Alexander I and the Invisible Napoleon (1801-1825)

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Alexander I and the Invisible Napoleon (1801-1825)
Chapter 10 of The Third Rome: Holy Russia, Tsarism and Orthodoxy
Matthew Raphael Johnson
 
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Nicholas Riasanovsky has uttered this absurd statement about Alexander I: "The Russians rejoiced at the accession of Alexander I. In place of an exacting and unpredictable tyrant, Paul, they obtained a young ruler of supreme charm and apparently enormous promise. Alexander I seemed to represent the best of the Enlightenment — the humaneness, progressiveness, affirmation of human dignity, and freedom, which educated Russians, in one way or another, fervently desired" (302) . Such a statement is typical of the arrogant and dogmatic nature of "Russian historiography" in America. This statement, in a nutshell, summarizes the Anglo-American establishment's position on the Russian nation at the dawn of the nineteenth century, or, in reality, the dawn of any century.

Notice a few things about this gaggle of false assumptions, cliché sentiments and dogmatized invective. Firstly, it assumes Paul to have been a tyrant. Nothing could be further from the truth (see the end of chapter 9). By "Russians," in the first sentence he means those surrounding Paul at court who were loyal to Catherine; Paul remained popular outside of these circles. It is not an uncommon sleight of hand for "Russia scholars" to use the word "Russians," or "the people" in an ambiguous way to mask their agenda. "People" could mean many things in early nineteenth century Russia: it could mean the entire population (unlikely), it could mean Paul's court circle; it could mean educated Russians; it could mean the nobility; it could mean the upper section of the nobility. It most certainly does not mean the Church, the Kozaks, or the military. During the French Revolution, one, no doubt, of the humane events of the Enlightenment, "people" (in the sense of the word used by revolutionists) most definitely were not Roman Catholics or supporters of the monarchy; such people, of course, in iron-clad Enlightenment logic, could be disposed of at will. Because the "Enlightenment" reduced "people" to a bundle of animal desires and impulses primarily, the ruling elites anywhere could define "people" any way they pleased. There were no more spiritual essences of the Aristotelian type, and therefore humanity was merely automated flesh designed to serve the "progressive" goals of the new centralized state, something quite new, unfortunately, on the continent.

Risanovsky's use of the term "educated" is sloppy, for, in his definition, as well as Billington's and many others, this is a tautology. "Education" for them is synonymous with being a westernizer, being a partisan of the Enlightenment and its victory during the terror. (Note that Alexander I referred to his oligarchy that was to "reform" Russia as the "Committee of Public Safety"). This author does not believe that by "educated Russians," Professor Risanovsky is referring to Philaret of Moscow or St. Paisius Velichkovsky.

What is ironic about Risanovsky — not to mention the overwhelming majority of his academic colleagues — is the dogmatic and hackneyed way he describes the "values" of the Enlightenment. It was not humane. It saw the development of a monstrous centralized state that was capable and willing to slaughter millions of its citizens, which it did and continues to do. Royal Europe knew nothing of this. The Enlightenment had nothing to do with freedom, the state was often in the hands of vapid oligarchs while, in western Europe, thousands of peasants were thrown off the land to find work in the increasingly squalid cities. Warfare became increasingly bloody as science put its brain, rather than its mind, at the behest of the state (which had originally financed the "scientific revolution" in the first place). Napoleon was soon to introduce the shards of Christian civilization to total warfare and mass armies that would have horrified Michael or Alexis in the East, Louis IX or Charles in the West. The agricultural classes and monasteries were pillaged by the state to finance this demonic behemoth that sent the cream of European manhood to their death from the Napoleonic Wars to World War II, all based on the "humane" scientific advances of the "Enlightenment," and, no doubt, their commitment to "freedom and progress."

