On the Way to Capitalism
When Alexander II was crowned as the Russian Emperor, the country was trying to cope with a humiliating
defeat in the Crimean War. Something had to be done to boost the national economy and to ensure political
stability. A series of reforms was undertaken under the supervision of Alexander II. The Russian serfs
were freed in 1861, although peasants had to pay for their land. A military reform was carried out soon, followed by a
legal reform (trial by jury was introduced) and the city administration reform, which allowed
St.Petersburg a higher degree of self-government.
Despite the scale of these reforms, some revolutionaries considered Alexander to be too conservative.
After a series of assassination attempts Alexander II was fatally wounded on March 1, 1881 and died
on the same day. The marvellous Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood (1883-1907) was built on the
spot where Alexander II had been assassinated. Some of the reforms (and the constitution which was ready
to be signed) were repealed or curtailed by his enraged son Alexander III and a period of repressions
and conservatism followed.
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg was becoming a capitalist city. The number of factories and plants (both
Russian and foreign) grew quickly, while Nevsky Prospect and downtown streets were filled with banks
and company offices. By the 1890s construction was booming and new multi-storey apartment buildings
were mushrooming all over the city.