Late Freedom: Alexander II Abolished Serfdom 160 Years Ago

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Late Freedom: Alexander II Abolished Serfdom 160 Years Ago
Late Freedom: Alexander II Abolished Serfdom 160 Years Ago
19 February, 13:43Society
On February 19, 1861, a Manifesto was issued on the abolition of serfdom, but it was too late - centuries of oppression naturally led the country to a revolutionary explosion, as far back as 1839, the chief of the gendarmes A.Kh. Benckendorff warned Tsar Nicholas I: "Serfdom is a gunpowder crypt under the state".

Sergey Baimukhametov, publicist

Herzen called the time of the reign of Nicholas I stagnation. (This is where this word, introduced a century and a half later by the reformer Gorbachev already in the Soviet Union.) He ruled the country for thirty years. Epoch. Which began darkly and ended hopelessly. It began with the gallows on the Kronverkskaya curtain, with the execution of the Decembrists, and ended with a defeat in the Crimean War.

Everyone understood that serfdom fettered the country's productive and moral forces and corrupted everything and everyone.

К. Лебедев. «Продажа крепостных с аукциона»

It is unspeakably ashamed, shameful to live in a country “where thin slavery drags along the reins” (Pushkin) , where living people, God's souls, are sold and bought, exchanged for dogs.

In such a situation, the 37-year-old Tsar Alexander II ascended the throne.

"Sovereign, wash away the shameful stain from Russia..."

Herzen wrote from far away in London, addressing the tsar:

“Give land to the peasants. She already belongs to them; wash away the shameful stain of serfdom from Russia, heal the scars on the backs of our brothers - these terrible traces of contempt for man...

Hurry up! Save the peasant from future atrocities, save him from the blood that he will have to shed".

Alexander II met expectations. His coronation was marked by an amnesty to the Decembrists and Petrashevists, the grip of censorship was immediately loosened, and the word "thaw" immediately appeared in society. (This word will emerge a century later in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death.)

Everything in Russia then breathed hopes for a different life.

Six months before the coronation, in March 1856, in Moscow, at a gala dinner attended by the leaders of the nobility, the tsar was asked whether the rumors about the imminent liberation of the peasants were true. Apparently, Alexander II was not ready for such a conversation, he had not yet formulated a thought in precise words. He answered chaotically, with obvious irritation:

“The feeling of hostility between the peasants and their landlords, unfortunately, exists, and from this there were several cases of disobedience to the landowners. I am convinced that sooner or later we must come to this. I think that you are of the same opinion with me, therefore, it is much better for this to happen from above than from below. "

As a contemporary recalls, the sovereign's speech was a thunderous blow. The word was spoken. It instantly penetrated all corners of the country. Russia has stirred up.

“Whoever has not lived in Russia in 1956 does not know what life is...”, - wrote Leo Tolstoy. The tsar was warmly greeted by the irreconcilable London oppositionist Herzen.

All thinking Russia prayed for Alexander II. Everyone said to each other: as if a heavy stone had fallen from the soul, it became easier to breathe.

But these five years, from 1856 to 1861, became the way of the cross of Alexander II.

Life put him before a cruel choice: with whom to be - with the noble landowners or with the peasants, with the people. Or to free the peasants without ransom - or with ransom. With large allotments of land - or with small ones.

From the very beginning, Alexander II decided for himself: no ransom, give so much land so that the people would be rich and happy. In the committees and commissions on peasant reform he selected like-minded people. But he had no idea what the resistance would be.

Nine-tenths of the landowners did not even want to hear about the emancipation of the peasants in general.

And even more so about release without ransom.

Landowners, noblemen are the mainstay of the throne. So the king must go against his own? To turn against yourself practically all the nobility of Russia?

Poor Alexander rushed about. He created committees and commissions, appointed and removed their chairmen. Not because they were bad associates, but because his views changed and other people were required, with different views and moods.

When a deputation of landowners tried to insist that they consider the peasant question, the tsar declared:

"If these gentlemen think by their attempts to frighten me, then they are mistaken, I am too convinced of the rightness of the holy case that we have initiated for anyone to stop me in completing it".

Император Александр Второй

Alas. The "planters" won. The king did not dare to "complete the holy work". The peasants received plots of land that were even smaller than the plots they used as slaves. And they could not dispose of this land on their own, because they fell into the grip of the community. It was necessary to draw up some kind of charter , that is, an agreement between the peasant and the landowner. Conciliators were introduced to resolve disputes between a peasant and a landowner. The peasants were not free, but temporarily liable, that is, they had to work out freedom and land. After two years of corvee, the peasant had the right to demand transfer to a quitrent .

What is this if not a mockery?

The provision on land redemption was also a mockery. It was necessary to convert the rent into money and calculate the entire amount in money. And since the peasants had no money, they paid only 20% of the ransom. The rest 80% was paid by the state. The peasants had to return this money to the state within 49 years at the rate of 6% per annum. It turned out that under such a system the peasant would pay triple the initial value of his allotment. The hateful and incomprehensible process for the peasants with bank interest and other gibberish with arrears stretched right up to 1906, when the redemption payments were canceled.

But that is later. And then, in March 1861, the peasants rebelled. Everyone was convinced that the landlords and officials were deceiving them, that they had hidden the real decree of the tsar. In the village of Abyss, Kazan province, the peasants did not betray their leader Anton Petrov at rifle barrels. They shouted: "We are alone for the king!" After five volleys, 70 corpses remained on the ground. Another 20 people died from their wounds. Anton Petrov was tried by a court-martial and shot.

