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The Reforms in Russia after 1814

The reforms of the state-political structure in Russia after 1814.
The external events of 1812-1815 displaced the internal-political problems of Russia to the 2nd plan. After the end of the war, the question of reforms of the state structure and serf relations appeared at the center of attention of the people and emperor.

Experiment in the unification of the autocracy with the constitutional principles was the gift by the tsar Alexander I of the constitution to the Kingdom of Poland. The emperor, who wrote the project himself in November 1815, announced that he hoped to expand 'free-law establishments" all over the countries that were faithful to him.

For the first time since the beginning of the reign of Alexander I, the social support of the transformations came out: whole generation, educated under reforms ideas, grew. The campaigns of the Russian army out of the country had a great value in changing the political moods in the society; and those soldiers, after coming back home, needed changes for a better life.

In April 1818, Alexander I established an autonomous government in Bessarabia. The supreme legislative and executive authority was transferred to the Supreme council, which decisions were final. Finland, after having joined Russia in 1808, had a constitution and its own four-class Seym. Finland existed as an autonomous state in the Russian empire and lived by its internal laws. In 1818, Alexander I charged Novosiltsev to prepare the project of the Russian Constitution.

The prepared and approved by the emperor document 'The state official document of the Russian empire' provided the establishment in Russia of constitutional monarchy.The legislature divided between the emperor and the State Seym, which consisted of two chambers: the higher (the Senate) and lower (ambassadorial chamber). No law could be accepted without discussion in the Seym, which had the right of veto. The legislative initiative was kept only for the emperor, being at the head of the executive power.

As a whole, the project had a more conservative character, than the Polish Constitution of 1815. The sovereignty of the emperor (instead of people) was the main source of any authority in the country. Nobility's privileges were kept, and the serfdom was not mentioned at all.
Meanwhile the unsolubility of the peasants question after the war was an alarm for the ruling circles. From 1815 to 1820, the emperor received 11 projects about conditions of liberation of the peasants, conditions made by authors both under his order or by its own initiative. The common principle to all projects was the principle of gradual cancellation of the serfdom. One of the elaborators was earl A.A.Arakcheev. He proposed to carry out the liberation of the peasants under the direction of the government, which should buy up manor houses on means of the state budget. Peasants should receive at their liberation a lot at the rate of two dessiatinas per person. But this project was impracticable because of the limited budgetary funds, but the tsar approved it.

Changes in the situation of the peasants during Alexander's I reign took place only in Baltic. In May 1816, the emperor signed "The situation of East-Land peasants', through which they received a personal freedom, but the land remained the property of the Landowners. Peasants could rent the land, and finally buy it.

However Alexander's I reformatory intentions both in constitutional and in country question were replaced by frankly reactionary rate. Alexander I considered that peasantal Russia was not capable to understand and accept the constitutional system of government. Distempers in military settlements, the revolt of the Semenovsky regiment and the wave of the European revolutions of 1820-1821 finally convinced him of the inopportuneness of any reform. During the last years of his reign, Alexander I was little engaged in internal affairs, paying the basic attention to the problems of the Sacred union.

From that moment, the government of the country was actually focused in the hands of the omnipotent favorite, by his name the regime was called arakcheevshina (1815-1825).
A.A.Arakcheev was not the inspirer of reactionary rate at all, and only the zealous executor of monarch's will. In 1808, he received the post of military minister, and Alexander confided him the task to improve recruitment and the training of front structure of the army, to increase discipline, to reorganize artillery, to adjust the fighting capacity of the Russian army. After the war, Alexander's I trust to Arakcheev so increased that he confided him the execution of the highest commands not only in military, but also on civil questions. Since 1815 Arakcheev was almost supervising the State council, Committee of ministers and his imperial majesty own office. The name Arakcheev was inextricably linked to the history of settlements that he organized by the order of the imperator. Since 1822 A.A.Arakcheev became the unique reporter of the emperor concerning state affairs.

The introduction of punitive-guarding principles in all spheres of life of the society was the eclatant manifestation of the Arakcheevshina. In 1822 was accepted a law allowing landowners to banish serfs "for bad acts" to Siberia on exile. This decree crossed out the former interdictions (1809 and 1811) and became the apogee of the peasants legislation.

The military settlements, being the new form of recruitment and maintenance of the army, were the symbol of the coming reaction in the country. Peasants, transferred to the position of 'military villagers', were supposed to join the military service in the area of agriculture. The government intended to reduce the cost of the maintenance of the army. The first settlements were founded in 1810, but the war of 1812 retained their further organization. Military settlements began to exist again since 1816. They were organized in Novgorod, Petersburg, Mogilev, Slobod-Ukrainian and Kherson provinces. The state peasants were transferred as immigrants with the whole districts. Together with them, were lodged the soldiers. The peasants log huts were removable; instead of them were put big houses for many families. The life of military immigrants was strictly regulated: in the first half of the day, they did the front service, and then began to cultivate. For the slightest fault, the immigrants were exposed to corporal punishments. Despite of the agitations of the peasants due to the introduction of military settlements, in 1825 to the settlements were transferred 375 thousand persons (1/3 of the army), composing the Separate Corps of the military settlements, under the command of Arakcheev.

The last years of Alexander's I reign were gloomy for the country and burdensome for the emperor. The wreck of his reformatory hopes, the news about the discontent conservatives on the one hand, and about the occurrence of secret nobility societies of the future Decembrists for the side, and personal losses, turned him all over again to religion, and then to mysticism. In November 1825, the emperor unexpectedly died in Taganrog, leaving opened the question about his succession at the throne.

According to the law of 1797, the successor of Alexander I was the eldest son of Paul I Konstantin. But in 1822, Konstantin, never having claims on the empire 'they will suffocate me as they suffocated my father," he said, gave to Alexander an official refusal of the rights to the throne. In 1823 the emperor made a special manifest about the designation of his third brother Nikolay as the successor, but he did not promulgate it, having kept it secret even from Nikolay. The manifest was kept in the Uspensky's cathedral of the Kremlin and only a limited circle of people knew about it; that's the reason of the inter-imperial situation, which rose up in December 1825.

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