Alexander III was the Tsar of Russia from 1881 to 1894 and during his reign, Russia became somewhat stable, and Alexander himself opposed his father’s reforms and stamped out any opposition to his rule. His father, Alexander II had allowed reformers to be present in the government. This allowed instability and opposition at times when Russia was not in its better stages. Revolts and rebellions has plagued Russian History and opposed the Tsars in the past. From this, Alexander III wanted to keep reformers out of the Government in an attempt to reduce opposition and keep stability.
He was somewhat successful, there were fewer rebellions against the Tsar and stability was in order for long periods of time. Alexander III also opposed the military reforms his father had made; he changed the conscription rules and reduced the size of the Russian Army. This was welcomed by the people, they had previously been a bloody nation and very militaristic, and the people of Russia felt this was a large step to become a more peaceful nation and so, opposition that were unhappy of Russia’s war like tendencies, were reduced.
However, Alexander III did avoid sorting a peace between Russia and Turkey, and wanted to go ahead with a war. Although people did not want war, they respected his decision and saw that the new Tsar was a man that would not put up with any opposition to his nation or his title, and so opposition was reduced again. The policies of Russia that Alexander II had refused to acknowledge, or even strived to end, were revisited by the new Tsar and people felt as though he was fairer and had ears to hear the voices of his people.
They felt as though the new Alexander was more involved with the welfare of his people and so Opposition to his reign was reduced, as the people who had previously been ignored, were now listened to and their opinions met with acknowledgement. Alexander also used a deal of force upon his country. He disagreed with his father’s views on the future of Russia and wanted to stamp out any political opposition to his position by following an autocratic rule. This meant that he had full power of Russia, and any ideas or reforms that were to be made had to be put to him to decide upon.
This meant that the opposition to his rule were ignored, and he had full control of his country and the people in it. He hated Alexander II’s idea of westernising Russia, as he believed that this was not what the peasants would want, and believed that he held a bond with the peasants. By this, the peasants felt like for once, someone was prepared to listen to their views and do what was best for them, and seen as a huge percentage of Russians were peasants; this was extremely popular and reduced the chances of a peasant revolt.
Instead, Alexander wanted to modernise Russia and turn it into a great power. By 1881, Alexander destroyed the proposals of reform that his father had created. He forced the reforming ministers to resign and made it very clear that his rule was one of autocracy. Met by many with dislike, however, Alexander did crush any hope of a peaceful reform by the Russian people and by doing so made it less likely that there would be opposition to him, as the people were unwilling to use violence for their cause.
Alexander used a secret police force known as the Okhrama, to help him to govern Russia and give terror to those who opposed him. Over 5000 people were exiled or sentenced to hard labour by 1894, and by this, opposition was reduced. This helped Alexander to control his people and was very successful but also inspired hatred by many. Alexander III also passed the law of exceptional measures which allowed him to interfere with civil liberties, and could confiscate property, arrest people, imprison or fine citizens, set up military courts and had many more powers.
This again allowed Alexander to use force to control his people, stopping opposition by means of force and interference. It was successful for a long period of time. Alexander then changed the Zemsta act in 1890, he gave his favour to the landowners so that they could reduce the impact of the peasants vote. Although this upset the peasants, they had very little power anyway, and so did not create much opposition to his reforms. The landowners were happy, and had more power the peasants and so by keeping them happy he reduced the chance of a rebellion against his rule.
He also made it more difficult for the lower classes to get an education by raising education fees. This reduced the chance of the lower class becoming politically educated and standing against the Tsar, and so the chance of opposition was reduced. In 1889, crimes could be heard without a jury and this undermined trial by Jury. Although this meant opposition could be stopped more efficiently and quickly, it was disliked by many of the people of Russia and many crimes were condemned unfairly.
It sparked a lot of dislike and although it did not lead to a rebellion, it did mount upon a stack of Alexander’s reforms and tension rose. Alexander III also suppressed other religions to the Orthodox Church. Anyone seen as trying to convert others or highlighting their religion were threatened with the exile to Siberia. The number of Jews allowed to study at university was limited and fewer Jews admitted their religion. This meant religious opposition was stamped out, but did Alexander no favours.
Religion was not something people were willing to ignore or forget and caused a great deal of anger and hate towards him. It also aided a social divide. The law to end ‘Temporary Obligation’ was designed to help peasants gain more land. It allowed them to come to agreements with local landlords and the government would help to pay off the landlord. This satisfied the peasants; they were given hope for a better life and so were pleased by Alexander’s reform. It reduced peasant opposition to his rule.
Alexander began his reign by announcing his determination to rule as an autocrat, and aspects of Russian life subsequently experienced repression throughout his time as ruler. He brought about many counter-reforms that stamped out any political opposition in order to re-enforce the authority of the Tsar. The social reforms made by Alexander III in many ways helped the peasants and workers to gain a better quality of life, however in many cases corruption meant that the laws were not fully applied.
Alexander tried to please all of the social classes but also was keen to keep the power of each class limited, emphasising his position as an autocrat. He was largely successful, but tension was created by his oppression on religion and the terror he put on many people. Although he crushed many oppositions by making it too dangerous to so, many didn’t want to rebel, as they were greatly satisfied. Alexander was to a large extent successful in reducing opposition to the Tsar position but without a doubt there was still opposition.
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