The lessons of the empire

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The screening of the political and philosophical series “The Fall of the Empire. The Russian Lesson “authored by Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov gives us an excellent opportunity as a society to stop for a minute. Think about the fate of historical Russia. On the role of objective and subjective circumstances of the death of the Russian Empire in February 1917. And the role of these subjective factors, as Vladyka Tikhon showed on a huge amount of factual material, was decisive in the events of February-March 1917. For many years, Soviet historiography created, in fact, a “black myth” about pre-revolutionary Russia, creating the appearance of some particularly difficult and sometimes even catastrophic situation in the economy, agriculture, military affairs, in the field of health care and education.

Metropolitan Tikhon, having done a lot of work with sources and statistical data, first of all debunks this first, most persistent myth about the alleged “backwardness” of Russia before the First World War. So, during the reign of Nicholas II, the state budget of the country grew by almost 5.5 times, the gold reserve increased by 3.7 times. Before the revolution, Russia produced 9.4% of world GDP (for comparison, according to data for 2020, it is approximately 1.7-1.9% of world GDP) and was ranked 4-5 by this indicator among all global powers. Russia steadily increased agricultural production – during the reign of the last emperor, grain harvest increased by one and a half times, Russia occupied the 1st place in the world in terms of the number of cattle.

At the same time, the Bolshevik (actually inherited from the Social Revolutionaries) postulate about the “landlessness” of the peasants is not confirmed – by 1916 in the European part of Russia the share of arable land in the hands of the peasants themselves was 90%, and in the Asian part of the empire this figure did reached 100%. At the same time, the standard of living of ordinary people grew steadily. Thus, the most striking indicator of the success of Nicholas II’s national conservation policy was the huge growth in the country’s population – during the years of his reign, the country’s population grew by a third, from 125 million people to 170 million people. Compulsory insurance for workers was in effect from 1912, trade unions operated from 1906, the cost of medical care in the country from 1901 to 1913 increased 3.3 times, and from 1898 universal free medical care was introduced in Russia. Eloquent evidence of these successes can be found in the memoirs of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who noted that as the secretary of the Moscow city party committee in the 1930s, he lived financially worse than young workers in Donbass before the revolution and World War I.

It is not surprising that at the end of the 19th century, our great scientist and naturalist Dmitry Mendeleev predicted that, while maintaining stability and current trends at that time, the population of Russia should have amounted to about 600 million people by 2000. You can endlessly enumerate the achievements of Nikolayev’s Russia – suffice it to say that even in Soviet times, for a very long time, actually up to the 1980s, the last pre-war year 1913 was the starting point, a measure of comparison and an unspoken benchmark for economic planners. It should be noted that according to some indicators, the Soviet Union was never able to surpass it.

So what then became the reason for the collapse of the monarchy and of historical Russia in general in February 1917? Vladyka Tikhon gives a clear and unequivocal answer to this question – this is, first of all, a betrayal of the national elites. We now, especially all sorts of leftists, like to speculate about the “cowardly” or “weak-willed” Emperor Nicholas II. Forgetting that he received on the fateful day on the eve of the abdication of a telegram from all front commanders about the need to renounce. In his own circle, a conspiracy had been ripening for a long time, which was formally supported by a group of State Duma deputies. And all this against the backdrop of the most difficult world war, which by that time was more and more clearly leaning towards the victory of the Entente powers. As a result of the victory, Russia would receive huge acquisitions – under the Sykes-Pico Treaty, vast territories in eastern Anatolia, with Kars, Erzrum and part of the Kurdish lands, would retreat to the empire. But the main thing is that Russia would withdraw the Black Sea straits with Constantinople. Naturally, soon these plans and promises of a post-war redistribution of borders began to hamper the Anglo-French allies. The British and French ambassadors played a fatal role in consolidating the Duma’s opposition to the tsar; they actually prepared and promised support to the conspirators. First of all, Guchkov and Milyukov. The Duma liberals, all these Cadets, Octobrists and representatives of the highest generals and nobility who joined them thought that by overthrowing the emperor they would gain the kingdom of freedom and justice. And as a result, they found a civil war, repression, famine, millions of victims, a ruined economy and an almost lost century.

However, the betrayal of some of the elites in itself could not have had such catastrophic consequences for the country if it were not for the disease of the “revolutionary fashion” that afflicted the Russian “enlightened” society during the reign of Nicholas II. Vladyka Tikhon on a large number of recollections shows that at some point all sorts of rumors, gossip, crazy conspiracy theories about a “direct wire” from Tsarskoye Selo to the headquarters of Wilhelm, then about the adventures of Rasputin, literally overwhelmed the then “handshake” party. At some point, the support of the monarchy and the imperial family became a “black mark” – friends stopped communicating with such people, they themselves were ostracized.

It was this explosive mixture – the betrayal of the elites with the connivance and instigation of the British and the moral decay of the “enlightened” society that formed the explosive cocktail that overthrew the Russian Empire. And the observation of how historical Russia in February 1917 “faded in 2-3 days” gives us, who are now living, abundant food for analysis and conclusions.

First, Vladyka Tikhon quite rightly notes that the guarantee of political salvation (that is, soteriology, in the Church’s expression) of Russia lies in preventing the indulgence of the spread of anti-state sentiments in broad strata of the population. These moods, as the experience of the beginning of the century has shown, do not in any way correlate with the real way of life. You can live well, the country can be on the rise – but with the connivance of all sorts of populist and irresponsible demagogues and provocateurs, you can literally get an embittered and mentally not quite healthy mass of young “revolutionaries” ready in just a few years political opponents from among the “former”. And I am afraid that Russia as a state and civilization may simply not survive the second such massacre. It is also important not to make mistakes of the tsarist government and the security apparatus, which, perhaps, did not pat on the head all these extremist elements from among the Social Revolutionary terrorists, Bolsheviks and other “socialist parties”. At the beginning of the century, an entire underground “parallel state” operated in the country at the beginning of the century, sometimes with complete impunity; such liberty reigned in the settlements and prisons of “bloody gendarmes” that the memoirs of revolutionaries are filled with stories about dozens of unpunished escapes from exile.

The second important lesson for all of us should be to prevent the penetration of extremist ideas into educational institutions, the army, law enforcement agencies and the state apparatus. It was this in many ways that became a fertile ground for the growth of destructive sentiments in the Russian Empire. If we want political salvation for our country, in no case should the problem of educating young people be overlooked. The distributed student body became a recruiting point and an advanced battering ram for crushing Russia in the pre-revolutionary years – there is a danger that even now foreign “partners” and their counter-agents inside Russia will try to use the same patterns to sway and destabilize. Countries.

The main lesson for us should be the realization of how fragile our comfortable present really is. How easy it is to plunge into the bloodbath of the “struggle for justice” under the demagogic slogans of political swindlers and lose not only the country, but often also life and one’s own national honor.

Author – political scientist, journalist

The editorial position may not coincide with the opinion of the author