Mikhail Nikolaevich Luk'ianov, Russian Conservatism and Reform, 1907-14/Rossiiskii konservatizm i reforma, 1907-1914.
Richard Pipes, Russian Conservatism and Its Critics: A Study in Political Culture. 216 pp. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. ISBN-13 978-0300122695. $32.00.
In Russia, Russian conservatism is rapidly becoming one of the most fashionable topics in intellectual history. Ina recent essay, Gary Hamburg attributes this fashion to the "academic interest" that "arose partly from purely scholarly concerns over the lacunae in Soviet historiography" and to nonacademic causes--namely, "the conservative turn in contemporary political life." Whereas the first decade of relative academic freedom in the USSR and Russia (1986-96) witnessed an almost epidemic passion for the study of liberalism, in subsequent years most political and intellectual historians have turned to the study of conservative ideology. (1) This shift points to the continued vitality of a persistent tradition inherited from Soviet historiography--that of dividing politicians and thinkers into three isolated and belligerent camps: radical (revolutionary), liberal, and conservative. Labeling people and philosophical concepts according to this classification was the primary method and mission of the Soviet tradition of intellectual history and was deployed with the goal of defining ideological "enemies."
Recent studies of political and intellectual history demonstrate a rupture with this tradition of rigid classification and tend to reject established models that fail to explain the complexity of imperial Russia's intellectual world and political issues. At the very least, the historian using the radical--liberal--conservative labels for the analysis of political ideas and philosophical doctrines needs to be aware of the limits of this methodology, which obscures the "border zones" in the intellectual landscape. Instead, the historian must pay attention to the contemporary perception of the intellectual and political "geography." (2) In approaching the study of conservative, radical, or liberal ideology, one has to ascertain how the study of a particular trend in political thought actually enriches our understanding of Russian history.
This review addresses two recently published books on the subject: one written by a recognized master of Russian studies in the United States, and the other by a historian from Perm' State University. These books pursue different aims: Richard Pipes undertakes the study of the "conservative tradition" in modern Russian history to answer an eternal question of Russian political history: "how and for what reasons ... Russia has retained its autocratic system of government even after this system had been abolished in most of Europe." (3) He hypothesizes that the conservative ideology that constituted the "dominant strain in Russian political thought throughout history" (1) played a crucial role in the stability of the autocratic political regime. In contrast, Mikhail Loukianov (Luk'ianov) seeks to understand why the autocracy finally collapsed and why its conservative adherents failed to support it. He locates the inability of Russian conservatives to save the monarchy in the rigidity and anachronism of their political ideals. These books surely represent divergent traditions in their approaches to intellectual history, yet readers will discover many intriguing similarities. Both make significant contributions to the study of Russian political history while raising critical questions about the methodology of studying the history of ideas.
In its insistence on interpreting conservatism as political culture, Pipes's essay departs from a tradition of studying conservatism and other political ideologies in imperial Russia as intellectual formations, and especially recent trends in this field. (4) While summoning many new ideas, Pipes's analysis returns us to 1974, when the first edition of his Russia under the Old Regime was published. Eschewing the methodology of more recent studies of political ideologies that focus on the process of making ideas, techniques for manipulating public opinion, and the "dialogue" between government and society, (5) Pipes professes a kind of political primordialism: the idea of autocracy was an inherent feature of Russians; it was not made or invented but inherent and preconditioned by the specifics of Russian state power and culture.
Pipes distances Russian conservatism from its West European counterparts and from the historiography of Western conservatism, which considers conservatism a conscious and coherent intellectual movement, a "style of thought" that evolved in reaction to the appearance of new "progressive" ways of imagining the political past, present, and future of a nation. (6) Indeed, Pipes intentionally avoids any comparison between Russian and Western conservatives. This position stands in marked contrast to Pipes's take on Russian liberalism, which he views as a "secondhand" ideology (154) that was passed down from Western Europe to Russia and failed to add anything national to Western ideas. According to Pipes, conservatism, in contrast, was an original Russian invention that evolved at least two centuries before the European conservative phenomenon.
Moreover, Pipes focuses exclusively on the political content of conservatism. In his view, the idea of autocracy was the "quintessence" and credo of Russian conservatism; he refuses to deal with any elements of "conservative" political thought that did not "bear directly on the question of autocracy" (109). This definition of conservatism extends Pipes's catalogue of conservative thinkers to include everyone who merely spoke in favor of the autocracy's preservation--or failed to speak out against it. Conversely, all attempts to limit the autocracy are considered manifestations of liberalism, the failures of which, in turn, signify the ultimate triumph of conservatism. This politically sharpened approach gives the essay its dynamism and integrity while creating the appearance of a single, coherent thread to the development of conservative thought; nevertheless, it raises a number of serious questions. Several famous figures of conservative thought are left out of Pipes's analysis. The author rejects the semantic meaning of "conservatism"--an anti-progressive movement--with the result that he classifies as conservatives a series of prominent statesmen and intellectuals (including Feofan Prokopovich and Sergei Iul'evich Witte) who sought to transform the monarchy into a more viable and effective institution. While I applaud Pipes's emphasis on the centrality of the autocracy to Russian conservative thought, the meaning of conservatism must be understood to have extended beyond it.
