited, the attack on publicity of legal proceedings continued. The law of the 12th of February 1887 gave to ministers of Internal Affairs and justice the right to declare closed sessions of court. In April 1887 were increased the property and educational qualifications for jurors that hindered in democratization of their membership. In connection with the institution of district heads in 1889 Justices of the Peace were abolished.

As a whole the measures did much harm to new court establishments but did not liquidate their main principles: irremovability of judges, publicity and jury. Full revision of the court regulations of 1864 was undertaken by the minister of justice N.V Muraviyev appointed in 1894, the Solicitor-General at state trials. But termination of the judicial counter reform was prevented by the change of political conditions after Alexander's III death.

The Economical Policy of Alexander III.

The economical policy of Alexander III was aimed to solve two most important tasks: acceleration of the economical development of the country and consolidation of the gentry's position. To solve the first task, the head of the Ministry of Finance N.K.Bunge was oriented to expansion of the home market, the rise of the agriculture and industry, and consolidation of positions of the middle class.

On the 9th of May 1881 was passed a law of reduction of the redemption-fee and writing down of arrears for last years. Damage of the treasury was supposed to cover the growth of the land-tax by one and a half, the urban realty tax and also the rates of excise tax on tobacco, spirit and sugar.

Gradual abolition of the capitation (1882-1886) was followed by the development of other forms of taxation: incomes from money on deposit and excise increased, the commercial and industrial taxation were also seriously transformed, and the customs were considerably raised (almost twice as much).

The system of state insurance arrangements on incomes from private railways was onerous for the country. Under Bunge, appeared the control over railways and started the purchase of private railways by government and construction of state railways.

In 1883 was renewed the creation of private joint-stock banks. In 1885 was created the Nobleman's land-bank, which purpose was to support lords' landownership (N.K.Bunge was against it).In January 1887 under pressure of conservative deputies, accusing him of incompetence and incapability to overcome the budgeted deficit, Bunge resigned.

He was replaced by Vyshnegradsky I.V. (1887-1892), a known mathematician and a big speculator, who kept the general course of the economical and financial policy of the predecessor, but his basic emphasis was the fund accumulation and improvement in exchange of the ruble through financial and exchange transactions. Vyshnegradsky strengthened protectionism in the custom policy.

On the whole for the years of 1880-1890 the growth of duty on import increased the incomes almost by 50 %. In 1891 the general revision of the customs-tariff was made with the purpose of its centralization and abolition of local tariffs. Due to the protectionism in the customs policy, import to Russia of foreign capitals increased. At the end of 80s it became possible to overcome the budgeted deficit.

The industrial development of Russia in the 80s and the beginning of the 90s.

In the majority of branches of the Russian large-scale industry the industrial revolution finished by the 80s of XIX century. The economic policy of Ministers of Finance Bunge and Vyshnegradsky contributed to the accelerated development of the industrial production.Russia was already at the first place according to the rate of growth of oil and coal production.

The 90s were distinguished by active construction of industrial enterprises.

Despite the rapid growth of the Russian industry, its lagging from the developed countries of the West (USA, England, Germany, etc.) both in technical equipment and installed power, and the production volume of coal and oil, metal and machines per head, remained rather significant.

The total volume of production of the heavy industry of Russia by 1896 was less than 1/4 of the whole production. The leading place in economy belonged to the light industry. The textile manufacture gave yield one and a half times more than the coal mining, production of oil, minerals, the metal-working and metallurgy industry taken together.

From 1881 in Russia burst out an industrial crisis. The consequences of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878, landslide of prices on grain, the general reduction of the development of the home market because of sharp decrease of purchasing capacity of peasantry adversely affected the economy. In 1883-1887 the crisis was replaced by a long depression, but the end of 1887 was marked by the revival of the heavy and then the light industries.


The government paid great attention to the development of railway transport, which had not only the economic and but the strategic value. From the 80s increased construction of new railroads and purchase of private railways by the government. By the middle of the 90s 60 % of the whole railway system already belonged to the state. The general length of the state railway in 1894 made up 18 776 versts, and in 1896 were constructed 34 088 versts. In the 80s the railroad system developed at the western frontiers of Russia.

The river and sea navigation developed too. By 1895 the number of river steamships was estimated at 2539, having increased 6 times more in comparison with 1860 (before the reform).

The development of home and foreign trade was connected with the development of transport. The number of shops and commodity exchanges (especially near railway stations) increased. The home commodity circulation in Russia (without small-scale commerce) in 1895 totaled 8,2 billion rubles, having increased 3.5 times more in comparison with the year of 1873.

