Alexander III

“In terms of both personality and policies, Alexander Ill did not posses the qualities necessary for a successful ruler of late 19th-century Russia” – to what extent to you agree with this Judgment? Whilst the Judgment could be considered well-founded, its validity is a matter of opinion, depending on how one defines the qualities of a ‘successful ruler’ of Russia in the late sass, which policies contribute to this success and what, overall, makes a Tsar a success or a failure (if the matter can be categorized so dictatorially).
Disregarding the technicalities of the Judgment, although Alexander Ill may not have assessed all the qualities that would have classed him as a successful Tsar, he was not entirely lacking in them – nor in his policies – therefore meaning that the statement is not entirely correct. Before discussing what made a successful 19th century Russian autocrat, it must be ascertained what ‘successful’ entails: in this case, it would be achieving the aims of the autocrat/autocracy.
The primary aim of an autocrat in the sass would be to preserve or extend the autocracy and its power both internally and internationally, meaning that there would be few or no concessions of power and that the Tsar would appear as a forceful, formidable figure to both its allies and enemies and in the eyes of citizens of the Russian Empire in both the motherland and its annexes. This was obviously extremely important to Alexander Ill, given his ‘Manifesto of Unshakeable Autocracy in April 1881.

Secondary aims may have varied from Tsar to Tsar but for Alexander these were: the rejection of democracy and the reversal of Alexander SIS liberalism, which fitted neatly with the preservation of autocracy; the removal of opposition that had arisen during Alexander SIS reign, including crushing the threat of revolution; and the economic and industrial modernization of Russia, moving it towards becoming a ‘Great Power’.
And of course, he would have to possess the support of the majority Russian people, though this was generally a given, as even – if not especially – those who had never seen the Tsar were convinced of his positions as ‘gods anointed’ and their ‘Little Father’. Depending on how high a regard the Tsar is held in, it could be suggested that humanitarian aims were present however, for the purposes of this essay, this will not be included, as an overview of Alexander Ills reign suggest that whilst he made some inclusion for his workers and subjects, many freedoms and rights were compromised to further the ‘greater good’.
Autocracy generally protects the autocrat from criticism of personal traits, though, if in possession of some or lacking in others, it may make the autocrat’s rule easier or harder. To be both a highly autocratic ruler and to be successful, one would have had to appear as both ruthless and honest, likeable yet formidable, as the ‘little father’ to the peasants whilst also appearing as working to protect the upper class and as incredibly patriotic, though not to the extent that it would disadvantage the country.
An well rounded education in militarily, state and economic matters, though not technically a personality trait, would also be beneficial for a Tsar to possess, allowing him to be thoughtful and therefore to curb any headstrong impulsiveness he may have had. In terms of policy, depending on the Tsar’s aims, how well they supported of achieved those aims and how well they were received helped his achievement of prosperity in his role as successful and popular policies make for a successful and popular rule.
Despite this, it must be noted that although a Tsar had the potential to cake or break the country, advisors often tempered him, especially if those advisors had previously been influential in his life, meaning a Tsar’s successfulness could be down to more than Just his personality or the policies he made. In terms of preserving the autocracy, and reversing the steps towards democracy his father had taken, Alexander Ill was arguably very successful, especially in his dealings with revolutionary groups and opposition in the sass and sass.
After his fathers assassination by members of the terrorist group the ‘People’s Will’ – ‘Normandy Volta’ – the Tsar ruthlessly cracked down on groups and organizations hat opposed him through the return of rigid censorship, exiles to Siberia and executions, such as the hanging of Alexandra Llanos and four others in 1887.
The policy that allowed his authorities more power in pursuing opposition groups was the 1881 Statute of State Security, which gave the state the power to declare an area of the country under ‘extraordinary protection’ and to therefore impose what essentially amounted to martial law: the banning of public meetings could be banned, the closing and restriction of schools, the extension of powers of the police especially the Koruna) and the arrest of anybody who was deemed ‘liberal’ or in opposition to the regime.
