Russia: Tsarist and Communist

By Anatole G. Mazour | Go to book overview

11
The Reign of Anne (1730-1740)

THE SUPREME PRIVY COUNCIL

WHILE DISCUSSING the problem of succession, the Privy Council ran into serious political and personal disagreements. Two members of the Council, who represented the eminent families of the Dolgorukis and the Golitsyns, clashed over the future national orientation. Dimitri M. Golitsyn, though a highly cultured person who had received his education in the West and a man of wide administrative and diplomatic experience, was not always in agreement with the reforms of Peter I. He openly criticized Peter's policies and was particularly severe on the manner in which the case of Alexis was handled. V. L. Dolgoruki was versed in Western political philosophy, yet he clung to the indigenous way of thinking, which he never hesitated to express even at grave personal risk. Conservative though he was, he sometimes championed advanced political ideas. He was familiar with English constitutional history, the Glorious Revolution, and the constitutional changes that ensued. He watched with keen interest the constitutional reforms in Sweden in 1718-1719 and from them drew his own conclusions. Dolgoruki had come to the firm conviction that a sound government must be based on an agreement between the crown and the nobility, formulated in what is commonly known as a constitutional charter. Thus even among the old Muscovite ranks advanced constitutional views appeared, as was demonstrated by the Supreme Privy Council in the dissensions that preceded the succession of Anne in 1730.


THE CONDITIONS ('KONDITSII')

Basically, the Council members, regardless of their differences, had a single common aim--a royal guarantee for their inviolable rights and interests. All of them remembered only too well Peter the autocrat, and all meant to see unbridled autocracy curbed. All sought guarantees of political pre-eminence by exacting from the sovereign the pledge that he would regard the rights and privileges of the nobility as inviolable. This, they believed, drawing on experience elsewhere, could be ensured only by a constitutional charter. For this reason on the very day Peter II died the Privy Council took the initiative in summoning members of the Sen-

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