To demonstrate the coherence of conservative autocratic thought and the continuity of its development from the 16th to the early 20th centuries, Pipes collects statements concerning the idea of autocracy and drops them into a chain of arguments in favor of autocracy as an institution. By focusing explicitly on conservatism as support for autocracy, Pipes's essay tries to give the impression that there was a progression in the intellectual development of conservatism. (7) It seems that in doing so, the author falls into the trap described in Quentin Skinner's essay on the history of ideas. As Skinner suggests, "tracing 'unit ideas' or focusing on what individual writers said about 'perennial issues'" often leads to anachronisms (i.e., "liberal" ideas appearing in antiquity), makes the author "hypostasize" a doctrine into an entity, creates an illusion of coherence, and posits a "high degree of consistency" when consistency is actually absent. (8) Moreover, one can imagine selecting another idea--for example, one usually considered "liberal"--and browsing the writings of the same authors chosen by Pipes for their conservatism. Undoubtedly, when viewed through the prism of the defense of civil freedoms or legality, many of these authors could be classified as liberals. Witness, for example, the significant overlap between Pipes's catalogue of conservative thinkers and the catalogue of Russian liberals composed by Viktor Vladimirovich Leontovich. (9)
One of the most provocative points in Pipes's essay concerns the origins and chronology of Russian conservatism. Whereas European conservatism is considered to be a relatively modern phenomenon, Russian conservatism, according to Pipes, dates back to the 16th century. (10) Pipes pays special attention to this thesis--half of the book concerns the period preceding the date conventionally accepted as marking the emergence of Russian conservative thought (the first quarter of the 19th century). (11) Conservatism emerged as the political ideology of autocracy in tandem with the crystallization of the Russian centralized state. In Pipes's reading, the first evidence of a controversy concerning the proper limits on state power was a polemic between the "nonpossessors," an ascetic monastic movement that opposed monastic landholding, and the Orthodox church hierarchy. This confrontation between two visions of life, "one based on external alternative and convention, the other based on personal judgment and spirituality," ended with the "triumph of conservatives" (39)--that is, the official church ideology. Pipes argues that this "decisive victory" of official Orthodoxy over the nonpossessors and so-called heretical movements (the Judaizers) determined "in large measure the nature of the Russian state and church--that is, for all practical purposes, the nature of Russia's organized life for centuries to come" (41).
The doctrines of Orthodoxy undoubtedly played an important role in the formation of the state and social order in Russia, but an analysis of ecclesiastical debates nevertheless fails to convince readers that this was the decisive point in the development of Russian political culture. Much like Pipes, Soviet historiography conceived of all confrontations with the official church hierarchy as "anti-feudal movements" that questioned the tsar's authority. But recent studies suggest that placing too much weight on the political basis of religious discussions oversimplifies them. (12) Even the "voluntary subordination" of the Orthodox Church to state power that came as a result of the 16th-century controversies and the 17th-century church reform did not necessarily signify the victory of autocracy over "independent society" and a necessary step toward its enslavement. In this regard, I would draw special attention to the fallacy of Pipes's method of argumentation. In his telling, every abortive attempt to limit autocracy in fact became a triumph for conservatism. In reality, the consequences of great political events were much more complex and many-sided. For instance, as Viktor Markovich Zhivov has argued, the religious reforms of the 17th century fostered the emergence of individualism in Russian culture and literature. (13) Pipes's argument that the failure of the Decembrist revolt strengthened the conservative movement is no more plausible than Vladimir Lenin's statement that the Decembrist revolt "woke up [Alexander] Herzen" and thereby launched the revolutionary movement. (14) In both cases we are dealing with an attempt to construct a historical tradition--of conservative or radical thought. In any event, projecting 19th-century political vocabulary opposing liberals and conservatives back onto early modern Russia is not fully appropriate. As recent studies of the political and civic culture of medieval and early modern Russia have shown, the symbols and political practices of that period cannot be interpreted within a 19th- or 20th-century system of values. (15)
During the formative period in the history of Russian conservatism (from the 16th to the first half of the 18th centuries) the nobility threatened to limit Russian autocracy: first during the Time of Troubles and again in 1730. In later decades, Russian liberals characterized the attempted noble coup d'etat of 1730 as just one of many missed opportunities that could have changed the direction of Russia's political development. The failure of the attempt of 1730 and the accession of the despotic Anna Ioannovna to the throne signified the triumph--both for 19th-century liberals and for Pipes--of autocracy and conservatism. The monarchy "showered the gentry with privileges in exchange for staying out of politics" and the nobility ceased all attempts to limit autocratic power (62). (16)
In the second half of the 18th century, Russia witnessed the birth of public opinion and the emergence of liberal ideology. Pipes analyzes the ideas of Nikita Ivanovich Panin, the only 18th-century Russian thinker who questioned "unbridled autocracy," and classifies him as the "first Russian liberal in the Western sense of word" (73) for his advocacy of constitutionalism, civil rights, and private property. Other critics of Catherine's policies--including Nikolai Ivanovich Novikov, Aleksandr Nikolaevich Radishchev, and others--do not earn this reputation, since they did not oppose the autocracy so directly. (17) So sharp a distinction between ideas for and against autocracy and the neat division of support and opposition into the categories of conservative and liberal are inaccurate. (18) In the 18th century, as Cynthia Whittaker has demonstrated, Russian writers "perceived autocracy as a dynamic form of government, not as reactionary or even static." The "critical spirit of the Enlightenment" recalibrated their attitudes toward the monarchy, and both the "justification" and "advice" literatures addressed to a public audience and to monarchs bore this critical and didactic motif. The "sustained and relatively widespread discourse" about the form of government eventually "transformed the political environment." (19) Pro-autocratic writings could be no less progressive than the constitutional projects of Nikita Panin (notwithstanding all his merits and achievements) and in fact often impelled political transformation.
