THE PEASANT QUESTION BEFORE THE MAIN COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEES OF GUBERNI
THE revolutionary wave which passed over Western Europe in 1848, with momentous consequences in France, Italy, Germany, and Hungary, appalled the more timid among the Russian liberals, and gave new strength to the reactionary influences. From that date until the conclusion of peace after the Crimean War, the peasant question fell into the background, and the country passed once more through a period of reaction similar to that which succeeded the movement of the Dekabristi. A rude awakening came during the war, but not until the "external enemy" was got rid of by concessions could the "internal enemy" be dealt with. The campaign had been lost chiefly through the absence of that unity for which the Moscow State had always striven. Russian society was divided sharply into two classes--the possessors and those who were possessed. In spite of numerous attempts to limit bondage right, that right still remained, and the abuses which followed in its train were greater than ever when their consequences in general national disintegration and collapse were considered.
To every intelligent mind in Russia it became evident that no regeneration of the Russian people was possible without the cessation of bondage. The general "state of mind" was characterized by readiness for important changes. When Alexander II acceded to his father's throne, the optimism which in Russia always accompanies a change of autocrats inspired everyone with fresh hopes.1____________________