The foreign market developed rapidly too. At the beginning of the 90s export surpassed import in 150-230 million rubles annually. The favorable foreign trade balance was achieved due to the protectionist tariff policy of the state. In the 80s import duty on coal increased three times, in 1885 they were increased on iron, in 1887 on cast-iron. In the second half of the 80s between Germany and Russia began a tariff war: in reply to restriction of import to Germany of Russian agricultural production, Russia increasing the import rates on German manufacture.

The first place in export was taken by bread.

Wood was the second, having superseded wool.

Export of manufactured goods increased at the double-quick, and reached 25 % of all export. In the middle of 90s machines were the first of Russian imports, and the second place was occupied by raw cotton. Then were metal, coal, tea and petroleum.

The main foreign trade partner of Russia was Germany (25 % of Russian exports, 32 % of imports). England was moved to the second position (20 % of exports and 20 % of imports). The third place in the Russian export was occupied by Holland (11 %), in the import - the USA (9 %).

The Public and Revolutionary Movement.

The public movement during the reign of Alexander III declined. The editor of 'Moskovkye vedomosty' and 'Russky Vestnik' M.N.Katkov became the mouthpiece of 'public opinion' during persecution and repressions against dissidence. He became the inspirer of a new governmental policy.

The revolutionary movement in the 80s and the beginning of the 90s is characterized first of all by the decline of populism and the expansion of Marxism in Russia.

From the middle of the 80s in Russia was created the first social democratic circles of students and workers.

The peasant movement during 1881-1894 remained spontaneous. The biggest number of revolts happened in 1881-1884.

The basic causes for disorders were the growth of various duties and seizure of peasant lands by landowners. The peasant movement gathered momentum considerably after the famine of 1891-1892, and peasants used to attack policemen and military groups, to capture landlords' properties and to do collective felling.

Meanwhile in its agrarian policy the government tried to keep the peasantry's patriarchal way of life trough its regulation.After the abolition of serfdom the process of disintegration of the country family went quickly, and the number of family allotments grew.

In 1886 there was passed a law of hiring of agricultural workers. It obliged peasants to sign up a contract with landowners, providing strict punishment for voluntary leaving landowners.

A great attention in the agrarian policy was paid by the government to preserve the peasant community. To preserve the community the government, notwithstanding the abundance of free lands, restrained the process of resettlement.

The labour movement of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. The industrial crisis of the beginning of the 80s and the long depression that replaced it gave rise to unemployment and poverty. Owners of enterprises had no scruple in massive signing off, wage-out, increasing of fines. Working and living conditions of workers became worse.Cheaper women's and child labour were widely used. There was no daily working restriction. No protection of labour, and it entailed the growth of accidents. At the same time there were no benefits and insurance of workers.

In the first half of the 80s the government, trying to prevent conflicts, acted as the intermediary between hired workers and businessmen. First of all most malicious forms of exploitation were eliminated. Economical strikes and revolts at the beginning of the 80s as a whole did not overstep the limits of separate enterprises.

The most important role in the development of the mass labour movement played the strike on Morozov's textile mill (Orekhovo-Zuyevo) in January 1885. About 8 thousand workers took part in it. The strike was organized beforehand. Workers demanded not only of the owner (change of the fine system, the order of dismissal, etc.), but also of the government (introduction of the state control over the position of workers, passing of laws about terms of employment). The government took measures to stop the strike (more than 600 persons were repatriated, 33 arrested) and simultaneously put pressure upon owners of the enterprise to satisfy some claims in order to prevent future disorders.

The trial at the heads of the 'Morozovskaya' strike took place in May 1886 and exposed facts of arbitrariness of the administration. The jury justified the workers. Under the influence of the strike on the 3rd of June 1885 the government passed the law "about the supervision over the industry and the mutual relations between manufacturers and workers". The law partly regulated the order of hiring and dismissal of workers, normalized the system of penalties, and also established measures of punishment in case of participation in strikes.

The echo of the 'Morozovskaya' strike was a wave of strikes at industrial enterprises of Moscow and Vladimir provinces, St. Petersburg and the Donets Basin. The wave of strikes reduced during the crisis of the 80s, but rose again in 1880-1890. The labour movement of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s forced owners to increase salaries and to reduce the workday.