The early 19th century was a time of growth and intensive intellectual development for conservative thought in Europe and Russia alike. For the first time, opposition to radical reforms acquired a solid theoretical and ethical base, as well as support among high officials and members of the emperor's family. (20) At the same time, aristocratic salons and literary and political societies mushroomed in the capitals and provincial towns, while the development of print fostered the creation of a "public sphere," facilitating the formation of a conservative stratum in public opinion. Yet even in the period when Russian conservatism took shape as a conscious intellectual movement with well-elaborated political sympathies and ideals, the boundaries separating it from other intellectual trends remained vague. The identification of "genuine" conservatives is a difficult task, and even for the 19th century the "autocracy marker" turns out to be insufficient. Pipes's analysis begins to suggest the multi-faceted, rich controversies embedded in the political positions of even "true" 19th-century conservatives like Nikolai Karamzin, who "'at heart' remained a republican" (87) but nevertheless believed in the "necessity of Russia's adhering to the autocratic system" (89). (21) Yet characterizing the political position of Karamzin's opponent, Pipes argues that Mikhail Mikhailovich Speranskii was a liberal because he drafted a constitutional project, forced the Russian monarchy to rest on codified laws, and appreciated the importance of public opinion. (22) Nevertheless, Speranskii never set out to destroy or limit the autocracy; and as Marc Raeff stated, his theoretical writings show their "conservative character." (23)
The problem of Speranskii suggests a larger challenge to Pipes's characterization of conservatism, one linked to the classification of Russian bureaucrats--most notably Speranskii, Witte, and Petr Arkad'evich Stolypin. Using Pipes's classification, based on the "autocracy" marker, one should admit that most bureaucrats--even those long classified as "liberals" (for instance, Nikolai Alekseevich Miliutin)--must be treated as conservatives, since they all sought to preserve autocracy, albeit in an altered form. The supreme goal of a high-level bureaucrat was to ensure the stability of the existing order; to safeguard that stability, a bureaucrat could overnight become a "liberal" (witness Witte contributing to what Pipes calls a "short triumph of liberalism" in 1905) and then just as rapidly turn into a "conservative." It is for precisely this reason that both liberals and monarchists considered these bureaucrats "brothers-in-arms"--depending on what they did for the development of civil freedom, legality, and, at the same rime, autocracy and order. In fact, however, the basic parameters of these statesmens political activities were never dictated exclusively by their political sympathies, and the controversies separating the opponents and proponents of reforms were much more complex than simple oppositions of liberals vs. conservatives or reformists vs. reactionaries. (24)
After the failure of the Decembrist revolt in 1825, conservatism triumphed in official ideology and public opinion. Many Russian thinkers, including Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin and Petr Iakovlevich Chaadaev, turned out to be staunch monarchists, supporters of the regime of Nicholas I and thus, in Pipes's scheme, conservatives. The rise of nationaiist ideas contributed to the elaboration of official conservative ideology. According to Andrei Zorin's study of the Western sources of the "official nationality" doctrine, Sergei Semenovich Uvarov's triad "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality" modified European nationalist ideology for Russian consumption, disguising the radicalism of the original by excising its calls for the destruction of social hierarchy and rhetorically connecting "nationality" with "autocracy" instead. (25) Even so, the influence of the idea of a nation could be and was at some points progressive: as Guido Carpi has argued, the progressive message and "innovative" (in Pipes's words ) character of Slavophile ideology suggests that these thinkers perhaps should not be so straightforwardly counted in the conservative camp. (26)
The post-reform era (1861-1905) enriched public debates with new issues and concepts. Pipes points out two major factors that predetermined the development of conservatism in the second half of the 19th century: the "injection" of nationalism after the Polish uprising (1863); and the growth of nihilism and the radical revolutionary movement. Under this influence, Russian conservatism grew nationalist, populist, and anti-aristocratic. Pipes traces the evolution of Slavophile ideology as it swung to the right (through the writings of Iurii Fedorovich Samarin and Ivan Sergeevich Aksakov); examines the ideas of Rostislav Andreevich Fadeev, Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevskii, Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev, and Konstantin Nikolaevich Leont'ev; then unexpectedly adds to the list of conservatives Minister of Finance Count Sergei Witte--Pobedonostsev's persistent opponent, who in 1905 forced Nicholas II to sign the manifesto that "granted Russians ... civil rights as well as a constitution and a two-chamber parliament with legislative powers." Pipes argues that Witte forced through these changes "against his own better judgment" (153) and therefore deserves to be written into the conservative tradition.
Against the background of conservatism's victorious advance, the development of liberal ideas and institutions (i.e., the zemstvo) looks pale and abortive in Pipes's interpretation. Pipes chooses three "conservative liberals"--Konstantin Dmitrievich Kavelin, Boris Nikolaevich Chicherin, and Aleksandr Dmitrievich Gradovskii (158-64)--to represent the liberal tradition; he also includes Petr Berngardovich Struve, who "traversed during his lifetime the entire political spectrum from Marxism to liberalism to conservatism" (168-71), and "a leader of a conservative wing of the zemstvo movement," Dmitrii Nikolaevich Shipov (171-73). Still, the biographies of these prominent political figures do little to explain what is for Pipes a central problem: how liberalism "triumphed" in 1905 despite the dominance of conservatism in public opinion, and why this triumph was so "short-lived." Pipes's narrative moves quickly through these important events: he describes the political changes of 1905 in less than half a page, then turns to a biography of Petr Stolypin. The narrative cuts off abruptly after 1905, leaving a series of important questions unanswered. What changed in the political practice and ideology of conservatism when conservative political parties gained access to the Duma? What was the place of conservatism in the new political order? What was its attitude toward the pseudo-constitutional monarchy, governmental policy, and its political opponents? From Pipes's remarks characterizing Stolypin as the "last prominent conservative," a reader might well conclude that after Stolypin's death (1911), conservatism ran aground and dissolved as a coherent political movement. Pipes does not comment on the subsequent development of conservative thought and politics.