Furthermore, whilst the restrictions of censorship were resented by many (especially the revolutionaries, liberals and those calling for social change) it certainly did slow the spread of anti-tsarist ideas that had contributed to the dislike of autocracy and later the assassination of Alexander II. The combination of the restrictions on physically forming opposition groups and the restrictions on the spread of ideologies made it difficult for revolutionaries to even arm groups, let alone for them to actually perform any revolutionary actions.
Whilst the methods through which Alexander Ill kept control of Russia were radical, conservative and incredibly harsh, they were no less effective for that and ensured a fairly stable, though oppressive, reign for him making him successful in his preservation of autocracy and the removal of the threat of revolution in his time. Economically and industrially, Russia was lagging behind Europe in the late sass.
Alexander Ill intended to change that through a protectionist economic policy, imposing customs duties on imported goods to recover Russian’s economy and allowing rapid industrial and infrastructural growth – the latter intending to an increase in the number of workers in industrial areas – and was fairly successful in the matter. He was also successfully frugal in accounting in state finances, though Russian’s expenditure on debt was still fairly high.
With his ministers Bungee, Witted & Yesterdays he achieved his aim of a major boost of progress both economically and industrially, whilst also attempting to improve agricultural production – evidence of this success being the 8% per annum Roth in Russian’s economy. Antithetical to the progress made was the social conditions that went along with it. Living conditions in towns and cities were mostly poor and often factory work paid poorly, leaving poverty, overcrowding and discontent to fester with the workers.
In addition to this, though its efficiency improved, agriculture was exploited to the extent that major famines were caused, the largest in 1891 , as emphasis was placed on exporting the agricultural products, rather than letting peasants provide from themselves with them. High taxes were also placed on peasants to fund the instruction of railway lines, such as the Trans-Siberian Railway, and this furthered the poverty experienced by many in both developed and rural areas, though it did allow for improvement in the internal transportation of goods and of people (another successfully achieved aim).
There was a definite lack of basic societal care in Alexander Ill, yet he was not entirely negligent in his role of the ‘Little Father’ to his subjects: The Peasant Land Bank was set up in 1883, giving cheap loans to allow peasants to buy their own land; redemption payments were lowered, allowing extremely poor peasants to move emend subsidence farming; and, in towns and cities, factories were legislated with working hours established and an inspectorate employed.
In some ways, his work for the ‘greater good’ could be considered more characteristic of a successful Tsar than humanitarianism would be as a Tsar’s first duty was to God and his country, meaning that improvement of the country should be attempted no matter what the cost to its people (who were supposed to shared his loyalties, given his adopted slogan of ‘Nationality, Orthodoxy, Autocracy.
As far as foreign policy goes, Alexander Ills title as the ‘Peacekeeper’ Tsar is perhaps s deserved as his fathers title the Tsar ‘Liberator’ was; though his policies successfully kept the peace, it was most likely not for pacifistic, humanitarian reasons (as far as we know, or can deduct) but rather to allow for Russia to improve practically. Evidence of this is that, although diplomatically peaceful, the Tsar opposed doctrines of peace fairly strongly, preferring the view that a nation must be prepared for war in order to avoid it.
No major wars occurred during his reign, and given the problems that the Crimean War had left in its wake, this was a definite success on his part. Ensuring a tentative peace with Germany and Austria-Hungary with the Three Emperors’ Alliance with the renewal of it in 1881, Alexander Ill successfully gained security for the first few years of his reign.
The circumnavigation of collapse of this from 1885-1887 due to conflict in the Balkans potentially avoided any major problems for Russia and instead left them option to pursue Franco-Russian policy to fill the vacuum left by Russian’s estrangement from Germany & Austria-Hungary, earning another success for the Tsar in his foreign policy.
Of course, the fact collapse of the Three Emperors’ Alliance, along with the tensions n the Balkans (though a continuance from previous Tsar’s agendas) could be counted as a failing on Alexander part, but this is largely negated by his other successes, such his cautious avoidance of conflict with any European or Asian powers whilst gradually expanding Russian influence and power.
