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Tsarist autocracy[a] (Russian: царское самодержавие, transcr. tsarskoye samoderzhaviye) refers to a form of autocracy (later, absolute monarchy) specific to Grand Duchy of Muscovy (later known as the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire).[b]

Contents

Alternative names

This system has also been described as imperial autocracy[c], Russian autocracy[d], Muscovite autocracy[e], tsarist absolutism[f], imperial absolutism,[g] Russian absolutism[h], Muscovite absolutism,[i] Muscovite despotism,[j][k] Russian despotism[l], tsarist despotism[m] or imperial despotism.[n]

History

For the history of the term as applied to rulers in Russia, see Tsar (Russia).

The Tatar Yoke and the Mongol ideas and administrative system are credited with bringing the culture exhibiting some characteristics of an oriental despotism to Russia[1][b] Absolutism in Russia gradually developed during the 17th century and 18th centuries, replacing the despotism of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Ivan III built upon Byzantine traditions and laid foundations for the tsarist autocracy, a system that with some variations would govern Russia for centuries.[2][3]

After a period of disorder known as a Time of Troubles, first member of Romanov dynasty, Michael of Russia was elected to the throne by Zemsky Sobor ("assembly of the land"). During Michael's reign, when the Romanov dynasty was still weak, such assemblies were summoned annually. Peter the Great reduced the power of the nobility and strengthened the central power of the tsar, establishing a bureaucratic civil service based on the Table of Ranks but open to all classes of the society, in place of the nobility-only mestnichestvo which Feodor III had abolished in 1682.[4][5][6] Peter I also strengthened the state's control over the church (the Orthodox Church).[4] Peter's reform caused a series of palace coups seeking to restore the power of the nobility.[7] To end them, Catherine the Great, whose reign is often regarded as the high point of absolutism in Russia, in 1785 issued charter to the nobility and gentry, legally affirming civil rights they had acquired in preceding years, and charter of the Cities, establishing municipal self-government. This placated the gentry; however, in fact, the real power rested with the state's bureaucracy.[7] This was built on by later Tsars. Alexander I established State council as advisory legislative body. Although Alexander II established system of elected local self-government (Zemstvo) and an independent judicial system, Russia did not have a national-level representative assembly (Duma) or a constitution until the 1905 Revolution.[8] The system was abolished after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Features

The center of the tsarist autocracy was the person of the tsar himself, a sovereign with absolute powers.[9] The rights of state power in their entire extent belonged to the tsar. Power was further entrusted by him to persons and institutions, acting in his name, by his orders, and within the limits, laid down for them by law. The purpose of the system was to benefit the entire country of Russia.[9] A metaphor existed likening tsar to the father, and all of the subjects of the Empire, to his children; it was even used in Orthodox primers.[10]. This metaphor is present in the common Russian expression "царь-батюшка", literally "tsar-dear father".

Furthermore, unlike western monarchies who were subjugated to the Pope, the ruler of the Russian Empire was the supreme authority on religious issues, see Church reform of Peter I and caesaropapism for details.

Another key feature was related to patrimonialism, as in Russia, the tsar owned a much higher proportion of the state (lands, enterprises, etc.) than in Western monarchies.[11][12][13][14][15][16]

The tsarist autocracy had many supporters within Russia. Major Russian advocates and theorists of autocracy included the world famous writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky,[3][17], Mikhail N. Katkov,[18] Konstantin S. Aksakov,[19] Nikolay Karamzin,[17] Konstantin Pobedonostsev[3][9] and Pyotr Semyonov. They all argued that a strong and prosperous Russia needs a strong tsar, and philosophies of republicanism and liberal democracy are not fit for Russia.[3] For common people, the tsar was responsible for all good in their lives, while all the disasters came from meddling bureaucracy, nobles, and such.

In Poland, tsarist autocracy has been analyzed more critically by Stanisław Mackiewicz.

Influences

Some historians see the traditions of tsarist autocracy as partially responsible for laying groundworks for the totalitarianism in the Soviet Union.[2][3][20][21] They see the traditions of autocracy and patrimonialism as dominating Russia's political culture for centuries; for example, Stephen White wrote that Russian political culture is "rooted in the historical experience of centuries of absolutism."[22] All of those views had been challenged by other historians (for example, Nicolai N. Petro and Martin Malia (as cited by Hoffmann)).[20]

Some historians have pointed to a racial element in the concept. Cold War analysts, including George Kennan, linked the Soviet government's autocratic rule to Tatar influences during its history, and biographies of Russian leaders often stressed their possible Asiatic ancestries. They maintained that Asiatic influences rendered the Russians, along with the Chinese, untrustworthy.[23][24]

Further reading

  • Paul Dukes, The Making of Russian Absolutism, 1613-1801, Longman, 1986
  • Marshall T. Poe, "Russian despotism" : the origins and dissemination of an early modern commonplace. Thesis (Ph. D. in History). University of California, Berkeley, 1993.
  • Hugh Ragsdale, The Russian Tragedy: The Burden of History, M.E. Sharpe, 1996, ISBN 1563247550

See also

Notes

a ^  As used in those publications

b ^  The existing literature pairs the words Russian, tsarist, Muscovite and imperial with despotism, absolutism and autocracy in all possible combinations, rarely giving clear definitions. Tsarist can be indeed applicable to the entire period (see also historical usage of the term "tsar"), but Muscovite is applicable only to the period of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which was replaced by tsardom of Russia, a period for which the words imperial and Russian are applicable. Further, we can look at Muscovite despotism as a precursor for the tsarist absolutism, however, the very use of the word despotism has problems (see following note). Finally, care should be taken with the term autocracy: today, autocrat is usually seen as synonymous with despot, tyrant and/or dictator, though each of these terms originally had a separate and distinct meaning. Overall, out of the available terms, "tsarist autocracy" is the one which seems most correct for the entire period discussed, but it is worth keeping in mind that there are no ideal types, and that the Russian political system evolved through time.

