Limited monarchy in Russia: problems and contradictions
Limited monarchy in Russia occupies such insignificant period of time that there is no need to discourse of it as of the Russian power feature determining historical epoch. Nevertheless Russian historical thought did a good job describing period of 1905-1917 years when Russian monarchy can be really called limited.
Empress Anna Ioannovna
Limited monarchy existed in Russia earlier and manifested itself both as nationwide limitation of Emperor’s power and as limitation of power in separate regions. The first limitation type includes so called Conditions of Anna Ioannovna. There were conditions of her accession to the Russian throne. And though later the Empress Anna refused in full from obligations she has taken, experience of documental limitation of Emperor’s power took place in our history. Territorial or regional limitations include Constitution granted to the Kingdom of Poland in 1815 by Emperor Alexander I. According to this constitution legislations on the territory of Poland could be accepted only with Sejm participation – the Polish parliament. Sejm has met each two years for 30 days and the King had a right to dissolve the Sejm, to postpone Sejm’s meetings and to call emergency Sejm. Sejm members during the session were granted inviolability. The legislative intention was recognized only by the King, but embassadors and deputies were allowed to introduce different wishes regarding weal of their fellow citizens through the state council. And although this parliament had the function concerning discussion and preparation of bills, the Kingdom of Poland can be considered as the territory of limited monarchy in Russia.
Emperor Alexander I
What is limited monarchy
The idea of limited monarchy appeared as only the absolute monarchy was established. One cannot mix up limitations the monarchs of Middle ages experienced from the Church or their dependents to limited monarchy in Europe of XVIII-XIX centuries. Also reign in Byzantium which was also limited to a certain degree can’t be referred to limited monarchy. Limited monarchy is a concrete historical form, in other words it is phenomenon which has existed or exists in concrete historical epoch. In certain degree limited monarchy still exists. In different countries assignment of monarch’s rights and empowerments of other authorities are different. So, for example, current Prince of Monaco Albert II has almost unlimited power. At the same time the Queen of Great Britain Elizabeth II is strictly limited by the Parliament. In fact she has only representative functions – to participate in opening of the Parliament session, appear with the Queen’s speech (analogue of our Presidential Address to the Federal Council), to held consultations with the Prime Minister, to represent the country as the head of the country. In modern Japan they have chosen another way – a monarchy is an unshakable tradition for them. Emperor in Japan, whose generation has never been interrupted in the history, nowadays is an object for worship. One is not allowed to turn his back on the Emperor, at all official parties with the Emperor’s participation the Prime Minister serves to him, even the calendar in Japan starts with the date of the new Emperor coming to power. For example, the nowadays epoch is called ‘heisei’. Also the Emperor Akihito in Japan nowadays is the only ruling Emperor in the world.
Queen’s speech of the Queen Elizabeth II
Limited monarchy is a form of governing where limitation of the monarch exists in the form of the legislation and state institutions. Traditional institute to limit the monarch’s power is a parliamentarism. In fact any limitation of the monarchy became possible when the desacralization has happened. The monarch was not appreciated as a Lord’s Anointed. And if the monarch is not a Lord’s Anointed and the God is not a source of the autocracy the monarch’s power can be limited. One of the most important achievements of the educators is a statement that a source of any power is a nation. According to it only nation can decide how and how much the monarch’s power can be limited and maybe annihilated at all.
Limited monarchy in Russia
As we already said the limitations of monarchy which has taken place before the autocracy does not count. Town’s meeting in Velikiy Novgorod has much limited the Prince however here is the end of the parallels. One can’t consider archetypical power’s forms (to exist a long before the nowadays phenomenon) and to generalize historical notions. According to this we will consider the monarchy’s limitation in Russia before 1905 in several variants, in fact Conditions of Anna Ioannovna and Constitution of Poland in 1815 and Constitution of Finland in 1809 can be called among them. All the rest efforts to limit the Emperor’s Power in Russia both legal and illegal were not realized. To legal efforts of power’s limitation the Project of Constitution by M.M. Speranskiy can be referred, it should generalize the experience of Poland and Finland Constitutions appliance and to extend conditions of this legislation for the whole Empire. Also one of projects of not accepted constitution was Constitution of M.T. Loris-Melnikov which had to be confirmed by the Emperor Alexander II. Realization of this effort of monarchy limitation in Russia disturbed the terrorists’ bomb. Exactly at the day of his death the Emperor Alexander II was going to sign the constitution.
Emperor Alexander II
Illegal efforts to limit the monarchy are also well known. The Decembrists uprising in 1825 was directed to it. There were several projects the most radical from them supposed liquidation of the monarchy in Russia and establishment of dictatorship. It was offered by Pavel Pestel implicating the French scenario of events’ development. The second project by Nikita Muravyev supposed maintenance of monarchy, acceptance of constitution of England’s type. Both Decembrists’ projects supposed parliamentary governing. In fact during the whole XIX century in Russia the possibility of monarchy’s limitation has been discussed in one way or another. In the well known argument of westerners and Slavophils different variants of monarchy’s limitation were also offered. Revolutionary groups mostly wanted to liquidate the Emperor’s power and intended killing of the royal family.
Finally the XX century came to bring absolutely different challenges to the state, nation, Empire. Colossal development of science and engineering in comparison to the previous century, appearance of proper mass media of modern type which began forming social summon, taste and preferences. Including political. That is why revolutionary newspaper “Iskra” was very powerful instrument of informational influence. A man who got used to get information from Mass media will look for the opportunity to satisfy his hunger. And in these conditions Russia stays an absolute monarchy having been ruled with the help of government as the Emperor does not take part in the governing process and prefer to designate one or another minister. The abruption between power and society appears very fast. The government and Emperor live in one Russia and nation in another. Lack of connection between these worlds and problems in economics connected to terrible exploitation of workers and peasants, and lost war with Japan caused revolution in 1905.
Emperor Nicholas II
Fights on the cities’ streets, thousands of burned noblemen mansion houses, thousands of killed and crippled people from both sides – these are results of revolution of 1905. Emperor Nicholas II faced the choice to crush a rebellion by arms’ force, to centralize the power and to establish police state or to agree for power’s limitation and to find a way of communication with society. He has chosen the second way that encouraged the rebellion ending. Many political forces began to establish legal political parties. In 1906 the first Russian parliament started its work – the State Duma. However the State Duma called on the wave of revolutionary loss was almost unable to work. It offered to the government such legislations which didn’t correspond to the current situation in economics and society development. For example one of the first bills was labor legislation which supposed 10-hour working day. When the average working day was 18-20 hour day that time. Performance rate would fall twice or more that could cause paralysis of the whole industry. To enter fixed working day technical re-equiping of the industry was needed and Russia couldn’t effort it – all the equipment was bought abroad in very small numbers. That is why in July of 1906 the Emperor dissolves the State Duma which has worked for only two months. The second State Duma has existed since 20 February till 2 July 1907. Deputies’ radicalism forced the Emperor to change the election legislation. Now election rights of workers and peasants were much limited in comparison with the other classes in Russian Empire.
The history of the rest Dumas is well known – this authority was mostly for discussion and preparation of bills and not for lawmaking. Emperor continued to rule the country by designating of ministers and Prime ministers, economics and social sphere had no changes. To 1917 the power exhausted the credit of trust. And the aim of the peoples’ anger was not the Emperor but his ministers who joined with general officers and managed to make the Emperor guilty. The First World War has greatly fastened the process of breaking of centuries-long institution of monarchy in Russia. Limited monarchy didn’t assimilate in Russia. It is said that it was established too late and managed only to lengthen the life of Russian Empire for 12 years.