The public idea and social movements. "Enlightened absolutism".
The public idea of the second half of XVIII century was already presented by a wide spectrum of socio-political conceptions. Its basic directions were the official and protective theory, the conservative and aristocratic ideology, the liberal and nobleman's direction, the moderate and revolutionary enlightenment.
The first direction was elaborated in Catherine's II works. The essay "Anitod" alleged that Catherine's II enlightened government did not intend to change the regime in the state, for in Russia all is safely.
The aristocratic and conservative direction was represented by M.M.Sherbatov (1733-1790). The historian and publicist, in 1767-1768 he protected nobleman's privileges in the Code commission, later worked in the Commission of commerce, headed secret office work in the Military council, was the court historiograph. He did not accept any of the reigns of XVIII century. Not denying the advantage and necessity of reforms in the first quarter of XVIII century, Sherbatov nevertheless laid the blame on Peter I for disruption of the socio-political role of patrimonial nobility and "injury of public morals". He supported such a form of government in which the nobility, as a corporation, was sharply separated by the privileges from other estates and had a great influence on state affairs. At last, Sherbatov was a convinced landlord advocating serfdom, sincerely believing in the beneficence of serfdom for peasants and in careful fatherly attitude of landlords towards them.
The liberal and nobleman's direction was represented by N.I.Panin (1718-1783), the Russian envoy in Denmark and Sweden, and since 1760 the tutor of grand duke Pavel Petrovich, since 1763 the chairman of the Board of foreign affairs; A.R.Vorontsov (1741-1805), in 1762-1768 the plenipotentiary minister in England, in 1773-1794 the president of Commerce collegium; princess A.R.Dashkova (1743-1810), the director of the Academy of Sciences and the president of the Russian Academy in 1783-1796; prince D.A.Golitsyn (1734-1803), the Russian ambassador in France and Netherlands, publicist and scientist; A.A.Bezborodko (1747-1799), the virtual head of the foreign policy of Russia since 1784, the chancellor during Pavel I.
Representatives of the nobleman's liberalism put forward the projects of relaxation of serfdom and even its gradual abolition in the future, however, in case of preservation of nobility land ownership. Simultaneously their offers concerned the settlement of political relations of the Supreme authority with the ruling estates. Not infringing on the very idea of monarchy, the nobleman's liberalism aspired to elimination of the arbitrariness of the Supreme authority and its constitutional restriction.
Enlightenment of the second half of XVIII century, being the wide and diverse process, continued its approach to the ideology of the feudal society from the position of the theories of "the natural right" and "the social compact". The perfect state system for the majority of enlighteners was the enlightened constitutional monarchy, in which the ideal of public boon meaning first of all the legal preservation of "liberty and property" was practised. The largest figure of Enlightenment was N.I.Novikov (1744 - 1818), the journalist and publisher who issued about 1000 editions. In his satirical magazines he attacked the deep-seated vices of the administrative and public life: bureaucratic arbitrariness, embezzlement of public funds, bribery, cupidity and cruelty of owners of "baptized property".
The other enlightener D.I.Fonvizin (1744-1792), the author of the satirical fable "Fox - intriguer", the translation of the French enlightener Thom's composition "The Panegyric to Mark Aurelius", the original comedy "Ignoramus" and "Brigadier" exposing nobleman's ill nature. Fonvizin did not stop at nothing while condemnation of Catherine II policy, who established the despotic regime of government and tolerated landowners - tyrants.
In the second half of the 60-es of XVIII century D.A.Golitsyn acted with a series of letters with the plan of settlement of the peasant question. He specified the serfdom as a main brake in development of the country, which should be abolished by the reform of the State range. But for all that Golitsyn based himself on the necessity that the landed property should remain in hands of landowners, who might lease it on beneficial terms. Thus, receiving personal freedom the peasant willy-nilly had to become a renter of the landowner's land; rich peasants could purchase land, buying it at the market price from the landowner. Despite of the limited nature of the project elaborated by Goltsin, its execution could promote the transformation of feudal latifundia into capitalist farms, and occurrence of civilian agricultural workers.
In the second half of XVIII century, within the frames of enlightenment, the revolutionary tradition connected with the activity of A.N.Radishchev (1749-1801) was formed. In his compositions (Ode "Liberty", "Travel from St. Petersburg to Moscow", "Letter to a friend, residing in Tobolsk", etc.), the widespread enlightening theories of the natural right and the social compact were shown from the point of view of a radical conclusion about the people's right to overthrow rulers, unworthy or failing to do their national duty. The revolutionary character of Radishev's positions was embodied in the appeal to destruction of the regime of violence and injustice through a peasant revolt. The ultimate aim of the struggle was establishment of democracy in the form of the bourgeois republic.
The second half of XVIII century was connected with appreciable stirring up of social movements. In the year of Catherine's II accession to the throne almost 150 thousand monastery and landowners' peasants revolted. The main reason of peasant strikes was the intensification of feudal exploitation of peasants during the decomposition of the serf system and the government policy that protected serfdom. The presage of the peasant war was the large people's movements of the end of 60-es and the beginning of 70-es. In 1768 the revolt took place in Ukraine.
In 1771 in Moscow "the plague revolt" broke out; the panic-stricken population because of plague, closing of manufactories, dismissal of workers gave short shrift to archbishop Ambrosy, who enjoined to take away a wonder-working icon of the Blessed Virgin from the Barbara gate. The explosive atmosphere emerged among Cossacks of Ural: the state monopoly on fishing and salt, constraint of the autonomy of Yaik Cossacks, calling of Cossacks to the military service in the Northern Caucasus and other places in 1772 provoked the revolt on the Yaik, during which were killed the general, the army ataman and a number of representatives of the Cossack brass. After the suppression of revolt the Cossack district was forbidden and a commandant was appointed to the Yaitsk town.