The state-political development of Russia in the second quarter the XIX century.
Nikolay's I government (1825-1855), which began with the severe suppression of the revolt of the Decembrists became "the apogee of autocracy", the period of the best consolidation of the military-bureaucratic form of the Russian absolutism.
Nikolay I was born in 1796 and, being the third son of Pavel I, was brought up for military career, not to govern the country.
Before coming to power Nikolay commanded a Guards brigade. Not deprived of mind and abilities, Nikolay Pavlovich among all sciences, preferred the military one, and during all his life, he was carried by the passion of shows and parades. When he became emperor, he transferred army methods of command to state affairs.
The prominent particularity of Nikolay's style of government was his aspiration to solve all problems through political centralization and rigid regulation of the public life. By 1850 from 53 provinces of Russia, only 12 had civil government.
In the conditions when the emperor aspired to concentrate in his hands all the strings of management of the country, the role of his imperial majesty's own office immeasurably increased. It turned to an authority organ, connecting the emperor with all government agencies on the most important questions of the internal policy. 6 branches created in that structure were representing independent supreme official bodies with its chiefs responsible only to the emperor. In January 1826 were created I and II departments. The 1st department carried out functions of office. The creation and the activity of the 2nd department were connected with systematization of laws.
Understanding the necessity of acceptance of measures for preventing a new revolutionary demonstration and strengthening the foundations of the autocracy, the government undertook attempts to improve the order of development of bills and the organization of an operative government of the country.
The Special Confidential Committee, created on the 6th of December 1826, became the most significant committee on the development of measures for "improvement" of the system of 'government' and "ordering" relations between landowners and peasants; it (the Committee) was directed by the chairman of the State council, Earl V.P.Kochubey, and the main organizer of the work was M.M.Speransky. Under the projects of the Committee of December, the serfdom would be kept, but the transfer of peasants into domestics and sale of serfs without the ground, were forbidden. It was an offer to create a new estate, "the voluntary liberated farmers" composed of peasants released by landowners (with a lot or without it).
Nikolay I approved the propositions of the committee, but they were not confirmed. After having been working till 1832, the Committee stopped existing. The unique real result of its work became the introduction in 1832 of a semi-privileged class group of "honorable citizens" (hereditary and personal).
The work on putting in order the already approved laws was successful.
In 1832 was created the "Code of Laws" in 15 volumes, where the laws in force were introduced, systematized under a certain circuit. "The Code of Laws" was recognized as the unique official manual in practice of bodies of justice and management.
A special role to maintain the firmness of the authority was allocated to the bodies of the political police. It made annual reports to the tsar about the political situation in the country, and the mood of various estates. A.K.Benkendorf, participant of the 1812's war, member of the Court-inquiry commission concerning Decembrists, clever and educated, was appointed at the head of the III department and the chief of gendarmes. His nearest assistant (1839-1856) was general L.V.Dubelt, combining the post of manager of the III department and staff's chief of the Separated gendarmes' corps.
In a short term, the political police in Russia became omnipresent, omniwinding the "internal inquisition", working on behalf of emperor and not connected to existing laws. Widely using denunciations, espionage and payoff, having stretched all over the country a network of secret agents, it penetrated into all layers of the society and severely suppressed any display of political movement.
The peasant's question in the second quarter of the XIX century continued to remain the cardinal question of the Russian's reality. Under Nikolay I it were created 8 special peasants' confidential committees, but any of them did not put a question on liberating the peasants and only some of them developed and took measures on elimination of discriminating measures of the serf system. A special attention is deserved with the activity of two committees on the peasant's affair, in1835 and 1839. The committee of 1835, supervised by M.M.Speransky and P.D.Kiselev, proposed the plan of a stage-by-stage cancellation of the serfdom and the preservation of all nobility's privileges; thus the task of reform of management of the state and serf villages was set. The committee considered necessary to change the economic and legal status of the state peasants and to pull together the position of landowner peasants with the position of the state one's, and define the sizes of their lots and duties.
To realize this plan, in 1836 was created the V department of his imperial majesty's own office, leaded by Kiselev. During the reform of the state peasants, the lots of small lands increased, the transfer of peasants to free lands was organized, agro-technical improvements took root, the labour-rent system was adjusted, schools, medical and veterinary infrastructures were under construction. In the created districts and rural societies, self-management was entered. The situation of state peasants as whole improved, though local officials quite often behaved as landowners.
The idea of fixation of peasant's lots and duties in avoidance of the landowning arbitrariness was realized in the western provinces. As a whole activity of confidential committees of peasants' affairs during the years 30-40 gave few direct results, but allowed to develop principles which laid as basis of the reform of 1861. After 1848, Nikolay I finally refused the idea of realization of transformations. The revolutionary movement in Europe, the fear of threat of similar explosion inside the country directed it to the way of opened reaction. The censorship and the police oppression froze Russia. The efforts of Nikolay I, working 18 hours per day, had sad result. The centralized military-bureaucratic device was breaking the development of the country; bribery and embezzlement of public funds prospered.
The systematization of the legislation did not remove abusing in courts. The rod discipline did not create a strong army. The spreading of the idea of "official national character" did not rescue Russia from agitation. The crash of everything that was created within 30 years, came with the beginning of the Crimean war. The 18th of February 1855, after a short illness Nikolay I died.