All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come
While reading “Anna Karenina” I came across a very interesting subject being discussed: problem of serfdom.
Konstantin Levin, 32 years old landowner, wants to increase productivity on his farmland. Sees how peasants are not motivated and wonders, whether giving them ownership of his land will change their commitment to work. Also issue of moral justification of serfdom comes up.
“Anna Karenina” was written 1870’s and touches on contemporary Russian problems. At that time Tsar Alexander ll was at power. Serfdom of Russian peasants was hotly discussed topic. It took Tsar 6 years after coronation, but finally emancipation of serfs was accomplished by imperial ukaz in 1861. It had immense political and economical implications. Alexander ll was killed by a bomb in 1881 in St Petersburg, not far away from the place he signed the document.
At that point I realized, that I heard this story somewhere. Yes, it was a part of American history with Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation and his death in 1865.
When I read more about that period in history, I realized how close these countries were to each other in the second half of 19th century.
Russia was supporting the Union in the war with Confederates by sending war ships to New York and San Francisco area. She was also opposing Britain and France, who were backing Confederates.
Slavery is as old as records can reach. In the Bible it is mentioned as an established institution. Code of Hammurabi prescribes death for everyone, who helps fugitive slave. Slavery flourished in classical antiquity, middle ages, Renaissance and Enlightenment. Evolving political and economic systems as well as humanitarian issues were forcing a need for change. Alexander within a year of his coronation announced to his advisors “I’ve decided to do it, gentlemen. If we don’t give the peasants freedom, they will take it from below”. After 5 years of back and forth discussions with his advisers, he decided to cut it short and did it by imperial fiat.
Lincoln opposed slavery more on moral basis. He also proposed a compensation to slave owners, but bill was never voted on by Congress .
Serfdom was abolished
1811-1850 in Prussia
1848 in Austria
1861 in Russia
1864 in Poland (partitioned)
Abraham Lincoln signed Emancipation Declaration September 22 ,1862 and it went to effect on January 1 ,1863.
Lincoln’s and Alexander’s paths had crossed, but their origins couldn’t be more diverse. One grew up in a log cabin in Kentucky, the other one in imperial palace in StPetersburg.
They never met, but exchanged letters signed “your good friend, Alexander” and “you good friend, A.Lincoln”. Lincoln was 9 years older.
They signed their respective documents and were assassinated in same places, Washington DC and StPetersburg, 4500 miles apart.
Alaska was bought from Russia in 1867, two years after Lincoln’s death. Tsar didn’t think is was militarily feasible to defend that territory from possible British invasion.
American artist Alonzo Chappel painted a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. He also painted a famous portrait of Tsar Alexander ll.
And there is a sculpture by Alexander Burganov of Lincoln and Alexander shaking hands.
Who would have thought, that al this was possible at all.