The Military and Society in Russia: 1450-1917

By Eric Lohr; Marshall Poe | Go to book overview

“TO BUILD A GREAT RUSSIA”: CIVIL-MILITARY
RELATIONS IN THE THIRD DUMA, 1907–12
David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye

Ia ne gorshchu o tom, chto otkazali bogi, Mne v sladkoi uchasti osparivat' nalogi.

—Pushkin

Western scholars have traditionally seen the history of Russia's ancien régime as a conflict between the autocracy and society.1 According to this manichean schema, tsar and subject coexisted in perennial tension, each regarding the other with either fear or contempt. This was particularly true for the final century of Romanov rule: As society acquired political consciousness and began to demand a role in government, the autocracy jealously maintained a firm grasp on the affairs of state. The result was the development of the intelligentsia, a radicalized estate whose whole raison d'être was to struggle for the downfall of the monarchy. Thus, from the era of the Decembrists in 1825 to the February Revolution some ninety years later, Russia's ruler and ruled were considered polar opposites, occupying no common ground whatsoever. According to the German academic Caspar Ferenczi: “Scholars have either studied political institutions on the one hand or society and the economy on the other. The result is that almost no one looks at the links between them.”2

Yet in the decades that preceded the Romanovs' demise in 1917, the boundaries between the state and its subjects began to blur. In addition to the intelligentsia, other elements of educated society also began to make their presence felt in the political arena. Often much less confrontational in their attitudes, and with more modest aims,

____________________
1
This essay is dedicated to the memory of Arthur Mendel. I am grateful for the comments and advice of Paul Bushkovitch, Firuz Kazemzadeh, Alexandra Korros, Dominic Lieven, Bruce Menning, John Steinberg, Mark Steinberg, and my editors in preparing this paper. Dates are according to the Julian calendar. Money is denominated in rubles. During the early 1900's, a ruble was worth approximately half a U.S. dollar.
2
Caspar Ferenczi, Auβenpolitik und Öffentlichkeit in Ruβland 1906–1912 (Hussum: Matthiesen Verlag, 1982), 15.

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