Nicholas I. Knight of autocracy
Hegel noticed once that if in the head there is no idea, eyes don’t see the facts. Paraphrasing this statement it is possible to claim with not smaller justice that excessive enthusiasm or even obsession for this or that idea (liberal, conservative, democratic, class, socialist, etc.) also does the historian or the philosopher, the writer or the publicist blind to the facts which aren’t corresponding to her, forcing not only to pass by inconvenient events, persons, the phenomena, but also to misinterpret them. Our national history and culture in the XX century were influenced by tragic consequences of revolutionary methods of thinking and practice more than once. Yu. F. Samarin nontrivially defined revolution as “rationalism in operation”, “formally correct syllogism turned into the stenobitny tool against live life” as leading under aprioristic dogma “this reality and the sentence over the last uttered only from the point of view of the first – the reality doesn’t meet with dogma and therefore is condemned to death” (at first by means of books and magazines, and then with use of axes and pitchfork).
One more important, but “hidden” sign of revolution which spirit, by the way, was deeply antipathetic to Nicholas I, noted other his contemporary, F. I. Tyutchev:” Revolution first of all enemy of Christianity! The anti-Christian mood is soul of revolution; it is its special distinctive character”. And it is valid, liberal and democratic, and then and radical socialist dogmas resolutely tore away from themselves everything that was anyway brought up and grown by orthodox, state, national traditions and wasn’t combined with innovative withdrawal pains, political Machiavellianism, moral casuistry. The surgery of the “correct” syllogisms condemned to death not only characteristic layers of the Russian people with a Christian mirochuvstviye (clergy, the nobility, the peasantry, the Cossacks), but also took root into historical thought which appeared for a long time the captivated dictatorship of “progressivist” logic , “liberating” the cliche which were cutting off completeness and distorting authenticity of the leaked centuries. Owing to purposeful rejection of orthodox foundations, any truncation and tendentious interpretation of thousand-year layers of national life to the foreground of public consciousness a long time it was artificially brought and consistently the line of denial, a protest and violent changes in the state going conditionally took root speaking, from A. N. Radishchev through Decembrists to revolutionary democrats and preparing the methodological soil for future forgetful avant-garde and Bolshevist ideology. Not without reason the last, let and considerably distorting them, I relied on figures like V. G. Belinsky or A. I. Herzen, N. G. Chernyshevsky or D. I. Pisarev, whose scientific and humanistic ideas initially weren’t coordinated first of all with Christian traditions, destroyed historical legends and tore off a continuity which were exposed to a basic shelmovaniye.
Nicholas I and Decembrist uprising
On December 14, 1825 – day of Decembrist uprising – became a peculiar starting point of board of Nicholas I which not only was test of its character, but also I had essential impact on the subsequent formation of his thoughts and actions. After Alexander I’s death on November 19, 1825 there was a situation of a so-called interregnum when there was not announced its secret manifesto made in 1823 which appointed the brother Nikolay’s successor. Except the emperor, Crown Prince Konstantin and their mother only three persons knew about the manifesto: the metropolitan Filaret, A. A. Arakcheev and A. N. Golitsyn who copied the document and left it on storage in the State Council, the Senate and the Synod. Future successor of a throne, of course, could guess Alexander I’s will expressed in a mysterious envelope which was unambiguously expressing earlier in intimate conversations, however the exact contents and sense of the manifesto remained to it unknown. In days of an interregnum the grand duke Nikolay Pavlovich showed absence of any ambition and commitment, rare for many predecessors, to strictly lawful inheritance of the power, to the rights of a seniority consecrated with history. He immediately swore to Crown Prince Konstantin, having generous refused a throne. “No here feat is present, – he answered the surprised members of the State Council, – in my act there is no other motivation as soon as to execute holy my duty before the elder brother. No force terrestrial can change my thoughts in this subject and in this case”. The elder brother, in turn, refused an imperial crown in favor of the younger. According to V. A. of Zhukovsky, fight not for the power, and for a donation of honor and to a debt” began a throne three-week “, than and conspirators of secret societies used. In army the rumor as if the grand duke Nikolay Pavlovich intends to usurp the rights of Crown Prince of Konstantin was spread…
Under the certificate of all contemporaries, on December 14 when, at last, the new oath was appointed and at the same time revolt broke out, the new tsar showed that presence of mind, personal courage and strong determination which in many respects promoted very fast and almost bloodless termination of revolt. “I saw, – he remembered later, – that or has to assume to me to shed blood of some and to rescue almost likely everything, or, having spared itself, to endow resolutely the state”.
