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The compensation that the landowners received was far in advance of the market value of their property.They were also entitled to decide which part of their holdings they would give up.
They were to express that loyalty in practical form by serving the tsar as military officers or public officials.
In this way the Romanov emperors built up Russia’s civil bureaucracy and the armed services as bodies of public servants who had a vested interest in maintaining the tsarist state. Some, known as slavophiles, rejoiced, claiming that holy Russia was a unique God-inspired nation that had nothing to learn from the corrupt nations to the west.
This was evidence of the remarkable power and influence that the tsar exercised as absolute ruler.
Over the next five years, thousands of officials sitting in a range of committees drafted plans for the abolition of serfdom.
In a number of respects serfdom was not dissimilar to the feudalism that had operated in many parts of pre-modern Europe. But many Russians, of all ranks and classes, had come to accept that reform of some kind was unavoidable if their nation was to progress.
However, long before the 19th century, the feudal system had been abandoned in western Europe as it moved into the commercial and industrial age. It became convenient to use serfdom to explain all Russia’s current weaknesses: it was responsible for military incompetence, food shortages, over population, civil disorder, industrial backwardness.Tsar Alexander II (1855-81) shared with his father, Nicholas I, a conviction that American slavery was inhumane.This is not as hypocritical as it might first appear.Unsurprisingly, they kept the best land for themselves. The data shows that the landlords retained two-thirds of the land while the peasants received only one-third.So limited was the supply of affordable quality land to the peasants that they were reduced to buying narrow strips that proved difficult to maintain and which yielded little food or profit.In 1861 serfdom, the system which tied the Russian peasants irrevocably to their landlords, was abolished at the Tsar’s imperial command.Four years later, slavery in the USA was similarly declared unlawful by presidential order.Since this included the power to deny the serf the right to move elsewhere, the difference between slavery and serfdom in practice was so fine as to be indistinguishable.The purpose behind the granting of such powers to the Russian dvoriane (nobility of landowners) in 1649 had been to make the nobles dependent on, and therefore loyal to, the tsar.It had long been appreciated that some land reform was necessary.To the social and economic arguments were now added powerful military ones. As long as its army remained strong Russia could afford to ignore its backwardness as a nation. It had failed to provide the calibre of soldier Russia needed.