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The Liberation of Peasants
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The Evolution of the Social and Political System, Alexander II. The Abolishment of Serfdom.
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The Liberation of Peasants

The preparation of the cancellation of the serfdom began in January 1857 with the creation of the next Secret committee. In November 1857, a rescript was signed and hasty dispatched all over the country, at the name of general-governor Nazimov. This rescript announced the beginning of gradual liberation of peasants and ordered to create in each province noble committees for entering offers and amendments to the project of reform. The opened preparation about the cancellation of the serfdom began.

The revival of the country's movement in 1858 under influence of rumours concerning the liberation compelled the government to radicalize the preparing reform. In December 1858 the new liberal program of the Main committee was authorized. It provided the liberation of peasants with the lot on conditions of the repayment.
The majority of serfdom propositions was rejected, but during the discussion of the project in the Main committee and the State council, under the pressure of reactionary and conservative forces, the editorial commissions reduced the sizes of allotments, and the norms of country duties increased. Not having given to landowners the opportunity to discuss this project, Alexander II, on the 19th of February 1861, signed the "Regulations about the peasants who left serfdom".

The serfdom was cancelled. Peasants received personal freedom. The land was completely kept under the control of landowners till the conclusion of the redemption bargain; peasants used farmsteads and grounds for duties (permanent-obliging condition).
House-serfs declared themselves free without any repayment, but within two years, they should serve the owners or pay a quitrent. Serf workers of state and landowners' factories were transferred to quitrent and received the right of the repayment of former manors and lots.

The sum of redemption payments was determined by the sizes of the peasant's quitrent, which means that the personal dependence of peasants, not the ground was repaid. This sum fixed in bank at 6% annually, should bring to a landowner annual income at the rate of labour payments. The government was the intermediary between the peasant and the landowner, paying to the landowner 60% - 70% of the amount of the transaction. Peasants were supposed to bring annually 6 % of this redemption loan within 49 years.

The state peasants (except Siberia and the Far East) considered as personally free and paying to the treasury a labour tax, conserved their rights to use those lots. They might continue to pay the labour tax to the state, or to conclude with the treasury a redemption transaction. The repayment was brought lumpsum in the sum, and the annual interest to which was equaled to the amount of the labour tax. Landowners' peasants of Siberia were transferred to the state lands.

In the reorganization of government ruling's system, one of the first steps was the reform of the local authorities' system.
Being the representative of the institutions, local authorities were attentively concerned by the local needs. The main problem of the local authorities (zemstvo), besides the limitation of their competence, was the poor financing of their activity, which were carried out due to local taxes. Work in zemstvos promoted the formation of civil consciousness, development of Russian intelligentsia. The government, aspiring to avoid the creation of opposition, did not allow contacts between zemstvos of different provinces.

The preparation of the city reform began in 1861.
The "city's position" was confirmed on the 16th of June 1870. In cities a classless municipal Duma (administrative organ) and a board city (executive organ) were created under the presidency of the city's head.

The most consecutive of the reforms of the 60s was the judicial reform. On the 20th of November 1864 was promulgated a decree about judicial reform and new judicial charters. They entered general judicial establishments for persons of all estates, with the general order of legal proceedings. In Russia the jury, the transparency, the competitiveness of the legal proceedings, the equal responsibility of all estates before court, and the independence of court of administration, were affirmed.

The country was divided into 108 judicial districts. Two kinds of courts were created: the reconciliatory and the general. Judicial charters were distributed to 44 provinces and were introduced into them during more than thirty years.

The law approved in 1863, which cancelled corporal punishments by rods, lashes, knouts, markings on verdicts of civil and military courts, was accepted. Women were completely exempted from corporal punishments. But birches were kept for peasants (by verdicts of volost courts), for exiled and punished soldiers and convicts.

The preparation of reforms on fleet began even from the Crimean war. The head of sea department grand duke Konstantin Nikolaevich and his colleagues developed a number of projects on which the administration of the fleet and naval educational institutions were reorganized (in the 60s). In 1857 the system of military settlements was liquidated. The service life of the low grades was reduced from 25 to 10 years.
Within 12 years were carried out transformations in the army (1862-1874). Military theorists M.I. Dragomirov, D.A. Milyutin, G.A. Leer made qualitative changes in the military theory. In the army appeared new charters, giving the main attention to fighting and physical preparation of the soldiers. During the reform of military schools, there were created military grammar schools and cadet schools with biennial term of training. Persons of all classes were accepted in those schools.

After long debates, on the 1st of January, 1874, the Charter about the compulsory military service radically changed the system of recruitment in the army. The general compulsory military service of all men after 21 years was entered at the place of recruitment. Soldiers were serving 6 years at active service and were registered as soldiers of reserve, sailors respectively 7 years and 3 years; those who finished elementary schools were serving 3 years, grammar schools 1,5 years, graduates of high schools, 6 months. The creation of a small army of peacetime with a significant trained reserve in case of war was the result of the reform.

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