The notion of the Enlightenment "affirming human dignity" is additionally absurd and intellectually dishonest. Enlightenment metaphysics, whether it be Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau or Voltaire, removed any specific essence to the human person. Humanity was, at root, a bundle of atoms that created certain states of affairs, depending on their speed or physical arrangement, within the human lifespan. Humanity could be understood, as Hobbes was to intone, by understanding the nature of the desires and impulses these atoms were to create in the human brain (there was no longer any "mind"). Reason, then, became little more than the structure of atomic clashes and attraction. Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism had a far greater understanding of the human person then the Enlightenment tyrants, as man was far more than a set of desires to be controlled by the state and the corporation, but was a free and thinking being who could come to the knowledge of the structure of reality itself, rather than remaining the slave of physical cause and effect. Lord and peasant stood in Church radically as equals, they went to confession together and bared their sins equally to the same priest. Within the Enlightenment oligarchy, there was to be no more Church, and the over lordship of money over all was made complete.

Medieval man lived in a radically decentralized universe, where the state was a distant irritant. His life revolved around the popular guild and commune, all to be destroyed by the "progress" of the capitalist oligarchy. For the Enlightenment idea of progress, local custom, local control, and the agricultural life had to be sacrificed for massive wars, colonialism, the reintroduction of slavery and the increasing centralization of power and extortions from the common people that financed and enabled these things. For the Enlightenment, in spite of the protestations of Kant (who rejected a good chunk of early Enlightenment thinking), men were human resources, hunks of matter that could be disposed of for the good of the state and for "progress." Orthodox Russia knew nothing of this. And if this be from their lack of "education," then we thank God for it.

Again, Professor Risanovsky (1993) writes: "Russian backwardness and ignorance became strikingly apparent to the monarch and his Unofficial Committee as they examined the condition of the country." Such statements, again, appear ad nauseam in the English language literature. However, the good academic informs us concerning the Unofficial Committee: "The members of the committee, Nicholas Novosiltsev, Count Paul Stroganov, Count Victor Kochubey, and Polish patriot prince Adam Czartoryski, reflected the enlightened opinion of the period, ranging from Anglophilism to Jacobin connections" (303).

This latter vague reference is telling, as many of these men were planning a Jacobin terror of their own, with their financial interests as the inevitable victor. Stroganov, likely the wealthiest man in Russia, attended Jacobin meetings in France before the revolution. Conveniently, the deliberations of the Unofficial Committee (sometimes called the "Secret Committee") were not recorded. Of course, this group, representing the wealthiest, most powerful and most liberal opinion in Russia (which Risanovsky calls "Enlightened"), could not possibly look at the "condition" of Russia in any other fashion than as "backward."

A "charter of rights" was nearly passed through the monarch's hands, only to be interrupted by the first war with Napoleon in 1805 (of course, he was not to invade Russia until 1812). The concept of "abstract rights" and the interests of the rising westernized oligarchy need to be conceptually dissected. The notion of a "rights charter" was in the interests of the westernizing school, the super rich Jacobin bourgeois that surrounded Alexander. A constitution was not in the interests of the peasantry or the tiny working class.

Russia, as this book has attempted to explain, was a typical medieval society in many significant ways. There were no such things as "abstract rights," as no such metaphysical fiction exists. Right and duty were things that adhered to — not an abstract conceptual apparatus — but to a certain estate and a certain class for the enjoyment of certain rewards and for the requirement of specific exactions and responsibilities. The idea of "rights" hanging in conceptual thin air was a product of "Enlightened" western thinking, as it was in the interests of the rising "capitalist" class throughout Europe to claim that their usury and abuse of the formerly free peasant/worker was the result of a "God-given universal right." Of course, contract law and "private property" needed to be put on a firmer foundation than as a residual of communal and local tradition, and therefore, "natural rights" theory (in the modern sense) was born.