Early in the morning Nicholas I brought together Guards generals and regimental commanders, acquainted them with Alexander I’s will and with documents on Konstantin’s renunciation, and then read the manifesto on the accession to the throne. Listening unanimously recognized him as the lawful monarch and troops then he immediately declared undertook to swear in:” After that you pay to me the life for tranquillity of the capital, and that to me if I am the emperor though for one hour, I will show that that was worthy”. To a meeting with Guards generals he wrote to the sister Maria, the duchess Saksen-Veymarskoy: “Our angel (Alexander – B. T.) it has to be happy, his will is executed as neither it is heavy, nor it is awful for me. You pray, I repeat, to God for your unfortunate brother: it needs this consolation, and regret it”.
Nicholas I didn’t exclude opportunity to reign and in general to stay on this earth only “one hour” as constantly changing circumstances became more and more unpredictable. Despite an oath ceremony in the Senate, the Synod and in the first household troops, there was no confidence in a favorable outcome. During a ceremony in leyb-guard the Moscow regiment officers D. A. Shchepin-Rostovsky, M. A. and A. A. Bestuzhev persuaded part of soldiers not to swear. The first shots when trying to interfere the regimental commander P. A. Frederiks, the major general V. N. Shenshin and the colonel Hvoshchinsky got severe wounds were distributed. Polk was brought out of barracks to Senate Square where the part of soldiers of leyb-guard of the Grenadierial regiment and Guards crew joined it.” Tonight, – the emperor A. H. Benkendorfu spoke in the gloomy morning, – can be, both of us won’t exist, but, at least, we will die, having executed our debt”. The same mood owned it and the day before when he addressed to the wife: “It isn’t known that expects us. Promise me to show courage and if it is necessary to die, die with honor”.
For such heroic pessimism there were all bases because, having learned about revolt, the tsar resolutely intended to participate in his suppression samolichno. Being going to Senate Square, the sovereign at random opened always the Gospel lying on his desk and read the dropped-out fragment, having addressed to P. V. Kutuzov who was nearby: “Look, Pavel Vasilyevich what to me the verse left: “I am a pastor kind; the pastor kind believes the soul for a sheep, and the mercenary, if not the pastor, runs”. Then Nicholas I went at the head of faithful to him persons to a thick of events, having told the brother Mikhail: “I or the emperor, or am dead”. As he admitted later to the well-known memoirist A. de Custin, determination to go all the way and readiness to die for the sake of execution of a debt gave it force for spontaneous and at the same time resolute actions among general confusion and turmoil.
On Senate Square surrounded with the people which were running together from all directions, Nicholas I unexpectedly began to read and explain the manifesto, being on a type of a rebellious caret and subjecting the life of every minute danger.” The most surprising, – he as if was perplexed subsequently, – that didn’t kill me that day”. Wishing to prevent bloodshed, he tried to convince rebels of legality of the right for a throne and of need of peaceful completion of opposition. However admonitions of the metropolitan Serafim and the grand duke Mikhail Pavlovich didn’t make success, and P. G. Kakhovsky’s shot put to the Petersburg governor general M. A. Miloradovich a mortal wound. It became clear that negotiation ways are settled and it is impossible to do without case-shot which at once brought confusion in ranks of rebels. N. M. Karamzin so described the impression of memorable day and the dominating atmosphere:” On December 14 I was in the palace, came and to Isaakiyevskaya Square, saw awful faces, heard awful words, and stones five-six fell to my feet. The new emperor rendered fearlessness and hardness. The first two shots disseminated madmen with the Pole Star, Bestuzhev, Ryleyev and their worthy myrmidons. I, the peace historiographer, craved for a gun thunder, being sure that there was no different way to stop mutiny. Neither a cross, nor the metropolitan didn’t work!” As if supplementing Karamzin, V. A. Zhukovsky, personally knowing many Decembrists, I exclaimed:” What day was for us the 14th! This day everything was on the brink of death and everything would collapse. But at will of Trade this day was day of clarification, day of horror, but at the same time in the afternoon of great manual for the future… We lived century day… The sovereign defended the throne… The fatherland suddenly got acquainted with it, and the hope for it was born in the middle of the danger eliminated with its spirit… In a word, all these resolute minutes the Sovereign was such what he has to be: quiet, cool, fearless. It was presented to us by absolutely other person; it became covered by honor in a minute, almost hopeless for Russia”.
