Bakunin had arrived in London, at the end of 1861, at a critical juncture in Russian history. The emancipation of the serfs in the preceding spring was the climax of a long crescendo of expectation. Ever since the loss of the Crimean war and the accession of Alexander II, the mass of Russian opinion, at home and abroad, had been united on the necessity for reform. The Bell voiced these combined aspirations and, though officially excluded from Russia, became the half-tolerated organ of Russian liberalism. For five years the reformers carried all before them, and the reactionaries were reduced to silent and surreptitious obstruction. But once the pinnacle had been reached and the emancipation of the serfs was an accomplished fact, there was a significant pause. The rejoicings were scarcely over before critics on both sides began to take stock of the situation. Some thought that reform, having achieved this well-advertised success, could safely rest on its laurels for another generation. Others, whose democratic appetites had been whetted, not satisfied, felt that autocracy was on the run and that now, if ever, was the time to press for fresh concessions. Russian opinion began to split once more into conservative and radical camps.
KeywordsSecret Society Political Ambition Russian Sect Russian People Preceding Spring
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