A recent book, AJ. Conyers' The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit, has detailed what the average academic political theorist has refused to countenance: that "liberal rights theory" was a concoction of the rising oligarchy to justify their totalitarian (in the literal, not rhetorical, sense) style of rule. His thesis is profound, and, because of this, ignored. Traditional, that is, medieval, society was a loose grouping of more or less autonomous social groups. The section on the peasantry in this present work has shown this arrangement (in part) for Russia. For a rising capitalist class which seeks the standardization of social relations to ensure a smooth financial universe in which to work, such organizations are, at best, an irritant. "Universal" rights are dictated as holy writ, and the "backwardness" of rural life is stressed. Conyers writes concerning John Locke's central role in this:
It emerges in the light of Locke's weak analysis of society: his failure to take account of the full range of realities that make up the concrete existence of any society of any size. It is a failure that was especially tempting in a time of the rise of the nation-states and the bourgeois desire to relate to that entry as individual stock holders in a joint stock company, without the complications brought on by other, less formal, social groupings (137).
In other words, liberalism cannot be understood without relations of power which created and justified them. Liberalism did one thing (and it was not elevating the "dignity of the individual"); it destroyed the intermediate institutions, the varied local foci of authority that preserved communal freedom in the complex of informal groups who emanated their own specific brand of authority in their own particular sphere of competence. Freedom is never abstract, it is always freedom to do something specific or to be free of some specific irritant. The oligarchy, Russian or otherwise, therefore, demands standardization and conformity because the strictness of contract law and exchange cannot admit of groups of traditional yet still informal and ad hoc groupings (however enshrined by tradition) that characterize traditional societies, therefore:
Under such conditions, the political aim of the state can easily encroach upon the aims of the family, the collegium (such as the artistic community), the profession, and Church, the local village, the province. Yet, first the telos of these entities must be called into question. That is where tolerance comes in — not the practice of tolerance which is entirely productive of lively community life but the kind of tolerance that essentially demeans the status of groups along with their provincial, familial or ecclesiastical sense of authority.
... It is the shadow Leviathan, that loss of power that invites the excess of power. It is tolerant not in the sense that it expects to learn from others but in the sense that it expects there is nothing really to learn of any consequence (194-5).
This is the connection between liberalism, the Unofficial Committee of Alexander I and the system of government known as oligarchy, or republicanism. To have the rural anarchy — though not chaos — that reigned since time immemorial in Russia continue was repugnant to the capitalist classes (or more accurately, the classes of modernity and Enlightenment that had reached Russia under Peter and Catherine) represented by the Unofficial Committee, who needed to see — for their own interest in profit and exploitation — the informal bargaining between lord and commune (not lord and peasant, for there was no such relation) destroyed and formal and standard market and contractual relations installed in their place. Such was the true impetus behind the 1803 "Law Concerning the Free Agriculturalists." The effect would be the weakening of communal structures of authority and the intrusion of the state where it had not existed previously to enforce contracts. The informal economy of the peasants was to give way to the formal profit system of the Stroganovs. This is the demystification of the Unofficial Committee's use of the word "backward." This was the nature of "reform" under Alexander I; it was also the basis of the Slavophiles' stressing of the informal and communal structures of authority over the formal and abstract. The destruction of the servile lord/commune structure of checks and balances was in the financial interests of the oligarchy as well as in the political interest of liberalism and Masonry.

Further, this model, that of the formal structures of contract, profit and control to reach into every little hamlet, also motivated Michael Speransky, likely Alexander's most radical advisor. His proposed "constitution" (royalist though it was), to quote Risanovsky, postulated that
Russia was to be reorganized on four administrative levels: the volost’ — a small unit sometimes translated as canton or township — the district, the province, and the country at large. On each level there were to be the following institutions: legislative assemblies — or dumy [plural of duma] — culminating in the state duma for all of Russia; a system of courts, with the Senate at the apex; and administrative boards, leading eventually to the ministries and the central executive power (305).
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Nonetheless, it is in the realm of foreign relations that Alexander I has made his mark. During the war of the Third Coalition (that is, the coalition against the French revolutionaries) in 1805, France seemed invincible. Napoleon had defeated a potent coalition of Russia, Great Britain, Austria and Sweden. Austria was quickly put out of the war at Austerlitz in 1805, and, once Prussia entered the war as a Russian ally, Napoleon quickly put them out of commission as well. Only the intercession of Alexander himself saved Prussia from foreign occupation. Importantly, Georgia had asked Russia for protection from both the Turks and the Persians, and Orthodox Georgia voluntarily became part of the Russian empire by 1810. The resulting Russo-Persian war lasted from 1804-1813, and the additional Russo-Turkish war lasted from 1806-1812. In other words, by the time Napoleon invaded in 1812, Russia was fighting a three-front war already, and the war with Persia lasted another year as Russia was also expected to kick out Napoleon, who had defeated everyone of significance on the European continent. The fact that Russia won all three wars is not seen as a victory — by the Anglo-American establishment — for the Russian state system or its administration or form of government.

