APRES MOI, LE ROI: Is There Monarchy in Russia’s future?

We present the latest essay from Paul Merkley. Paul discusses the idea that Russia might move towards a monarchy. This new essay is reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work that we have published.

Not the least of the many dramatic ways in which President Vladimir Putin has transformed Russia is his restitution of the eminent  place in public life of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is by no means an unmixed blessing—either for them or for us. But it is a fact that we would be foolish to ignore.

Anyone with a modicum of acquaintance with Russian history will see at once the logic that restoration of the church has automatically led to consideration of the logic of restoration of the monarchy.

As Russia enters the centenary of the year that began with overthrow of the  Czar and ended with the imposition of Communism, a debate about the virtues of monarchy is being set in motion by the only man in Russia capable of setting anything in motion – President Vladimir Putin. For example: Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who is said to be the second most well-known churchman in Russia (after the Orthodox Patriarch, Kiril), has recently called for  a constitutional reform to allow re-instatement of the monarchy —  and has proposed Vladimir Putin for the post. His thought is: “We are a country with a monarchic mentality. It doesn’t matter that we don’t now have formal monarchy, I think we can re-make it with Putin on top.”

The man whom Putin put in place as governor of his puppet-Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, has joined this chorus:

I think Russia, at the moment, needs monarchy… To my mind, democracy is superfluous these days, given the current circumstances and the presence of an external enemy. … Why do I call myself a soldier of the president? Because I think that we need undivided authority as long as there is an external enemy the president should have more rights – including, pardon me, the right of dictatorship… Today, practically in every family people raise a glass to the president, drink to his health; they realize that Russia’s very future depends on how long Vladimir Vladimirovich will rule the country.

Russian philosopher and sociologist, Aleksandr Dugin, agrees:

Either monarchy, or the modern world. In order to restore it in Russia and not turn the great spiritual institution into a farce, what we need is a fundamental re-thinking of all life’s foundations [and] a return to the traditional worldview, to the Orthodox religion, to the concept of class society.


As for the Romanovs:  that dynasty is generally credited with setting Russia upon three centuries of growing national strength following a nearly disastrous successions crisis (the Time of Troubles, 1598-1613.) But then, just as Russia was beginning to make the transition to significant world-class empire, the dynasty was overthrown during the course of World War One. The last Czar, Nicholas II, was forced to abdicate, in February March,1917. Thereafter, the entire royal family were kept as prisoners until they were all murdered ignominiously by a Bolshevik unit in July, 17, 1918.

Today, the leading claimants to the Romanov crown are  63 year old Maria Vladimirovna, “Grand Duchess of Russia,” great-great-grand-daughter of Emperor Alexander II (1855-1881) and her son “Grand Duke George Mikhailovic  Romanov, a businessman resident in Brussels. In a recent interview, Maria Vladimirovna, suggests :

It is entirely up to the president [whether she and her family are free to return to Russia.] If such a meeting [with Putin] leads to an action plan to enhance the relationship between the modern state and the historical institutions that preserve the country’s ties with its great history, it will be likely to benefit Russia’s global image … Indeed, you could come up with a thousand arguments against monarchy pointing out its numerous flaws, but has the republic done away with them? In fact, it seems to me these problems have only gotten  worse.  The spreading of the republican form of government has failed to deliver humanity from wars, political terror against own people and powerful social and economic crises, let alone avert moral and spiritual catastrophes.

The official Russian press has been hinting with ever-increasing frankness at Vladimir Putin’s unique spiritual qualification to take up the role of the  Czar. The matter of his self-identification as a Christian believer is perhaps closest to the surface in the official press releases that accompanied Russian President Vladimir Putin’s’ two official visits to Jerusalem (April 28, 2005 and June 27, 2012.) (en.kremlin.ru/events/president, April 28, 2005; “English Pravda.ru, June 27, 2012.) On visiting the Christian Holy sites he described himself as a “pilgrim” and spoke directly of the circumstances of his baptism – long before he became a KGB officer. The official briefing on the visit of 2012 notes:

Vladimir Putin was baptized at the Transfiguration Cathedral in St Petersburg a month and a half after he was born. Although his Father was a Communist, his Mother whose name was Maria, managed to take him there to make sure he would be brought up in the Christian faith….[She]  gave him a cross [which] he had  … blessed where Christ was buried. He says he always keeps it with him.

