An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
EMANCIPATION IN THE "EDITING COMMISSION"

APART from the service to emancipation rendered by those members of the local committees who were also contributors to the journals, the most conspicuous service was rendered by Chernishevsky through his writings in Sovremennik. Chernishevsky approached the subject, not from the landowners' point of view, nor from the point of view of an administrator, but from a purely a priori standpoint. His influence was exercised chiefly upon the Russian youth in general, and upon the members of the Editing Commission; upon the nobility he exercised no influence whatever.1 While the fermentation of new ideas went on in various ways throughout Russian society, the Tsar was surrounded with a group of "intriguers," who did their utmost to direct his mind towards reaction. Nevertheless, even within the Court circles, there were several steadfast adherents of reform. The most conspicuous of these were the Empress Marie Aleksandrovna, the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, the Grand Duke Constantine, Lanskoy, the Minister of the Interior, General Rostovtsev, Prince Dolgorukov, chief of the gens d'armerie, and Prince Orlov, President of the Council of State. Opposed to this powerful group there were Muraviev, Minister of State Domains, N. E. Butkov, State Secretary, and practically all the other Ministers of State. This last group were exceedingly active in their agitation against the abolition of bondage right. The Tsar found it necessary to attempt to counteract their influence by going into the provinces and delivering a series of speeches urging the completion of the task to which he had set himself. Meanwhile, the views of Rostovtsev had been developing, and N. A. Mēlyutēn, for long an ardent advocate of emancipation, had been acquiring increasing influence at the Ministry of the Interior. Mēlyutēn and Soloviev had been instrumental in organizing, in 1856, the Zemstvo Division of the

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1
Kornilov, op. cit., p. 338.

-397-

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