A real uprising broke out in the Penza province, which engulfed about forty villages and villages. And there the peasants shouted under the fire of the soldiers: "Let's die for God and the Tsar!" There for the first time in Russia, exclusively spontaneously, from the depths of the people, a red flag arose - as a symbol of will. Or blood? The first to raise it was the peasant Vasily Goryachev. He received 700 punches and was exiled to Siberian mines for 15 years.

80 infantry and cavalry regiments took part in the suppression of peasant revolts.

It was in this guise that freedom came to the Russian peasant.

Powder magazine

From the slave system, after 56 years of capitalism - Russia flew into the whirlwind of the socialist revolution. Capitalism in Russia has existed for 56 years. There must be some explanation for such a swift, unprecedented public outrage.

Russia is the only country in the world where the feudal system was replaced by the slave system. Which lasted 400 years. If only 400 years... And the previous 600 years? According to Yaroslav the Wise's Russkaya Pravda, the fine (penalty) for the murder of a smerd or a slave is 5 hryvnias. "For a beaver stolen from a burrow, 12 hryvnias of fines are determined".

Perhaps, the emancipation of the peasants should have begun at least in 1825. This is what the Decembrists understood. Having defeated Napoleon, having passed with weapons in their hands through the whole of Europe, they suddenly saw how ordinary peasants lived there. And their hearts were filled with shame and pain for their own, dear. And - went to the Senate Square.

Two years later, in 1927, the chief of the gendarme corps, the head of the political police of the Russian Empire, General Alexander Benckendorff , reported to the tsar in his “Overview of Public Opinion”:

“Coming into contact with the state peasants and living with the consent of their masters in the cities, serfs involuntarily learn to appreciate the advantages enjoyed by the free estates ... They know well that in all of Russia only the victorious people, the Russian peasants, are in a state of slavery; all the rest: Finns, Tatars, Estonians, Latvians, Mordovians, Chuvashs, etc. - are free ... Several prophecies and predictions circulate among the peasants: they are waiting for their liberator, like the Jews for their Messiah, and they gave him the name Metelkin. They say to each other: "Pugachev scared the gentlemen, and Metelkin will mark them"...

In a report titled "A set of opinions on the internal state of Russia and its actual state", in 1839, he wrote:

“This is a dangerous business, and it would be a crime to hide this danger. The common people today are not the same as they were 25 years before this ... The people constantly interpret that all foreign pagans in Russia, Chukhn, Mordovians, Chuvashs, Samoyeds, Tatars, etc. free, but some Russians, Orthodox Christians are slaves, contrary to Holy Scripture. That all evil is caused by the Lord, i.e. nobles! All the trouble is blamed on them! .. They portend the liberation of the peasants, revenge on the boyars... In general, serfdom is a powder magazine under the state ... (Emphasis added. - S. B.) It is necessary to start sometime and with something, and it is better to start gradually, careful, rather than wait until it starts from below, from the people. But that this is necessary and that the peasant class is a powder mine, on this everyone agrees".

In 1860 it was too late to abolish the shameful slavery. The boiler has overheated. Not children, so the grandchildren of serfs became the so-called commoners. That is, they went to the gentlemen. It was they who could not forgive the authorities of the slavery of their fathers and grandfathers. They, educated, and called Russia to the ax. The bowl of hatred is overflowing.

Think about it: in the United States in 1860, the proportion of slaves was 12.4%. People who were brought in, not their own, sharply different in racial characteristics. In the same year, in the Russian central provinces - Tver, Pskov, Ryazan, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaluga, Tula, Smolensk - the proportion of the serf population was 60%.

Let us emphasize that this is the middle, primordial Orthodox Russia, Russia.

We add 9.345 million (45.2% of the agricultural population) "state peasants", that is, people who are in serf dependence on the state.

And let's add 542.5 thousand serfs assigned to factories and plants.

Think about it: in London in 1860, the metro was already being built. And we exchanged dozens of living people for one greyhound dog, in 1833 we adopted a humane law, according to which it was forbidden to separate families when selling - before that, children were torn from their mothers...

К. Лебедев. «Продажа крепостных на Нижегородской ярмарке»

That's why it was late. Although the industrial revolution has already won in the country. Although in 1905-1906, political freedoms were already granted. Although Stolypin led the peasants to the cuts, to free management.

The revolutionary spirit and impulse of the entire Russian society, alas, can be explained.

It is easy to draw a moral, psychological portrait of Russian society, because it is strictly defined by the time frame of 1861-1917. Everything that happened happened at this time. These 56 years, from 1861 to 1917, were a time of disappointed hopes.

Until 1861 there were no revolutionaries in Russia . Revolutionaries as representatives of the movement, as professionals. Both the Decembrists and the Petrashevites are circles of conspirators. But after 1861, "Land and Freedom" immediately appeared, followed by ordinary murderers-terrorists: "People's Repression" by Nechaev, "Hell" by Ishutin and "Narodnaya Volya" by Zhelyabov, then by Plekhanov's "Emancipation of Labor", RSDLP, just Social Revolutionaries and Social Revolutionaries -terrorists, Menshevik-Bolsheviks and so on up to the RCP (b).

The country rolled inexorably towards the 17th year.

It is ridiculous to think that the Russian peasant in 1917 raised the tsarist power with bayonets, because he was imbued with the ideas of Marx-Engels-Lenin. No, the peasants instinctively sensed that a sweet opportunity had finally come to avenge centuries of humiliation. And fiercely avenged! And scary, and for a long time overcook the fate of Russia.

The past exploded, the burning hatred accumulated over centuries of slavery exploded. You can't treat people like that.

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