"Live" Autocracy, Africa and Asia: The Interconnection Between Russia's Domestic and Foreign Policy in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Author: Aleksandr POLUNOV

Abstract. This article focuses on insufficiently studied aspects of interaction between domestic and foreign policy in the Russian empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the impact of popular ideas in society on the foreign policy activities of the state. The article shows that in the 1880s, the ruling upper echelon and conservative circles believed that so-called "live autocracy," a system based on the autocrat's personal authority, the activities of his trusted advisers, and the tsar's direct contacts with the "ordinary folks," should prevail in Russia. These ideas became popular at the same time as the public developed a growing interest in remote and unknown countries, specifically Ethiopia, where, as many conservatives held, a patriarchal monarchy predominated, with its people sharing many features inherent in Russian commoners (religiosity, loyalty to the monarch, etc.). In the 1890s, they began to look for new "younger brothers" in Asian countries that presumably gravitated towards Russia (India, China, Tibet, Mongolia, etc.). In their perceptions, the ruling classes were increasingly divorced from reality. Exposed to "live autocracy" influences, the administrative system was simultaneously eroded by voluntarism and arbitrariness, which eventually made Russia become involved in a disastrous war with Japan.

Keywords: "live autocracy," foreign policy, Slavs, Ethiopia, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, Mikhail Katkov, Alexander III, Nicholas II, Esper Ukhtom-sky, Pyotr Badmayev, Buryats, India, China.

DOI: 10.31857/S013454860005124-4


A. Polunov, Dr. Sc. (History), professor, School of Public Administration, Lomonosov Moscow State University. E-mail: apolunov@mail.ru. This article was first published in Russian in Russia and War. International Scientific Collection in Honor of Bruce Menning's 75th Anniversary (Russian Collection. Vol. XXVI. Moscow: Modest Kolerov, 2018, pp. 245-262).

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In late 1888 and early 1889, Russian and Western (particularly French) press publications were immersed in an earnest discussion of an unusual international incident that involved one Nikolay Ashinov, the self-styled "ataman of free Cossacks," who made an attempt to build a village, New ...

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