Sep 1 2014
The serfs were Russia’s primary agricultural laborers up to the mid-19th century. However, Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War brought to light the need for societal reform, and the issue of serfs was a hotbed of political debate. The reformists wanted serfs to be liberated (although to what extent was also debated at length), while others wanted to keep the serfs in their position of servitude. In the end however, the Reformists were victorious, and the serfs were liberated. It took several tries to figure out what new freedoms the serfs had. The societal elite eventually settled on what was called the “Nazimov Rescript,” which stated that the landlords still owned both the land and the serfs, but the serfs had the ability to buy their own land and create their own provisions for self governance within their social class. However, the rest of the elite despised this decision, and called for yet another reform. This time, the serfs “got the short end of the stick.” For an additional two years after the serfs were emancipated, they had to continue living as they had before while the bureaucracy finalized the terms of their emancipation , and after that two year period would be given land and forced to pay the government back for any land they owned prior to their emancipation (which they were not allowed to keep instead of the government issued land). The emancipation of the serfs also inspired a slew of other societal reforms, aimed at bettering the lives of the average person. Local governments gained more control and assumed responsibility for the maintenance of their respective domains. Hospitals and roads were built and fixed, as were prisons and bridges (i.e. general infrastructure items). Education was reformed and schooling now included an elementary school level. The military received a total refitting, in order to avoid another defeat (they were still reeling from their loss during the Crimean War) (Freeze, 2009, 199-212).
The serf liberation and the subsequent societal reforms it inspired is very similar to the emancipation of the slaves in the United States. At the most fundamental, both the slaves and the serfs played similar roles in society: agricultural laborers. The slaves were still treated poorly after their emancipation, just as the serfs were. The government was at first what role the slaves would play in society, and there were many different proposals and a good deal of debating between government officials as to what rights slaves really had. Similar to Russia’s serfs, even after the slaves were given their rights there were numerous dissenters who felt that they didn’t deserve any rights (or at least not as much as they were given). Some wanted the slaves to only remain as workers but could still have their freedoms, just like some did with the serfs. The emancipation of the slaves was just one of many factors which would eventually spark the Civil War, which would tear apart and repair the United States into something stronger than it was, and also created the industry necessary to further our weapons technology and refit our military with the newest technology after the war. Finally, although it took another hundred years, the emancipation of the slaves sparked a revolution for equality across all races and ethnicities which became a battle we still fight today. Despite the thousands of miles, I find it interesting that there were two major social reforms going on in the world at nearly the exact same time, over the exact same thing. I would also hope to discover over the course of this class what caused the United States and Russia to develop into the nations they are today, differences and all, when their prior history is so similar.
NOTE: All information was pulled from:
Freeze, G. (2009). Reform and Counter Reform 1855-1890. In Russia: A History (3rd ed., pp. 199-212). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sep 22 2014
G-d Bless You!
This was just one of many hundreds of images that were published during the anti-religious push that occurred while the Bolsheviks were attempting to rebuild Russian society.
The Bolsheviks knew that if their revolution was to be successful, society had to unify into one, cohesive whole. Therefore, the Party created organizations such as the Komsomol (geared towards children) to reorganize and re-educate people on the new societal norms (Freeze 330).
One of the most prominent things in the way of this total unification of society the Bolsheviks wanted was religion. Religion allowed people to put their faith and trust in a higher power (specifically, something that wasn’t the central government), and therefore had to go.
One of the first steps they took was legalizing divorce. Under tsarism, divorce was almost impossible as a result of the combination of both secular and church law. However, in 1918, divorce was made legal, and the process streamlined, which directly attacked the church’s power over the people and caused the Soviet divorce rate in cities to be the highest in the world by 1930 (Freeze 331 and 333).
Also in 1918 came the separation of Church and State, along with the confiscation of Church property without compensation. These churches then fell victim to roving militants, who eagerly dismantled and destroyed them (Freeze 335).
Another contributing factor was the Marxist idea that only what could be seen could be considered reality, which meant religion was simply superstition, and therefore had no place in a progressive Russian society. It served only as a distraction and a hindrance (Freeze 335).
However, the State’s attack on the Church eventually eased a bit, for the Bolsheviks knew that if they continued it would only serve to alienate the peasants, which would make their revolution impossible. Therefore, the State began advocating against religion “only through agitation and education,” instead of passing laws against it (Freeze 335).
It was obvious that the Bolsheviks felt that religion had no place in the society they were trying to build. It served only as a distraction from work and gave the people someplace other than the central government to put their faith and trust. If the Bolsheviks’ revolution was to be successful, they needed complete and total compliance from all of society, which meant there was no room for any distractions, no room for any other source of influence. They did all they could to eliminate revolution and yet still win over the public, and their efforts eventually culminated in a revolution that can be considered one of the most successful in world history.
Photo Credits (in order as they appear in the post):
1. Bezbozhnik u stanka. Moscow: M.K.R.K.P.. 1923.
2. Grigori Chudakov, Olga Suslova, and Lilya Ukhtomskaya, eds.: Pioneers of Soviet photography. New York: Thames and Hudson. 1983.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2009. Print.
By ryandellinger • Uncategorized 4