Feofan prokopovich's Pravda voli monarshei as fundamental law of the Russian empire.
This sarcastic definition of "Russian constitution," attributed to Germaine de Stael, reflects both contemporary and modern perceptions of 18th-century Russia. (1) An "age of palace revolutions" followed Peter's reign, and between 1725 and 1801 most Russian rulers gained or lost power as the result of palace coups. Three tsars were killed by their successors' supporters: Ivan VI, Peter III, and Paul I. This record of political instability considerably damaged the reputation of the post-Petrine Russian Empire, an age that well-educated Russians began to regard with marked disdain in the late 18th century. (2) Vasilii Kliuchevskii dedicated one of his famous harangues to Peter the Great's unworthy successors:
Peter was succeeded by his widow, Catherine I, who was followed by the grandson of the reformer, Peter II, whose successor was Anna, duchess of Courland, the niece of Peter I and daughter of Tsar Ivan, who was succeeded by the infant Ivan Antonovich, son of her niece Anna Leopoldovna of Brunswick, daughter of Catherine Ivanovna, duchess of Mecklenburg, sister of Anna Ioannovna. The overthrown infant Ivan was succeeded by Peter Is daughter, Elizabeth, who was succeeded by her nephew, Peter III, son of Anna Petrovna, duchess of Holstein, who was overthrown by Catherine II. It seems that never before, either here or anywhere else, had the line of succession been fractured so severely. The line was crushed along the way, which led these persons to supreme power. None of them owed their reign to any settlement based on law and custom whatsoever, but to hazard, palace revolution, and court intrigue. (3)
Why could the Romanovs not simply be a normal hereditary monarchy, like the Habsburgs, Hanoverians, Wittelsbachs, or Bourbons? Kliuchevskii, like most other historians, was convinced that Peter the Great's Law of Succession, signed on 5 February 1722, had caused the mess. (4) According to this law, the tsar gave himself the authority to disinherit his children and freely select his successor, without any regard to blood relationship. (5) Historians have characterized this decision as an act of cultural violence by which Peter demolished customary primogeniture, causing all the trouble that later resulted in the many palace coups. (6)
The commonly accepted narrative begins with Tsar Peter the Reformer, who accomplished great things but failed to regulate his own succession, and ends with his great-grandson Paul, who was an incapable ruler but at least bequeathed to the fatherland three sons and a reasonable "house law" (his 1797 law reestablishing a clear-cut line of succession)-in all respects a flourishing dynastic family. It is believed that Peter's decision was the product of particular circumstances regarding his personal relationship to his wayward son Aleksei. (7) Driven by disappointment and fear that his heir apparent would one day destroy his life's work, it is said, Peter made a decision that proved fatally wrong in the long term, for the lack of a clear line of succession hampered the evolution of a constitutional, legal order and of the kinds of institutions that could have facilitated Russia's emancipation from autocracy. Because they were not legal heirs but rather usurpers, Russian tsars felt constrained to base their rule on violence instead of on law. The classical view, most recently defended by Igor' Kurukin, stipulates that the absence of legal norms induced the Guards regiments to make the final decision and, if necessary, carry it out by armed force: might made right. (8) As a consequence, for contemporary observers as for historians, 18th-century Russia temporarily seemed to move toward oriental despotism rather than European enlightened monarchy. (9) For liberal constitutional historians such as Kliuchevskii the failure of dignitaries to select Peter's successor by drawing on regulations of private inheritance law was a grave error, one that stripped the succession of a positive legal foundation. (10)
"Fundamental law" doctrine, as interpreted by Montesquieu, served as the basis for assessments of 18th-century Russian history by the likes of Kliuchevskii and Kurukin. (11) They identified "fundamental law" with succession law and presupposed that the smooth succession of rulers was both a result of and a precondition for successful reigns. Clear-cut lines of succession would automatically provide juridical clarity and guarantee that the inevitable transfer of power would take place quickly, smoothly, and harmoniously. This ideal, which had been commonplace in European political thought since the 16th and 17th centuries, was shared by most Western and Russian intellectuals in the second half of the 18th century. If Denis Diderot advised Catherine II in general terms to pass a more detailed succession law in order to "ensure the peace of the realm," his Russian fellow philosopher Prince Mikhail Shcherbatov explicitly called Peter's 1722 Succession Law "despotic" and "arbitrary." (12) Sergei Pol'skoi has asserted that Peter's Law of Succession was directed "against the very idea of fundamental law," since the latter was incompatible with Peter's system of values, whereby the monarch acted as the "demiurge of the state." (13)
Peter himself made enormous efforts to explain his position, but his explanations failed to sway historians committed to the belief that hereditary monarchy--primogeniture--was the key to political stability in the medieval and early modern world. In 1722, his government published a lengthy treatise, Pravda voli monarsbei voopredelenii naslednika derzhavy svoei (The Justice of the Monarch's Right to Appoint the Heir to His Throne). Its author was most likely Feofan Prokopovich, the archbishop of Pskov. (14) The text was presented as an official commentary on the law on succession, thereby gaining legal status. (15) In Pravda voli monarshei, Feofan insisted that the law did not break with tradition, citing 47 precedents in world history when eldest sons had been bypassed. Historians were not convinced, dismissing Feofan's arguments just as readily as they did Peter's law. Pol'skoi insinuates that Feofan deliberately avoided using the very concept of "fundamental law" in his treatise because he knew that Peter did not like the idea that any law might be "fundamental." (16) According to Antony Lentin (the translator and editor of a modern English edition of Pravda voli monarshei), the text shocked its audience, because "in Russia as in the west, succession by primogeniture, usually in the male line, was normally assumed to be the natural, God-given, legitimate and indefeasible order of things in a hereditary monarchy." (17) Even Feofan's commitment to the abrogation of primogeniture has been called into question. Gary Marker recently repeated old reproaches of opportunism, pointing out that in Pravda voli monarshei, Feofan advocated an arbitrary Succession Law, after having favored "hereditary monarchy" a few years earlier. (18) If Feofan was widely admired for his erudition and brilliance, few ever considered him sincere.
Contradicting the views of these expert historians, I try to demonstrate, first, that Peter Is succession law was by no means conceived as a "break with the past" but just the opposite: it was an attempt to preserve Russian tradition against contemporary Western birthright ideology and its notorious demand for "indefeasible primogeniture." Second, I argue that Peter's ideas on succession as explained in Feofan Prokopovich's Pravda voli monarsbei were neither "arbitrary" nor "demiurgic" but deeply rooted in the older traditions of medieval political practice and thought that had been practiced throughout Europe. Third, I claim that Peter rejected modern Western birthright ideology for the most serious of political reasons, not out of anger toward his ill-bred son. Last, I seek to demonstrate that many historians have failed to grasp the purpose of Peter's 1722 law because they have approached the ideology of dynastic legalism uncritically.
The big puzzle--why Peter failed to do the obvious thing and stubbornly refused to create something like a "house law" for the Romanov dynasty--is more readily understood when placed in the larger context of European history. I begin with an overview of the evolution of West European and Russian succession practices from the "early" Middle Ages--by which I mean the period prior to the late 12th century--up to the age of Peter I. (19) I then reexamine some critical passages of Pravda voli monarsbei before analyzing the impact of dynastic legalism on international politics and Russian succession crises in the first half of the 18th century. In the conclusion, I ask whether the spirit of Peter's Law of Succession, as laid out in Pravda voli monarsbei, might have been intended as a Russian equivalent of what Europeans called "Fundamental Law."
Succession in Western Europe during the Early Middle Ages
Notwithstanding their differences, the Carolingian and Romanov dynasties shared one important trait, the absence of three elements: a "house law," a regulated election procedure, and any other discourse (such as "indefeasible primogeniture") that would have provided some semblance of a smooth transfer of power. Medievalists of the 19th century faced a problem familiar to specialists in 17th-century Russia: to their own surprise, they could not figure out whether the Merovingian, Carolingian, and Ottonian monarchies were "hereditary" or "elective." (20) In the first half of the 20th century, Fritz Kern and
Heinrich Mitteis formulated complex and convincing answers. To Germanic peoples of the migration period, both elements were extremely important. (21) Dynastic lineage was valued highly, and eldest sons were clearly preferred, but primogeniture was not seen as indefeasible. A royal bloodline was a necessary but not a sufficient qualification for candidacy to the throne, and legitimate claimants might include great-grandsons of kings who had passed away decades earlier. Thus there were usually several possible candidates, and it was a free man's prerogative to join the assembly to elect one of them. (22) The enthronement itself, however, was a political event, consisting of a "chain of actions." These included the acclamation, oath taking, and performance of religious rituals, and these actions cannot be adequately described in terms of modern constitutional law. (23) It is impossible to identify which of them was the decisive element and which had mere symbolic value. All of them mattered. The absence of clear legislation did not spell chaos, however, since unwritten "rules of the game" applied. (24)
Thus it is essential to note that there never was an uncontested, much less an "automatic," succession. The death of a king was inevitably followed by an interregnum, during which nobles, dignitaries, clergymen, and "the people" would gather to elect a successor. (25) No candidate could be enthroned without the convention's explicit acclamation. Indeed, kings faced opposition from alternative candidates even after enthronement or coronation when the latter were able to gather a sufficient number of supporters. (26) The great weight electors placed on the candidate's personal abilities is no less important to observe. Accordingly, they might even overlook eldest sons of deceased kings, especially if they were still too young to rule on their own. The strongest argument against primogeniture had always been that sooner or later, succession would pass to an infant child. Such a succession was thought to constitute a calamity, for the reign of a child often brought anarchy and civil war. Everyone knew the scriptural proverb: "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child!" (27)
Three other points about succession in the early Middle Ages also offer valuable insights for historians of 17th- and 18th-century Russia. First, contrary to modern prejudice, elective monarchy did not contradict the concept of "divine right." God's will could reveal itself not only by way of birth but also by unanimous election according to the well-known formula voxpopuli, vox Dei. (28) Nor did "monarchy" actually mean that the king would rule alone. He was always accompanied by a group of family members, nobles, dignitaries, and clergymen ("great people") who insisted on their right to physically surround the king and to participate in his government. In their view, the king was obliged to meet with them in council and listen to their advice. If he refused to do so, they might feel entitled to rebel against him. (29) Second, if a monarch wanted to determine his own successor, he could do so during his lifetime by establishing his favorite candidate as co-monarch: in that case he would gather "the people" (or the "great people") and ask them to elect, to acclaim, and to swear allegiance to his son before asking the bishop to crown him. Having more than one crowned king at a time did not pose a problem for medieval people. Joint sovereignty had been common practice in Rome and Byzantium as well as in Carolingian kingdoms. (30) Third, if a dynasty became extinct, there were two options to solve the crisis: the "great people" either elected a completely new candidate (as they usually did in Germany), or they could consider female succession, as was sometimes the case in England, Scotland, and the Spanish realms. In the latter case, the daughters husband (or her son) was expected to be the ultimate successor. Female succession, in addition to marriage, was a means of establishing a new dynasty without an election procedure. (31)
As I show below, most of these rules applied in Russia as well, particularly in Muscovy (14th-17th centuries). Western Europe, however, witnessed a development in the late Middle Ages that had no Russian equivalent: the subjection of succession to a legal code and its differentiation into elective versus hereditary models. The most prominent elective monarchy emerged in the Holy Roman Empire. Famously, the 1356 Golden Bull authorized seven German princes to elect the German king by majority vote. Their status enabled them to sell their votes for money or to demand guarantees and various privileges from the future king. Free election by majority vote made the emperor dependent on the princes but prevented the enthronement of infant children.