Contrary to the success Alexander had with his foreign policy, a domestic policy that mostly failed and caused much resentment with in the Russian Empire was Rustication – the attempted unification of the Russian Empire under one ruler, one religion, one language and one culture. In abstract, Rustication would supposedly eave united the peoples of the Russian Empire and wiped out the threat of revolution and made Russia a dominant power in Europe, however all it did in reality was anger those whose cultures, religions or languages were being repressed, and spawn resentment towards the Tsar in all corners of his Empire.
Obviously it was a policy that failed, given that it had been intended to quell revolutionary action and unify the state when, instead, it caused further divisions between the myriad of ethnicities present in Russia and actually grew revolutionary movements in areas like Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. For Alexander Ill to be classed as successful the personal qualities needed for a ruler and the policies that may have been needed to achieve his aims would have been a balancing act of epic proportions – something that only somebody who had been raised to be a ruler could manage to do with any degree of success.
As the second son of Alexander II, Alexander Ill was not expected to become Tsar and was educated only to the standard of a Grand Duke of the period, the finer points of ruling a country were not taught to him until his brother Nicolas died in 1865. Despite him being described as a gruff, narrow minded and fairly crude (Queen Victoria described him as “a sovereign she does not look upon as a gentleman”) Alexander Ill was of true Russian character: a deeply religious, moral & honest man with an imposing figure and fiery temperament.
These traits would have fitted the profile of a Tsar fairly well in abstract but, in reality, the coarseness of Alexander character prevented them from being viewed as such. Alexander natural conservatism was likely furthered by the assassination of his father by radicals, and by the influence of Photostatted – his reactionary tutor – ND that the dangers that liberalism connoted, given the numerous attempts on his fathers life, and later on his own.
However, conservatism obviously was not a bad trait to possess in the late 19th century, as the previous Tsar’s liberalism had granted freedoms to those who would wish to end autocracy and in return had been granted a caved in skull. Gruffness of nature was characteristic of Alexander and, whilst it may have looked upon degradingly by the other nobles of Europe, it gained him a certain kind of respect from his people as he gave not only an impression of solidity and strength, UT also one of rough-cut solidarity with his people.
For an long period of time, the Romano Tsars had been untouchable, not only as divine, but also in the distinctions of class between them and their subjects, therefore having a Tsar who was relatable, but not ‘soft’, as Alexander II may have been thought of as, was highly desirable. As far as being liked or admired as a person, Alexander was well liked by sloppiness and many of the Russian peasants who felt a ruler who was suspicious of the west, highly patriotic and characteristic of the ideal Russian man was one they could purport, and consequently, one who would be successful.
On a slightly humorous note, an example of a quality that may have proved endearing to the typical Russian worker was his love of drinking. Even after he was diagnosed with kidney problems and forbidden alcohol by his wife, Alexander continued to drink, using hidden compartments in his boots to store flasks of alcohol that, when his wife left the room, he Jokingly pulled out and swigged from. Alternately, the lack of education and culture Alexander Ill displayed made him seem rather brutish; two traits that did not sit well with the ‘cultured’ gentry who had ivied through the reign of his more cultivated father.
Furthermore it seemed to go against autocratic, ruling-class propriety to have a crude, UN-gentlemanly, bear of a man ruling a country that – though tumultuous and uneven in its wealth – produced some of the finest architecture, art, music and literature in the 19th century. The late 19th century was a time when Russia was teetering on the brink of revolution, modernization and industrialization, and in keeping the revolution down whilst advancing the country fiscally was something that Alexander Ill did admirably ell, despite his flaws and failed policies.
Though he may not have been a Tsar for the people, nor the ‘Liberator’ his father was he, ensured the security of Russian autocracy for his reign (mostly through repression, at the expense of liberties) therefore making him a successful Tsar overall, contrary to what the statement suggests. Additionally, though conservatism is often painted as a backwards, oppressive political view to hold, it can be argued that for Alexander Ill preserve his rule and economically/industrially bring Russia up to speed – ruling with an iron fist

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