Russian Conservatism and Its Critics is a provocative book. It will elicit criticism from historians on account of its many gaps and unanswered questions, especially since it brings few new materials to light on the history of conservatism, offering instead an interpretation of well-known figures and ideas. The reader would have benefited from a more sustained comparative analysis between the development of liberalism and conservatism in terms of ideas, practices, and political rhetoric, as the lapidary analysis of conservatism's evolution gives the false impression of poverty and invariability in liberal ideology. Pipes also omits an analysis of concurrent but distinct trends within the conservative movement and a treatment of the international intellectual and social environment that in many ways predetermined the fate of liberal and constitutional ideas in Russia.
Pipes would presumably reject this "wish list," in no small part because in the case of his essay, we are dealing not with a historical monograph but rather with a political manifesto. The genre of the essay bears a strong resemblance to the famous conservative manifesto of Nikolai Karamzin, A Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia (1811). A biographer of Karamzin and a translator of his Memoir, Richard Pipes, perhaps unintentionally, has imitated the rhetoric and the style of Karamzin's essay. (27) In about 100 pages Karamzin interpreted the history of Russia from its earliest foundations to the contemporary epoque of Alexander I to prove that the monarchy had always been the foundation of the Russian state and society; Pipes's essay traverses four centuries of Russian history, arguing that conservatism constituted the core of Russian political culture. The genre of the political manifesto, which requires its author to invent a historical tradition, inevitably forces that author to cut corners, to overestimate the importance of certain events, and to depreciate the role of others in the service of his thesis.
Occasionally, too, in the pursuit of his idea the author of a political manifesto is forced to disregard the basic logic of argumentation. Let us return to the initial question of the book: "how and for what reasons," Pipes asks, has "Russia ... retained its autocratic system of government even after this system had been abolished in most of Europe?" He concludes: "the autocratic tradition prevailed in Russia for five centuries both as reality and as theory: the theory adapted itself to the reality and lent it support" (179). The conclusion disappoints, most of all because it suffers from circular logic: autocracy survived because it rested on conservatism, which was in turn a product of autocracy. In this rhetorical trick, Pipes's writing resembles another classical tract of conservative writing: Sergei Uvarov's memorandum on "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality" (1832). Trying to avoid politically inappropriate Western definitions of "nationality," Uvarov defined Russian nationality through its allegiance to autocracy and Orthodoxy, while autocracy and Orthodoxy were likewise described as immanent features of Russian nationality. Andrei Zorin has demonstrated the circular nature of this basis for the official ideology of conservatism, graciously observing that "ideology is built on substantiaily different laws" of logic. (28) This is, perhaps, the case for Pipes's essay, too.
Leaving aside any logical inconsistencies, Pipes's conclusions misfire substantively as well. Whereas the first half of his conclusion (that autocracy prevailed in practice--i.e., in the state order) can raise few questions, the second (that conservative ideology constituted the bulk of its stability) has yet to be proved. The stability of the autocratic political order never wholly depended on the popularity of the writings of Karamzin or Leont'ev, and the influence of these thinkers on public opinion was not so dominant as Pipes indicates. Moreover, the relationship between conservatives and political authorities was not always harmonious; and as the political practice of conservative parties demonstrated, between 1905 and 1917 conservatives failed to provide real support to the regime and elaborate a concise political program.
Pipes's essay provides an interesting and provocative description of well-known political theories. But it leaves its reader unconvinced on at least three points: first, that all (and only) pro-autocratic theories can be characterized as conservative; second, that the ideology of conservatism was essentially the making of the autocratic regime, and its ideological contribution to the firmness of autocracy was crucial; and third, that there existed a continuous tradition of conservative thought that developed in the 16th century and at each stage of its development enriched the legacy of Russian conservatism.
Mikhail Loukianov's Russian Canservatism and Reform, 1907-14 begins chronologically just as Pipes draws conservatism to a close, filling many of the gaps mentioned above. Although Loukianov's analysis complements Pipes's in many ways, his monograph is written in a different genre and tradition and is based on a variety of new sources and materials, including the unpublished correspondence of several leaders of the Russian conservative movement. (29)
Loukianov's definition of conservatism is much broader in scope than the one Pipes offers. Loukianov describes conservatism as an ideology based on "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality" and shared by the "part of Russian society that supported political forces to the right of the 'Union of 17 October'" (the Octobrists). (30) This definition seems a bit artificial, especially since the right-left distinction, as argued above, can be misleading and the self-identification of "conservative" politicians, writers, and political groups frequently changed as the political situation required. (31) Perhaps an analysis of the views of authors whose texts are scrutinized in the book on the essence of the conservative idea in Russia could have promoted a better understanding of the contours and structure of that movement.
Because Loukianov defines the boundaries of the conservative movement so loosely, his analysis of conservative ideology reveals not one "conservatism" but many, from an extreme, autarkic, right-wing movement ("conservative nihilists") (32) to moderate liberal conservatism (conservative reformism or "evolutionary conservatism"). (33) The first totally rejected the state's ability to transform society, regarded state-led reform as revolutionary upheaval, and demanded that the government not yield to public opinion. Less extreme positions admitted the necessity of reform and its compatibility with conservative ideology. Loukianov's analysis of the political programs of conservative thinkers and politicians points to numerous disagreements among the "conservatives" regarding the most essential problems of prewar Russia. Occasionally the variety of opinions is so striking that the reader may doubt whether these different movements and groups ever really shared a common political ground.
After 1905, the political program of conservatives underwent tremendous change. Even the concept of monarchy, which remained the foundation of the conservative political program, turned out to be a combustible issue for the representatives of different "wings" of conservatism. The political reforms, in particular the voluntary limitation of monarchical prerogatives by Nicholas II, undermined the ruler's authority: distrust and dissatisfaction with the tsar and his family made certain staunch monarchists consider sacrificing the emperor to save the monarchy. Having lost the aura of untouchability and unlimited power, the Russian monarchy after 1905 became an "abstract idea estranged from reality" (59). In the eyes of the monarchists, the corruption of monarchical rule had different sources. One of them was the omnipotence of the bureaucracy. The conservatives blamed bureaucrats and the government for cosmopolitanism, constitutionalism, and the ruination of Russia's traditional social order. For most conservatives, the prime ministers Stolypin and Vladimir Nikolaevich Kokovtsov were radicals and revolutionaries who undermined the foundations of the regime. Only a minority of moderate conservatives considered the government an instrument of the monarchy and supported its initiatives; they also expressed a willingness to work in representative institutions (105).