In France, by contrast, the crown invariably passed from deceased kings to their eldest paternal relatives and the reigning Capetian dynasty never faced extinction. (32) Consequently, elective precedents were forgotten and monarchy was finally perceived as purely hereditary. The idea that sons automatically succeeded their fathers (according to the formula "the king is dead, long live the king" [le roi est mort, vive le roi]) came into existence in the 13th century. In the 15th century, Jean de Terrerrouge formulated the doctrine that primogeniture was indefeasible, which finally gained status as unquestionable "French Fundamental Law" in the late 16th century.
Many modern historians use the concepts of "hereditary monarchy," "primogeniture," "divine right," and "absolute monarchy" as if they were interchangeable. In her otherwise seminal article, Cynthia Whittaker fell victim to this error: "The new law [on Russian succession of 1722] ran in the face of tradition ... it denied centuries of absolutist theory by abrogating dynastic succession and its correlative of divine right." (33) Here Whittaker appears to have drawn on a rather young ideology of dynastic legitimacy that aimed to harmonize dynastic succession and divine right. It gained widest adherence in France, where Bourbon kings were successful in implementing some semblance of a doctrine that identified "divine right" with "birthright" as unchangeable "French fundamental law" (or even as "religion of the kings"). Stuart monarchs advocated a similar ideology in Britain, yet after the Civil War, Parliament dramatically rejected their claims, culminating in the 1701 Act of Settlement. (34)
Even where the doctrine of primogeniture prevailed, it could not simply be based on religious beliefs, as modern historians sometimes tend to believe. (35) In dangerous times of civil war or revolution, dynastic birthright ideology looked neither religious nor mystical. Primogeniture's persuasiveness was not based on popular superstitious belief in the sacredness of kings but on widespread fear of rapid change, loss of identity, and political crisis. The king's assignment was believed to protect everyone against foreign conquerors and domestic conspirators. The more independent he became from rival authorities, the more his protective powers grew. In short, indefeasible primogeniture was a means to maintain political stability; at least, this was the core assumption from the 16th-century French civil war until the age of post-Napoleonic restoration. (36) Although there is enough reason to question the identification of primogeniture with the maintenance of political stability, it was obviously plausible enough to be repeated by almost all historians who wrote about Peter's "arbitrary" 1722 law.
Succession in Muscovy Prior to the Reign of Peter I
Over the course of 150 years, from the end of the 14th century to the middle of the 16th, Muscovite princes united all the other Russian principalities and formed a centralized state of considerable size and power. During the same period, they abolished the pre-Mongol tradition of collateral succession, passing the realm undivided to their eldest sons. Cadet sons were placated with petty appanage principalities, while younger brothers were prohibited from marrying and thus from producing potential rivals. This is why historians call Muscovite succession practice "customary primogeniture." (37)
This label of "customary primogeniture" is somewhat misleading, however, for it applies Western concepts to 17th-century Russia. True, Muscovite political culture had maintained (or recently evolved) a set of features that strikingly resembled Western practices of the early Middle Ages. Yet I stress that Muscovite princes, tsars, and boyars--in sharp contrast to French kings and nobles--never ceased to see succession as contingent on particular circumstances. If a son was too young, too sick, or had fallen into disgrace, alternative candidates were considered. (38) Eldest sons were clearly given preference, but their primogeniture did not assign them a "divine right" to rule. Collateral succession as practiced during the Kiev period no longer applied; nevertheless, medieval wisdom, according to which succession of infant children should be avoided, remained valid in Muscovy during the 16th and 17th centuries. There was "no minority in tsardom." Whoever succeeded in placing a child on the throne and ruling in his name lacked an official mandate or the title of "regent," which did not exist in Muscovy. (39) Indeed, Vasilii III and Ivan IV offer striking examples. They are said to have temporarily named Tatar princes as their successors instead of their own blood relatives. (40)
During the 15th and 16th centuries, Muscovite rulers designated their heirs by written will, either appointing them (during their lifetime) as co-rulers, or by granting them the title of grand prince, or even by coronation. However, none of these actions were seen as irreversible, nor did they make succession "fully automatic." In every case, the death of a ruler was followed by a short interregnum, a political crisis that involved some risk of dynastic war and did not end until princes, boyars, dignitaries, nobles, and clergymen had rendered oath to the successor. If there was an obvious heir, everything might pass quickly and smoothly. If an obvious heir was lacking, as happened several times during the Time of Troubles (1598-1613), the assembly of "great people" felt entitled to elect a new tsar. That procedure was certainly not perceived as a "free election by majority vote" but rather as an acclamation by unanimous vote, where the attending crowd aimed to fathom the will of God. (41) The principle vox populi, vox Dei applied; and enthronement by election could thus not invalidate the tsar's claim to be "designated by God." During the 17th century, it happened twice that a deceased Russian tsar was succeeded by his eldest son more or less smoothly, as in the cases of Aleksei Mikhailovich in 1645 and Fedor Alekseevich in 1676. Yet none of the first three Romanov tsars left a will or named a successor. It is therefore questionable whether concepts such as "crown prince" or "heir apparent" existed in 17th-century Russian state law. Some scholars have asserted that Tsarevich Fedor Alekseevich "was named successor on 1 September 1674," but this is incorrect. (42) On that day, Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich "publicly presented" his 13-year-old son to his boyars and dignitaries without making any explicit reference to the matter of succession. The political meaning of the ceremony needs to be interpreted more carefully: the tsar demonstrated that his son was old enough and healthy enough to be a potential successor. (43)
The question of whether Muscovy was an elective or a hereditary monarchy is therefore poorly posed and anachronistic. Muscovite political culture did not recognize such a dichotomy. Just as in France and Germany of the early Middle Ages, both elements mattered greatly and could not be played off against one another. (44) A clear-cut line of succession (as existed in 17-century France) was missing, as was a clearly determined election procedure (as existed in the 17th-century Holy Roman Empire).
The Enthronement of Peter the Great as a Precedent
Antony Lentin points out that of 47 historical examples of precedence cases enumerated in Pmvda voli monarshei, the last in which an eldest son had been bypassed took place in the 15th century, "because there were no recent examples in Russia." (45) Like most commentators on Pravda voli monarshei, however, he overlooks the elephant in the room: the dramatic chain of events that led Peter himself to ascend the throne in 1682. (46) In the first instance, Muscovite boyars and dignitaries selected the younger son Peter as sole successor instead of his elder brother Ivan. Patriarch Ioakim, well known for his cultural conservatism, had been one of Peter's most fervent supporters. His support strongly indicates that Muscovites by no means identified any deviation from the "natural line of succession" as a violation of religious tradition. Stuart birthright ideology, which claimed that primogeniture was founded in the Scriptures, did not apply in Muscovy. On the contrary, the younger son's supporters asserted that only the selection of the wise and healthy Peter could please God and openly blamed supporters of the sick and feeble-minded Ivan, saying that they acted, "like Judas," greedily and against their own consciences. (47)
Admittedly, deviation from the "natural line of succession" did increase the risk of political crisis, even in Muscovy. Close relatives of the overlooked Tsarevich Ivan did not acquiesce to loss of power. With the aid of rebellious musketeers, they pushed for the retroactive co-election of two tsars, with Ivan, as the firstborn, given precedence. Patriarch Ioakim allegedly opposed the joint coronation of two brother tsars as "unpleasing to God," though the content of his theological argument is not known.
