Changes during the rule of Catherine II and Alexander I

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In 1762, Catherine II started to reorganize Russian life, especially the ruling system, after the ideas of enlightened absolutism. Her changes soon started to influence the Baltic states, which, in 1783-96, were ruled by vice-regents. The land was divided into vice-regencies, which in return were divided into counties. There were tries to improve the situation of the peasants, more radical changes, however, were confronted by the nobility.

Alexander I (ruling in 1801-1825) continued to deal with the question of the peasantry. It was during his rule, that the principal decision to abolish serfdom was made. This had to be approved by the German-Baltic nobility and the peasantry became free in 1816 in Estonia, and in 1819 in Livonia. This decision brought individual freedom to the peasantry, however, the corveé remained in place and the nobility continued to own most of the land. It took several decades and passing of several laws regarding the improvement of the situation of the peasantry, until people started to buy farms to themselves.

Noteworthy is, that during the rule of Alexander I, the University of Tartu was reopened (1802) and several other administrative reforms were carried out.


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