The 20th century against absolutism

Glebova I.I.


For more than a hundred years, science has been trying to find an exact formula of the Russian power evolution at the beginning of the 20th century. Was it a long liberalization or a necessary «small-scale» democratization, autocracy, or some other model, a dead-end variant or a historic opportunity? These discussions are not of narrow retrospective, but rather timely political and cultural importance. They spin around the main issue for the Russian polity: is there a possibility for Russia to have something other than autocracy (that type of power that is an alternative to polyarchy)? The Revolution of 1905 and subsequent events gave a provisional answer to this question. Monarchy lost its monopoly on power, monosubjective power-institutional configuration turned to the polysubjectve one. This was the end of historic autocracy, escaping the traditional (serfdom-based autocracy) social system. The renewed state political system was built on a compromise of two principles - monarchic and democratic (parliamentary). Even though this structure was formed under the great influence of the old system and was extremely conflictual and unstable, it had potential development. The constitutional compromise should have been maintained and widened, and the aggression of traditional and emerging forces and their aspirations for power monopoly had to be suppressed. The will to monopolize power and political space represented the main threat for the democratization processes, Russia’s turn towards modernity (together with Europe). After the fall of the dualistic (semi-parliamentary) model of monarchy in 1917, all possible projects of governance structure were lost. Victory belonged to a dictatorship striving for total dominance of all spheres of life, a full remake of the existing social order. Its story did not end in the 20th century, unlike that of autocracy and post-absolutism. That is why we need to analyze this very experience to understand contemporary power and social transformations.


absolutism; revolution; dualistic monarchy; restoration; parliamentarism; Duma; Council of ministers; «obnulenie» (zeroing out).

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2021.04.02

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