A spirited defense of the most hated form of government in the West. What is your opinion on the matter?
“The Rule of many is not good. Let there be one ruler,
—Iliad, book II, 203-204
It is possible that there is a further level of national unity, an avenue to which is opened by Holy Orthodoxy.
As Konstantin Malofeev, founder of Tsargrad TV and Chairman of the St Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, noted in a recent interview “Today, 5% of the population go to church on Sunday. When this will be 30% or even 50% then the question of monarchy will appear on its own.”
It is only natural to suppose, all things being equal, that people won’t learn less and so know no better—we can confidently grant that attendance at the Divine Services will rise. The day will come when the question will be asked.
Monarchy is not just one political system among others according to the mind of the Church. It is the natural and supernatural order of things. As St. John of Kronstadt put it:
Hell is a democracy, Heaven is a Kingdom. Демократия – в аду, а на Небе – Царство.
Monarchy is the only form of governance elaborated in the Sacred Scriptures. The Church until a century ago knew no other. Beginning with the conversion of St. Constantine down through the Byzantine Empire; up until the conversion of Grand Prince St. Vladimir; and finally ending in the Russian Empire of the Romanov Dynasty.
What does it consist of?
Orthodox monarchism is that form of of sole rule by a sovereign, anointed of God by Holy Church, who vows to serve his subjects; provide for their good; act in the nation’s interests; defend them and to protect the Church; uphold the purity of the Orthodox Faith; and ensure the security and quality of life of all his people irrespective of religion or confession.
His subjects in their turn vow loyalty to their sovereign.
Sovereign and subject are equally accountable before the Law of God as preserved and interpreted by the Ecumenical Councils and holy fathers.
All are also accountable before the code of law of the country, where applicable.
Even with his infinite imagination, Gogol could not have pictured to himself a Russia without a Tsar.
In Diary of a Madman, it is news of the vacancy of the Spanish throne that shatters the already cracked sanity of Aksenty Ivanovich.
…There are strange things afoot in Spain…They write that the throne is empty and the grandees are in difficulties about electing an heir, which is leading to widespread perturbation. This strikes me as extremely strange. How can a throne be empty? They say some dona is supposed to accede to the throne. No dona can accede to a throne. It’s quite impossible. There can only be a king on a throne. So, they say there’s no king. No State can exist without a king. There is a king, but no one knows who he is. . .
Such difficulty leads to this declaration:
43rd day of April in the year 2000
Today we celebrate a most illustrious event! Spain has a king. He has been found. I am this king.
It was not on account of lack of vision that Gogol couldn’t envisage Russia without a Tsar. He was aware of the alternative. The idea of the Enlightenment was known to him. One of the most interesting letters in his published correspondence is entirely concerning the theme of Enlightenment. He lived after the idea had been misappropriated and misapplied (with violence) in France and (by civil war) in the United States of America. He knew what liberal democracy and democratic republicanism were.
Gogol did not see the Enlightenment as against Holy Orthodoxy, monarchy or in any sense negative. He actually refers glowingly to the overall measures of Peter the Great and locates the failure of the Russian Empire to attain to its full potential in the people—himself not spared.
Whoever at the sight of these uninhabited, empty spaces unrelieved by village or home does not feel depressed, whoever in the doleful sounds of our songs does not hear painful rebukes to himself—indeed, to himself—either has fulfilled his duty as he should, or is not a Russian in his soul. Almost 150 years have elapsed since our sovereign Peter I cleared our eyes by the purgatory of European enlightenment; he put in our hands all the means and instruments of action…
Gogol does find some fault after all, however. But in the best possible way. It is the ugliest kind of intellectual laziness to criticize, bite, rip apart, tear down and offer no alternatives. Conversely it is the best kind of thoughtful engagement to offer new ideas and perspectives, create new possibilities—to build, not break, make bridges and not burn them.
Gogol Crossing the Dnepr, by Anton Ivanov.
Gogol’s insight was that the French preoccupation with Western schismatic and sectarian Christianity should not be carried over to the Russian Empire. Even Peter and Catherine (the Greats) seem to have instinctively sensed this, although they still, sadly, caught the contagious contempt for monasticism from contact with Western controversialists.
Gogol realised that the Church is the vehicle of authentic Enlightenment, not an impediment (Peter and Catherine) or its enemy (Voltaire).
The full and total view of life remained in the Eastern Church, manifestly kept in reserve for the later and more complete education of man. She has room not only for the soul and heart of man, but also for his reason, in all its supreme powers; in her is the way and the road by which everything in man will turn into a harmonious hymn to the Supreme Being…
. . .To enlighten’ does not mean to teach, or to edify, or to educate, or even to illuminate, but to illuminate a man through and through in all his faculties and not in his intelligence alone, to take all his nature through a purifying fire. This word is borrowed from our Church, which has pronounced it for almost a thousand years, in spite of all the darkness and ignorant gloom surrounding it on every side, and it knows why it pronounces it. It is not for nothing that the bishop, in the celebration of the service, raising with one hand the three-branched candelabrum, which signifies the Holy Trinity, and with the other the two-branched candelabrum, which signifies the descent to earth of the Word in its double nature, Divine and human, by them clarifies everything, pronouncing, ‘May the Light of Christ enlighten all!’ It is not for nothing either that at another moment of the service there loudly thunders forth, as though from Heaven, the words: ‘Lord of enlightenment!’ and nothing more is added.