The foreign policy of Alexander III got his title of "Peacemaker" not at random: all through his reign the country did not wage any war.In the 80s Russia kept its priorities in the foreign policy. Having come to the throne, Alexander III continued his father's policy towards Germany. At the beginning of the 80s Germany remained the major market of agricultural production for Russia. Besides the union with Germany could become a support in the Russian struggle against England. Long negotiations with Germany, to which at Bismarck's request joined Austria-Hungary, finished on the 6th (18th) of June 1881 by signature of the new Austro-Russian-German "Union of three emperors" for six years. Despite its instability, "The union of three emperors" played an important role in the Russian-English conflict of 1885. The Russian troops, having occupied Turkmenistan in 1885, came close to the frontiers of Afghanistan protected by England. In March 1885 there was a military collision between a Russian advanced detachment and the Afghan army under the command of English officers.There appeared a real threat of war between Russia and England. Thanks to the "Union", Russia forced Turkeyto close its Black Sea straits for English navy, thus having secured its Black Sea frontier. In such circumstances England preferred to retreat, recognizing the Russian conquest of Central Asia. In 1885 the Russian-English military commissions started the demarcation of the Russian-Afghan frontier.

In the 80s Russia failed in the Balkans.

Relations between Germany and Russia grew worse. Bismarck prohibited the Deutchebank to grant loans on the security of Russian state-papers. In 1887 Russia increased duties on import of goods from Germany, and Germany did the same towards Russian production.Since then began the re-deployment of the Russian forces from the southwest frontier to the western one, that is from Turkey and Austria-Hungary to Germany. By the end of the 80s contradictions between Russia and Germany and Austria-Hungary became more serious than with England. In 1890 the new German chancellor Kaprivi did not prolong the 'reinsurance' treaty. Triple Alliance was renewed in 1891. The rapprochement of its participants with England was planned. At the same time Germany and Austria-Hungary tried to establish closer relations with Turkey. In such circumstances a turn towards republican France took place in the foreign policy of Russia.

The basis of the Russian-French rapprochement was the common opponents, England and Germany.

The political aspect was supplemented by the economical one. Since 1887 Russia received French loans. After conversion of the Russian public debt at the Paris stock exchange in 1888-1889 France became the main creditor of tsarist Russia. Loans were added by significant investment in the Russian economy.

On the 27th of August 1891 Russia and France signed a secret agreement concerning common actions in case one of the sides is attacked. The nest year, due to the increase of the German army, was elaborated the project of the French-Russian military convention.

Education and Enlightenment.

During the reign of Alexander III there were many changes in the sphere of education.

In 1882 Pobedonostsev and D.A.Tolstoy's protege Delyanov replaced the liberal baron A.N.Nicolai at the post of the minister of education. From the year of 1884 parish schools passed under the jurisdiction of the Synod. The number of such schools increased constantly: from 4,5 thousand in 1882 to 32 thousand in 1894. In 1891 free official schools, created by the initiative of peasant associations, got under the influence of the Synod too. The main task of these schools was upbringing in the spirit of Orthodoxy; but in general they helped to raise the educational level of the population.

Secondary education developed much more slowly. From the 60s to the middle of the 90s the number of students in man's secondary educational institutions increased 6 times more and reached 150 thousand. In woman's grammar schools, eparchial schools and institutes studied 75 thousand people.

With the view of changing of the social structure of schools I.P. Delyanov in 1887 published the famous circular about "cooks' children" that prohibited lowest estates to enter secondary institutions.

In the field of higher education the policy of the government was directed to formation of a loyal, well-intentioned and reliable intelligentsia, state scientific and bureaucratic cadres. After elimination in 1884 of university autonomy the uniform for students appeared again (1885), that made their surveillance easier. In 1886 the period of military service was increased up to one year for persons with higher education. Tuition fees were raised too.

Strong anxiety of the government was caused by the woman's higher education. In 1882 the woman's medical education (the higher woman's medical courses) was liquidated, in 1886 the reception of women at the higher courses was abolished at all. Development of the system of libraries and reading rooms played a great role in the expansion of education. In 1894 there were 862 public libraries and more than 3000 regional libraries.

Publishing despite of the punitive censorial policy developed too. In total in 1894 there were 1315 printing houses, were issued 804 periodicals, were published more than 10 000 books. Science.

The 80s - the beginning of the 90s were marked by the brilliant achievements of Russian scientists. The biggest Russian mathematical school of St-Petersburg of P.L. Chebyshev achieved outstanding successes. Among its students were A.A.Markov (1856-1922), the author of research in the field of the theory of numbers, the probability theory and the mathematical analysis, A.M.Lyapunov (1857-1918) who became famous by his works in the field of differential equations. S.V.Kovalevskaya, the outstanding mathematician (1850-1891), was the first woman who became the Professor and Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences.