From the opposite side of the conservative camp, "genuine" conservatives spoke out against representation and called for the restoration of unlimited monarchy. The idea of restoration and the persistent critique of the Dumas and their members were two indispensable refrains ih conservative rhetoric. In practice, however, even staunch conservatives understood that a return to "bureaucratic governance" was impossible and instead suggested different programs of gradual "improvement" to the state order. (34) Nevertheless, according to Loukianov, most conservatives became stuck in an outdated monarchism and advocated unrealistic reform programs that could offer little in the way of constructive plans for Russia (111-14).
Loukianov's analysis of conservative policy toward nationalities also demonstrates a variety of views. Right-wing conservatives painted an apocalyptic picture of Russia under siege by non-Russian nationalities, mainly Jews, Poles, and Finns. Their program of "national defense" called for the mobilization of all "strategic" forces by strengthening state institutions and the official Orthodox
Church (through the restoration of the patriarchate, summoning of the Orthodox assembly, and the participation of church officials in lawmaking). The conservative nationalists spoke against the freedom of conscience proclaimed in 1905 and decried religious toleration, called for the introduction of Russian language in all schools and state institutions, and favored policies of discrimination against national minorities. Hence, Loukianov concludes, the conservative programs vis-a-vis nationalities policy ultimately sought to turn the empire into a nation-state.
At the other edge of the conservative movement, Loukianov locates a marginal group of nationalist-democrats and certain conservative thinkers who thought that chauvinistic nationalism did not contribute to the unity of the country. I. I. Kolyshko expressed the central idea of anti-nationalist conservatism in a call to extend "tribal nationalism ... to the level of state nationalism" (168). Sergei Fedorovich Sharapov believed that national equality, religious tolerance, and decentralization of the government were the main prerequisites for preserving the empire's integrity. Still, according to Loukianov, the anti-nationalist trend remained at the margins of the conservative movement; in general, chauvinism and nationalism prevailed.
Loukianov's analysis of the conservatives' attitudes toward social and economic questions reveals little of the evolution in their ideas since the mid-19th century. As before, the majority thought that capitalism led to moral degradation, did not trust non-noble industrialists, believed that the state-owned economy was the best form of management, and criticized the government for radical economic and social innovations (namely, the destruction of the peasant commune). Again, as Loukianov argues, some conservatives migrated toward "liberalism" and recognized that it was private economic initiative that provided the country's economic growth.
From his analysis of political, national, social, and economic programs of Russian conservatism after 1907, Loukianov concludes that this movement failed to develop a coherent plan for the future. The majority did not believe in the survival of the existing order and expected that it would be destroyed by an inescapable revolutionary upheaval. Moral, political, and economic decay: this is how conservatives perceived political reality in Russia after 1907. Private correspondence as well as public debates demonstrate the spread of apocalyptic feelings and depression among Russian conservatives on the eve of World War I.
What caused this philosophical, ideological, and political crisis of conservatism? Loukianov concludes that "on the eve of revolution, Russian conservatives remained the bearers of feudal-patriarchal values and stereotypes that presupposed their opposition to the reform project aimed at the transformation of Russian society" (243). Compared to contemporary European conservatism, the Russian variety was desperately archaic. The injection of new ideas (such as private property) could not overcome the movement's inertia on other questions. Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality remained the quintessence of conservative thought, although the movement was also tom by disagreements on a variety of crucial issues. As a result, the gap between reality and conservative ideals kept growing, and the conservatives could not suggest a realistic program for the preservation of the political and social order. According to Loukianov, the rejection of the strategy of adaptation to change turned out to be fatal to conservative thought.
Loukianov's analysis of early 20th-century conservatism makes use of a much broader focus than Richard Pipes's book. Loukianov's study is populated by a large number of thinkers and politicians from different milieux who represented the right-wing section of the Russian political landscape. Despite the diversity of thoughts and currents of conservatism displayed in Loukianov's study, however, the methods and approach of his analysis at moments resemble those of Pipes. While Pipes takes the one "unit idea" of autocracy as his yardstick for measuring a wide variety of texts, Loukianov chooses a broader set of ideas: autocracy, as a form of government and an attitude toward representative institutions; the national question; and certain social and economic reforms. In substance, this method of selection often leads Loukianov into similar traps. Statements and ideas pulled from very different texts without regard for genre or context create a sometimes misleading picture of the variety of views or, in turn, of their coherency. For instance, in the analysis of the conservative Weltanschauung, Loukianov argues that most conservatives adhered to traditional anti-individualism, yet others emphasized the importance of individualism. The supposed "individualism" of certain conservative politicians (S. F. Sharapov or A. I. Genz) was deceptive, however, as their statements were usually deployed toward a particular end: to critique socialism (34-35). In this case, as elsewhere, we are dealing with polemics rather than with a sincere expression of political or philosophical ideas. It is impossible to analyze the political practices and ideologies of post-1905 political parties and movements without keeping in mind the diverse aims their authors pursued. (35)
Loukianov's otherwise interesting and comprehensive analysis would have also greatly benefited from more attention to conservative political rhetoric, so vividly displayed in his citations from primary sources. After 1905, some conservatives of necessity became public politicians and changed their rhetoric to better fit the wide audience of the electorate. If Russian conservatism of the 1880s was populist in theory, early 20th-century conservatives became populists in practice. Loukianov points out that after the creation of the legislatures "the rightists became proficient in political [parliamentary] techniques" and the new order opened up new methods for political influence and manipulation (100).
