Who had greater success in solving the problems of the Russian countryside, Alexander the second, Alexander the third or Stalin?

Essay by Fazz January 2005

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Throughout the reign of the three Russian leaders mentioned in the title, the Russian countryside was backward often not being able provide enough export capital to remove this backwardness. In each reign on occasions the Russian countryside failed to feed the population. It was sometimes rebellious and desperately poor and miserable -although historians debate to what extent.

Alexander the 2nd, like his father before him saw Russia's agricultural backwardness as a great if not the greatest problem of Russia, the solution to which was the abolition of serfdom. Alexander hopped for production in the countryside to rival that of the western nations to secure Russia's international power and significance that had been so damaged after the Crimean War. Releasing the serfs from their ties to the nobility was the first step in the process of modernizing the countryside and was arguably an admirable act of compassion. The peasantry was now supposedly 'free' from oppression by the nobility supposedly preventing revolt and 'free' to better themselves socially and economically without the restrictions and distractions of serfdom.

Yet Emancipation was only one step in the solution no matter how historic for Russia. Emancipation had severe limitations shown by the civil unrest in all but one of the provinces affected by the reforms after their declaration. The system of land distribution by the Mir left little incentive for investment and self-improvement of the land, stifling the entrepreneurialism so central to a modern (by capitalist standards) agricultural system. The peasants often had too little land to grow enough to support themselves or sell at market. The nobility were still (even after their free labour force-the serfs had gone) reluctant to invest in more profitable practices and uses of their land as the English nobility had done in previous centuries. The Nobility still partly controlled...