Russian Conservatism Until 1914

--- Bertil Häggman recenserar
"Russian Conservatism and Its Critics
– A Study of Political Culture" (2005)
av Richard Pipes ---

Richard Pipes, Baird Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University, is one of the true heroes of the Cold War. In 1982-83 he contributed significantly to three of the most important NPDDs of the Reagan administration, in which documents the policy of liberation of the subjugated nations in the Soviet Union were formulated.
      His continuing impressive research is regularly presented mainly by Yale University Press. In the West there has long been a need for a basic book on Russian conservatism. In December 2005 such a study was published (Richard Pipes, Russian Conservatism and Its Critics – A Study of Political Culture, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005, 216 pages).

Alexander I and Nicholas Karamzin
Karamzin, a leading Russian historian (1766 – 1826) was worried about the early liberal lanings of Czar Alexander I. The historian was persuaded to write a ”Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia”. In March 1811 he met the emperor in Tver and engaged him in a political discussion. At that time Alexander I was handed the Memoir. It consisted of three parts. A capsule history of Russia from the beginning to 1801, a critique of the reign of Alexander I, and finally a set of recommendations for autocracy of Russia. Karamzin praised Catherine II for having displayed tolerance and thus ”cleansed autocracy of the stains of tyranny”.
      Professor Pipes has published the Memoirs in English translation with comments. For long the document remained classified. It seems to this reviewer that it is some kind of basic statement on Russian conservatism.

Nicholas Danilevsky and Oswald Spengler
Another important conservative Russian thinker is treated at some length by Pipes. Nicholas Danilevsky’s (1822 – 1855) Russia and Europe (1871) is said to have greatly influenced the German macro-historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler.

The Final Years Before the First World War
In an important chapter of the new book (Liberalism’s Short-Lived Triumph) the rise and fall of Peter A. Stolypin (1862 – 1911) is presented, the last prominent conservative of Imperial Russia, conservative liberal, that is.
      The body of Russian conservative thought in the Empire of the Czars held forward the centrality of autocracy. It was, so comments the author, too large an empire and its population too unenlightened and disparate to exist under any other rule.
      The new book by Richard Pipes is a must for libraries, not least in Sweden, which by fate of geography is a neighbor of Russia. The Russo-Swedish wars from the fourteenth century to the final catastrophic Great Northern War (1700 – 1721), which started with a Swedish military victory at Narva, was educational both for Sweden and Russia. Constitutional monarchy and enlightened western ideas can be said to have been introduced at the same time in these two autocracies (around 1720) although Russia soon returned to autocratic rule. Sweden continued to become a small democratic European nation, although the almost continuing rule of social democrats since 1932 reveals a weakness of Swedes for state influence (the so called People’s Home) in which the state controls many functions such as for instance medical service.

Bertil Häggman
Mr. Bertil Häggman, Sweden, is born in 1940 and has written 150+ books and articles in various languages.