At this juncture, consideration of how conservative programs were represented in propaganda and election campaigns would have highlighted conservatism not only as an ideology but also as a style of politics. Loukianov mentions the growing feelings of despair, dissatisfaction, and decay expressed in the personal judgments and confidential letters of conservative thinkers and politicians. Meanwhile, their public declarations, especially among right-wing parties, were marked with temperamental and often aggressive rhetoric. The disparity between their political programs and the rhetoric of public representation might be attributed not only to the political positions of the "conservatives" but rather to the spheres and purposes of their activity.
The study of conservatives' rhetoric and political practices would also have made the book less predictable. Loukianov brings to light many new sources (private correspondence, memoirs) in the service of more or less familiar facts concerning the conservatives' attitudes to autocracy, government, the Duma, social reforms, and nationalities. The analysis of rhetoric would allow one to trace the evolution of the outwardly static argumentation conservatives offered in the defense of autocracy or against reforms. Loukianov claims that early 20th-century conservative ideology rested on the same foundations as the doctrine of Official Nationality, but one can imagine that new arguments (historical examples, references to new social theories or maybe even scientific inventions, the judgments of new authoritative writers) appeared during the period from the 1830s to the 1900s. (36) In the second hall of the 19th and the early 20th centuries, conservative thought underwent at least three waves of transformation: in the 1860s, the 1880s, and 1905-7, each of which enriched it with new ideas and arguments. For instance, the idea of private property that according to Loukianov accrued to the conservative program in the early 20th century, in fact, appeared in conservative rhetoric in the 1860s. A close analysis of the prehistory of the debates on private property proves that after the Emancipation of 1861 and other laws restraining noble property rights (in forestry, hunting, etc.), the idea of the inviolability of property became the central point of the noble/aristocratic opposition to reforms and the foundation of their defense of the old social order. Conservative politicians in the early 20th century emphasized private property rights as part of their opposition to the government's agrarian reform and the growing threat of further restrictions on private property (at that time, liberal politicians discussed the state's rights of expropriation for public purposes including industrial needs, the satisfaction of peasant land hunger, and the protection of the nation's natural and cultural heritage).
Let me now return to the question posed at the beginning of this review: why and how should historians of Russia approach the study of conservatism? The radical-liberal-conservative classification poses a challenge for historians and often leads to more or less fruitful discussions about the ideological ascription of thinkers and politicians. (37) In Russia, the boundary between liberalism and conservatism turned out to be even more hazy than in Europe due to the specifics of the political regime: to survive, the Russian autocracy had to be both reformist and authoritarian. As a result, both conservatives and liberals could be found among the critics and the supporters of autocracy, while many thinkers, bureaucrats, and politicians hesitated to join either of these movements. Therefore, the differences between political and ideological currents were more nuanced, and only a multifaceted analysis of conservatism that combines the study of ideas with the analysis of practices can reveal the specifics of Russian conservatism and its political role.
Pipes's and Loukianov's books, notwithstanding their several strengths, fail to embrace the many opportunities offered by such a multi-faceted analysis of the conservative movement. Both books focus on the content of conservative ideology (attitudes toward contemporary political issues) and do not pay enough attention to the evolution of the forms of expression of conservative thought, conservative rhetoric, the role of conservative ideas in political and bureaucratic decision-making, and the role played by those who expressed these ideas in contemporary culture and politics. As a result, their visions of conservatism do not reflect the complexity of the phenomenon, and the conclusions drawn from their analysis turn out to be slightly disappointing. Oversimplifying the analysis of crucial events in Russian history (such as the survival or collapse of autocracy) by excluding any explanation not based on a liberal-radical-conservative triad obscures the great majority of intellectual and political controversies that do not fit into this classification but nevertheless played a crucial role in the unfolding of Russian history.
Dept. of History
104 Dickinson Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544 USA
I am very grateful to Anne O'Donnell, Stephen Kotkin, and Kritika's editors for their comments and suggestions regarding this text.
(1) G.M. Hamburg, "The Revival of Russian Conservatism," Kritika 6, 1 (2005): 107-27.
(2) Igor' Anatol'evich Khristoforov, "Russkii konservatizm: Issledovatel'skaia skhema ili istoricheskaia realnost'?" Otechestvennaia istoriia, no. 3 (2001): 117-21.
(3) In this question Pipes refers to his own memorandum written in 1956 to Clyde Kluckhohn, then director of the Russian Research Center at Harvard, of which he was a fellow (xi).
(4) Pipes does not comment on precisely how the study of conservative ideology can explain Russia's perpetual inclination to autocracy and its failure to develop an "independent" society. While admitting the dominance of autocratic ideas and illusions in Russian public opinion, I doubt that conservative thinkers bear the near-total burden of explaining phenomena such as "folk monarchism." On the definition of "political culture," see Robert C. Tucker, "Culture, Political Culture, and Communist Society," Political Science Quarterly 88, 2 (1973): 173-90.
(5) I would especially point to two books: Andrei Leonidovich Zorin, Kormia dvuglavogo orla: Literatura i gosudarstvennaia ideologiia Rossii v poslednei treti XVIII-pervoi treti XIX veka (Moscow: NLO, 2004); and Cynthia Whittaker, Russian Monarchy: Eighteenth-Century Rulers and Writers in Political Dialogue (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003).