The musketeers, in contrast, pointed to the case of the Roman emperors Honorius and Arcadius, who jointly ruled the Roman Empire at the end of the fourth century. (48) There is no evidence that Ivan's supporters tried to produce theological or judicial arguments in favor of primogeniture, but they effectively made use of one of the central arguments of dynastic legitimism: the assertion that every deviation from the natural line of succession resulted in the murder of kings and kings' children. They chose to start their uprising on 15 May, the holy day of Saint Dmitrii Tsarevich, who had, according to official hagiography, been murdered in 1591 by command of Boris Godunov the usurper. (49) They also spread rumors that the Naryshkins intended to murder Tsarevich Ivan. The events of 1682 show that various social groups differed in their assessment of the importance of dynastic legitimacy, confirming that adherence to the natural line of succession was most popular among the common people, who lacked firsthand information as to whether or not Ivan was really ill and feeble-minded. It should be noted that Ivan's supporters essentially used the same well-rehearsed commonplaces as did their counterparts in Germany, France, England, and Scotland: deviations from the natural line should be avoided, for they would lead to bloodshed and murder. Their position need not be attributed to the "traditional Russian veneration of 'Holy Fools'." (50) In sum, Ivan's elevation to the throne cannot prove that primogeniture was seen as "customarily indefeasible." Official documents leave no doubt that Ivan, like Peter, owed his crown to an election and did not "inherit" it automatically by birthright. (51)
To gain a better understanding of Peter's views on succession, we should consider a purely hypothetical alternative: what would have happened if the French Bourbon house law had applied in Muscovy in 1682? In that case, Peter could never have claimed any right to the crown during his elder brother's lifetime. And if Ivan's wife, during 14 years of marriage, had given life not only to five daughters but to a single son, this male baby, not Peter, would have been named successor. Sophia could have maintained power in the name of Ivan or one of Ivan's sons for an indefinite amount of time, without ever giving Peter a chance to rule. (52) In short, Peter had excellent reasons to question the convenience of indefeasible primogeniture long before his "ill-bred" son Aleksei was born.
Seen from this vantage point, nothing was new about Peters 1722 law on succession. In fact, it rather appears to be an attempt to retain archaic Muscovite succession rules--which Peter believed to be reasonable, since they enabled his own accession to power--and to defend local custom against the mounting pressure of dynastic ideology, supported by both the Russian lower classes and the European aristocracy. (53)
Pravda voli monarshei on Interregna
The document may refer to authors such as Hugo Grotius, but gestures at Grotius should not obscure the fact that the treatises central tenets do not reflect early Enlightenment philosophy but rather the "commonsense" political wisdom of a medieval usurper. (54) This becomes even more apparent if, in addition to interpreting the document in a literal-minded way, one tries to capture its spirit. How does it explain and describe the situation in which a decision must be made? Strikingly enough, the author of Pravda voli monarshei seems none too anxious about the possibility of succession crises as such. He certainly repeats commonplace arguments against elective monarchy and warnings about interregnum crises, citing Poland's troubles as deterrent examples and lauding hereditary monarchy for its capacity to provide a smooth transfer of power. (55) Yet he does not show much concern about maintaining tranquillity in the case of a departure from the natural line of succession. On the contrary, long passages explain that the designation of a successor by a deceased ruler must be recognized as valid even when carried out without any formality: any appearance of a preference by the deceased predecessor for one candidate over others--even in the absence of previous coronation as co-ruler, nomination as heir, or a written testament--signaled that candidate had to be accepted as designated successor. (56) But such indicators required interpretation, and the ultimate decision as to how to interpret the deceased rulers will devolved to "the people"--without any specification as to who would voice the peoples opinion and which election or acclamation procedures should apply. (57)
This regulation was rendered even more radical by the explicit provision that it should apply even when the deceased monarch left several legitimate sons. Even then, "the people" was not to assume automatically that the predecessor "naturally" would have chosen the eldest. Instead, "the people" was obliged carefully to consider whether he might have preferred one of the cadets. (58) Obviously, the author of Pravda voli monarshei did not make speed and smoothness of succession a priority, even in the fortunate event that this could be done without difficulty. To understand the consequences of this provision, one should imagine the scenario that it was likely to evoke in the minds both of medieval Europeans in general and of witnesses to the Moscow events of 1682 in particular: if a ruler was survived by several sons, the eldest son would be expected to fight fiercely for his claim to the throne. The thrilling question, in this scenario, was whether the cadet sons would accept their older brother's enthronement without resistance. If "the people" aimed to avoid dynastic war, it should seize the opportunity to gather as quickly, numerously, and resolutely as possible at some central location to support the eldest (or otherwise most promising) candidate by acclamation and to render homage to him, discouraging any potential rivals.
But Pravda voli monarshei advised the exact opposite course: "the people" should interfere in the struggle and claim the role of arbiter. Instead of jumping to conclusions, it should try to fathom the predecessor's intentions. (59) Circumvention of an unfit candidate was always more important than the quick settlement of a crisis. Did this provision in Pravda voli monarshei signal that Peter the Great aimed to establish elective monarchy in Russia? The provision would seem to contradict elaborate passages of Pravda voli monarshei, which unmistakably prefer hereditary monarchy to elective monarchy, clearly highlighting the latter's disadvantages. Among other factors, the document stated that hereditary monarchy can help avoid interregnum crises. (60) This seeming contradiction can be resolved: Peter and Feofan did not wish to endow a clear-cut group of electors with the right to decide on succession by majority vote, to freely negotiate their voting. They rejected a constitutional arrangement, and they certainly rejected any regulation that might force a future monarch to sign something like a "bill of rights" limiting his traditional prerogatives. What they imagined instead was an ad hoc voting procedure during which an amorphous voting assembly would, to the best of its knowledge, try to fathom which of the candidates the predecessor would have preferred for the sake of the common weal. (61) Insofar as the deceased "predecessors intention" was virtually indistinguishable from the will of God, this arrangement ultimately did not contradict the well-known medieval maxim vox populi, vox Dei. (62) Indeed, there is considerable evidence that Peters domestic supporters interpreted his enthronement of 1682 in exactly that way. (63) From the autocrat's point of view, spontaneous, irregular, "chaotic" election procedures were no accident but even desirable, because their outcome left him without obligations to specific groups of supporters. The successor could then even bluntly deny that any election had taken place, claiming that he owed his destination only to his deceased predecessor, "all of the people," and God. (64)
In striking accordance with medieval tradition, Pravda voll monarshei entirely left: aside such questions as whether infant children could be monarchs, how to deal with their minority, and how to conceive of regency. It did, however, contain an explicit statement that, as a matter of principle, daughters were eligible for the crown--though without any explanation as to whether this was also true for married daughters, particularly if a husband belonged to an alien religion. (65) Since Pravda voli monarshei was nominally an abstract treatise on state theory, one might argue that it was not the appropriate place to spell out detailed answers to these questions. But Peter never left instructions that could have served as a dynastic house order, anticipating all potential sources of dispute and formulating clear rules that could guarantee a smooth transfer of power regardless of circumstances. His reticence can be contrasted to the great efforts many European courts made at this time to develop sophisticated legislation that could solve such problems. (66)
Historians have regarded the absence of detailed regulations as further support for their premature conclusion that Peter provided the autocrat with the right to select his successor "entirely arbitrarily." He could indeed have named, without any formal violation of his legislation, Prince Aleksandr Menshikov or Duke Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp as successors. Nevertheless, this conclusion is wrong. Historians should detach themselves from their prejudice toward ideal types of modern European dynasties, in which monarchical succession is always to be understood in terms of an individual's legal claim to his patrimony. In doing so, they may recognize that Peter had, as a matter of fact, limited the pool of potential successors by unusually strict criteria. To him, only those candidates who could rule in person were acceptable. The spirit of Peter's Law of Succession--its core purpose--was to guarantee that a strong ruler would be succeeded directly by another strong ruler, bypassing incapable and unworthy candidates. Peter's hostility to any sort of regency government is striking. Pravda voli monarshei implicitly required that no person should be named successor whose individual characteristics and capacities were as yet unclear. On one occasion, Peter even explicitly apologized for requiring his subjects to render an oath of allegiance to his three-year-old son Petr Petrovich, who actually was, according to Peter's own criteria, still much too young. (67) In 1715, he criticized the recent French regency settlement in favor of the five-year-old King Louis XV. Was there no risk, Peter asked the Danish minister, that the regent, Duke Philippe d'Orleans, could poison the child and usurp the throne himself? And if the deceased king, Louis XIV, had thought the duke a capable ruler, why not just pick him as successor instead? (68) This question and the competent answer of his interlocutor--that succession by primogeniture was a key part of what the French called their "Fundamental Law," which could not be altered even by the king himself--sheds light on another intricate problem, on which Peter always kept an eye: the interdependence between dynastic and international law, characteristic of Europe, which had roped Western Europe into the Spanish War of Succession a few years earlier.
