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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Russia in the 1860s

Upon the death of Tsar Nicholas I, Alexander I (1855-1881) inherited the Russian throne and instituted a series of reforms in an effort to modernize Russia. One of his most significant reforms was the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. Thinking that it would be better for change to come above than from below, Alexander II began a 3 year process that liberated 50 million serfs during the same time as the US Civil War.

Among his other reforms was instituting elected local assemblies, though not national assembly followed. He also modernized Russia's judicial system, which resulted in a clearer codification of the laws and better qualified judges. He also reformed the education system, one result being opening up elementary education to all classes. Finally, the network of railways was extended nearly 20 times its size in 1857. Not only did this connect remote parts of Russia but it also stimulated trade, particularly the grain trade.

In the midst of these sweeping reforms, Dostoevsky wrote The Idiot. In the novel, Dostoevsky gives his view of the quickly changing Russia in which he lived.

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