In the first years of the 20th century, the Russian empire had grown to be one of the biggest world powers in terms of territorial greatness, rates of economic growth, industrial development and international influence. The estates of the Russian tsars of the Romanov dynasty, the Russian princes (dukes), noblemen and landowners spread from the Baltic and Black Sea in the West to the Pacific Ocean in the East. All in all, this gigantic country experienced an age of extensive economic development. As a result, the living standards were improved and the national culture flourished in all spheres.
But the Russian autocratic monarchy, undermined by constant attacks by internal enemies, had entered a phase of deep crisis. This crisis was taking place simultaneously with international events of great scale: the rivalry between the mightiest empires of the age – Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia was on the rise. Strategically, this crisis led to the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905. Socially, it led to the Revolution of 1905 – 1907 in which the petty bourgeoisie, the working class and the peasants were involved.
A shameful defeat in the war against Japan, as well as revolutionary outrages that took place all around Europe compelled the tsarist government to make certain political concessions. But it also made the government support right-conservative movements, parties and ideas. The Manifesto of October 17 (1905) was the document that “fixed” these changes. After it was issued, the movement known as the “Black Hundred” appeared. This movement united many spectra of far-right, conservative and reactionary forces. Together they formed a mass party of a populist type.
Far-Right Organizations in Russia before the “the Black Hundred”.
Far-right forces in earlier 20th century Russia were represented by several well-known organizations. The first and the largest of them was the “Russian Association” (Russkoe Sobranie), founded by an initiative group of 120, long before the “Black Hundred”, in 1900. It united representatives of the aristocracy, clergymen, journalists, government officials and high army officers. Prince Dmitry Golytsin, Nikolai Schakhovskoy, father Ioann of Krondstadt, the Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev Halizia, The Minister of the Interior Vyacheslav Pleve, the publisher and journalist Alexey Suvorin and others were among its leaders and most prominent members. We can also mention the name of Maria Nikolaevna Diertich, a member of the Imperial Institute for Archaeology and head of The Union of Russian Women.
In a few years, offices of the Association were opened in a number of cities of southern Russia, as well as in Warsaw and Kazan. At first, the members and representatives of the Russian Association preferred cultural, historical and ideological activity, but the revolutionary crisis of the earlier 20th century made them turn to contemporary politics. The political credo of the organization was expressed in the famous orthodox-monarchist formula “Autocracy, Orthodoxy, Narodnost1”. This patriotic organization and its allies had several periodicals and publishing houses in big cities all over the Russian empire. These were “Proceedings of the Russian Association” (published weekly), “Russian Bulletin”, “Russian Review”, “Rural Bulletin”, “Ploughman”, “Russian Cause”, “Peaceful Labour” (Ìèðíûé òðóä), “Russian Leaflet”, “Russian Speech” and others.
After the 1905 Revolution.
The 1905 Revolution gave rise to a surge of workers’ strikes, revolts among peasants and uprisings among students and collegians in many universities of the empire. But it also caused a reciprocal reaction of authorities and conservative groups. In this period, many other minor monarchist organizations, very similar to the “Russian Association”, emerged: “Moscow Patriotic League”, “Society of Gonfalon-bearers” (Obshestvo Horugvenostsev) in Moscow, “Nationalist Society of Kiev and Odessa”, “Russian Vetche” in Vilnius, “Orthodox National Brotherhood”, “Double Eagle”, “Minin and Pojarsky”, “White Banner” and many others. All-Russian Congresses of the Russian People were held in the largest cities of the empire: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Odessa. Soon two large parties became the most prominent among others: “Union of the Russian People” and “Russian Monarchist Party”.