The Impact of Western Primogeniture Doctrine and Succession Practice during Peter's Lifetime
If the Romanovs aimed to become a part of the European "family of kings" and to marry their children to foreign partners, they were required to give diplomats a detailed explanation of Russian succession law. For this reason, Peter could not allow customary Russian rules of succession to remain in the same archaic, unruly state in which he had found them. International politics had placed the ball in his court, which also explains the law's timing. In 1722, four years after Aleksei's death, Peter intensified negotiations with foreign courts to marry his daughters to foreign princes. In case his only male descendant died, his future sons-in-law could, according to European norms, see either themselves or their future children as "legal heirs" to the Russian throne. The publication of Pravda voli monarshei allowed Peter to clarify his position to the European public. No one could pretend to be the legal heir of the Russian throne, and such claims could never justify any war of succession. (69) Supporters of primogeniture--both contemporaries and modern historians-- too easily forget how readily it exposed a realm to the risk of a succession war. It is ironic that the same type of Western mainstream historiography, which reproaches Peter for his "arbitrary" succession law because it allegedly "undermined stability," depicts the Spanish War of Succession as an event that broke out, after the extinction of the Spanish Habsburgs, as a "natural catastrophe," one that humanity simply lacked the means to prevent. (70)
Peter's provisions for his eldest son, Aleksei, bear out his concerns about future claimants. Peter did, as early as 1711, cross out the term "government" from the sentence in the draft of his son's marriage contract, which stipulated the tsarevich "should live with Charlotte in good marriage and conjoint government." (71) Yet this does not prove he already planned to exclude Aleksei from succession. More likely, he only wanted to exclude the future possibility of claims by the couple's offspring, thus preventing the eventuality of a war of Russian succession. The fact that Peter's diplomacy during and after the Great Northern War made skillful political use of the duke of Holstein's claims to the Swedish throne demonstrates how familiar Peter was with that type of politics. (72) During the last years of his reign, Peter made sure that foreign governments acknowledged in advance the legitimacy of any heir he would subsequently nominate. (73)
His decree was a means to avoid loss of control or, more precisely, to reserve the right to Russian rulers and the Russian "people" to decide on Russian succession. This consideration becomes even clearer if we bear in mind the reaction to Pravda voli monarshei in England, where an anonymous pamphlet titled The Prerogative of Primogeniture had been published in 1718. (74) Its author fiercely condemned Tsar Peter for having forced his son Aleksei to renounce his succession to the throne. He claimed that Aleksei's renunciation was null and void, because hereditary monarchs claimed their kingdom by unimpeachable birthright alone. (75) Antony Lentin cites this text as proof that primogeniture was viewed as an unquestionable norm in Europe. (76) However, a closer investigation of this pamphlet does not bear out Lentin's interpretation, revealing that its author was fighting a cause that had been lost a long time ago. As the result of two revolutions, England had definitively rejected Stuart birthright ideology, and primogeniture was acknowledged as conditional. Ever since the 1701 Act of Settlement, if not earlier, English monarchs had owed their crown not to birthright alone but also to the consent of Parliament. In fact, a major part of the text was no more than a reproduction of a political sermon that had been published by David Jenner, a prominent monarchist and clergyman, back in 1685. (77) But Jenners plea for indefeasible primogeniture, written as a piece of official ideology for a reigning English king, must have been read in 1718 as Jacobite propaganda directed against the Act of Settlement. (78) The anonymous initiator of the 1718 edition obviously used the latest news from Russia as an occasion to reiterate the claims of James the Pretender. Simultaneously, this episode makes evident why Peter I had good reason to oppose the doctrine of indefeasible primogeniture: like the English Parliament, he disliked pretenders.
If Lentin's error simply reflects a common overestimation of primogeniture among historians, Richard Wortman's recent attempt to place Peter's law in the context of broader European history seems even more problematic. According to Wortman, Russia in 1722 still "had not passed through the stage of state consolidation that unified dynasty with both the state and the estates, and which prefigured the adoption of fundamental laws of succession." (79) Peter's law does not qualify as "fundamental" due to its failure to establish "permanent inviolable rules" (except the rule that "there could be no such rules"). (80) By the early 18th century, however, European monarchies had witnessed developments that, according to Wortman, "culminated in the establishment of permanent, fundamental laws on succession ... such as England's Act of Settlement (1701), Sweden's 'On the form of Rule' (1719), Philipp V of Spain's testament (1713), and Charles Vi's Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 for the Hapsburg Empire. In this way, the legal formulation of dynasty provided a foundation for the absolute state that made possible the persistence of monarchies no longer reliant on the representative culture of the Baroque." (81)
Once again, this narrative evokes the well-known contrast: Russia's eternal chaos and despotism juxtaposed against the European trend toward order and legality. What Wortman overlooks here is not a single elephant but a charging herd of them: such events as two English revolutions, a Swedish change of constitution, perpetual dynastic conflict in England and Sweden, a chain of wars of succession, and last but not least, lingering confusion about succession in general. (82) As regards the Pragmatic Sanction, it is known for its failure to provide sufficient "foundation" to prevent the 1740 succession war. Historical facts show that lack of dynastic legitimacy still served as a standard pretext for starting wars, while all juridical efforts to regulate succession once and forever by fundamental law either proved fruitless or even had the opposite effect. Law is double-edged by nature and could therefore be used not only by ruling kings but also by rivals, pretenders, and all sorts of troublemakers. Prince Elector Charles of Bavaria, for example, based his claim to be the legal heir of Austria (instead of Maria Theresa) on elaborate legal argumentation. He invoked age-old laws and legal documents that were seen by his supporters as "more fundamental" than Charles VTs Pragmatic Sanction. (83)
The theories of Montesquieu posited that all these troubles were caused by "lack of legal regulation." In real world history, however, confusion emerged for just the opposite reason: as a consequence of far too many "legal" claims and regulations, amassed over centuries in the royal families' archives, which necessarily contradicted themselves and could be neither abrogated nor forgotten. (84) Bearing this in mind, Peter's core stipulation--that there could be no permanent inviolable line of succession--can be understood as an attempt to find a political solution both legal and reasonable. It did reject the dynastic obsessions of West European royal families with their insatiable claims to crowns and lands, but certainly not the "very idea of fundamental law." Put in positive terms, Peter's 1722 law reaffirmed ancient Roman "fundamental law" doctrine, stipulating that the empire was a res publica, that rulers did not own their scepters as private property, and that any decision about succession therefore was a matter of politics and not of (hereditary) law. In that respect, it was fully consistent with basic principles of postfeudal European statehood.
The Impact of Russian Fundamental Law on 18th-Century Succession Crises
Russia's 18th-century succession crises and coups d'etat appear in a different light if we avoid interpreting them according to modern standards of legal procedure and instead rely on Tsar Peter's political reasoning as expressed in Pravda voli monarshei. Despite the historiographical tradition that equates "fundamental law" with positive legislation regulating succession, it is more accurate to use this term in its original sense, following early modern French state theory: "fundamental law" was unchangeable law. (85) Even "absolute" monarchs neither should nor could abolish or modify it, and it remained unwritten until 1789. (86) Britain, as everyone knows, lacks a written constitution to the present day; and those who take the letter of the law too seriously may find themselves in the camp of (equally persistent) Jacobites, claiming that Franz, duke of Bavaria, should be king of England instead of Elizabeth II.
The question of who, according to the law, should have held the Russian throne at any given moment during the 18th century is meaningless, even if we look to the letter of the laws passed by Peter and his successors instead of to Jacobite divine birthright ideology. (87) Instead, we should ask whether rulers who chose a successor did so in accordance with the spirit of Peter's succession law, as depicted above, or whether they simply abused it. The difference between these two interpretations becomes visible when we compare the narratives of Igor' Kurukin and Cynthia Whittaker. Those who stick to the letter of the law may share Kurukin's opinion that palace revolutions occurred within a legal vacuum. Those who seek to construct the political reasoning of past actors, however, might argue that 18th-century coups d'etat prove the opposite. A Russian ruler was deposed, according to that thesis, when his or her predecessor, abusing Peter's succession law, made a poor choice that "the people" was then forced to correct. (88)
Let us look at some examples. Empress Catherine I's accession to the throne corresponded well with the spirit of the law. As Peter did not leave a testament, "the people" had to decide. So they did, and they did so in the right manner: choosing a successor whose personal qualities had been recognized by Peter on several occasions. He had never paid much attention to the alternative candidate, Grand Duke Petr Alekseevich. The succession of Peter's grandson, in any case, had to be recognized as problematic on account of his youth. Catherine undoubtedly agreed. She derived her own right to rule most directly and explicitly from Peter's 1722 succession law, as interpreted by Pravda voli monarshei. (89)
How does one justify the fact that Catherine Is enthronement manifesto was issued not in her own name but by "order from the Senate, the Synod, and the generalitet"? (90) According to Kurukin, its issuance mirrored Catherine's lack of legitimacy: the manifesto "barely concealed" the fact that Catherine was not a hereditary monarch but "had been elected by those who exercised real power." (91) In my view, this juxtaposition again reflects typical preconceptions of birthright ideology, as if a monarch elected by others could not exercise real power. However, it seems to me that Catherine's turbulent enthronement only enhanced her authority. During the Senate's controversial debate and when the Guards joined, it became clear that she enjoyed sufficient support among "the people." From this point of view, it was not a misfortune that Peter had left no will and thus forced his "people" to make a reasonable decision. Nor should the intervention of Guards regiments be qualified as an illegal "military coup d'etat." These regiments did indeed represent the Russian nobility as a whole and therefore had the right to participate in a political act, which Wortman recently designated as "a rough form of election." (92) Kliuchevskii himself reluctantly admitted that the assembly and the Guards, which made their decision in 1725, did so in the tradition of the zemskii sobor. (93) Nevertheless, respectable historians have been unable to avoid expressing anger and indignation about a "chaotic" succession procedure that was neither clearly hereditary nor clearly elective. (94)
Two years later, Catherine herself, in turn, made sure to choose the best candidate as her successor. Although Grand Duke Petr Alekseevich was, as a matter of fact, still too young to rule on his own, he was already much too old, too healthy, too mature, and too popular to be bypassed for a second time. According to the spirit of Peter's succession law, Catherine formed a decision for the sake of the common good and chose, instead of her own daughters, a candidate whom the people wished to be named as successor and who could be expected to rule by himself within a few years. Again, some historians have detected a deficiency in the fact that little Peter legitimized his enthronement simultaneously by election, designation, and birth. (95) In modern legal culture, a claim based on one single "decisive" principle appears much more convincing than a claim based on three principles, if none of them is seen as totally unalterable. But in 18th-century Russia, modern legal criteria may have been of minor importance. It should be remembered, however, that legitimization of enthronement by an "accumulation" of principles fits medieval aesthetics rather well.
