chapter 1 the nature of government

ideologies: autocracy, dictatorship and totalitarianism

autocracy

  • 1855-March 1917- Russia was governed as an autocracy
  • Tsars had absolute power, said to be ordained by God
  • all Russians had to obey the will of the Tsar or suffer punishment
  • the tsar expected willing and total submission of his subjects
  • a system based on religious faith
  • did not require the tsar to be made accountable to the people through elections
  • tsar was obliged to act as a moral judge on behalf of God
  • had a paternalistic duty to protect his subjects and control their behaviour for the good of the nation as a whole
  • supported in this role by the Russian Orthodox Church
  • autocracy was viewed as a practical necessity
  • Russian empire was so vast and diverse that it was better if one person had total control over imperial affairs
  • a liberal democracy and constitutional government would have been disastrous for Russia
  • would have led to too many people demanding too many different policies
  • the vast majority of the population were illiterate peasants
  • democracy would have resulted in the governance of Russia by those who lacked the ability to reason

continuity in the belief in autocracy

  • there was variation in how autocratic power was used by the tsars throughout the period
  • the significance of autocracy was continuously enforced through manifestos, speeches and policies
  • Nicholas I used propaganda and slogans to promote tsarism
  • reinforced with legislations- the Fundamental Laws of 1832
  • 'the emperor of all the Russians is an autocratic and unlimited monarch: God himself ordains that all must bow to his supreme power, not only out of fear but also out of conscience'
  • Alexander II did not waver from this sentiment
  • after an assassinaton attempt was made on him 1866, he adhered very strongly to the concept of autocracy
  • Alexander III blamed moves towards liberalism for his father's assassination in 1881
  • Nicholas II introduced another set of Fundamental Laws which reiterated the need for the preservation of autocracy
  • 'The All-Russian Emperor possesses the supreme autocratic power. Not only fear and conscience, but God himself, commands obedience to his authority. The Russian Empire is governed by firmly established laws that have been properly enacted'
  • all of the tsars consistently promoted and justified autocracy
  • clear than ultimate power and control rested in the hands of the tsar

changes in the way autocracy was implemented

  • differences in the way the tsar performed their autocratic role
  • Alexander II opted for a string of reforms which appeared to represent a dilution of autocracy
  • Alexander III quickly resorted to a more repressive form of autocracy
  • opposiiton was ruthlessly suppressed
  • many of the changes instigated by the previous Tsar were reversed
  • heavily influenced by Pobedonostsev- argued that constitutional government was unworkable
  • Nicholas II continued the same way
  • constitutional reforms were implemented in 1905
  • these were forced on the tsar as a result of economic crisis and the disastrous consequences of the Russo-Japanese War
  • the Fundamental Laws of 1906 diluted the effect of the reforms
  • by 1917 the duma was little…

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