Popular Monarchy, the call for a traditional Russian state adapted to contemporary challenges, was an articulation of the ancient ideal of a just Christian realm by White emigre thinker Ivan Solonevich (1891-1953). Like the French counter-revolutionaries, Solonevich understood that an aristocracy diverted from its original purpose, valiant service, would only come to destroy the achievements of the nation. Knowing the terrible experience of the Revolution and its roots in the decadence, abuses, and godlessness of the elites, he points the way toward an organic unity of the people and their Tsar, called alike to glorify God on earth as in heaven. Translated by Mark Hackard.
Russian monarchical authority, beginning with the death of Peter the Great and ending with the overthrow of Emperor Nicholas II, was always in an extremely unstable position. This instability was caused by that objectively given political situation that Vasily Klyuchevsky characterized as the monarchy and masses’ drive to “democratic autocracy,” the monarchy’s technical reliance on the aristocratic element, and its own struggle with this element. However, the Muscovite monarchy, directly appealing to the “democratic” element – in particular the population of Moscow – succeeded in dealing with the country’s aristocratic circles. Precisely for this reason the capital was transferred to St. Petersburg and the throne isolated from the “masses.” The throne came to be at the disposal of the “palace guard.” And from the murder of Aleksei Petrovich; through the murder of Paul; the revolt of the Decembrists; the assassination of Alexander II; and the dethronement of Nicholas II, the Russian nobility attempted to halt the development of the Russian monarchy towards democratic autocracy. Not once did the Russian demos, the Russian people, ever rise up against the monarchy. The coup d’état of 1917 was the result of a palace conspiracy technically composed by the Russian military brass. In the February Revolution, our revolutionaries were decisively useless – not only had they not prepared this revolution, but they didn’t have any notion that it was drawing near.
The “palace coup” grew into a “revolution” only when the complete absence of any points of support whatsoever for the generals and aristocracy among the masses became clear, as well as the absence of any sort of popularity among the army and people. The men who organized this takeover thought they were “shining with their own light,” but this was only the reflected light of the monarchy. The monarchy was extinguished, and so were they.
From Peter the Great to Nicholas II, the Monarchy was deprived of that “system of institutions” of which Lev Tikhomirov spoke, and this system was replaced by a “barrier between the Tsar and the People.” The state assemblies [Dumas] of all four convocations were only one of the types of this division: they reflected the opinions of parties, but not of the Land.
In an environment where only One Man in the entire ruling class of the country – only the monarch and he alone – expressed through himself the basic aspirations of the popular masses, the idea of removing the monarch to change the course of history was politically too tempting. This enjoyed success in the murder of Tsarevich Aleksei Petrovich, an act that cleared the way for the serfdom of the peasantry. It was also a success with the killing of Tsar Paul, which delayed the liquidation of serfdom. The Decembrists did not succeed, but the assassins of the Tsar-Liberator did, by their murder interrupting Russia’s return to the principles of Muscovite Rus.
In Muscovite Rus, acts of regicide would have first of all been pointless, for the Tsar’s authority was only one of the components of a “system of institutions,” and they system could not be changed by the murder of one of its components. According to Aksakov: to the Tsar belonged the force of authority, and to the people the force of opinion. Or according to Lev Tikhomirov: monarchy derived “not from the arbitrary rule of one person, but from a system of institutions.” By the force of authority, the Muscovite Tsars realized the opinion of the Land. This opinion, organized into the Church, into ecclesiastical councils and Assemblies of the Land, and in its unorganized form represented by the population of Moscow, did not change over a regicide. Assemblies never claimed power (a completely incomprehensible phenomenon from the European point of view), and Tsars never went against the “opinion of the Land,” a phenomenon of a purely Russian order. Behind the monarchy stood an entire “system of institutions,” and all of this taken together presented itself as a monolith impossible to shatter through any regicide.
Therefore the Popular-Monarchist Movement sees in the “restoration of monarchy” not only the “restoration of the monarch,” but also a whole system of institutions from the Throne of All the Russias to the village assembly. It would be that system in which the force of authority belonged to the Tsar and the force of opinion to the people. This cannot be achieved by any “written laws” or “constitution,” for both written laws and constitutions are followed by men only until that time when they gain the strength to NOT follow them. The Popular-Monarchist Movement is not engaged in publishing the laws of a future Russian Empire. It attempts to establish basic principles and ideationally compose the country’s future ruling class, which would be equally devoted to the Tsar and the people, a ruling class organized into a system of institutions to realize these principles in practice and truly become the bulwark of the throne, not visitors to prayer services who conceal in their boots the daggers of regicide.
The main problem of restoring a stable monarchy is found in the organization of this class. And because in internal struggles no class of the nation ever acts from purely altruistic motives, this class should be set in conditions under which its freedom of action would coincide with the real interests of the country, while attempts at overthrow would be punished in the legislative and judicial order with the most ruthless severity.
A system of monarchical institutions should begin from territorial and professional self-government (land councils, municipalities, trade unions) and end in central representation composed according to the same territorial and professional principle rather than by parties. The Russian monarchy can be restored only by the will of the people and nothing else. If this will shall be monarchical, then its local organs shall also be monarchical. The purely technical task consists of ensuring that no “barriers” arise – class, bureaucratic, party, or any others. The technical apparatus of the Petersburg monarchy was organized in a way glaringly unsatisfactory. It could not even manage tasks such as the personal protection of the Tsar. It left a yawing emptiness between the throne and the nation. Instead of a businesslike staff that was the retinue of the Muscovite Tsars, the Petersburg monarchy was surrounded by a “court” made up of idlers.
In the terrible days of Pskov, Emperor Nicholas II came to be in absolute isolation, betrayed by his court, his generals, the Duma, the government – finding himself in the Pskov trap and having no physical possibility of addressing the people or the army. The restoration of this system would mean restoring the tradition of regicide and suicide.
The Russian monarchy of the Petersburg period tried to become popular, stable and of full value; it did not succeed. The forces of division removed or attempted to remove the best monarchs, just as they did with their best deputies (M.M. Speransky and P.A. Stolypin). Now this same group has ended its life in regicide and suicide. It represents a certain propaganda danger against the restoration of the monarchy, but after restoration it represents absolutely none. Instead of this, with a great degree of clarity, there appears before the future Russia the danger of bureaucracy.
The reality of this danger consists of the fact that today’s ruling class is in essence almost purely bureaucracy. In all ballots, both empire-wide and local, this class will vote for that party guaranteeing as great a quantity of “sinecures,” “services,” “posts,” and power. It will vote against any party relying on private and local initiative. And it will be a class that will manifest maximum political activity, just as this has already happened in emigration, for any functional property is daily bread for this class, and any attempt to affirm the rights of private initiative will be an attempt to take it away.