The first attempt to misuse Peter's succession law took place in 1730. While Peter II lay dying, his minions among the Dolgorukov clan developed an unprecedented plan to claim the Russian throne for themselves: they produced a testament, to be signed by the dying tsar, in which he would name his bride, Ekaterina Dolgorukova, as his successor. (96) Since Peter I had affirmed that any tsar could pass the crown to whomever he wanted, why could Peter, they asked themselves, not just name our little Katya? There is strong evidence that the Dolgorukovs fabricated the written testament, faking the tsar's signature and producing both in the Supreme Privy Council. What makes this episode most striking, however, is not the criminal energies displayed by members of the Dolgorukov family, but their fairy-tale overestimation of the effects of a piece of paper. Obviously, some contemporaries already anticipated the error historians would later make: they stuck to the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit.
Would the authentic signature of the deceased emperor have achieved the desired result? While debating Peter II's succession, Russian dignitaries ignored another document, which had been recognized as valid in 1727. According to Catherine Is will, young Prince Charles Peter Ulrich of Holstein-Gottorp (later Emperor Peter III) would have been the legal heir to Peter II in 1730. Nevertheless, the Supreme Privy Council neglected his claims and chose Tsarevna Anna Ivanovna instead. In doing so, the dignitaries wisely decided in the spirit of Peter the Great. The task of constructing a regency for this infant Protestant, half-orphaned prince beggared the imagination; his enthronement was not feasible. In any case, they had to prevent the establishment of a Holstein-Gottorp dynasty, whose ambitions had brought Russia to the edge of war in 1726. (97) Anna Ivanovna, however, was unmarried, Russian Orthodox, and a healthy adult capable of ruling; she was therefore a good candidate. (98)
Notwithstanding the Petrine spirit in which she was appointed, Anna Ivanovna was responsible for the next serious attempt to abuse the letter of Peter's Law of Succession. (99) For the sake of her beloved minion, Ernst Johann von Biron, duke of Courland, she approved and signed what was presumably the most absurd succession settlement in all of Russian history. She appointed her newborn grand-nephew Ivan Antonovich as successor and Biron as regent for 17 years. (100) Had she proceded in the spirit of Peters law, she would have named an adult, either Princess Anna Leopoldovna or Elizaveta Petrovna as successor. Instead, she sought to preserve Biron's political status and otherwise reflected the European dynastic aesthetics of so-called Salic Law. A female monarch who never doubted her own right and capacity to rule insisted categorically on a male heir, who necessarily had to descend from her own lineage. Therefore, she preferred a baby of two months to the 22-year-old Princess Anna, his mother. (101) As shaky as this settlement may have been, it was nevertheless adopted smoothly. When Empress Anna died, all the documents were issued in the proper manner and decorated with genuine signatures. The people did not protest, and Biron assumed his office uncontested.
The arrangements made by Anna accorded with the dictums of Diderot and Montesquieu, but they did not last long. Biron was unseated a mere three weeks later. At the request of Anna Leopoldovna, the emperor's mother, Field Marshal Burkhard von Munnich gathered a few soldiers, entered the palace by force at night, and seized the regent in his bedroom. To Kurukin this measure was blemished by its lack of legal basis. Kurukin reproached the new government because it could present no hard evidence that Biron had committed a serious crime; he had been overthrown without any urgent reason. "Did they not set the precedent," asks Kurukin, "that any legal government could be overturned at any moment without evidence of crime or any legal pretext?" If the government of Princess Anna Leopoldovna considered it necessary to prevent Biron from committing political crimes, should it not first have sought recourse in legal means? Did the overthrow not damage the tsar's nimbus of sanctity? (102)
I would answer all these questions firmly in the negative. From my point of view, Kurukin overestimates the power of legal documents; the autocrat could not ensure his successor merely by signing papers. In my interpretation, Biron's arrest was perfectly legitimate on straightforward grounds; the duke's regency was entirely illegitimate. There was no need to "prove his guilt," because he had assumed a position to which he was not entitled. Even Empress Anna's will could not legitimately establish his regency, because the entire settlement, though fully accordant with the letter of Peter's law, all too evidently contradicted its spirit.
Let us ask if Peter I achieved his goal. Did he preserve and maintain Russia's medieval yet reasonable fundamental law in the face of an all-European trend toward the codification and legalization of dynastic successions? On the one hand, with regard to the 18th century, it seems that we might answer in the affirmative. Instead of a hereditary or elective monarchy, a complex model evolved that resembled ancient patterns among the Roman and Byzantine empires. (103) On the other hand, it is quite obvious that, despite great efforts, Tsar Peter and Feofan Prokopovich badly failed to convey the spirit of the succession law to readers of Pravda voli monarshei. The only thing posterity would remember was that Peter was at odds with his ill-bred son and therefore invented an ill-conceived and arbitrary law, with terrible consequences. Even in his own country, subsequent generations of intellectuals could not make sense of it, influenced as they were by French philosophers such as Montesquieu and Diderot. (104)
Perhaps the task of Peter and Feofan Prokopovich was insoluble. Medievalists strenuously learned how to explain the rules of medieval political culture to modern audiences. Today they are able succinctly to identify the modern prejudices that must be abandoned--as well as the medieval wisdom that must be learned--by anyone wanting to understand medieval politics. It is no surprise that Peter and Feofan were unable to fulfill that task; they failed not only because they lacked the professional historian's tool set but also because their challenge--writing down the rules of a mostly oral society--was paradoxical in itself. Their wish not only to observe and describe these rules but to keep them valid made their task especially difficult.
Peter's use of Pravda voli monarshei to increase the Russian monarch's prerogative to a degree his predecessors had not enjoyed posed an additional problem. Most notably, he took care to understate the role of elective moments within the complex political act of enthronement. The simple fact that Romanov tsars owed the crown, at least in part, to an act of election had to be concealed and treated as a taboo. The authors of Pravda voli monarshei needed to exclude the possibility that readers might interpret the document in favor of elective monarchies of a Polish or Swedish prototype. The resulting omissions were consequential. Soon Peter's successors actually believed themselves to be entitled to name their successors arbitrarily, without any regard to people's sympathies or the suitability of the candidate. As a result, the originally complex act of enthronement fell apart in several dramatic acts. Designation and proclamation of a successor was repeatedly followed by his subsequent election--or rather deselection, which took the shape of a coup d'etat. (105) From this perspective, it is no surprise that those Russian rulers who had mounted the throne smoothly and unopposed were quickly overturned, while those who came to power by palace revolution ruled successfully for many years.
Arbeitsbereich Osteuropaische Geschichte
Johannes Gutenberg Universitat Mainz
55099 Mainz, Germany
This is an extended version of a paper read at the Forschungskolloquium des Lehrstuhls fur osteuropaische Geschichte der Johannes-Gutenberg-Universitat Mainz, 4 December 2012.
(1) "En Russie, le gouvernement est un despotisme mitige par la Strangulation," quoted in Larisa Vol'pert, "Eshche o 'slavnoishutke' gospozhi de Stal'," in Vremennik Pusbkinskoi komissii 1973 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1975), 125-26. Denis Sdvizhkov brought this article to my attention.
(2) In nonacademic literature, such judgments remain commonplace today. A recent example is Helene Carrere d'Encausse, Les Romanov: Une dynastie sous le regne du sang (Paris: Fayard, 2013).
(3) V. O. Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 8 vols. (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1956-57), 4:257.
(4) For the original text, see Polnoe sobrante zakonov rossiiskoi imperii's 1649 goda: Sobranie pervoe's 1649po 12 dekabria 1825 goda (hereafter PSZ), 45 vols. (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia II-ogo Otdeleniia sobstvennoi Ego Imperatorskogo velichestva kantseliarii, 1830), no. 3893, 5 February 1722.
