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Nicholas I (reigned 1825-1855) made Official Nationality the main doctrine of his reign
Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality (Правосла́вие, самодержа́вие, наро́дность, "Pravoslavie, Samoderzhavie, Narodnost"), also known as Official Nationality was the dominant ideological doctrine of Russianmarker emperor Nicholas I. It was "the Russian version of a general European ideology of restoration and reaction" that followed the Napoleonic Wars.

"The Triad" of Official Nationality was originally proposed by Minister of Education Sergey Uvarov in his April 2, 1833 circular letter to subordinate educators. It was soon embraced by Nicholas and his establishment and gained wide public recognition, vocally supported by intellectuals like Mikhail Pogodin,, Fyodor Tyutchev and Nikolay Gogol.

Critics of the policy saw this principle as a call for Russification. Yet the very fact of its existence, being Russia's first statewide political ideology since the sixteenth century, indicated the nation's brewing transition to modernity.

Quest for ideology

Nicholas I emerged as the emperor in the wake of Decembrist revolt; subsequent investigation proved that disloyalty was deeply rooted within the noble estate – the sole foundation of House of Romanov. His father and grandfather were killed by their own guards and statesmen in palace coups. Keen to eradicate the rebels and ensure his own physical security, Nicholas carefully studied proceedings of the Decembrists investigation and was aware of defects in his predecessor's government that fueled the mutiny. "In one sense, the reign of Nicholas I was a protracted epilogue to the Decembrist rising."

Nicholas, acting in line with his absolutist predecessors of the Age of Enlightenment, developed a state education system and completed codification of the law. He installed a highly regulated but ultimately inefficient government system of "anxious centralization", himself being the chief arbiter between rivalling statesmen. But he also attributed the nobles' disloyalty to a Europe-wide conspiracy aimed at destroying ruling monarchies, religion and morale. Russia, according to his point of view, succeeded in Napoleonic Wars while more advanced regimes failed, and saved Europe from plunging into decay and atheism.

Forging the triad

Sergey Uvarov in 1830s
Sergey Uvarov, Minister of Education and President of the Russian Academy of Sciencesmarker since 1818, was also a writer, a scholar and at times was considered "freethinker". Yet, with a change in domestic politics, he easily adjusted to a tightened regime. In 1833 Uvarov forged the emperor's program into a brief statement of ideology:
It is our common obligation to ensure that the education of the people be conducted, according to Supreme intention of our August Monarch, in the joint spirit of Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality. I am convinced that every professor and teacher, being permeated by one and the same feeling of devotion to the throne and fatherland, will use all his resources to become a worthy tool for the government and to earn its complete confidence.

Uvarov's triad was the first explicit statement of government ideology in Russian history since the sixteenth century. He repeated the triad and elaborated on the topic throughout the sixteen years of his ministry and was eventually awarded the title of a Count. "Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality" became the Uvarov family motto, decreed by Nicholas. Yet he also did much as a true educator, raising educational standards, establishing new colleges, increasing the number of scholarships for overseas training. Under Uvarov, "Russian educational system, with all its fundamental flaws, came to emphasize academic thoroughness and high standards" although it also became more exclusive at all levels.


Three components of Uvarov's triad were:
  • Orthodoxy - Orthodox Christianity and protection of Russian Orthodox Church.
  • Autocracy - unconditional loyalty to House of Romanov in return for paternalist protection for all social estates.
  • Nationality - Narodnost has been also translated as nationality, national spirit, or populism.. Before its adoption by Nicholas I, narodnost was a central tenet of Russian Romantic writers, the Russian expression of a principle more often called Romantic nationalism. The word represents exact translation of term Volkstum and describes the same ideas. Narodnost means recognition of the state-founding role on the Russian nationality and equal citizen rights for all other peoples inhabiting Russia, with exclusion of Jews because of their "imminent hate towards Russian people and anti-human nature".

The sequence of three parts of the triad remained fixed in all circumstances even when the words themselves changed: military cadets were instructed to be "Christians, loyal subjects and Russians", the common public motto called "For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland".

The triad was inherently unbalanced in favor of centralized autocracy. The Russian Orthodox Church was impoverished and incapable of being an independent political force. The Government remained wary of any philosophy, including theology. Nationality through empowerment of the people was not a choice from the start and became even less probable after the dreaded nationalist Revolutions of 1848 "reduced Nicholas to a state of almost catatonic fear". It also ran against the ever-increasing role of Baltic Germans in the government system; even converted to Orthodoxy, they retained their distinct ethnicity.

Public reception

The press, censored by the state, eagerly embraced the new doctrine and was dominated by it until the end of Nicholas's reign. Stepan Shevyrev, editor of Moskvityanin magazine, asserted that "even if we did pick certain unavoidable blemishes from the West, we have on the other hand preserved in ourselves, in their purity, three fundamental feelings which contain the seed and guarantee of our future development."

Slavophiles, in particular, accepted the anti-European, anti-absolutist, paternalistic side of the doctrine. Mikhail Pogodin explained the paternalistic, peaceful nature of autocracy as seen by Slavophiles: "the secret of Russian history, the secret which not a single Western sage is able to comprehend: Russian history always depicts Russia as a single family in which the ruler is the father and the subjects are children. The father retains full authority over children while he allows them to have full freedom ... there can be no suspicion, no treason; their fate, their happiness, their peace they share in common. This is true in relation to the state as a whole..."

Nikolai Nadezhdin, who initially entertained the westernized, Schellingian notion of nationality, radically changed his mind in favor of Official Nationality in the wake of the Chaadaev affair (1837), writing that "nationality had always consisted of love of the Tsar and obedience, and which in the future should display in itself, to Europe's dismay, a brilliant lesson of how from the holy unity of autocracy, must arise an exemplary and splendid national enlightenment...".

Nikolay Gogol in his final work Selected Passages from Correspondence with his Friends (1847) extended Official Nationality to relationships between landlords and serfs: "Make them see clearly that in everything that concerns them you are acting in accordance with the will of God and not in accordance with some European or other fancies on your own."

See also

References and notes

  1. Riasanovsky, p. 132
  2. Nationality in this context starts with a capital letter to dirrerentiate it from nationality/narodnost as one of its three parts
  3. Riasanovsky, p.133
  4. Date as in Riasanovsky, p. 132
  5. Hosking, p. 146
  6. Riasanovsky, pp. 138-139
  7. Riasanovsky, p. 135
  8. Hoffmann, Kotsonis, p. 54
  9. Hosking, p. 145
  10. Hosking, p.144
  11. Hosking, pp.144-145,148
  12. Hosking, p. 146
  13. Riasanovsky, p. 132
  14. Riasanovsky, p. 133
  15. Riasanovsky, p. 146
  16. O. I. Senkovskii and Romantic Empire
  17. Program of Union of Russian people
  18. Riasanovsky, p. 135
  19. Hosking, p. 147
  20. Hosking, p. 149
  21. Hosking, p. 149
  22. Riasanovsky, p. 135
  23. Riasanovsky, p. 134
  24. Riasanovsky, pp. 138-139
  25. Hoffmann, Kotsonis, p. 55
  26. Riasanovsky, p. 136


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