Religion was used as a uniting factor between the Tsar and the Russian principalities in the formation of the Russian state and for centuries following. “The East Roman conception of the derivation of power from God, and its relationship with ecclesiastical authority” (Madariaga, 12) became essential to Russian leadership. It represented a religious relationship with politics and the ability to rule indisputably. The concept of divine right was a defining characteristic of leadership which recognized that the Tsar’s power came from God. The Tsar also took on the responsibility of religious welfare and salvation of his people which he could use to justify his actions and declare his legitimacy. Although religion had been a strong symbol for Russian unity, continuation, legitimization, and political reconciliation, it seems that by the 20th century, this was not enough to constitute the government’s mistreatment of Russian peoples. The reason I believe this is because of the October Manifesto.
After Bloody Sunday in January and the unrest of September, Nicolas II finally resolved to a more politically peaceful answer, rather than the typical shootings or blatant neglect, but to me he was grasping at straws. He may have used the phrase “We, Nicholas II, By the Grace of God” to remind the people of his right to rule, but to my ear, it sounded more like a plea for compromise. The document also seems to be pretending to care about the people’s needs “The well-being of the Russian Sovereign is inseparable from the well-being of the nation, and the nation’s sorrow is his sorrow. The disturbances that have taken place may cause grave tension in the nation and may threaten the integrity and unity of Our state.”
Although the Manifesto was a step towards political flexibility and social compromise, it “failed to put an immediate end to the revolution” (Freeze, 255). The attitude of the nation may have simmered down, but rebellions would soon return, and the Tsar’s ‘absolute’ power had defiantly taken a hit. In my opinion, the language of the Manifesto hints at anxiety from the state, but what do you think? Did the Tsar feel threatened? How seriously do you think the government took rebellions from its own people? Historically, the Tsar was unquestionable. Do you think this belief had changed by 1905 or was religious symbolism still reason enough to obey indubitably?
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Madariaga, Isabel de. Ivan the Terrible: First Tsar of Russia. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2006.
“Manifesto of October 17th, 1905 – Documents in Russian History.” Seton Hall University Academic Server. Accessed January 28, 2017. http://academic.shu.edu/russianhistory/index.php/Manifesto_of_October_17th,_1905.