The reign of the emperor Alexander II (1855-1881) became the period of radical transformations of the Russian society. The interests of the political and the historical development of the country demanded the fundamental change of basic ideological purposes of the autocratic system.
After the Crimean war the collision of traditional orders and new requirements had put Russia before necessity and inevitability of reforming the political system. But by virtue of features of the historical development, the state and the social system of Russia, radical transformations might have been carried out only with assistance of the czar.
When in February 1855 Alexander II had ascended the Russian throne, nothing foretold him as a reformer. As against to his father, he had received the seemly to the successor of a throne upbringing and education. His teachers were V.A.Zhukovsky, M.M.Speransky, E.F.Kankrin. Tutors pointed out his goodwill, sociability, quite good abilities to sciences, but at the same time - the tendency to recede before difficulties. Alexander II became the emperor in 36, quite prepared and having the experience of state activity.
A year after the accession convinced in the frailty of Nikolai's system Alexander II addressed to the Moscow nobility with his well-known speech (of the 30 of March 1856): ' It's better to abolish serfdom from above, rather than to wait till it's been done from the bottom.' The abolishment of serfdom was the central event of the reign of Alexander II the Liberator. Then reforms of the local management, the system of legal procedure, reorganization of the army, reforms of finances, national education, and censorship had followed.
Among supporters of transformations the outstanding role was played by grand duke Konstantin Nikolaevich (the younger brother of the czar), Minister of Internal Affairs P.A.Valuev, Minister of War D.A.Milyutin, Minister of National Education A.V.Golovin, publicists K.D.Kavelin, М.N. Katkov, famous scientists K.P.Pobedonostsev, N.H.Bunte, P.P.Semenov-Tien-Shansky etc. The course of Alexander II and his adherents encountered counteraction of conservative forces of the supreme bureaucracy, which had a significant political influence at the courtyard. The chief of the III branch of the Private Chancellery prince P.A.Shuvalov and Minister of Justice V.N.Panin headed the opponents to reforms party.