Some may argue that the emancipation produced a positive reaction from the peasants. Alexander Incipient (1804-77) was born a serf however, managed to get an education. He documented his reaction to being freed in his diary. His shock and “feeling of joy’ which he describes indicate that peasants would have been euphoric with the news. This would be a typical reaction of a peasant at the time as it had promised their freedom which had never been considered for hundreds of years. It also shows the view of the Tsar immediately after the edict. Alexander II, the Liberator”. This shows how much they were grateful for the edict. This overall suggests that the society had reacted in a positive manner. What has been stated can be considered trustworthy as diary entry’s serve little purpose than to remember. This demonstrates why Incipient would have little reason to lie as it is not being used to persuade and therefore suggest this is a genuine view of a peasant. The time in which it was produced was the day the emancipation was announced.
This reveals that the reaction is only towards the theory of the emancipation in actuality, the edict didn’t provide such happiness for the peasants as was realized soon after. This is proven by Alexander assurance to landowners in a speech to the Council of the State on 28 February 1861 saying “you will be convinced that everything that was possible to do to protect the interest of the landowners has been done”. According to Mikhail and Shelling/s pamphlet produced in September 1 861 To the Younger Generation, “The freedom he has given them is not real”.
The pamphlet is conveying the message to the liberals that the emancipation act was an apparent freedom. This anti-climax would therefore inflict anger and discontent amongst the peasants and fuels the drive for a revolution. The pamphlet goes on to say “We do not need a tsar”. This demonstrates that there is support for the destruction of the autocratic rule in Russia. Since the pamphlet was produced six months after the emancipation, it means it is a short term reaction to the direction in which the emancipation went.
Unlike the diary entry, there has been enough time given to assess the reality of the emancipation. Although this is produced to persuade public thinking, it still demonstrates that the existing opposition are willing to biblically step up against the deceiving manifesto. The opposition grew as the authenticity of the emancipation unfolded and therefore, the Roth in opposition is what should ultimately be considered the short term significance of the emancipation of peasants. The gentry on the other hand were on opposite poles to the peasantry.
The initial reaction was resentment. Karamazov suggested prior to the emancipation in memories on Ancient and Modern Russia that “freed from surveillance of the masters… The peasants will take to drinking and villainy’. This section of the book suggests the peasants will let the freedom get to their heads and create utter chaos in society and that the nobility will not be able to control it. The opinion is narrow minded as the entry would not have a great understanding of exactly what life was like for peasants despite their paternalistic relationship with them.
However, a serf owner documents the reaction after the emancipation. “l saw our peasants fifteen months later… Their inborn good nature and softness remained with them”. This disproves the predicted claims that they would cause chaos in society. Nonetheless, this depicts the general reaction of the upper-class prior to the manifesto and thus suggests there was also an opposition to the emancipation edict. Not only were the nobility worried about how peasants may react, but also their future. The idea of liberating serfs meant that society’s hierarchy will crumble.
This is because not only have the gentry not got control over the peasants anymore, the peasants are able to own land and therefore generate profits that will create a new class. This therefore means that the old system of rule will change and possibly dynamic meaning the nobility could possibly fall to peasantry. However it arguably could have happened before the emancipation, and the edict was a way to control it. “It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to await the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below”. This came from Alexander II speech to council of state in January 1861.
This shows how the idea of class destruction was already circulating and needed to be done. Despite his best attempts, Alexander policy only served as an invitation to eventually break the class boundaries. This fear would have sparked great opposition to the emancipation and to the government. The economy played a big part in the decision to emancipate the serfs. The Tsars advisors claimed that the serf-based economy could no longer contend with industrialized nations. When it was introduced, it amplified the separation of peasantry.
There were more enterprising peasants increasing their wealth by leaving the patriarchal commune and going on to work in factories for cheap wage while others grew in destitute due to the poor land provided by their landowners. Mines and factories in rapidly developing industrial regions gained a steady flow of increased profits. This meant that Alexander plans to industrialist Russia were working and therefore economic growth could be considered a significant short term factor of the emancipation. However, for the peasants, only 17% of serfs reached any managerial role in factories forming the middle-class.
The rest were paid a low wage or left to cultivate poor quality land. A photograph from an unknown source shows a peasant being ordered off land belonging to the estate-owner. This image captures the reality of what peasants had to do in order to make ends meet. After being told they may be able to own land in order to create a new economic system, they were deceived once again. Altogether, they were given one third of landlords land. However, the rate the peasants paid and what they got was decided by the landlord. As expected, the resented gentry priced their worse land at an extortionate amount above he market value.
Peasants were forced to cultivate illegally. The image, although being produced 45 years later, can still be considered a short term effect of the emancipation as it meant it was certainly happening prior to the image as there was no crops that could be farmed. The photograph also compares the health of the horses. The white strong majestic horses of the officers appear to be well looked after and strong. On the other hand, the brown weak horse belonging to the peasant has is malnourished as the ribcage is pressing against the skin showing little has been given for the horse o eat.