According to Pravda,

 Putin was baptized on the day of the Archangel Michael who threw Lucifer out of Heaven. The priest suggested his name should be Michael but his Mother said they already had chosen to name him after his Father, Vladimir…. St Vladimir the Great was the first powerful ruler to Christianize Russia. The name Vladimir means to rule with greatness or to rule with peace … Fortunately for Russia, they now have a Christian leader and not atheists like Stalin or Lenin who relied on their own power and wreaked havoc and destruction throughout Russia.” (Xavier Lerma, “Putin kneels and prays in Jerusalem,” english.pravda.ru/russia, June 27, 2012.)

Russia is probably the only country in the Western world in which the Christian religion is becoming increasingly important – both as a public and a private phenomenon. Vladimir  Putin, understandably, squarely identifies “true Christianity” with Eastern Orthodoxy.  Since 1991, the church has rebuilt Orthodox institutions and has in fact reconstructed the originally intimate  connection been the State and the Church.  [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/06/russia-revolution-tsarist-school-moscow-nicholas-ii]

A short-list of the most avid proponents of the restoration of the monarchy would include Zurab Chavchavadze.   As the head-teacher of St Basil the Great School  — which he speaks of as Russia’s Eton —  he presides over the “morally sound, religious, intellectual and patriotic” education of a new generation of patriotic Russians.  He believes that “the Russian soul is monarchic… Look at what the Russian people did with Lenin, Stalin, Putin. As soon as someone is in power for a few years, they become sacred.”

Then there is Konstantin Malofeyev, a financier, and one of the wealthy patrons of “Russia’s Eton.” Recently he explained to a Western reporter: “The mission of our school is to ensure that our graduates will be Orthodox patriots who will carry the thousand-year traditions of Russia.”   Its graduates, Malofeyev hopes, will provide the backbone of the “inevitable” future tsarist order in Russia.

As proof of the exceptional standing of Vladimir Putin in the divine order of things Malofeyev contends that Vladimir Putin “never tried to get elected; he was found and put in place, and turned out to be sent by God. Who could have guessed in 1999 that Putin would come to us and Russia would start becoming Russia again? It was an act of God.”

A major ally in Malofeyev’s cause is Leonid Reshetnikov, formerly a general in the KGB, but nowadays chief of the Double-headed Eagle Society. (In case you miss the point: the double-headed eagle was the emblem of the Russian monarchy.) “Our liberals,” Reshetnikov complains, “want to be like Europeans, but God made us different. Liberal democracy is like Marxism, it was brought to us from London, Paris and New York. We need to return to the point where we took the wrong turn, in 1917.” Reshetnikof  believes that Putin’s coronation as Czar is only a matter of time: “Nobody wanted Yeltsin to carry on forever, but everyone wants Putin to carry on forever.” [Shaun Walker, “ ‘Russia’s soul is monarchic;’ Tsarist school wants to reverse 100 years of history,” Guardian. March 8, 2017.]

An obvious question looms: Given that nothing of importance happens in Russia unless it is caused by Vladimir Putin, should we assume that these testimonies to his evident divine appointment reflect his own desire to become a Czar? This does not necessarily follow. After all: what would the title of Czar add to the real assets of the man who is widely believed to be already the wealthiest man in the world, and who is, for the time being,  the most powerful?

George W. Bush believed that he had looked into Putin’s eyes and espied his soul.  His mind is another thing. What cannot be doubted is that Putin has created a situation where the notion of his eventual coronation seems to sustain the loyalty of a very large component of his own people, and must  therefore be given great weight in our own dealings with him.

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