(5) August von Schlozer, Historische Untersuchung uber Russlands Reichsgrundgesetze (Gotha: Ettinger, 1777); Georgii Gurvich, "Pravda voli monarshei" Feofana Prokopovicha i ee zapadnoevropeiskie istochniki (Iur'ev: Matissen, 1915); Gunter Stokl, "Problem der Thronfolgeordnung in Russland," in Der dynastische Furstenstaat: Zur Bedeutung von Sukzessionsordnungen fur die Entstehung des fiuhmodernen Staates, ed. Helmut Neuhaus and Johannes Kunisch (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1982), 273-89; Antony Lentin, Peter the Great: His Law on the Imperial Succession in Russia, 1722. The Ojficial Commentary (Oxford: Headstart History, 1996); Trude Maurer, "'Russland ist eine europaische Macht': Herrschaftslegitimation im Jahrhundert der Vernunft und der Palastrevolten," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 45, 4 (1997): 577-96; Aleksandr Kamenskii, Rossiiskaia imperiia v XVIII veke: Traditsii i modernizatsiia (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1999), 138-42; Cynthia H. Whittaker, "Chosen by All the Russian People': The Idea of an Elected Monarch in Eighteenth-Century Russia," Acta Slavica Iaponica 18 (2001): 1-18; Paul A. Bushkovitch, Peter the Great: The Struggle for Power, 1671-1725 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 426-44; Bushkovitch, "Political Ideology in the Reign of Peter I: Feofan Prokopovich, Succession to the Throne, and the West," in Vortrage zum 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, in DHI Moskau, 13 (http://www.perspectivia.net/publikationen/vortraege-moskau/bushkovitch_ ideology, accessed 17 February 2016); Oleg Omel'chenko, "The System of State and Law in Eighteenth-century Russia and the Political Culture of Europe: Some Historical Interactions," Slavonic and East European Review 80, 2 (2002): 217-33; Omel'chenko, "Stanovlenie zakonodatel'nogo regulirovaniia prestolonaslediia v rossiiskoi imperii," Femis: Ezhegodnik istorii prava i pravovedeniia, no. 7 (2006): 15-54; Richard Wortman, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, 1: From Peter the Great to the Death of Nicholas I (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995); Wortman, "The Representation of Dynasty and 'Fundamental Laws' in the Evolution of Russian Monarchy," Kritika 13, 2 (2012): 265-300; Sergei Pol'skoi, "Konstitutsiia i fundamental'nye zakony v russkom politicheskom diskurse XVIII veka," in "Poniatiia o Rossii": K istoricheskoi semantike imperskogo perioda, ed. A. Miller, D. Svizhkov, and I. Shirle [Ingrid Schiede], 2 vols. (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2012), 1:94-150. As for Wittram, it seems he never said much about Peters 1722 law: see Reinhard Wittram, Peter L, Czar und Kaiser, 2 vols. (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck, 1964), 2:119-20.
(6) On Peter as "demolisher of primogeniture," see Stokl, "Problem der Thronfolgeordnung in Russland," 274; and Whittaker, "Chosen by 'All the Russian People,'" 3. In Europe, as in Russia, this point of view was already commonplace in the 18th century. "Russia has long been a theater [of] frequent catastrophes. These successive revolutions show a troubling picture of the risk posed by arbitrary succession in a monarchy. Peter Is innovation opened the door for plots and conspiracies.... We can congratulate ourselves on having been born in a realm where the Succession of the Throne is indivisible and firmly based on unalterable principles which exclude any sharing of interests, of power or pretensions" (Jean-Henri Marchand, Les Caprices de la fortune, ou histoire du Prince Mentzikojf, favori du czar Pierre Premier, avec un precis historique des Revolutions arrives en Russie, jusqua nos jours [Paris: Duchesne, 1773], 71-72). Kliuchevskii famously wrote that "autocracy rarely punished itself more severely than Peter did by passing the Law of 5 February" (Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 4:258). This view has been repeated over and over again in academic literature to the present day. Rare examples of a more balanced view are Kamenskii, Rossiiskaia imperiia, 138-42; and Whittaker, "Chosen by All the Russian People.'"
(7) Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 4:257; Lentin, Peter the Great, 12-15; Stokl, "Problem der Thronfolgeordnung," 278-79, 283; Cynthia H. Whittaker, Russian Monarchy: Eighteenth-Century Rulers and Writers in Political Dialogue (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003), 52-58.
(8) Igor' Kurukin, Epokha "dvorskikh bur':" Ocherkipoliticheskoi istoriiposlepetrovskoi Rossii, 1725-1762 gg. (Riazan': NRIID, 2004), 96, 129.
(9) Ibid., 450-66. The Guards regiments, for example, were frequently compared with Roman Praetorian Guards or Ottoman Janissaries.
(10) Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 4:259-60.
(11) Most strikingly, Montesquieu directly equated the absence of "Fundamental Law" with nonregulation of succession and asserted that Peter's 1722 Law "was the cause of a thousand revolutions." See Charles Louis de Secondat de Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois (Geneva: Barillot, 1748), 80-81 (bookV, chapter XIV).
(12) On Diderot, see Maurice Tourneux, Diderot et Catherine II (Paris: Calman Levy, 1899), 181-83. On Shcherbatov, see Pol'skoi, "Konstitutsiia i fundamental'nye zakony," 120-21.
(13) Ibid. A similar view was expressed by Wortman in "Representation of Dynasty," 273 ("But a Fundamental Law implied permanent inviolable rules, and Peter's decree established there could be no such rules").
(14) Feofan may have been assisted by others. See James Cracraft, "Did Feofan Prokopovich Really Write Pravda voli monarshei?"Slavic Review 40, 2 (1981): 173-93. What matters here is that the treatise was published as expression of a government position, not as a private opinion.
(15) Orthodox believers were asked to confirm their allegiance to Peter's law (as Feofan interpreted it) by oath. See Polnoe sobranie postanovlenii i rasporiazbenii po vedomstvu pravoslavnogo ispovedovaniia Rossiiskoi Imperii, 5: 28 ianvaria 1725-5 maia 1727(St. Petersburg: n.p., 1881), 282-383. The treatise was correctly rendered in PSZ, 7, no. 4870, 18 April 1726. According to Lindsey Hughes, the "text had been, for a long time, one of the canonical texts, often quoted, but seldom read" ("Review of Lentin: Peter the Great" Slavonic and East European Review 76, 1 : 160-61).
(16) Pol'skoi, "Konstitutsiia i fundamental'nye zakony," 120. According to Lentin, however, Glavrtyi ustav (basic statute, the term used by Feofan) actually meant the same thing (Peter the Great, 17).
(17) Lentin, Peter the Great, 22-23; Many scholars shared this opinion. "The decree proved so unpopular that Peter ordered his apologist, Feofan Prokopovich, to confront public dissatisfaction" (Whittaker, "Chosen by All the Russian People,'" 3). "Just like the tsarist autocracy itself, succession of the eldest son was a matter of course" (Stokl, "Problem der Thronfolgeordnung," 274).
(18) Gary Marker, Imperial Saint: Cult of St. Catherine and the Dawn of Female Rule in Russia (DeKalb: Northern Illinois Press, 2007), 205-13. Unlike Marker, I cannot see any contradiction between Pravda voli monarshei and Feofan's homily of 28 October 1716. In my view, Feofan was already at that point preparing the audience for Peter I's bequest of the throne directly to his younger son, Petr Petrovich, bypassing Aleksei. See Feofan Prokopovich, "Slovo pokhval'noe v den' rozhdestva Blagorodneishego Gosudaria Tsarevicha Velikogo kniazia Petra Petrovicha, propovedannoe 28 oktiabria 1716," in his Izbrannye trudy, ed. Igor' Kurakin (Moscow: Rosspen, 2010), 97-108, 577.
(19) This periodization is drawn from Fritz Kern, who designated the "early Middle Ages" as lasting until the 12th century, when Roman law was rediscovered (Gottesgnadentum und Widerstandsrecht im fruheren Mittelalter: Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Monarchie [Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1954]).
(20) For medieval Germany, the discussion has been summarized in Egon Boshof, Konigtum und Konigsherrschaft im 10. und 11. Jahrhundert (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2010), 51-53; Heinrich Mitteis, Die deutsche Konigswahl: Ihre Rechtsgrundlagen bis zur Goldenen Bulle (Baden b. Wien:
Rohrer, 1938). On 17th-century Russia, see Peter Nitsche, Peter: Grossfiirst und Thronfolger. Die Nachfolgepolitik der Moskauer Herrscher bis zum Ende des Rjurikidenhauses (Cologne: Bohlau, 1972); Russell E. Martin, "Dynastie Marriage in Muscovy, 1500-1729" (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1996), 120-60; Stokl, "Problem der Thronfolgeordnung in Russland," 273-89; and Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 3:66-89.
(21) Kern, Gottesgnadentum und Widerstandsrecht.
(22) Ibid., 13-46.
(23) Mitteis, Deutsche Konigswahl.
(24) The importance of "unwritten rules" was stressed by Gerd Althoff, Spielregeln der Politik im Mittelalter: Kommunikation in Frieden und Fehde (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1997).
(25) It is difficult to specify who constituted "the people." But it is clear that this concept referred mainly to nobles and clergymen who were physically present at the moment, not to the whole of the population.
(26) During the "early Middle Ages," virtually all kings faced diehard opposition from rival claimants. See Rudolf Schieffer, Die Karolinger (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2000); Kern, Gottesgnadentum und Widerstandsrecht, 84; and Johannes Fried, "Die Konigserhebung Heinrichs I: Erinnerung, Mundlichkeit und Traditionsbildung im 10. Jahrhundert," in Historische Zeitschrift: Beihefte, N.S., 20: Mittelalterforschung nach der Wende 1989 (1995): 267-318, here 315.
(27) Ecclesiastes 10:16. On the negative attitude to minor kings, see Theo Kolzer, "Das Konigtum Minderjahriger im frankisch-deutschen Mittelalter: Eine Skizze," Historische Zeitschrift 251, 2C (1990): 291-323. It should be remembered that rule by minors had caused the fall of the Merovingian dynasty.
(28) Boshof, Konigtum, 57; Alain Boureau, "L'adage Vox populi, vox Dei' et l'invention de la nation anglaise (VUI-XIIe siecle)," Anuales: Histoire, sciences sociales 47, 4-5 (1992): 1071-89.
(29) Ernst Schubert, Konigsabsetzung im deutschen Mittelalter: Eine Studie zum Werden der Reichsverfassung (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck, 2005), 14, 35; Amalie Fossel, Die Konigin im mittelalterlichen Reich: Herrschafisausubung, Herrschaftsrechte, Handlungsspielraume (Stuttgart: Thorbeke, 2000), 49.