In the field of aeronautics A.F.Mozhaisky's experiments (1825-1890) had a huge value. In 1881 he managed to construct, test and patent the first plane.

The Russian electrical engineer M.O.Dolivo-Dobrovolsky (1862-1919) solved the problem of transfer of electric power by wires and also developed the system of three-phase current (1891).

V.V.Dokuchayev (1846-1903) after long research published the work "Russian chernozem" (1883), the classical work of the new scientific direction - soil science.

Successful research in the field of physical chemistry was carried out by N.N.Beketov (1827-1911). His pupils V.V. Markovnikov (1838-1904) and .. Zaitsev continued to develop the theory of chemical structure.The significant contribution in development of astronomy was brought by F.A.Bredikhin (1831-1904), who created the theory of comet forms and the theory of the origin of star showers, and his pupil A.A.Belopolsky (1854-1934).In contrast to natural sciences, social studies were under constant pressure of the authorities. At the same time in the field of social studies the sharp struggle of ideas and currents found its reflection. In philosophy wide dissemination got positivism (G.N.Vyrubov, E.V. d Roberti, M.Troitsky). From the beginning of the 80s marxism became a part of Russian philosophy. An outstanding role in propagation of marxism in Russia was played by G.V.Plekhanov. The end of XIX century was the beginning of decline of Slavophilism. Here became famous such outstanding religious philosophers as N.F.Fedorov (1828-1903) and V.S. Soloviyev (1853-1900).

A great contribution in the world science was made by historical works of V.I.Gere (1837-1919) and his pupils (P.G.Vinogradov and N.I.Kareyev), and also works on the history of Byzantium by V.G.Vasiliyevsky (1833-1899).

In the 80s and the beginning of the 90s here successfully worked many philologists, linguists and literary critics. Works of literature and folklore by A.N.Veselovsky (1838-1906) had a world value too.

In the 80s and the beginning of the 90s literature, despite severe governmental reprisal, including arrests and exile of writers, remained the leading sphere in the cultural life of the country. Main themes of works of Russian writers were accusation of the existing regime and reflection of people's life. In literature came L.N.Tolstoy, A.P.Chekhov, V.G.Korolenko, D.N Mamin-Sibiryak, G.I.Uspensky, .. Gorky, A.A.Fet, A.N.Maikov, J.P.Polonsky, D.S.Merezhkovsky, Z.N.Gippius.

A great role in the spiritual life of the Russian society was played by theatre. Alongside with the main drama theatres of the country, the Small and Alexandrinsky ones, appeared a number of provincial theatres (in Kiev, Odessa, Saratov, Kazan, Irkutsk, etc.).

Development of musical culture in the 80s - the first half of the 90s is inextricably related with P.I.Chaikovsky. There was a pleiad of new talented composers (S.I.Taneyev, A.K.Lyadov, A.K.Glazunov, A.S.Arensky, V.S.Kalinnikov).

In the fine art the main role was played by the creativity of artists. Their activity grows. The 15th exhibitions in 1886 took place in fourteen cities. In total there were 48 exhibitions. The real event of the cultural life of Russia was the pictures of I.E.Repin "Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan" (1885) and V.I.Surikov's "Boyarninia Morozova" (1881-1887) shown at these exhibitions.

The significant contribution to the Russian art was made by the sculptors A.M.Opekushin (Monuments to A.S.Pushkin, K.M.Ber, M.U.Lermontov), M.O.Mikeshin (projects of monuments to Catherine II and Bogdan Khmelnitsky), M.M.Antokolsky (series of sculptural historical portraits).

In 1892 P.M.Tretiakov's gift of his richest art collection to Moscow had a great value for popularization of the Russian national art.

In architecture was formed the Russian national style, which was most brightly shown in the look of buildings of the Municipal Duma in Moscow (D.N.Chichagov, 1890-1892), the Trading lines (nowadays GUM, A.N.Pamerantsev, 1892), houses of Igumnov on Yakimanka street in Moscow (N.Pozdeyev, 1892). In construction of apartment houses in large cities prevailed the Renaissance and the baroque, distinguished by richnes of forms and decorations.

Russian Empire
Birth of the Empire - Peter the Great
Epoch of Palace Revolution
Russia in the second half of XVIII century
Epoch of Alexander I Reign
Nikolai`s Russia
Epoch of Great Reforms
Alexander III Government
Russia in XIX-XX centuries. First World War.

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