Western Innovations and Monarchist Ideologies in Political Culture of Imperial Russia
Monarchism is typically thought of as an element of tradition, which was to be replaced by the European innovations like constitutionalism, liberalism or republicanism. However, while studying the sources in Russian political thought of 18th - early 20th centuries, we might find out that monarchist ideologies were able to react in a flexible way and to appropriate the results of the intellectual transfer from the West. We can speak of 3 main modes (fields) or ideologies of monarchism that were historically deployed in Imperial Russia. First, it is the providential ideology, which was an amalgam of Russian Orthodox providentialism and new European baroque strategies of comparing the Czar to God. Second, it is the historical approach, which emerged in the middle of 18th century. Its centerpiece was the political glossary of Aristotelian philosophy, the language of the forms of government. History and political science within this ideology could demonstrate that monarchy was the best form of government for Russia (such was the mainline for Russian historicans from Tatishchev to Karamzin and later on). On this basis, the 19th century nationalist were able to fuse the historical monarcist ideology with the nationalistic vision of Russia's uniqueness in history. Third, it is the concept of monarchy as an agency of modernization. This ideology was emphasizing the under-developed state of Russia (and, not least, the backwardness of the majority of population, namely peasants); to overcome it, a benevolent rule of the monarch is required.
A combination of these three ideologies provided Russian monarchism with a sustainability; monarchism proved great historcal endurance. That also meant that serious alternatives to monarchist ideology were forced to employ radical ideas to be able to penetrate into the monarchical stronghold of political thought.