The “Union of the Russian People” (Soyuz Russkih Lydei or SRL) was based on a circle, grouped around the newspaper “Kreml”, published by the famous Russian historian Dmitry Ilavaisky. The brothers Pyotr and Pavel Sherymetyev, Prince Gagarin and the journalist S. Sharapov were among its most prominent members. The Union of the Russian People followed a monarchist ideological pattern developed by Lev Tichomirov, one of the outstanding thinkers of that time. Its essence was: preservation of the key role of the Russian Orthodox Church within the state, traditional family values, patriotism and love to one’s motherland, loyalty (of a soldier or an officer) to a military oath, debt of honour. It was aimed against enmity between classes, spiritual nihilism and hard drinking. For the general safeguard of civil order, the activists of the Union created National Militia groups (Narodnye Druzhiny) that confronted strikers and revolutionists. It was a populist organization, and its members were in favour of the convocation of Zemsky Sobor.
The ideology of the Russian Monarchist Party (or RMP) was less populist and more aristocratic in its essence. The leaders of this organization suggested that for preserving the succession and development of the monarchist tradition, the State Duma would be enough. One of the main periodicals of the RMP was the newspaper “Moskovskie Vedomosti”, published by V.A. Gringmut. The newspaper put a special emphasis on the role of the Orthodox Church: the party was under patronage of Father Ioann of Krondstadt (later canonized as a saint).
The Union of the Russian People
The most famous of the Black Hundred organizations – “The Union of the Russian People” (Soyuz Russkogo Naroda or SRN) was organized in November 1905. As for its program, this party was a direct successor of parties and groups mentioned above. The “Union” was led by Alexandr Dubrovin, Nikolai Markov II and Vladimir Purishkevich.
Alexander Dubrovin, a professional physician and outstanding organizer, became the leader of the Union in its early stages. It was Dubrovin who contacted the highest government officials, trying to convince them that it was an all-national organization (such as SRN) that was essential for preserving the monarchy and order in the country. The Union, he suggested, had to become a mass patriotic organization, that would be involved in social and political actions. Dubrovin was convinced that for creating such an organization, support of authorities, police and financial institutions was of great importance.
And the Union received such state support soon. The organization won the sympathy of Emperor Nikolas II himself. The sovereign was preoccupied with inner rivalry within his own surroundings and was looking for support of new state institutions and public organizations. He approved the activity of the “Union”, considering it “an outstanding example of right and order for all the people”. As a gift, he accepted with pleasure an honorary badge of the Union, decorated with the imperial crown, on which Holy George was depicted.
The support of the authorities also manifested itself in financial help to the “Union”. The first subsidy of 150 golden roubles was donated by Pyotr Stolypin. Private persons also provided help. The wealthy widow Elena Polubojarinova donated more than one million roubles of charity within several years. Those were considerable sums for that age.
Soon, the “Union” became a mass party due to the support of authorities, state officials and private persons. Its popular ideology was propagated through the newspaper “The Russian Banner” (Russkoe Znamya), published in large numbers. The social basis of the party was formed not only by representatives of the aristocracy, but also by representatives of the intelligentsia, higher clergy and petty bourgeoisie: merchants, craftspeople and shop-keepers. “The Union” also managed to attract local functionaries, police and military officers as well as Cossacks and workers.
Program and Activity of the SRN
Any person of proper Russian origin who shared the main points of the program of the party and paid membership dues could become a member of the “Union”. In the first paragraph of the statute of this organization it was stated: “The Union of the Russian People sets the development of the Russian national self-consciousness and unity of the Russian people of all classes and fortunes as its ultimate aim: through common work to the common welfare of our beloved Fatherland – united and united (íåäåëèìîé) Russia. It was specially mentioned in the document that the Union did not differentiate between Russians, Malorossians (Ukrainians) and Byelorussians, meaning equal legal rights for ethnic groups of common root.
Both ideologically and practically, the activity of the SRN was aimed against the rise of revolutionary chaos, expansion of leftist terrorism and dangerous penetration of Jewry into higher state institutions and public organizations. After the revolutionary outrages of 1905-1906, the “Union” took responsibility for several punitive actions. Anti-Jewish pogroms usually occurred during anti-government manifestations, leftist meetings and strikes, both spontaneously and in organized ways. These punitive actions were most often directed against those who organized the riots: revolutionists and terrorists. They were mostly considered to be Jews and non-Russians. The “white terror” (that also often led to bloodshed on political grounds) of the Black Hundreds was an answer to the “red terror”, directed at the very heart of the Russian monarchy.
