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When their work was done they presented their proposals to Alexander who then formally issued them in an Imperial Proclamation.When it was finally presented, in 1861, the Emancipation statute, which accompanied the Proclamation, contained 22 separate measures whose details filled 360 closely printed pages of a very large volume.This was evidence of the remarkable power and influence that the tsar exercised as absolute ruler.
Tsar Alexander II (1855-81) shared with his father, Nicholas I, a conviction that American slavery was inhumane.
This is not as hypocritical as it might first appear.
Alexander declared that the basic aim of emancipation was to satisfy all those involved in serfdom, serfs and land owners alike: Called by Divine Providence We vowed in our hearts to fulfil the mission which is entrusted to Us and to surround with Our affection and Our Imperial solicitude all Our faithful subjects of every rank and condition.
Impressive though these freedoms first looked, it soon became apparent that they had come at a heavy price for the peasants.
It had long been appreciated that some land reform was necessary.
To the social and economic arguments were now added powerful military ones. As long as its army remained strong Russia could afford to ignore its backwardness as a nation. It had failed to provide the calibre of soldier Russia needed.
It was not they, but the landlords, who were the beneficiaries.
This should not surprise us: after, it had been the dvoriane who had drafted the emancipation proposals.
The serfdom that had operated in Russia since the middle of the seventeenth century was technically not slavery. This contrasted with the system in the USA where the negro slaves were chattels; that is, they were regarded in law as the disposable property of their masters.
In Russia the traditional relationship between lord and serf was based on land.