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Catherine the Great and enlightened absolutism in Russia - Coursework Example

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Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is the incapacity to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. Such tutelage is self-imposed if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of determination and courage to use one's intelligence without being guided by another…
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Catherine the Great and enlightened absolutism in Russia
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Catherine the Great and enlightened absolutism in Russia

Download file to see previous pages... They also condemned those, who lived under the rules of doubtful traditions, full of irrationality and superstitions. Enlighteners did not deny the existence of God, in spite they tried to explain it rationally, and attacked institutions of Church because of their conservatism and corruption. Acceptance of God within the Enlightenment has led to the image of wise and rational absolute monarch as an ideal governing system - a view that has been accepted by many rulers of that time.
The term "enlightened absolutism" dates back to 1847 when the historian Wilhelm Roseler first used it to describe the policy of certain European rulers in 1760-1790 (Henderson, 2005). Frederick II of Prussia (1740-1786), Charles III of Spain (1759-1788), Catherine II of Russia (1762-1796), Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (1765-1790), Gustavus III of Sweden (1771-1792) - all these rulers were absolute monarchs, and all of them were influenced by principles of the Enlightenment. This doctrine applied by monarchs in governing their countries put much greater emphasis on rationality in compare with arbitrary rules of their predecessors. However, there were significant differences in understanding the Enlightenment among rulers. Shaped by the geographic, demographic and cultural specifics, enlightened absolutism has taken a unique form in every state where it was embraced.
Although smaller than it is today, Russia occupied a large territory stretching from Baltic Sea to Alaska (East to West) and from Arctic Ocean to Caspian Sea without the access to Black Sea (North to South) by the middle of 18th century. At that time the population of the country was about 18 million people (Riasanovsky, 1999). Such vast lands and huge population were always hard to control from a single centre. Monarchs had to rely greatly on nobles, which had almost unlimited power within their domains, especially in distant regions of Russia. Such great power given to nobles complicated the concept of enlightened absolutism, according to which a ruler must have absolute control. Typically for European absolutist states of that time, Russian treasury was supplied mainly through the increase of taxes (direct or indirect), while the main sources of expenditure were army and navy, governance, and court maintenance in the descending order. Only a small part of budget was planned for the development of culture, education, and sciences. Such internal policy was implanted by nobles, and even if a monarch wanted, it was almost impossible to go against their interests. Meanwhile, concerns of serfs, which comprised about half of Russian population, were left out of account. The excessive protection of nobles' interest has led to the continued existence of serfdom cancelled only in 1861 in Russia.
Cultural factors had a positive influence on the development of enlightened absolutism policy. Although the majority of Russian population was uneducated, the belief in 'a kind and fair tsar' was always a part of cultural tradition in imperial Russia. Nobles were often set off against the monarch in the eyes of peasants. At the same time, fascination with the European culture and the rise of the Enlightenment caused the spread of ideas among educated classes attacking serfdom as a retrograde and economically unprofitable system. The intrusion of Church ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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