Such is there was a look, as they say, from outside. The monarch felt “burning pain” which, on his own feeling, it is impossible to forget for the rest of the natural.” I am an Emperor, – he wrote the brother, – but what price. Oh God! Price of blood of my citizens”. He deeply regretted that it wasn’t succeeded to resolve peacefully arisen conflict, sincerely sought to understand the true reasons of revolt and on justice to estimate degree of fault of each conspirator.
Knightly qualities of Nicholas I
Nicholas I’s era is not time of reorganization of the state and public life according to abstract ideological schemes, and the period of continued work in the most different areas. Rising at sunrise, the emperor sometimes saw off behind a desktop for eighteen hours per day, appointed audiences to eight, and even on seven o’clock in the morning and tried to penetrate into all affairs personally. Having got insufficient arts education and testing indifference to speculative knowledge, it nevertheless had natural tendency to applied and military sciences, construction and engineering art, possessed practical mentality and a sober assessment of the events. If Peter I was perceived by time as the carpenter on a throne, his descendant liked to speak:” We are engineers”.
Really, still being as the engineering part general inspector, the grand duke Nikolay Pavlovich put all energy inherent in it in formation of the Russian engineering case, almost daily visited subordinated institutions, long stayed at lectures officer and the by konduktor of classes of the Main engineering school, studied drawing, architecture and other subjects that to details to understand an essence of the projects approved by it. And subsequently, already on an imperial throne, it sought to penetrate carefully not only into military or construction problems, but also into questions of the technical equipment, useful business, financial and economic policy and many others, tried “to see everything with own eyes, to hear everything the ears”. Vakhtparada, reviews of fleet, maneuvers, test firing practice by explosive shells, work of the commissions on a country question or construction of the railroads – all this and many other things didn’t do without direct participation of the sovereign. Its frequent trips on various areas of the empire, surveys of hospitals, prisons, state warehouses, visits of offices, educational institutions, again built constructions became usual. Range of distance, off road terrain, a bad weather, a corporal indisposition or sincere fatigue couldn’t keep the tsar from execution of the drawn-up plans. If he was convinced of usefulness and justice of any business, showed at its practical realization inflexible will and strong determination.It is enough to look only at some resolutions of the autocrat: “All of us on service not behind that. to walk and that to do serious work”… “Has to stick to persistently these orders and from now on not dare to recede from them”…” I more than once ordered with the offers opposite to the law, not to dare to enter… when the law is, has to observe it without research of pretexts to non-execution”.
Many contemporaries noted also knightly qualities of Nicholas I who strictly adhered to the code of honor, of fidelity to this word, with “extreme loathing” treated the smart falseness, secret intrigues, briberies of opponents and other illegal tricks which are often allowed by the so-called civilized states. Even the obvious ill-wisher A. de Custin wrote that mind of the tsar “the most practical and clear what only happens on light. I don’t think that the second sovereign who so would hate lie was found today and so seldom I lay, as this emperor”. The emperor admitted to this memoirist that too needs the direct and frank statement of the thoughts and that will recede to China rather, than will agree to the selling and roguish way of board distinguishing in his opinion, constitutional monarchies.
