The emancipation reform of 1861 in Russia

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David P.

Sep 27, 2022, 2:34:36 PMSep 27
The emancipation reform of 1861 in Russia, also known as the Edict of Emancipation of Russia, was the first and most important of the liberal reforms enacted during the reign (1855–1881) of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. The reform effectively abolished serfdom throughout the Russian Empire.

The 1861 Emancipation Manifesto proclaimed the emancipation of the serfs on private estates and of the domestic (household) serfs. By this edict more than 23 million people received their liberty. Serfs gained the full rights of free citizens, including rights to marry without having to gain consent, to own property and to own a business. The Manifesto prescribed that peasants would be able to buy the land from the landlords. Household serfs were the least affected: they gained only their freedom and no land.

The serfs were emancipated in 1861, following a speech given by Tsar Alexander II on 30 March 1856. In Georgia, the emancipation took place later, in 1864, and on much better terms for the nobles than in Russia. State-owned serfs (those living on and working Imperial lands) were emancipated in 1866.
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Lastly, the reforms transformed the Russian economy. The individuals who led the reform favored an economic system similar to that in other European countries, which promoted the ideas of capitalism and free trade. The reformers aimed to promote development and to encourage the ownership of private property, free competition, entrepreneurship, and hired labor. This they hoped would bring about an economic system with minimal regulations and tariffs, thus a more "laissez-faire" economy. Soon after the reforms there was a substantial rise in the amount of production of grain for sale. Because of this there was also a rise in the number of hired laborers and in farm machinery.  Furthermore, a significant measuring stick in the growth of the Russian economy post-reform was the huge growth in non-gentry private landownership. Although the gentry land-holdings fell from 80% to 50%, the peasant holdings grew from 5% all the way to 20%.
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