The original architects of the ideal and its exponents during the French Enlightenment, despite their anti-clericalism, were themselves monarchists—Voltaire included. These thinkers found themselves more welcome in Petersburg than in Paris. Several, again among them Voltaire, kept up a sustained correspondence with Catherine the Great confiding great hopes in Russia.
True Enlightenment ideals initially comprised,
- Rule of kings
- Religious toleration (not official State irreligiousness)
- Elegant taste in art and literature
That Orthodox monarchism meets the criteria of rule of kings better than liberal democracy, is in need of no arguing by me.
As for religious toleration—an irreligious State is not tolerance of religion. It is, rather, the highest form of intolerance as it gives no place and grants no participation in government to the religion of the majority—while this system of governance is yet claimed to be representative of the people.
A priori blanket exclusion is blatant intolerance of all religion whatsoever in the most vital aspect of the life and workings of a nation: government. It is not religious toleration when the only mention religion warrants in a Constitution or code of law is a notice that it has no place in State affairs.
In contrast, Orthodox monarchism makes the religion of the people the defining factor of State in the same way that it defines the majority of citizens as individuals. And while the Empire is Orthodox and the Tsar and Royal Family must be by definition, freedom of religion is granted to heterodox minorities and even encouraged in phrases that sharply resemble the first ever Orthodox Emperor’s Milan Edict of Toleration of 313.
We read in Chapter VII , 67, of the Russian Imperial Fundamental Laws of 1906:
Freedom of religion is granted not only to Christians of foreign sects, but also to Jews, Muslims and heathens; so that all peoples residing in Russia may glorify Almighty God in various tongues according to laws and confessions of their ancestors, blessing the reign of Russian Monarchs and beseeching the Creator of the universe to increase the nation’s well-being and to strengthen the might of the Empire.
As for elegant taste in art and literature. It seems to me, a confirmed classicist, that it is as obvious that taste and literature disappeared together with Royalty from the modern world as that monarchism better fulfils the condition of rule of kings than liberal democracy. The best proof—no one cares.
No one would today feel any desire to claim to have taste, leave aside elegant taste, in art and literature. Most would in fact prize above all their very claim not to. Elegance and taste are so dated! The mind boggles, the eyes roll, the chest heaves, the heart sighs. Sad but so.
On the other side of the coin, Holy Orthodoxy is the Mother of what we call elegance and taste and art and literature. Our temples and towering cathedrals, golden domes and glinting Crosses, our lamp-lit Icons, our great composers and incomparable writers together with their themes, subject-matter and inspiration. All of this comes from Holy Orthodoxy. All of these were sponsored and supported by our Tsars.
To a modern reader a little notice about the viability of monarchism is in order.
Is not your reflexive reaction something along the lines of “Monarchism! Really?” This is the auspicious day of identity theft and nuclear armaments. We’re a bit beyond Royalty today.
Let’s consult the Encyclopédie. “Prejudice is an opinion without judgement.”
You learn something everyday, they say. Today you’ve learnt that that unreasoned reaction is a prejudice. That particular prejudice is propped up on several untrue assertions widely in circulation about monarchism.
That monarchism is inflexible, invariably produces tyrants and was nearly universally eliminated by populist opposition once societies became sufficiently self-aware.
That monarchy is inflexible? Not so. Modern monarchies proved realistic and adaptable at the beginning of the century. Almost all modern monarchies worked within legislative codes and with representative bodies, civil institutions, advisory committees, etc. Popular, inverted autocracy will emerge in the 20th century in the form of democratically elected dictators after the Crowns hit the ground.
Tsar Nicholas II in a field hospital with his men during the Great War. Painting by Pavel Ryzhenko.
As for tyranny, far more brutal and oppressive regimes and dictatorships have come into existence in the modern world under the auspices and in the name of democracy than anything monarchy ever produced in that regard in recorded history.
Finally, most monarchies fell mainly as a consequence of the World Wars and were forcibly prevented from being restored by foreign powers—most conspicuously the fiercely anti-monarchical United States of America. Woodrow Wilson’s presence at Versailles is the beginning of a long-standing American habit of interfering well beyond their legitimate sphere of national interests.
The Kaiser and the Sultan disappear after the First World War; the former was explicitly banned from being restored, while the latter’s revival was not in British or French interests.
The Eastern European monarchs all fell under the Soviet shadow in the post-war—their fate decided by two victorious anti-monarchical powers: the USSR and the USA.
Of all modern monarchies that came to an end in recent historical memory, three were the consequence of populist opposition and only one of them involved a democratic referendum (Italy, where 59% voted for a republic).
The restoration of Orthodox monarchism hardly needs my own defense. Prejudices and light-mindedness aside, it is obvious that a monarchy could successfully govern a country, defend its interests and facilitate the legal rights of its citizens just as well as liberal democracy or democratic republic.
And if it is the will of that country’s people, as it may in the course of time be in the Russian Federation, then the truly representative government would be a monarchy.
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