Nevertheless, Napoleon invaded Russia in June of 1812. The causes of Napoleon's discontent with Russia were many. Russia struggled, without allies, after the fall of Prussia and Austria against Napoleon until 1808. Napoleon was angered at Russia's refusal to assist in the blockade of Austria which Napoleon had enforced. Napoleon did not support Russian aims in the Balkans. Napoleon took much of Poland that had been partitioned, creating the Duchy of Warsaw, which included Orthodox Galicia. Napoleon was even able to bully prostrate Austria and Prussia to invade Russia, in spite of the fact that Prussia owed its existence to Alexander. Napoleon invaded with a massive multi-lingual and multi-ethnic army of roughly 600,000, the largest ever assembled in Europe until that time. Russia faced her with a bit over 100,000, which is amazing given the inhuman number of wars Russia was forced to fight simultaneously.

Even Russia's defeat at Borodino in September of 1812 was a Pyrrhic victory for the French, as they suffered many casualties; the same could be said about the battle of Smolensk earlier in the year. The peasantry proved their loyalty to Old Russia by joining in the fighting, defending their homesteads and then, as strategy required, burning them and retreating. As Napoleon began the retreat as winter came in, peasants joined Kozak forces in decimating the remainder of the French infantry. Napoleon's supply lines were overstretched as Russians burned everything before the Grand Dictator. He was heard to exclaim: "What ferocious determination! What a people.'" as he saw the Kremlin burn (Hosking, 2000: 251). The French monstrosity was finished as the winter set in. He was, as is well known, driven back right into downtown Paris, and Alexander had nearly a free hand in reorganizing Europe in the post-Napoleonic era, typified by the Holy Alliance. The people stood behind Alexander, as only a handful in court circles preached defeatism (Risanovsky, 1993: 313).

Nevertheless, the Anglo-American literature becomes a bit nervous when dealing with enthusiastic peasants fighting the French scion of liberalism. They often, as Hosking does, nervously quip that it is impossible that they could have supported the existing order, but, likely, they were fighting with the idea that they would no longer be serfs after the liberation of Russia. Hosking interprets peasant demands as Napoleon was defeated as another rebellion of Old Russia against the West. It is only rarely interpreted this way, however. He writes: "After a disorder of December 1812, in Pezna guberniia, the peasants responsible confessed that they had intended to kill all the officers, go to the front themselves, and defeat the French, then beg the Tsar's forgiveness and request volia1 in return for their valor" (2000:252). It might well be true that the peasant enthusiasm was unwelcome by westernized elite officers and oligarchs. This is because peasant patriotism was that of Old Russia, the notion of free homesteads under Tsar and Church, not the order of capitalist standardization the likes of Stroganov could not wait to impose on them. It was an agrarian populist nationalism and Christian royalism, not western oligarchical capitalism and Masonry. Nonetheless, millions of peasants fought the remnants of the Grand Army into France itself, for faith and fatherland, not for the "Committee on Public Safety" or for "progress."

From September 1814 until June of the following year, Russia and the rest of Europe took up the task of redrawing Europe's boundaries. Alexander, who earned the right to chair the conference de facto, had this plan: first Poland was to be resuscitated and provided with substantial territory. She was to be in personal union with Russia. Secondly, in order to pull this off, Alexander sought the support of Prussia, backing its claim to Saxony. Therefore, Alexander sought an alliance with Poland and Prussia. It need not be surprising that England and Austria balked at this, and an alternative compromise was worked out. More important, however, was the idea of the Holy Alliance. Academic history treats this idea harshly, mainly because they think nothing is actually holy except tenure, and also that they are committed revolutionaries in the liberal sense. The Holy Alliance, of course, was meant to be a union of Christian monarchs against revolution and liberalism. Therefore, it is unlikely that one could find an actual objective treatment of it, particularly in an academic environment so unhealthy and ideologically motivated.