The ideology of confrontation to Jewish domination (falsely named “anti-Semitism”) was grounded in the works of many prominent Russian thinkers and scientists long before the Bolshevik Revolution. Above all, the work by Alexei Shmakov, a lawyer and a prominent thinker, “International Secret Government” (1852), deserves to be mentioned. Shmakov was a colleague of a famous author of anti-Jewish and anti-Masonic essays and articles – Nikoilai Butmi. An incriminating book, “Enemy at the Gates”, by Sergei Nilus (an Orthodox priest and the alleged author of the famous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”) also has to be mentioned. We also should not forget about the essays of Dmitry Merejkovsky, Vasily Rosanov and Michail Menshikov, as well as other notable Russian writers and thinkers. Each of them in his own way expressed (íåïðèÿòèå ðåâîëþöèè «ãðÿäóùåãî õàìà»).
It is also interesting to note here that a special “Society of Studying the Judaic Tribe” (chairman N.N. Zehdenow) was founded in 1914. This society provided assistance in the investigation of a scandalous trial of “The Beilis Case” – a case where a group of Saint Petersburg Jews was accused of the ritual killing of a youth, Andrey Jushinsky.
The main points of the program of the Union were based on the “Official Nationality Theory”, founded by Count Sergei Uvarov back in the 19th century. The Black Hundreds accused the bureaucracy of creating an insuperable barrier between the tsar and his people. They suggested that a direct connection between the tsar and his subjects was necessary for national stability. But the parliament system (that acquired the form of the State Duma in Russia), they believed, adopted from the West hindered it.
Instead of the Duma, based upon equality of civil rights of all the citizens of all classes and social strata, the Union suggested a revival of an old aristocratic tradition of national Sobors (councils). A Sobor does not have full authority: it is a deliberative body that gives advice to the tsar, and only those Russians by blood (origin) and spirit can become members of Sobors, the conservatives suggested.
Among the other theses of the conservative program were: improvement of living standards of the common people, reduction of working hours for the workers, slight redistribution of acres. Apart from that, the conservatives had a rather negative attitude towards Stolypin’s agrarian reforms since it eroded the traditional peasant community. In terms of the economic development of Russia, their views were quite contradictory: some of them were strongly opposed to urbanization and stood for preserving the old patriarchal way of life in villages and rural areas. Others were in favour of industrial development, considering it a necessary precondition of national strength. In their propaganda activity, the Union’s members often used the rhetoric and methods of the narodniks.
Further History of the SRN and Allied Organizations.
Among the famous people of the SRN and allied patriotic organizations were: artists and painters Vasily Vasnetsov, Nicholas Roerich, Michail Nesterov; Vasily Andreev, the founder of the first orchestra of folk instruments; outstanding publisher Ivan Sytin; famous physician, surgeon and doctor Sergei Botkin; scientists Alexander Sobolevsky and Nikodim Kondakov; journalist and politican Vitaly Schulgin and many others.
The Unifying Congress of Monarchist and Conservative Powers was held in Moscow in 1907, with more than 900 delegates from 130 organizations present. It was held in a traditional religious way: with universal prayer, dirge for the fallen heroes, cathedral public prayers and religious processions. During the celebrations, the Gonfalon of the Russian Monarchist Party (designed by Vasnetsov) was solemnly sanctified.
Articles and notes in such rightist publications as “Bulletin of SRN”, “Zemshina”, “For the Tsar and Fatherland”, “Kievlyanin”, “Helmsman” (and many others) were dedicated to the results of the congress. For coordinating publishing and propaganda activity, the “Union for the Right Russian Press” was established in Saint Petersburg. Later, an analogous organization appeared in Odessa: “Russian Working Association of Book-Traders”.
