Yeah, (divine) Right!

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.

Image result for russian orthodox icons

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.”

Image result for russian orthodox and the tsar

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?

Sources:

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.

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6 thoughts on “Yeah, (divine) Right!

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  1. I definitely think that this was a plea for compromise. At this point he was kind of short on options and I believe that the October Manifesto was an attempt at buying time until he could figure out how to reassert autocratic rule. I really like how you roped religion into the October Manifesto – I haven’t seen anybody else do it yet so great job with that take.

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  2. I really liked how you viewed the manifesto as a plea for help rather than an assertion of the power of the tsar. You made a good point that if the tsar has to constantly keep reminding the people of his power and where it derives from, that probably means that his power is waning; if they truly had all this power, then these reminders to the people would be unnecessary. Also, I really liked the name of this post!

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  3. I think he was just trying to appease them temporarily, just like you said. I think they still believed in the divine right of the czar, but I think they began to question it at this point and really wonder if he was given authority from God. If I was in their position, and my rights were compromised because of the rulings of my leader, I also would question their ability to be in that position.

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  4. Interesting take on this topic. I agree with you that he was trying to compromise or merely appease the people as Jack said above. I think religion and divine authority was becoming less trusted and more questioned because of the time period. I love that you brought this up and asked these questions because I would not have thought of this before reading this post.

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  5. Good questions and great title! At your table tomorrow make sure and talk about how Nicholas regarded the October Manifesto (If you were ruling by divine right, how would you feel about having to promise your subjects all of these things?)

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  6. Excellent title, it definitely caught my eye! I would definitely agree with you that the October Manifesto was Tsar Nicholas II’s attempt to do whatever it took to secure his position, even if it meant undermining the very concept of the imperial power in the first place. It’s no wonder though that the Russian people, though perhaps temporarily bought off, saw this as a weakening of the social order and were even emboldened by his weakness.

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