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Education and Censorship

The Revolutionary Masses

The early years of Alexanderís reign brought liberal trends in education. A statute of 1863 had given the universities elected boards of professors and rectors and thus self-administration.  The close supervision placed over the universities which had prevailed in the era of the Nicholas I was now lifted, opening the way for the formation of numerous circles and associations and thus to greater public activity. Major changes were begun too in the field of female education: many courses for women appeared providing an education which followed university curricula.  

A zemstvo school 

General primary education began to develop. Following the institution of the zemstvos, numerous elementary schools were established on their initiative in European Russia.  By 1880 such schools had more than a million students. 

The liberalizing trends in education led to the flowering of Russian science and culture in consequent decades. 

Relaxation of Censorship 

Under Alexander II censorship was also revised. In 1865 edicts were issued easing rigid censorship regulations for a significant number of books and periodicals with the exception of newspapers of mass circulation. The abolition, at the end of  Alexanderís reign, of the Third Section of the Imperial Chancellery, which had originally been set up by his father to enforce thought control, also helped ease the constraints of censorship. As a result, progressive journalism flourished presenting the Russian educated public with a truthful and critical picture of the countryís social and political problems.   

The ĎGreat Reformí laws of 1861-1865 altered the structure of the empire fundamentally, but it would take years before their practical effect was fully felt.  Officials learned only gradually to work within the new system, their minds and the mentality of the masses had to be adjusted to radically changed circumstances. Yet these progressive changes initiated by Alexander IIís government were all symptomatic of the transition that Russia was slowly undergoing from a semifeudal to something approaching a modern capitalist society.

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Alexander II


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
Catherine the Great
Alexander I
Nicholas I
Alexander II
The Revolutionary Movement
Appearance of Marxism
The Last Romanovs
The Birth of Bolshevism
The Revolution of 1905-7
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The Revolutions of 1917
Interpretations of 1917
The End of an Empire
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