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Social and Political Ideas
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Social and Political Ideas

The attempt of Higher Secret Council to change the form of government in Russia in 1730 clearly showed the growth of political consciousness of the nobility and even intent of some groups to limit monarchy with the constitution. The most distinguished representative of this process was Prince D.M. Golitsin - the outstanding statesman, who consecutively held the position of Kiev Governor, the president of Camer- and Commerce Collegiums, the member of Higher Secret Council.

The historian of the XIX century D.A. Korsakov figuratively characterized Golitsin. He said, that Golitsin was 'bifacial Janus, standing on the edge of two epochs of our civilization - Moscow and European. One of his faces thoughtfully looks at the past of Russia, and the other presumptuously greets its future'. Historians believe the documents of Higher Secret Council, 'conditions' and Points of oath (or Project of form of government), worked out under his leadership, to be able to become the base for future Constitution. Golitsin is known to have gone much further than his colleagues planning transformation of political organization. He offered to share the legislative power between Higher Secret Council and two chambers of elected representatives of the nobility and the townspeople, which could promote the appearance of wide form of representative government. The failure of those plans made Golitsin confess bitterly: 'The feast was ready, but those who were invited weren't worth it.'

Adherents of absolutism and political principals of Peter I possessed an advantage. Characteristically, the 'constitutional movement' of January-February, 1730 received severe rebuff from the former associates of Peter I, led by the main ideologist of Peter I time Ph. Prokopovich. Later, intellectual union was formed inside this circle; Prokopovich called it the 'erudite team'. The scientist, poet and diplomat A.D. Kantemir, the statesman and historian V.N. Tatischev, A.P. Volynsky were the members of this union. The 'erudite team' exposed the development of those traditions of foreign and domestic policy of the epoch of Peter I, which provided political and economical power of the country, and also exposed the progress in the field of science and education. However, all the ideas and concepts of the 'erudite team' were based on the strong belief in unlimited monarchy, estates and privileges of the nobility to be rightful and unshakeable.

V.I.Tatischev (1686-1750) most completely expressed these views. In his theoretical and historical discourse Tatischev followed to spread in the West and popular among his associates in Russia theories of 'natural right' and 'social agreement'. Leaning on Aristotle's classification, Tatischev differed three known in history forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Bearing in mind the geographical peculiarities of Russia and the mentality of Russian people, he believed only monarchy to be salutary for the country. Studying history he hold on the principals of real causality of events and phenomena, and rejected the idea of Providence in the fortunes of people, which had dominated since the Middle Ages. According to it, he declared enlightenment to be the main driving force of progress and as for the ways of educating people, he considered invention of writing to be the most important event, then followed Christianity, and the third place was given to book-printing.

The middle of the XVIII was the time of the beginning of enlightenment - the progressive anti-feudal ideology, connected with the negative attitude to serfdom, defending the interests of wide mass of people, consecutive protection of enlightenment and thorough Europeanization of Russia. The founder of enlightenment direction in Russia was M.V. Lomonosov(1711-1765).

Being of White Sea Coast peasant origin, Lomonosov, who managed to achieve the tops of knowledge, sought for accessibility of education - up to University education - for all the estates. He tried, as he could, to call the government's attention to the situation with tax estates in the country. In particular, in the article 'About preservation and increase of Russian people', which was written for the influential grandee of Elizabeth time I.I.Shouvalov, he directly pointed out those phenomena of people life, which caused high death rate and low growth of population: ignorance, absolute absence of medical service, drunkenness, conflicts between neighboring land-owner, which involved the whole villages into internecine wars, forcible marriages and misalliances; as for the reasons of escapes of the serfs, he thought it to be the abuse power of the land-owner and the burden of recruitment.
Lomonosov connected the hopes of better future with enlightened absolutism. He considerate the reforms of the first quarter of the XVIII to be the ideal of the government activity, and the example of enlightened monarch was Peter I.

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