(30) From the third century until the fall of Constantinople, emperors calling themselves "Augustus" appointed "Caesars" as co-emperors and successors. Prominent Byzantine co-rulers who succeeded the emperors who had appointed them included Arcadius (co-ruler 383-95, emperor 395-408) or, some 1,000 years later, John VIII Palailogos (co-ruler 1407-25, emperor 1425-48). On Byzantine succession, see Peter Schreiner, Byzanz 565-1453 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2008), 75-77.
(31) Examples include Urraca of Castile and Leon (1109-28); Matilda of England (1135-54); Petronella of Aragon (1157-73); Johanna I of Navarre (1274-1305); Margaret of Scotland (1286-90); Johanna II of Navarre (1328-49); and Elizabeth of Bohemia and Hungary (1439).
(32) The Valois and the Bourbons were cadet lines of the same dynasty, descending directly from Hugo Capet.
(33) Whittaker, "Chosen by 'All the Russian People,'" 3.
(34) The most fervent advocates of birthright ideology in early modern Europe were the Stuart kings, notably James VI/I as the author of "The Trew Law of Free Monarchies, Or, The Reciprock and Mutuiall Duetie betwixt a Free King and his Naturall Subjects" (Edinburgh, 1598). See also Peter Lake, "The King (the Queen) and the Jesuit: James Stuart's 'True Law of Free Monarchies' in Context/s," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Sixth Series, 14 (2004): 243-60.
(35) According to Jens Ivo Engels, scholars of the late 20th century generally overestimated the "kingdom's sacrality" ("Das 'Wesen' der Monarchie? Kritische Anmerkungen zum 'Sakralkonigtum' in der Geschichtswissenschaft," Majestas 7 : 3-40).
(36) Benjamin Constant, De Tesprit de conquete et de Tiusurpation, dans leurs rapports avec la civilization europeenne, 3rd ed. (Paris: Le Normant, 1814), 73-86. Even Napoleon I Bonaparte saw it the same way (Wortman, "Representation of Dynasty," 265).
(37) On Muscovite succession practice, see Nitsche, Grossfurst und Thronfolger; and Martin, "Dynastic Marriage in Muscovy," 111.
(38) In 1553, when Tsar Ivan IV lay ill, boyars refused for a protracted period to swear allegiance (kiss the cross) to Ivan's infant son Dmitrii, obviously fearing minority rule (Nitsche, Grossfurst und Thronfolger, 277-92). As late as 1676, rumors were afloat in Muscovy that Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich was considering bequeathing the crown directly to his youngest son Peter, bypassing both Fedor and Ivan (Laurent Rinhuber, Relation du voyage en Russie, fait en 1684par Laurent Rinhuber: Publiepour la premiere fois d'apres les manuscrits originaux qui se conservent a la bibliotheque ducalepublique de Gotha (Berlin: Cohn, 1883), 167.
(39) Mikhail Krom, "Vdovstvuiushchee tsarstvo": Politicheskii krizis v Rossii 30-40-kh godov XVI veka (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2010), 603-16. Although Peter's sister Sophia is known as "regent of Russia," she lacked clear juridical status and was perceived as a usurper and later removed from power by armed force (Krom, "Vdovstvuiushchee tsarstvo," 611-14; Aleksandr Lavrov, Regentstvo tsarevny Sof'i Alekseevny: Sluzhiloe obshchestvo i bor'ba za vlast' v verkhakh Russkogo gosudarstva v 1682-1689 gg. [Moscow: Arkheograficheskii tsentr, 1999], 72-79).
(40) Aleksandr Zimin, "Ivan Groznyi i Simeon Bekbulatovich v 1575 g.," Uchenye zapiski Kazanskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo instituia, no. 180 (1970): 141-63. Russell Martin regards this theory as convincing ("Dynastic Marriage in Muscovy," 127-39).
(41) For a detailed religious interpretation of tsars' elections, see Dmitrii Antonov, Smuta v kul'ture srednevekovoi Rusi: Evoliutsiia drevnerusskikh mifologem v knizhnosti nachala XVII veka (Moscow: Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi gumanitarnyi universitet, 2009), 144-57.
(42) Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 3:81-82; Hans-Joachim Torke, Die russischen Zaren 1547-1917 (Munich: Beck, 1995), 129. See also Wortman, "Representation of Dynasty," 270.
(43) Tsar Aleksei recommended his son Fedor to dignitaries and clergy "to be admitted to service and introduced into the catholic and apostolic church," but he did not ask them to acknowledge Fedor as successor or even to swear allegiance to him (PSZ, 1:987, no. 585). In Kliuchevskii's narrative, the equivocal nature of this ceremony is still clearly perceptible (Sochineniia, 3:81-82).
(44) Besides that, Muscovite succession practice resembled Byzantine patterns in certain ways, but this is not the place to discuss that question in detail.
(45) Lentin, Peter the Great, 23.
(46) With the notable exception of Bushkovitch, "Political Ideology in the Reign of Peter I," 13; and Wortman, "Representation of Dynasty," 270-71.
(47) By the 18th century, it was common for popular authors such as Petr Krekshin and Ivan Golikov to associate Ivan's supporters with Judas the traitor. According to Krekshin, the patriarch addressed the assembly as follows: "Whom will we nominate autocrat of all Russia? I ask you in front of the sainted cross and the Holy Bible: speak the truth [pravda], with a clear conscience, agreeable to God, as if in front of God's judgment seat: for he who will speak by zeal instead of the truth will face the fate of Judas" (Zapiski russkikh liudei: Sobytiia vremen Petra Velikogo [St. Petersburg: Sakharov, 1841], 2:26). Andrei Matveev, an eyewitness, used similar terms to describe Tsarevna Sophia's opposition: in his view, she had "tasted the sweet fruit of Eve, the lust for power" ("Zapiski," in Rozhdenie imperii [Moscow: Fond Sergeia Dubova, 1997], 365-66). On Golikov, see Zapiski russkikh liudei, 4: "Zapiski Andreia Artamonovicha Grafa Matveeva," 6, 73-74.
(48) Sil'vestr Medvedev, "Sozertsanie kratkoe let 7190, 91 i 92, v nikh zhe chto sodeialsia vo grazhdanstve," in Rossiia pri tsarevne Sof'e i Petre I: Zapiski russkikh liudei, ed. Andrei Bogdanov (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1990), 45-200, here 88-90. The musketeer's argument was historically accurate. There had been precedents in European history. Some years later, William III of Orange and Mary Stuart were crowned as joint monarchs of England.
(49) This coincidence has been noted before. See Manfred Hellmann, ed., Handbuch der Geschichte Russlands (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1981-2002), 2: 1613-1856, 168.
(50) It is strange that Western historians, who usually reproach Peter for his rejection of primogeniture as "despotic" and "arbitrary," simultaneously suspect Russian supporters of primogeniture of superstition and irrationality. See Lindsey Hughes, "Sofiya Alekseyevna and the Moscow Rebellion of 1682," Slavonic and East European Review 63, 4 (1985): 518-39, here 530; and Torke, Russischen Zaren, 139-40. In that context, it should be remembered that Jean de Terrerouge had invented his famous Fundamental Law doctrine to defend the claims of King Charles VI, who had clearly been mentally ill and was known as "the Beloved" and "the Fool."
(51) "Akt o sovokupnom vosshestvii na Vserossiiskii prestol Gosudarei Tsarei Ioanna Alekseevicha i Petra Alekseevicha i o vruchenii, za maloletstvom Ikh, upravleniia Gosudarstvennymi delami sestr Ikh Tsarevne Sofii Alekseevne: Pisan 1682, maia 29," PSZ, 2:398, no. 920; Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 3:83; and Hellmann, Handbuch der Geschichte Russlands, 169.
(52) According to Matveev, this was Sophias plan (Zapiski russkikh liudei, 365-66).
(53) Wortman reached a similar conclusion in "Representation of Dynasty," 271.
(54) Pravda voli monarshei makes explicit reference to "sound natural wisdom" (zdravyi estestvennyi razurri). See Lentin, Peter the Great, 136-37.
(55) Lentin, Peter the Great, 227-39.
(56) Ibid., 217-25.
(57) "No chto delat' narodu, kogda Gosudar' umret, ne ostaviv po sebe, ni na slovakh, ni na pis'me opredelennogo naslednika, otvetstvuem na sie: ... narod dolzhen vsiakimi pravil'nymi
dogadami ispytovat', kakova byla ili byt' mogla volia Gosudareva, i kotorogo by iz synov svoikh narekl on naslednikom, esli by o tom delo bylo" (Feofan Prokopovich, Izbrannye trudy, 360).
(58) Lentin, Peter the Great, 217-21.
(60) Ibid., 227-39.
(61) The common weal was paramount. Pravda voli monarshei even goes so far as to concede to "the people" the right to bypass the deceased tsar's "most beloved" son, if his succession risked provoking "rebellion and unrest" (Lentin, Peter the Great, 219). There is a striking parallel between arguments in Feofan's Pravda voli monarshei and anti-Stuart Jesuit pamphlets of the late 16th century. Both clearly preferred hereditary to elective monarchy, detecting its "only fault" in the possibility that the heir could prove unworthy, and both recommended a similar remedy to solve this problem. Compare Robert Persons, A Conference about the next Succession (n. p., Doleman, 1594) part 1, chapter VI: "What is due to only succession by birth, and what interest or right an heyre apparent hath to the crowne, before he be crowned or admitted by the comon wealth, and how iustely he may be put back yf he haue not the other partes requisit also" (121-40); and Lentin, Peter the Great, 241-45. It is worth investigating whether Feofan knew Parson's treatise.
(62) See also Hans-Joachim Hartel, Byzantinisches Erbe und Orthodoxie bei Feofan Prokopovic (Wurzburg: Augustinus-Verlag, 1970), 79-84.