The Union had the most support in the southern and western areas of the empire, then in the eastern and central areas; it had more supporters among urban citizens, among the rural population the popularity of the organization was not as great. At the peak of its influence (1906-07), the Union had over 3,000 offices all over the empire.
As the Revolution posed a threat to the monarchy and order, the SRN was a fast-growing party. But by the end of 1906 the political activity of the leftists went down, and it became clear that strikes of the workers were bound to bring no results. Simultaneously, disagreements among the members of the Union went on the rise. More often controversies arose on ideological or political matters, but sometimes it was due to rivalry of the leaders. In the end, the controversies led to a split in the organization. In 1908 Puriskevich left the Union and created his own orthodox Black Hundred organization, “The Union of Archangel Michael” with offices in Saint Petersburg, Kiev, Odessa and the southern cities of the empire. An ideological clash also ocurred between Dubrovin and Markov, which led to a split in the party (approximately half of the party members followed Dubrovin, the others Markov). The SRN was also weakened by the lack of proper state sponsorship.
“All-Russian National Union”. The Russian New Right in the Early 1900s.
Apart from the SRN, another quite influential organization existed in the times of Stolypin: the “All-Russian National Union” (Vserosijskiy Natsionalniy Soyuz or VNS), founded in 1908. We also intend to mention this party since it united a whole nationalist movement: Russian national-democrats. Among the leaders of this movement were: M.O. Menshikov, a journalist of the newspaper “New Time”; P.I. Kovalevsky, professor at Warsaw University; I.A. Sikorsky, a prominent anthropologist; the ideologists Gerasimov and Stroganov.
The core of this circle also received the support of P.A. Stolypin and in 1911 published a volume of articles called “Lado”. It was an ideological answer to the Black Hundred’s monarchist and Christian-democratic monarchist positions. The ideologists of the VNS never emphasized the problems of “Jewry” or “Masonry”; they were rather national-progressivists and considered mostly such matters as Russian ethnos, Slavdom and the White race as a whole.
The works of Michail Menshikov (executed by Bolsheviks in 1918) deserve our special attention. He was a fundamentally new thinker for Russia that we can call a “New Right” thinker. In his article “Race Struggle” (1911), he wrote: “Nature has created not one nationality but many nationalities. Hence, to propagate their intermixture is a sin against nature”. Having the works of the Russian Anthropological School (19th – 20th centuries) as a base for his ideas, Menshikov criticized the theories of the so-called “ethereal Russian spirit”. He understood very well that “every nation is a living body” and that it is “one and the same soul that lives in one body”.
As an ideologist of racial struggle, Menshikov was dissatisfied with the idea of “making Russia a bastard state, and dissolving the noble metal of our race into cheap alloys”. He was in favour of the slogan “Russia for Russians”, but he accentuated that “Russian nationalism is not violent. Nationalism is an honest delimitation” (“apartheid” to put it in Afrikaans).
When another social crisis, caused by World War I, was on the rise in Russia, ultra-conservative parties were not strong enough to challenge it. Even the unusual project of Sergei Zubatov (head of the special department of the Moscow security service), “police socialism”, never enjoyed success. Police agents that infiltrated the ranks of revolutionaries and managed to create a rather strong presence in the labour movement were basically not able to change the situation.
The worst prognoses came true. World masonry had provoked an enormous war, in which Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, England and France got involved. Their Russian “colleagues” of liberals and socialists headed the biggest fractions in the State Duma. At the most crucial moment they formed the so-called “Provisional Government”. In the revolutionary movement and mass media, power was taken over by Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and Esers (Social-Revolutionists) – predominantly Jews and foreigners by origin. Russia was heading for an abyss of destructive upheavals and anarchy.
After the February Revolution of 1917 and the demise of Nikolas II all the political and intellectual activities of the Rightists were banned. Repressions against Black Hundred members and representatives of the aristocracy began. The White Guards became their successors in the chaos of revolution.
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Translated by: Ìàêñ Êàëüò ©
1 Íàðîäíîñòü – can literally be translated as “respect to the will of the people”.