Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to the Religious-Philosophical Renaissance
Chapter 12: Conservative Ideologies after the Land Reform
Chapter 12Conservative Ideologies after the Land Reform
One of the most significant global social reforms of the 19th century was undoubtedly the abolition of serfdom and the enfranchisement of peasants proclaimed in the Manifesto of the 19th of February 1861. This reform, setting aside the liberation of slaves in the United States, which took place almost simultaneously, referred to a much larger group of people and was implemented bloodlessly.1 Still, it had not managed to relieve either the social or political tensions in the empire. The peasants found it disappointing, since they had received only a portion of the estates. Moreover, they were required to purchase the land they considered their own. Carrying out the reform therefore involved rebellions, which were violently suppressed. This resulted in the radicalization of the opposition intelligentsia, including the foundation of the revolutionary organization “Land and Freedom” [Zemlya i Volya] in 1862 along with a series of declarations calling for revolutionary action. Mysterious fires in Moscow in mid-1862 fanned the anxiety. The government reacted with repression: the arrest and trial of Chernyshevsky, for example, which was regarded by oppositional circles as groundless and provocative.
Anxiety was also aroused by an intensified independence movement in Congress Poland, with the increasingly evident failures of attempts to settle the Polish issue by restoring its autonomy. A policy of concessions toward Poland, put into effect in Congress Poland by Margrave Wielopolski, and in an environment supported by a group of liberals concentrated around the Grand...