(63) This tendency is strongly marked in Matveev's and Krekshin's accounts. According to Frank Kampfer, Krekshin's main goal was to depict Peter I as a pious Christian ruler whose reign fully complied with traditional religious requirements and values ("Petr Nikiforovic Kreksins historiographischer Versuch uber Peter den Grossen," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 35, 2 : 203-17). See also the anonymous account (which Ivan Boltin ascribed to Prokopovich) Podrobnaia letopis'ot nachala Rossii do Poltavskoi batalii (St. Petersburg: I. K. Shnor, 1799), 4:70-90.
(64) That attitude fully accorded with Byzantine political culture and practice. See Kai Trampedach, "Kaiserwechsel und Kronungsritual im Konstantinopel des 16 Jh.," in Investiturund Kronungsrituale: Herrschaftseinsetzungen im kulturellen Vergleich, ed. Stefan Weinfurter (Cologne: Bohlau, 2005), 275-90; and Omel'chenko, "Stanovlenie zakonodatel'nogo regulirovaniia," 21.
(65) Lentin, Peter the Great, 221.
(66) On German princes, see Hermann Schulze, Die Hausgesetze der regierenden deutschen Furstenhauser, 3 vols. (Jena: Mauke, 1862); Susan Richter, Furstentestamente der Fruhen Neuzeit: Politische Programme und Medien intergenerationeller Kommunikation (Guttingen: Vandenhoeck, 2009); and Wolfgang Weber, "Dynastiesicherung und Staatsbildung: Die Entfaltung des fruhmodemen Furstenstaats," in Der Furst: Ideen und Wirklichkeiten in der Europaischen Geschichte, ed. Wolfgang Weber (Cologne: Buhlau, 1998), 91-136.
(67) PSZ, 5, no. 3151, 3 February 1718. It should be noted that Peter was the first tsar since the 16th century who named a successor at all.
(68) The Danish minister's account of his conversation with Peter was reproduced in Bushkovitch, Peter the Great, 346-50.
(69) Whittaker reached a similar conclusion ("Chosen by 'All the Russian People,'" 8).
(70) Compare, e.g., Heinz Schilling, Hofe und Allianzen: Deutschland 1648-1763 (Berlin: Siedler, 1998), 215, 258. Hardly anyone posed the question, why Spanish nobles could not, as the Russians would have done in their place, simply select among themselves a neutral successor, whose aim would have been to found a totally new dynasty, neither Bourbon nor Habsburg.
(71) Woldemar Guerrier, Die Kronprinzessin Charlotte von Russland nach ihren noch ungedruckten Briefen 1707-1715 (Bonn: Cohen, 1875), 45.
(72) On Peters foreign policy in the 1720s, see Mikhail Polievktov, Baltiiskii vopros v russkoi politikeposleNishtadtskogo mira, 1721-1725 (St. Petersburg: Aleksandrov, 1907). Hans Bagger, Ruslands alliancepolitik efierfreden i Nystad: En Studie i detslesvigske restitutionensporgsmal indtil 1732 (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde og Bagger, 1974); Bushkovitch, Peter the Great, 432-33.
(73) On the French case, see "Memoire sur les negociations entre la France et le Czar de la Grande Russie Pierre I, fait en 1726 par m-r Le-Dran, premier commis des affaires etrangeres. 1722-1724," Sbornik Russkogo imperatorskogo istoricheskogo obshchestva 49 (1885): i-lxix, here xlvi-xlvii. According to rumors, Peter offered the Austrians a tradeoff: he would nominate Petr Alekseevich as successor if they would acknowledge his imperial title. See Die europaische Fama, welche den gegenwartigen Zustand der vornehmsten Hofe entdecket, 281 (Leipzig: Gleditsch, 1725), 402-3.
(74) The Prerogative of Primogeniture: Shewing that the Right of Succession to an Hereditary Empire, depends not upon Grace, etc., but only upon Birth-Right: In addition, that the chief Cause of all, or most Rebellions in Christendom, is a Papistical and Fanatical belief, that temporal Dominion is founded on Grace: Written on Occasion of the Czar of Muscovys Reasons in his late Manifesto for the Disherison of his Eldest son, from the succession of the Crown (London: Boreham, 1718). Its author did not refer to Pravda voli monarshei (yet unwritten) but reported fresh news of Tsarevich Aleksei's disinheritance.
(75) Ibid., 3-4,19.
(76) Lentin, Peter the Great, 33.
(77) This information was forwarded to me by Anthony Cross.
(78) The settlement was that Catholic princes lost their right to succession, thereby stating the alienability of primogeniture.
(79) Wortman, "Representation of Dynasty," 271.
(80) Ibid., 271, 273.
(81) Ibid., 267.
(82) There is not a single assertion in this paragraph that fails to raise doubts: If the "Hapsburg empire" was a "state" at all, it certainly was not an "absolute" one; neither were England and Sweden (after 1719). Nor can I see why Russia in 1700 was less "consolidated" than Austria or England or why the Romanov dynasty was less "unified with [Russian] state and estates" than the Habsburgs, Bourbons, Hessen-Kassels, Stuarts, Oranges, or Hanoverians were with the "states and estates" of Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and England. And who believes that the "representative culture of the Baroque," splendid as it was, ever could compensate for lack of dynastic legitimacy?
(83) The origins of the Austrian War of Succession (1740-45) have been thoroughly studied by several generations of historians, notably Heigel, Turba, Kunisch, and Ingrao.
(84) Johannes Kunisch, Staatsverfassung und Machtepolitik: Zur Genese von Staatenkonflikten im Zeitalter des Absolutismus (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1979), 79.
(85) As did von Schlozer, Historische Untersuchung uber Russlands Reichsgrundgesetze, followed in 2012 by Wortman, "Representation of Dynasty."
(86) Claire Saguez-Lovisi, Les lois fondamentales au XVIII siede: Recherches sur la loi de devolution de La couronne (Paris: Press Universitaires de France, 1983), 3.
(87) Historians have spilled much ink debating the question whether the enthronement of Catherine I was "legal." Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 4:259-62; V. E. Vozgrin, God 1725: Dokumental'naia khronika (St. Petersburg: LIK, 2007), 80-86; Maurer, "'Russland ist eine Europaische Macht.'"
(88) Whittaker reaches approximately this conclusion in "Chosen by 'All the Russian People,' " 18.
(89) Her coronation manifesto made explicit reference to Peters law on succession, and Pravda voli monarshei was reprinted in a large run (Lentin, Peter the Great, 67).
(90) PSZ, 7, no. 4643, 28 January 1725.
(91) Kurukin, Epokha "dvorskikh bur 97.
(92) Recent historiography has emphasized the elective moment (Wortman, "Representation of Dynasty," 274). See also Bushkovitch, "Political Ideology in the Reign of Peter I," 19. Whittaker made the same point a decade ago in "Chosen by 'All the Russian People.'"
(93) Kliuchevskii, Sochineniia, 4:261-62.
(94) Besides Kliuchevskii and Kurukin, this tendency clearly prevails in Handbuch der Russischen Geschichte, 447-55.
(95) In addition to the manifesto, there was a letter by Makarov, first cited in Sergei Solov'ev, Istoriia Rossii (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo sotsial'no-ekonomicheskoi literatury, 1963), 10:81-83. The letter subsequently gained canonical status as a source alleged to prove that among contemporaries there had been a lot of "confusion" and "incertitude" about Peter II's legitimacy (Wortman, "Representation of Dynasty," 274; Handbuch der Geschichte Russlands, 455).
(96) PSZ, 10, no. 7942 (1739); Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv drevnikh aktov (RGADA) f. 6, op. 1, dd. 180, 181.
(97) Bagger, Ruslands alliancepolitik.
(98) This remains true even if the most prominent of her original supporters chose her for just the opposite reason: because they underestimated her political capacities and falsely expected her to be a weak ruler who would accept limitations to traditional prerogatives. The reasons for their crude miscalculation cannot be discussed here. The stability of Annas rule, however, was firmly based on the quickly gained support of those who favored autocracy.
(99) Manfred Hildermeier already qualified Anna's Testament as an "abuse" of Peter's Law of Succession (Geschichte Russlands: Vom Mittelalter bis zur Oktoberrevolution [Munich: Beck, 2013]).
(100) Kurukin, Epokha "dvorskikh bur'," 276-81; Aleksandr Kurgatnikov, God 1740: Dokumental'naia khronika (St. Petersburg: LIK, 1998), 89-93.
(101) The succession settlement was not invented by Empress Anna and Ernst von Biron alone; it was influenced by other courtiers such as Andrei Osterman or Mikhail Bestuzhev, whose motives cannot be discussed here in detail. If this construction had worked, Biron's role would have been that of a majordomo, rather like a regent.
(102) Kurukin, Epokha "dvorskikh bur 288, 292.
(103) See Egon Flaig's conception of "Akzeptanzkaisertum" in his "Den Kaiser herausfordern" Historische Zeitschrift 253, 2 (1991): 371-84; Oliver Schipp, Die Adoptivkaiser: Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antonius Pius, Marc Aurel, Lucius Verus und Commodus (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2011); and Whittaker, "Chosen by 'All the Russian People.'"
(104) Nikita Panin's and Mikhail Shcherbatov's attitude toward the law was entirely negative. There is, however, some evidence that Russian tsars understood their predecessor much better. Even Catherine II, brought up in German political culture and deeply influenced by French philosophy, could not resolve to abolish it.
(105) Whittaker reached a similar conclusion ("Chosen by 'All the Russian People,'" 16-17).
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