Title

The Zemstvo and Russian Gentry Liberalism, 1864-1890

Presenter Information

Kristopher Owens

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 137B

Start Date

17-5-2012

End Date

17-5-2012

Abstract

Zemstvos were institutions of local democratic self-government created in 1864 in the Russian countryside designed to replace the authority of noble landlords after the emancipation of serfdom. The concept of democratic self-rule, if even only on a local level, was a novel idea in a strictly autocratic Russia. Educated liberals were excited to utilize the new establishment to make progressive change on their own. The state, however, was wary to give the zemstvos too much power, and constantly limited the ability of the zemstvos to make significant change. My research examines the struggle between liberals and the state within the arena of the zemstvo by observing the goals and successes of the liberal gentry class, how they used the zemstvo to spread and enact their ideas, and the difficulties they faced from above. The zemstvos represent one of the pieces of modernization in Imperial Russia, and it is important to understand their function in order to understand the changes Russia experienced in the latter 19th century and early 20th century as a whole. My research therefore addresses the question: what role did the zemstvos have in modernizing Russia? Using a strong selection of secondary literature and primary material which described how the zemstvos operated, I came to my conclusion. I argue that liberal Russians of the landed gentry class used the zemstvos to help modernize Russia, by building infrastructure, schools, and hospitals, and also used them as a vessel to promote a constitutional movement.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Roxanne Easley

Additional Mentoring Department

History

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May 17th, 1:10 PM May 17th, 1:30 PM

The Zemstvo and Russian Gentry Liberalism, 1864-1890

SURC 137B

Zemstvos were institutions of local democratic self-government created in 1864 in the Russian countryside designed to replace the authority of noble landlords after the emancipation of serfdom. The concept of democratic self-rule, if even only on a local level, was a novel idea in a strictly autocratic Russia. Educated liberals were excited to utilize the new establishment to make progressive change on their own. The state, however, was wary to give the zemstvos too much power, and constantly limited the ability of the zemstvos to make significant change. My research examines the struggle between liberals and the state within the arena of the zemstvo by observing the goals and successes of the liberal gentry class, how they used the zemstvo to spread and enact their ideas, and the difficulties they faced from above. The zemstvos represent one of the pieces of modernization in Imperial Russia, and it is important to understand their function in order to understand the changes Russia experienced in the latter 19th century and early 20th century as a whole. My research therefore addresses the question: what role did the zemstvos have in modernizing Russia? Using a strong selection of secondary literature and primary material which described how the zemstvos operated, I came to my conclusion. I argue that liberal Russians of the landed gentry class used the zemstvos to help modernize Russia, by building infrastructure, schools, and hospitals, and also used them as a vessel to promote a constitutional movement.