(6) The Russian historiography of conservatism tends to put this phenomenon into the European context and to analyze conservatives as people with different visions of the past, present, and future of their country and the world, language, literature, education, etc.--as a trend in political, cultural, and artistic life. See, for instance, Iurii Mikhailovich Lotman and Boris Andreevich Uspenskii, "Spory o iazyke v nachale XIX veka kak fakt russkoi kul'tury," in Uspenskii, Izbrannye trudy, 2: Iazyk i kul'tura (Moscow: Iazyki russkoi kul'tury, 1996), 419-31. On foreign sources of inspiration, see Zorin, Kormia dvuglavogo orla, chap. 10; and Vera Dubina, Mikhail Leonov, and Lars Bantskhav, eds., Evoliutsiia konservatizma: Evropeiskaia traditsiia i russkii opyt. Materialy mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii, Samara, 26-29 aprelia 2002 (Samara: Samarskii nauchnyi tsentr, 2002), reviewed by Johannes Remy in Kritika 6, 1 (2005): 135-43.
(7) Certain political scientists seem to doubt the existence of a conservative tradition. Samuel Huntington claims that conservative thought cannot develop continuity: "conservative thought is repetitive, not evolutionary." Each writer is doomed to start from the beginning in conceiving of a political order (Samuel P. Huntington, "Conservatism as an Ideology," American Political Science Review 51, 2 : 469).
(8) Quentin Skinner, "Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas," in his Visions of Politics, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 1: 85.
(9) V.V. Leontovitsch, Geschichte des Liberalismus in Russland (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 1957); Marc Raeff, "Some Reflections on Russian Liberalism," Russian Review 18, 3 (1959): 219.
(10) Karl Mannheim, "Conservative Thought," in From Karl Mannheim, ed. Kurt H. Wolff (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 153; Huntington, "Conservatism as an Ideology," 455.
(11) For the date, see Arkadii Iur'evich Minakov, ed., Protiv techeniia: Istoricheskie portrety russkikh konservatorov pervoi treti XIX stoletiia (Voronezh: Voronezhskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 2005). Pipes's first chapter, "Russian Autocracy Defined," offers the argument of Russia's abnormal political development and the patrimonial character of Russian state power, repeating the central point of Russia under the Old Regime. "The Birth of Conservative Ideology" covers the period from the 16th to the mid-18th century. "The Onset of the Conservative-Liberal Controversy" extends to the era of the Great Reforms. The fourth chapter traces the development of conservatism from the 1860s to 1905; and the last chapter, in only 23 pages, analyzes the fate of conservatism during the period of the constitutional monarchy.
(12) Viacheslav Valentinovich Shaposhnik, Tserkovno-gosudarstvennye otnosheniia v Rossii v 30-80e gody XVI veka (St. Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo Sankt-Peterburgskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, 2006), 26-112.
(13) Viktor Zhivov, "Religioznaia reforma i individual'noe nachalo v russkoi literature XVII veka," in his Razyskaniia v oblasti istorii i predystorii russkoi kul'tury (Moscow: Iazyki slavianskoi kul'tury, 2002), 319-43.
(14) Vladimir Il'ich Lenin, "Pamiati Gertsena" , in his Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Moscow: Politizdat, 1976), 21: 256.
(15) For an alternative vision of the church polemics and political culture of Muscovite Russia, see Donald Ostrowski, "Church Polemics and Monastic Land Acquisition in Sixteenth-Century Muscovy," Slavonic and East European Review 64, 3 (1986): 355-79; and Daniel Rowland, "Did Muscovite Literary Ideology Place Limits on the Power of the Tsar (1540s-1660s)?" Russian Review 49, 2 (1990): 125-55. On the polemics between currents in the historiography of Muscovite Russia--one suggests the "despotic" story of Muscovy, whereas the other offers a "soft" view of Muscovite political culture--see Valerie Kivelson, "Muscovite 'Citizenship': Rights without Freedom, "Journal of Modern History 74, 3 (2002): 465-89.
(16) As Valerie Kivelson points out, "in recent decades historians have stressed the importance of noble clans and their competitive patronage networks rather than western political philosophies in defining and limiting the political ambitions of the nobility" ("Kinship Politics/Autocratic Politics: A Reconsideration of Early Eighteenth-Century Political Culture," in Imperial Russia: New Histories for the Empire, ed. Jane Burbank and David Ransel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 6.
(17) According to Pipes, the writings of Nikolai Novikov--an outstanding figure of the Russian Enlightenment and a critic of serfdom, court morals, and corruption--"had an unintended effect of justifying autocracy" just because he valued enlightenment and virtue more than constitutional forms (68).
(18) Panin's biographer David Ransel has argued that considering Panin's plan for the creation of a consultative council as a constitutional project betrays his knowledge of political theory and his familiarity with constitutional state organization in Western Europe. This plan was rejected not because of his opponents' anti-constitutional views but because of the opposition of his rivals in the court (David Ransel, "Nikita Panin's Imperial Council Project and the Struggle of Hierarchy Groups at the Court of Catherine II," Canadian Slavic Studies 4, 3 : 443-63).
(19) Cynthia Whittaker, "The Idea of Autocracy among 18th-Century Russian Historians," in Imperial Russia: New Histories for the Empire, 32-33.
(20) Alexander Martin, Romantics, Reformers, Reactionaries: Russian Conservative Thought and Politics in the Reign of Alexander I (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997).
(21) On Nikolai Karamzin's republicanism, see Iurii Lotman, "Evoliutsiia mirovozzreniia Karamzina," in Lotman, Karamzin (St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo-SPb, 1997), 312-48.
(22) The "constitutional" marker of liberalism turns out to be as false as the "autocracy marker" of conservatism: if we admit that point, we should include on the list of liberals Interior Minister Petr Aleksandrovich Valuev, the head of the notorious Third Section Petr Andreevich Shuvalov, and many admirers of aristocratic constitutionalism. On bureaucratic constitutionalism, see Valentina Grigor'evna Chernukha, Vnutrenniaia politika tsarizma s serediny 50-kh gadov do nachala 80-kh godov XIX veka (Leningrad: Nauka, 1978); and on aristocratic constitutionalism, see Igor' Khristoforov, "Aristokraticheskaia" oppozitsiia Velikim Reformam (konets 1850-seredina 1870-kh gg.) (Moscow: Russkoe slovo, 2002).
