ALTHOUGH the Russian Empire was not directly affected by the revolutions of 1848, the Crimean War of 1853-55 provided an experience as shatteringas a revolution. The Russians not only lost the war, but they were forced to realize that their system of government was corrupt, inefficient, and in need of a thorough overhaul. The 1860s were, therefore, years of reforms. In addition to the abolition of serfdom, the military, the legal system, local government, and other facets of the administrative structure were changed significantly. The drive for reform did not affect the status of the East European minorities (Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews). In fact, the Polish revolt of 1863 (see below) hardened not only the Russian governing circles but also the Russian revolutionary left against the minorities.
The Russians were now experiencing a strong nationalistic movement of their own. Although most reformers from the time of Peter the Great (d. 1725) had considered that Russia's future lay in modernization (synonymous with Westernization at least in this case), by the mid-nineteenth century an increasing number of official and unofficial thinkers saw Russia's future in her past. Accepting the West European concept of the peasantry as the heart and soul of the nation, they looked to the early communal form of village life as their ideal. The government itself tried to revive this tradition in the wake of the abolition of serfdom. Some revolutionary leaders went even further and claimed that Russia should renounce the evils of the industrial west in favor of a simple, harmonious, pastoral society. The government, anxious to strengthen Russia's stature as a world power (especially after the Crimean debacle), strongly opposed this; nevertheless, the ideology had considerable impact.
If one considers that the Russians, whose remote habitat had long fostered a sort of xenophobia, had now chosen to embrace traditional