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Part of Alexander's idea of moral regeneration in the post-Napoleonic era was the so-called Bible society. In short, it was a bad idea. It was a Masonic and ecumenical idea that comprised the major churches in Europe under Alexander's leadership to translate and disseminate the Slavonic Bible into modern Russian (among other languages). Of course, the Bible had always been available to the common people (who had much of it memorized, and the Kozaks memorized the Psalms to endure tortures by the enemy after capture), but the westernizing reforms of the post-Petrine era made spoken — i.e., upper class -Russian increasingly distant from the older language. However, the ad hoc nature of this linguistic development made translation difficult and those problems held up the process. In short, this developing modern Russian was not, in the opinion of some, suited for Scriptural language; its vocabulary was that of the peasants and the bureaucrat, not of King David. Unsurprisingly, it was not long before the Bible society was issuing Masonic and German pietistic tracts. Nonetheless, the Bible society had translated the New Testament into several languages of the Empire including Estonian, Finnish, Armenian, Georgian, Tartar and others.

After the guttering out of liberalism in the bloodshed of Napoleon and the earlier French Directorate, Alexander honestly sought alternative options to its clarion call. Due to the clear connections between liberal ideology, oligarchy and moneyed power, liberalism was not an easy system to derail. Alexander, a bit pessimistic after the Vienna Congress, sought solace in the various sectarian ideas that were invading the country from western Europe. The intelligent patristic scholar, the Archimandrite (Abbot) Photius, fought the Masonic Bible society and the sectarian mentality that informed it. Photius is often called an "obscurantist" by the likes of ecumenical historians such as Pospielovsky, but, given the parameters of the Anglo-American establishment (which Pospielovsky is a part), "obscurantist" is a code word for "sincere and truly Orthodox Christian." In other words, it is a pseudo-academic code for "Old Russia." The good abbot Photius won, thank God, and the Bible society was terminated. It was Photius w-ho first warned Alexander about the nature of the sectarians, about the gnostics and its violently anti-Orthodox polemics. It was quite clear that a victory for the sectarian occult meant the end of Russia as a nation and as a royal state, which is another way of saying that a major bastion of anti-revolutionary thought was to be destroyed. Again, what masquerades in the halls of state universities as Enlightened theology ends up being a cynical and crass method for the occult to take power and institute another Committee for Public Safety.

Archimandrite Photius is called an "obscurantist" because he was the first to deal with the connection between a revolution in theology and its necessary concomitant revolution in politics and morals. Such a revolution has already been accomplished in France with the aid of the Marquis de Sade and his advocacy of the ritual mutilation of women as the chief doctrine of the revolutionary catechism. E. Michael Jones writes on his chapter on de Sade and the French Revolution, which could not be more relevant here:
For, if anyone can make the claim that he fired the first shot in the sexual revolution, it is Marquis de Sade. This is so for a number of reasons. First of all, because sexual revolution is, if not synonymous with revolution in the modern sense of the word, then certainly it is contemporaneous, and to the Marquis de Sade goes the additionally dubious distinction of starting the French Revolution. Sexual revolution is not, on the other hand, synonymous with sexual sin, which has been with us for as long as sexual organs have existed in men whose reason, and not instinct, determined how they were to be governed. Sexual revolution is something slightly different from sexual vice, although it is certainly based on that. Sexual revolution is the political mobilization of sexual vice. In this respect, it differs as well from seduction, which is the manipulation of sexual vice for less than global political ends; it also differs from prostitution, which is the manipulation of sexual vice for financial gain. Sexual revolution makes use of both of these things, but it is more global in scale (20).
Of course, the French Revolution, as well as many of the occultists who were ritually slicing off women's breasts and elevating a prostitute to the throne of the archbishop of Paris during the French Revolution, can easily be compared with the mass sexual orgies (admitted by such as Risanovsky) by various sectarian groups that die state needed to fight. Only Photius figured out the connection between the "invisible Napoleon," that is the assault on Orthodoxy and Old Russia by sectarian ideas, the sexual revolution which they preached, and the political revolution that would be its necessary successor given the trajectory of these unleashed passions. Hosking condemns Photius, as all his colleagues do, for believing there to be a "conspiracy" to destroy the Russian nation. Of course, such a conspiracy is a matter of historical record. All revolutions are conspiracies. It was the conspiracy of a set of secret societies that began the French Revolution; a set of secret societies caused the Menshevik revolution (Kerensky had reached the Masonic 33rd degree), a set of Masonic ritual groups around the Italian Carbonari began that country's revolution against the Habsburgs. In America, the "Sons of Liberty" were members of a local Masonic lodge.

