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- At the same time, however, Paul's methods of combating revolutionary thought anticipated in many respects the pattern which prevailed in the second half of Alexander’s reign.
- Thus, the spiritual mobilization during the second half of Alexander's reign was in some respects a development of ideas and techniques first crudely tried out by Paul.
- Alexander’s loosely worded promises of reform at his coronation encourage the hopes of everyone.
- Hope ran perhaps the highest of all among the liberal reformers.
- The aristocracy produced a bewildering array of political ideas during Alexander’s reign.
- Constitutional monarchy was the predominant ideal for the first decade of Alexander’s reign, the dominant figure of which was Michael Speransky.
- Thus, while Speransky edited Radishchev's last contribution to Russian though, the "Charter of the Russian People," he had little sympathy with the latter's abstract, rhetorical approach.
- After Alexander's rapprochement with Napoleon at Tilsit in 1807, the idea of a through going reform of the Russian government on French models gained favor.
- This ingenious, somewhat eclectic proposal of 1809 was never taken any further than the creation of the imperial council with Speransky himself as secretary.
- Nicholas Karamzin, the spokesman for autocratic conservatism, entered the political arena dramatically with his Note on Old and New Russia
- Karamzin was a widely traveled aristocrat whose journalistic and literary activities had already established him as a champion of Westernization and linguistic modernization.
- Therefore, autocratic monarchy is the best form of rule for Russia.
- For all its elegance, however, Karamzin's position remains little more than an attack on innovation fortified with sentimentality and casuistry.
- Karamzin was a kind of monastic chronicler in modern dress.
- Karamzin's hero in Russian history is Ivan 3, in whom tsarist authority was undiluted and under whose all-conquering banners the chivalric aristocracy of that time spontaneously rallies and marched off to heroic battle.
- The gradual triumph of Karamzin's conservatism at court forced proponents of reform in the second half of Alexander's reign to assume more extreme positions than those taken by Speransky.
- The political reformers that history has come to call the Decembrists can be thought of as returning war veterans, hoping to make Russia worthy of the high calling it has assumed through victory over Napoleon.
- A romantic interest in the history and destiny of their own country was as important to these new radicals as it was to the new conservatives like Karamzin.
- The parliament (sejm) of early Polan and Lithuania was glorified along with the assembly (veche) of Novgorod.
- Aside from their general bias in favor of increased constitutional liberties and some form of representative government, the Decembrist reformers were most concerned with turning the Russian empire into a federation.
- But in the early 1820s Alexander began to take alarm.
- Secret societies nevertheless continued to exist and to discuss the political questions that Alexander had himself once raised.
- Although the Decembrist movement is often regarded as the starting point of the Russian revolutionary tradition, it is perhaps more properly considered the end of aristocratic reformism.
- One of the Decembrist leaders, however, did advocate a more radical course of action for Russia in 1820's.
- Pestel gave more consideration to the problem of power than any of his reform-minded associates.
- All of this was to be brought about by force if necessary and would require a kind of Jacobin network of organized plotters as well as an interim military dictatorship between seizure of power and the full realization of "Russian justice".
- His extremism and preoccupation with power link Pestel with Lenin more than with his fellow Decembrists.
- Yet for all his extremism Pestel bears certain similarities to the two other leading political theorists of the Alexandrian age; Speransky and Karamzin.
- With the ascent to the throne of Nicholas 1, despotism lost its links with Enlightenment.
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