Whittaker- The Dual Autocratic Identity

Whittaker’s thesis and stance on the reforming of Russia encompasses┬áthe two mentalities of Russia: the conservative history under autocracies and the desire for progress. She mentions that because Russians had only ever truly been governed under a strong, authoritarian leadership that there was an expectation of that way of societal structure (as nothing else had ever been implemented) where the state always came before the individual. However, she importantly notes the contrast that was brought about by reforming tsars. Once reforms were initiated into society, people began to demand more and more of their government and continuously wanted more and more reforms for a better way of life (as seen, and referenced in this article, to Mikhail Gorbachev with glasnost and perestroika). Thus, as western ideas flooded into Russia, the Russians constantly asked for more- but still under the mixed ideology of being under an authoritarian government. This left the tsars in a place where they had to continue to modernize Russia culturally yet maintain much of the control that had been taught to them as the way to govern Russian society.

One thought on “Whittaker- The Dual Autocratic Identity

  1. I wonder how reforms impacted the peasants’ view of government and their preference between a “good” ruler versus a reforming ruler. The peasants upheld the idea of a good tsar who sympathized with them and defended them from oppressors. Would it be fair to say that as long as they felt that their government cared for their well-being then the peasants would, for the most part, be satisfied? How many of these reforms impacted the peasants’ day-to-day life? Did the peasants care about modernization and westernization? I would argue that the peasants’ support of Peter the Great originated from folklore and legends of him working to solve the peoples’ problems, such as punishing a foreman who mistreated his workers, and did not lie as much in his actual reforms and laws. Peter’s policies increased enserfment and yet the peasants still uphold him as a model of good government when petitioning Anna’s rule. How can this be explained?

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