Historically, it is not the Anglo-American establishment that has the facts, but a simple "obscurantist" abbot in Russia who put his finger in the sorest spot of all, and has earned earthly condemnation for his prescience. In other words, it hit the western mind where it hurts, its own brand of obscurantism, the connection between rampant passions and political revolution.

The Bible society was a strange episode in Russian history. It must be understood that the society around the elite in St. Petersburg became increasingly corrupt, anti-religious and liberal as the nineteenth century wore on. It further must be kept in mind that "revolution" was something almost completely confined to a handful of super-rich westernizing oligarchs around the Tsar, as the Decembrists were later to prove. Cultists had penetrated many wealthy Petersburg families, leading to the social chaos such things bring to families, as they are meant to do. Further, it would be an error to assume, as many do, that the peasantry was not far more familiar with the contents of the Scriptures (especially the Gospels) than the average scholar in a "Russia studies" institute. The village culture was saturated, in nearly every respect, with biblical imagery. Folk culture was Christian through and through. Sermons were now a regular part of the Church services, and the contents of the gospels were explained to the peasantry each Sunday and feast day. The liturgy, the Jesus Prayer and the monastic typicon were something quite familiar to the pious peasant at any level; it was a part of being Russian. All literate people were schooled on the Scriptures as their primer for reading. Include the constant presence of icons, readings from the lives of the saints (again as a central cultural inheritance for Russians), the proximity of monasteries to every village, and village stories of their own holy ones, it is not then a stretch to believe that the average "illiterate" peasant did not have a firmer grasp of basic Christian practice than the modern ecumenical "theologian" at St. Vladimir's Seminary today.

It is therefore hard to believe that the society did not have a far more sinister purpose than the mere dissemination of the Bible in whatever certain scholars agreed "modem Russian" was. The society, at least, was a misconceived and suspect enterprise. For any society or group — including a foreign government -to understand what was obvious, that Russia was Orthodox and one was easily conflated with another, and that Orthodoxy was the basis for the common culture, and, further, that Russia was a major bulwark against revolution, it was an easy deduction that Orthodoxy needed to be destroyed, and, therefore, Russia would follow. Again, this is the meaning behind Photius' famous statement concerning the "invisible Napoleon." The physical Napoleon was defeated, but the invisible specter of Masonic revolution was just gaining strength.

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A quick note should be added here about the so-called "military settlements." After the fall of Speransky in 1812, a new figure, one almost universally hated by the establishment historians worldwide, appeared, the very able and fanatically loyal General Alexis Arakcheev. The notion of "military settlements" was simple: soldiers should not be away from their families for too long a period, and that in providing soldiers with productive farming implements and newer and more suitable housing, their morale and fighting effectiveness would improve. Further, because the settlements were self-supporting, the cost to the treasury would be drastically reduced. The settlements would be pictures of order, with the basic family routine set down on paper and to be adhered to scrupulously. In many ways, the settlements were naive and Utopian, true result of the standardization proceeding apace from Peter onwards. On the other hand, it may be considered an ingenious attempt to raise the standard of living of soldiers and their families as well as stimulate the economics in the surrounding areas. Peasants too, were placed under this discipline in many areas as an aggressive way to "reform" their lifestyle. Nonetheless, the harsh discipline and basic Utopian nature of the plan led to the idea being scuttled. However, such an activist monarch pursuing such reforms for the good of his subjects and soldiers has few antecedents in western Europe. Nicholas I abolished the settlements and fired Arakcheev.

Quick note to the reader: These reprinted chapters from The Third Rome, being part of a larger work, contain references that refer to a bibliography that appears at the end of the hard copy book. One of these days, I’ll get around to reprinting that. For the time being, I’m willing to send anyone my bibliography who requests it. MRJ