c ^  As used in those publications

d ^  As used in those publications

e ^  As used in those publications

f ^  As used in those publications

g ^  As used in those publications

h ^  As used in those publications

i ^  As used in those publications

j ^  As used in those publications

k ^  It should be noted, however, that terms oriental despotism and its development, the Muscovite or Russian despotism, have been criticized as misleading, since Muscovy, and Russia, never had characteristics of pure despotism, such as the ruler being identified with a god).[3][25][26]

l ^  As used in those publications

m ^  As used in those publications

j ^  As used in those publications

References

  1. ^ Donald Ostrowski, The Mongols and Rus': Eight Paradigms, in Abbott Gleason, A Companion to Russian History, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, ISBN 1405135603, Google Print, p.78
  2. ^ a b Peter Truscott, Russia First: Breaking with the West, I.B.Tauris, 1997 ISBN 186064199, Google Print, p.17
  3. ^ a b c d e f Peter Viereck, Conservative Thinkers: From John Adams to Winston Churchill, Transaction Publishers, 2005 ISBN 1412805260, Google Print, pp. 84-86
  4. ^ a b Nicolai N. Petro, The Rebirth of Russian Democracy: An Interpretation of Political Culture, Harvard University Press, 1995, ISBN 0674750012, Google Print, p.34-36
  5. ^ David R. Stone, A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006, ISBN 0275985024, Google Print, p.59
  6. ^ Paul Bushkovitch, Peter the Great: The Struggle for Power, 1671-1725, Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 0521805856, Google Print, p.118
  7. ^ a b Nicolai N. Petro, The Rebirth of Russian Democracy: An Interpretation of Political Culture, Harvard University Press, 1995, ISBN 0674750012, Google Print, p.36-39
  8. ^ Nicolai N. Petro, The Rebirth of Russian Democracy: An Interpretation of Political Culture, Harvard University Press, 1995, ISBN 0674750012, Google Print, p.48
  9. ^ a b c Stephen J. Lee Russia and the USSR, 1855-1991: Autocracy and Dictatorship, Routledge, 2006 ISBN 0415335779, Google Print, p.1-3
  10. ^ Robert D. Crews, For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia, Harvard University Press, 2006, ISBN 0674021649, Google Print, p.77
  11. ^ Deborah Goodwin, Matthew Midlane, Negotiation in International Conflict: Understanding Persuasion, Taylor & Francis, 2002, ISBN 0714681938, Google Print, p.158
  12. ^ Nicolas Spulber, Russia's Economic Transitions: From Late Tsarism to the New Millennium, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0521816998, Google Print, p.27-28
  13. ^ Reinhard Bendix, Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait, University of California Press, 1977, ISBN 0520031946, Google Print, p.356-358
  14. ^ Richard Pipes, Russian Conservatism and Its Critics: A Study in Political Culture, Yale University Press, 2007, ISBN 0300122691, Google Print, p.181
  15. ^ Catherine J. Danks, Russian Politics and Society: An Introduction, Pearson Education, 2001, ISBN 0582473004, Google Print, p.21
  16. ^ Stefan Hedlund, Russian Path Dependence: A People with a Troubled History, Routledge, 2005, ISBN 0415354005, Google Print, p.161
  17. ^ a b James Patrick Scanlan, Dostoevsky the Thinker: A Philosophical Study, Cornell University Press, 2002, ISBN 0801439949, Google Print, p.171-172
  18. ^ Richard Pipes, Russian Conservatism and Its Critics: A Study in Political Culture, Yale University Press, 2007, ISBN 0300122691, Google Print, p.124
  19. ^ Nicolai N. Petro, The Rebirth of Russian Democracy: An Interpretation of Political Culture, Harvard University Press, 1995, ISBN 0674750012, Google Print, p.90
  20. ^ a b David Lloyd Hoffmann, Stalinism: The Essential Readings, Blackwell Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0631228918, Google Print, p.67-68
  21. ^ Dennis J. Dunn, The Catholic Church and Russia: Popes, Patriarchs, Tsars, and Commissars, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004, ISBN 0754636100, Google Print, p.72
  22. ^ Nicolai N. Petro, The Rebirth of Russian Democracy: An Interpretation of Political Culture, Harvard University Press, 1995, ISBN 0674750012, Google Print, p.15
  23. ^ Michael Adas (2006). Dominance by design: technological imperatives and America's civilizing mission. Harvard University Press. pp. 230–231. ISBN 0674018672. http://books.google.com/books?id=yHh6gwshyKIC&pg=RA2-PA229&dq=despot+russian&lr=&as_drrb_is=b&as_minm_is=0&as_miny_is=1990&as_maxm_is=0&as_maxy_is=2009&as_brr=0&as_pt=ALLTYPES&client=opera.  
  24. ^ David C. Engerman (2003). Modernization from the other shore. Harvard University Press. p. 260. ISBN 0674011511. http://books.google.com/books?id=UkFlO7hoxOMC&pg=PA260&dq=russian+despotism+racial+asiatic&lr=&client=opera.  
  25. ^ Donald Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols: Cross-Cultural Influences on the Steppe Frontier, 1304-1589, Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0521894107, Google Print, p.85
  26. ^ Tartar Yoke Professor Gerhard Rempel, Western New England College

External links

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