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Legal and Military Reforms

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Legal Reform 

The abolition of serfdom led to the reorganization of the judiciary. Out of the whole package of Alexanders liberalizing measures, the legal reform was arguably the most consistent and progressive, upholding the idea of the supremacy of the law and of respect for it. The basis for the restructuring of the administration of justice was laid by the Judicial Statutes, enacted in 1864.  The courts were completely  separated from other departments of state and became open and independent with the participation of juries drawn from the local population. Justices of the peace were now to be elected by the population.  The adversarial trial system was introduced for the first time, as was an independent bar and the right to counsel.  

The reformed judicial system went a long way to meet standards of impartial justice and ensure equality of all Russians before the law. However, an important exception was made for the peasantry. Cases between peasants were decided by a system of special courts. Separating peasants from the regular judicial system kept up the old distinction between free citizens and serfs.

The new courts provided a forum and another opportunity for the public voicing of non-conformist and critical opinion. The reform led to the development of a large class of lawyers. Many members of the newly established legal profession later played a prominent part in anti-government politics.

Military Reform 

The Emancipation meant change in the military, since the old military system had conscripted men from the serf population only and required them to serve for twenty-five years. 

In 1874 a military statute was adopted which put in effect a system of conscription which imposed compulsory military service on all the male population for a period of  between six months and six years depending on education. A system of education for all soldiers and officers was instituted which helped make the army service more humane and civilized. Russian military successes in the war with Turkey in 1877-78 were in a large measure attributable to the military reform.

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Alexander II


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
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