Russia in the time of reforms. 1860-1880
The reign of Alexander II (1818–1881) was called by his contemporaries "the era of Great reforms". Particularly important were the serfdom reform of 1861, that resolved the most painful of the Russian question and opened up the road to intensive economic development, reform of rural government and judicial reform of 1864, the reform of municipal government of 1870. The result of liberal reforms of higher education the universities gained considerable autonomy. Since 1862 when women’s gymnasiums were established, it became possible to get higher education for women.
The reforms caused the revival of public life, demonstrated political rise and activity of the youth, especially the student’s movement. The transformations had to be done slowly and with a lot of precautions, since interests of different classes and social groups had to be taken into consideration. This, in turn, caused irritation among the radical part of society, which resulted in growth of revolutionary mood in the Country. Besides the main question - the question of land was not resolved. The lack of land suitable for processing and mass impoverishment of the peasants sharpened old social problems and brought new ones.
At the turn of the 1850s and 1860s, numerous political circles and organizations of the revolutionary nature emerged in Russia. "People's massacre", "Land and will", "People's will" and others promoted terrorist methods of struggle. On March 1, 1881 as a result of another assassination attempt, Emperor Alexander II was killed.
Alexander III (1845–1894), who succeeded his father on the Throne, pursued a course intended to stabilize the country. A number of measures was designed to eliminate the severity of the agricultural problem and at the same time to strengthen the position of landlords, as well as to strengthen the Central and local authorities. Alexander III tried to oppose Parliamentarism to the "people's autocracy", which appeared to him to be a form of government fitted the most to the original "Russian way" of state development. However, the refusal of the monarchy to resolve the constitutional issue in principle only aggravated the contradictions between society and the government.
In the field of foreign policy during the reign of Alexander II and Alexander III happened a number of important events. In 1871, Russian diplomacy achieved the abolition of the restrictive articles of the Paris Treaty of 1856, which deprived Russia of the right to have a fleet and bases on the Black Sea. It was a significant step in overcoming the negative consequences of the Eastern (Crimean) war and restoring the international prestige of the Russian Empire. Russia has stepped up its efforts to restore its influence in the Balkans. In the middle of 1870s the rise of the national liberation movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Bulgaria had once again involved Russia in a military conflict with Turkey.
The San Stefano peace Treaty between Russia and Turkey, had summarized results of victories of Russia in the war of 1877–1878. The terms of peace provided for autonomy of Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed the independence of Serbia, Montenegro and Romania. Although a few months later the conditions of peace treaty at the expense of Russia and the southern Slavs were revised by the decisions of the Berlin Congress, held at the initiative of Great Britain and Austria-Hungary, for the peoples of the Balkans, the results of the Russian-Turkish war of 1877–1878 even in such cut and shortened form were of great importance.
In 1860–1880-ies Russia had gradually appended adjacent Central Asian territories. By the mid-1880s, former Kokand and Khiva Khanates, Bukhara Emirate, as well as the lands of Turkmen tribes became part of the Russian Empire.
Intellectual, spiritual and social life is most fully reflected in fiction literature. The works of L.N.Tolstoy, F.M.Dostoevsky, I.S.Turgenev were impatiently awaited, they were heatedly discussed on the pages of the press. "The Grand and breathtaking discoveries of science", were associated with the names of D.I.Mendeleev, I.M.Sechenov, N.E.Zhukovsky raised Russian science to the world level. An indispensable part of public life became national celebrations of historical dates: the 1000th Anniversary of Russia, the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Peter the Great, the 100th Anniversary of the birth of A.S.Pushkin, the 100th Anniversary of the Patriotic war of 1812, the 300th Anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.
The highest manifestation of public consciousness was the opening in Moscow in 1883 of the Imperial Russian Historical Museum, whose collections represented a scientifically accurate picture of the country's development.