(23) Marc Raeff, "The Political Philosophy of Speranskij," American Slavic and East European Review 12, 1 (1953): 19; see also Raeff, Michael Speransky: Statesman of Imperial Russia, 1772-1839 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1957). Raeff's view of Speranskii as a conservative reformer was challenged by David Christian and John Gooding: David Christian, "The Political Ideals of Michael Speransky," Slavonic and East European Review 14, 2 (1976): 192-213; John Gooding, "The Liberalism of Michael Speransky," Slavonic and East European Review 64, 3 (1986): 401-24.
(24) See Peter Holquist, "Dilemmas of a Progressive Administrator: Baron Boris Nolde," Kritika 7, 2 (2006): 263; Khristoforov, Russkii konservatizm; and Alfred J. Rieber, "Interest-Group Politics in the Era of the Great Reforms," in Russia's Great Reforms, 1855-1881, ed. John Bushnell, Ben Eklof, and Larissa Zakharova (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 58-83.
(25) Zorin, Kormia dvuglavogo orla, 364-66.
(26) Gvido Karpi [Guido Carpi], "Byli li slavianofily liberalami?" Neprikosnovennyi zapas, no. 3 (23) (2002), available at magazines.russ.ru/nz/2002/3/karp.html (accessed 9 July 2009). Most historians consider Slavophiles to be conservatives (see, for instance, Andrzej Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: History of a Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth-Century Russian Thought (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975). Even admitting this point, however, one should distinguish between the "conservatisms" expressed in the official Uvarov triad and Slavophile ideas.
(27) Richard Pipes, Karamzin's Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia: A Translation and Analysis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005).
(28) Zorin, Kormia dvuglavogo orla, 365-66.
(29) The book consists of five chapters. "The Problem of Reform in the Political Philosophy of Russian Conservatism on the Eve of World War I" seeks to find a common ground for Russian conservatism in a specific "conservative Weltanschauung." "Conservatives and the Reform of Governance" describes conservatives' attitudes toward autocracy, government, and representative institutions and analyzes the positive program of Russian conservatives. "Conservatives and the National Question" analyzes a wide spectrum of conservative nationalisms, from the "tribal" and chauvinist nationalism of ultrarightists to the "civic nationalism" of national-democrats. The fourth chapter concerns plans for social and economic reform; and the fifth chapter summarizes the conservatives' vision of the new political and social order and their place in the system of quasiconstitutional monarchy after 1907.
(30) Loukianov also points out the insufficiency of the definition of conservatism as an ideology that seeks to preserve the political and social status quo (19, 21).
(31) The author considers the members of "centrist groups" to be moderate conservatives whose ideology ranged from Octobrism (right-wing liberalism) to conservatism. The inclusion of a marginal group of nationalist-democrats [natsionalisty-demokraty] in the conservative camp also seems doubtful: this political group welcomed the introduction of representative institutions in Russia, called for the expansion of civil freedoms and of the Duma's control over the government's activities, sought political alliances with democratic and labor parties, and at the same time professed Slavophile-styled monarchism (110-11). On the identification of early 20th-century politicians, see Loukianov's review of Daniil Aleksandrovich Kotsiubinskii's Russkii natsionalizm v nachale XX stoletiia: Rozhdenie i gibel' ideologii Vserossiiskogo natsional'nogo soiuza (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2001): "The Rise and Fall of the All-Russian National Union," Kritika 6, 1 (2005): 129-34.
(32) For instance, the members of the Union of Russian People Aleksandr Ivanovich Dubrovin, Petr Nikolaevich Durnovo, and Mikhail Borisovich Iusefovich (37-41).
(33) This "moderate" conservative program was shared by a number of politicians and thinkers, including members of the nationalist party such as Mikhail Osipovich Menshikov, A. I. Savenko (the key writer of Kievlianin), Mikhail Mikhailovich Perovskii-Petrovo-Solovovo, and A. N. Gur'ev (a contributor to the official newspaper Rossiia) (41-49).
(34) Vladimir Andreevich Gringmut suggested strengthening the control of the bureaucracy, S. F. Sharapov called for the decentralization of the government, Vladimir Petrovich Meshcherskii and Klavdii Nikandrovich Paskhalov advocated restrictions on the Dumas prerogatives, the restoration of the old State Council, and the expansion of the emperor's right to legislate without Duma participation (using the notorious article 87 of the Fundamental Laws). The Slavophile conservative program called for an Assembly of the Land (Zemskii sobor)--a consultative body representing the unity of the people and the tsar.
(35) See Quentin Skinner, "Interpretation and the Understanding of Speech Acts," in his Visions of Politics, 1: 116. For a study of the interaction between political practices and ideologies, see Sheila Fitzpatrick, "Politics as Practice: Thoughts on a New Soviet Political History," Kritika 5, 1 (2004): 35-36.
(36) See the exemplary analysis of different rhetorical models in antireform writings as described in Albert O. Hirschman, The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1991).
(37) See Raeff, "Some Reflections on Russian Liberalism"; and Joshua Sanborn, "Liberals and Bureaucrats at War," Kritika 8, 1 (2007): 141-62.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Russian Conservatism and Its Critics: A Study in Political Culture|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2009|
|Previous Article:||T. A. Oparina, Foreigners in 16th- and 17th-Century Russia/Inozemtsy v Rossii XVI-XVII vv.|
|Next Article:||Corinne Gaudin, Ruling Peasants: Village and State in Late Imperial Russia.|