To the knightly advantages of Nicholas I distinguishing him as “strong, noble and very ideal nature” (K. N. Leontyev) also undoubted courage from which bright manifestations the behavior of the tsar during cholera epidemic is distinguished was added. Moving from depth of Asia and covering the way with thousands of corpses, the infectious disease quickly extended up Volga and in September, 1830 reached Moscow. “With a warm condolence I received your sad news, – the emperor wrote the Moscow governor general D. V. Golitsyn. – Notify me relays on the illness course. My departure will depend on your news. I will arrive to share with you dangers and works…”
Eyewitnesses testify to surprise and pleasure of the Muscovites who learned that “the tsar in Moscow”. Early in the morning on September 29 huge crowds of the people went to the Kremlin where at an entrance to Assumption Cathedral the metropolitan Filaret spoke: “With a cross sretay you, the Sovereign. Yes there is with you a revival and life”. In the thick of the people voices were distributed:” You are our father, we know that you to us will be… Where trouble, there and you, our native”. Having put to an icon of the Mother of God in the Iversky chapel, the emperor began the ten-day stay in the ancient capital filled with continuous activity. Despising danger, he visited cholera chambers in hospitals, ordered to arrange new hospitals in different parts of the city and to create shelters for the lost parents of children, made orders about a monetary relief aid and food aid to poor people, constantly appeared on streets to lift the fallen spirit of inhabitants. The encouraged Muscovites began to observe more willingly sanitary measures and to compete in donations. Meanwhile the woman who was in one palace with the Sovereign caught and died, despite the treatment which is immediately
rendered to her.Constantly the servant communicating with it also suddenly died. By words A. H. Benkendorfa, the tsar “felt sick, fever shook, and all first symptoms of an illness opened. To happiness, the strong perspiration and drugs given in time to it helped soon, and not later than the next day all our concern was passed”. Having executed the mission, the emperor went back to St. Petersburg and sustained in Tver, as well as it was necessary under the law, the established quarantine term. His resolute and courageous behavior inspired Pushkin on the poem “Hero” where it is told about courage and mercy of Napoleon as if who visited chumny hospital in Jaffa and is hinted at arrival reigning to Moscow.” What sovereign, – the poet wrote P. A. Vyazemskoma, – well done! that look that will forgive our convicts – God grant to it health”.
On supervision of contemporaries, Nicholas I, like Peter I, but after the own fashion in life was very unpretentious, preferred to manage simple foods like Russian cabbage soup and buckwheat cereal, led rather Spartan life, tried even not to change on foreign travel to the habits and to sleep in a marching way on a linen bag with straw instead of a mattress. One of foreigners exclaimed, as the poorest French grain-grower would hardly begin to sleep on such rigid bed. The tsar also died as wrote A. F. Tyutchev, in a small office on the first floor of the Winter Palace “lying across the room on very simple iron bed… The head was based upon a green leather pillow, and instead of a blanket on it the soldier’s overcoat lay. It seemed that the death overtook it among deprivations of military camp, but not in luxury of the magnificent palace. Everything that surrounded it, breathed the most strict simplicity, beginning from a situation and finishing shoes full of holes at the bottom of a bed”.
Characterizing Nicholas I, it is also necessary to notice that the love to all military, the army organization and simplicity didn’t prevent it to know foreign languages, to possess art taste, to be fond of theater, to compose music, to love church singing and quite often most to participate in it.
Noted lines of the identity of the tsar in many respects promoted the movement of the country to those purposes which it is possible to judge according to him, traced in 1850 on the report of the Minister of Foreign Affairs K. V. Nesselrode and addressed to the son: “God grant, that it managed to me to hand over you Russia such with what I sought to put it: strong, independent and dobrodayushchy – to us it is kind, – to anybody angrily”.
