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Lecture 7

HIST 245 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Reign Of Terror, President Head, Decembrist Revolt

Course Code
HIST 245
Ana Siljak

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Lecture 8: Decembrism
I. Introduction
-One of the major consequences from Russia entering Paris was Revolution
-Alexander saw it as his God given duty to preserve religion and autocracy, wherever it
-After the Congress of Vienna, Alexanders actions could be seen as a somewhat return
to reaction - a mix between reforms and reactionary legislation
-He mixed his reformism with reactionary - he did show interest in reforming Russia
along side European lines - however, most of his reforms were strange and not fully
thought out
-Until 1815, He alternately gave hope to both reactionaries and reformers
-In 1815, reformers were very pleased with Alexanders treatment of the Kingdom of
-Created out of parts of the Duchy of Warsaw (Alexander renamed it the Kingdom of
Poland) - when Napoleon created he instilled some reformers and Alexander
decided that he wasn’t going to take those reforms away
-Alexander gave them a constitution - this caused Alexander to become the Absolute
Tsar of Russia and at the same time, the limited constitutional monarch of the
Kingdom of Poland
-He gave to the poles what the Russians didn’t have - a constitutional monarchy
(one of the most liberal in Europe) - extremely progressive
-Reactionaries saw the Kingdom of Poland as a bad example for Russia -
Alexander was feeling those fears as well as he did declare that Poland was
supposed to be an experiment in constitutionalism
-The idea was that if things went well, he could continue the experiment into
-Experimented with freeing the peasants within the border territories- refused
anyone to own serfs in Finland, and emancipated the serfs in the Northern
Baltic provinces —> was experimenting with Reforms on the border to see if
he could introduce them into Russia
-The Military colonies in Russia -
-Alexander had a problem at the end of the Napoleonic wars - what to do with an
enormous number of troops (a demobilized army) - some could return to the
territories where they originated from, but others needed to find something to
support themselves
-Alexander thought that they could take up agriculture and make them farmers -could
feed themselves, avoid being bored and restless, thought the military colonies could
be an experiment as well (experimenting in agricultural techniques, etc.)
-In theory, this idea was great —> In practice, This idea worked really poorly - most
soldiers who had trained to be fighters had no interests in farming
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-Alexander decided that he would put the soldiers with the freed serfs and they
would teach them how to grow and support themselves, but the peasants had no
time, or interest in teaching these soldiers how to be farmers
-Aleksei Arakcheev - the mastermind behind this military colonies (the inspiration as
he was a military man who had experimented with something like this with military
men on his own estate) —> Alexander visited his estate and thought it was wonderful
-Arakcheev thought that he was going to run these military colonies like how he did
with his own estate- with military discipline
-Farmers had to wear uniforms, had to obey strict rules for rising, working and
sleeping (the day was strictly planned out), his colonies became so unpopular
throughout Russia (due to the unhappiness of the soldiers, peasants, etc.) that there
was a new term coined Arakcheevism that became associated with tyranny and
reaction - Arakcheevism became the reason for the Revolution of 1825
-if you give people hope with the Kingdom of Poland (giving people constitutions, etc.)
thinking that Russia is going to go in the right way and then crush those hopes with
military colonies - those same people who had hope now are disappointed and this is
fertile ground for revolutionists
II. Seeds of Revolution
-The young men who fought in the battle against Napoleon were the first men to
encounter these revolutionary (enlightened) ideas - they weren’t the first young men to
travel to Europe though
-These young men encounter countries who have been given constitutions, the rise of
the new social class (merchants and the bourgeoise), etc.
A. From France to Russia
-Even though that they were told that they were travelling to France to put down the
horrors of Napoleonic France -What the men saw in Europe impressed them and made
them realize that Russia was the backwards country and France was doing just fine
(culturally, socially, etc.) - when they returned home, Russia looked very primitive and
-The Decembrists said: “During the campaigns through Germany and France, the
young men became acquainted with European civilizations, which produced the
strongest impression on them.
-They were able to compare all that they had seen abroad with what confronted them
at every step at home (Russia): slavery (serfdom) of the majority of the Russian,
cruel treatment of subordinates by superiors, all sorts of government abuses, and
general tyranny.
B. Secret Societies
-This is also the time of the rise of secret societies - secret societies were the product of
the Enlightenment (consisted of an elaborate rituals and rules, some of them were
religious, while others were revolutionary/Atheistic - opposed to traditional religion
and imposed their own traditions and rites, dedicated to many Enlightenment theories:
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