To the tsar attributed the following words: “I don’t want to die, without having made two cases: editions of the code of laws and According to the famous writer A. V. Nikitenko, the first
M. M. Speransky
desire was carried quite out and can serve as decoration of its reign. Really, seeking to be a consecutive legitimist, Nicholas I constantly watched activity of the codification commission of M. M. Speransky, received weekly data on the course of its works and personally looked through some manuscripts. In ministerial notes and magazines quite often it was possible to meet his autographic remarks that it is necessary “to stick to the law and never to forget this”. Addressing members of the State Council, it specially underlined that the device of justice became his main care after accession to the throne:” I still from the youth heard about shortcomings at us in this respect, about the informer, about extortion, about not existence of laws or on their mixture, full on everything, from an extraordinary set of decrees, quite often among themselves contradictory”. The emperor found the main reason of a similar state of affairs in disorder of old laws at emergence of a set of the new. Therefore to extremely short time the II office of own office of the tsar carried out under the leadership of Speransky enormous work on inventory and systematization of forty five volumes of “A complete collection of laws of the Russian Empire”, starting with “The cathedral code” 1649 till 1825. By 1833 also six volumes of the laws adopted already at Nicholas I, and also fifteen-languid “Code of laws” located by the tematiko-chronological principle were published.
Crimean war and emperor Nicholas I
The Crimean war bared internal contradictions and the latent defects which undermined the material force and political positions of the Russian state from within. Strengthening of military power, absolutely necessary for its independent existence and independent actions, at times took the inadequate forms, and establishing order and strengthening of discipline in the army environment passed a reasonable side and became end in itself. Under the certificate of one of contemporaries, after nice end of Patriotic war of 1812 “military qualities were replaced with ekzertsirmeystersky dexterity”. Even M. B. Barclay de Tolly, submitting to A. A. Arakcheev’s desires, I began to demand the beauty of the front reaching an akrobatstvo and I bent the high figure to the earth to equal socks the grenadier. Youth of the grand duke Nikolay Pavlovich was mentioned by this hobby of Alexander I, both front and vakhtparadny habits of youthful years were reflected and on his own board, as if discording with its extensive military knowledge. On shelves of an imperial office it was possible to see a set of figures from a papier-mache with the image of uniforms of various regiments. The emperor preferred to wear uniforms sponsored to him parts and didn’t love violations of a dress code. It is free or involuntarily the uniform, a mushtra, the form, the circular at times outweighed the main point at subordinates and were regarded as of paramount importance. According to Denis Davydov, “for the persons which aren’t presented with a sublime look, love to education, true understanding of business, the military craft consists only in the alluvial pedanticheskom killing any cerebration parading”. The well-known guerrilla on own impressions well imagined consequences of inspired studying of rules of a pulling of socks, an alignment of ranks, executions of an assault at arms etc., than “all our front generals and officers recognizing the charter as the infallibility top which is for them a source of the highest poetic pleasures sport”. The successor the suvorovskikh of traditions complains that ranks of army are gradually filled with rough martinets:” Sadly to think that the government which isn’t understanding true requirements of an eyelid aspires to it, both what cares and huge appliances are devoted to them on disastrous development of system which if lasts for a long time, will deprive Russia useful and capable servants. God forbid to learn to us by experience, what not guarantee of any success consists in one mechanical formalistika. This terrible evil doesn’t concede, of course, on the consequences to the Tatar yoke! To me already grown old in old, but incomparably lighter concepts, it won’t be possible to see Renaissance of Russia. A grief to it if by then when activity of clever and expert people is most necessary for it, our government is surrounded only with crowd of incapable and persistent people in the ignorance. Effort of these persons not to allow to it fair requirements of an eyelid can cast the state in a row of terrible affairs”.
Nicholas I deeply felt and understood need of zhivonosny development of fruitful features of the Russian history and the culture which wasn’t keeping within the western model and capable to protect the country from negative consequences especially the sekulyarnykh and revolutionary tendencies. He as if agreed with Pushkin that, unlike Europe, Russia demands “other thought, other formula”, and made a huge contribution to development of her consciousness and power. K. N. Leontyev’s conclusion is partly right that “our Russia at it reached that cultural and state top after which live state creation terminates and on which it is necessary to stop whenever possible, and for a long time, without being afraid even of some stagnation”. However the second part of the introduced idea is disproved by practice and completion of the Nikolaev reign. Stagnation can’t last long, represents a dangerous illness for the reached tops, opens a wide way for the designated above and many other self-destructive tendencies. The general infection of self-interest, continuously connected with “the infernal principles of revolution”, which the tsar tried to expel through a door, got in through the window which is well seen by it.