Enlightened absolutism is when politicians in the state try to achieve a "common good". The flowering of this phenomenon in Europe was observed in the XVIII century.
Catherine II ascended to the throne
The Russian Empress Catherine II came to the throne, although she had no right to do so. Kliuchevskaya wrote about this that she seized power twice: the first time she overthrew her own husband, and the second - without giving the son the opportunity to ascend to the throne.
Those people who were far from intrigues in the imperial palace, perceived the overthrow of Peter III is extremely unexpected. There was even a case when after the proclamation of Catherine the empress of Russia, toast in her honor was not supported by the common people and soldiers. Still too strong were the memories of the rulers, impostors, so many believed such and Catherine II.
She was a very smart woman and she knew how to put people to her place. This allowed Catherine II to quickly enlist popular support. She justified her actions by the fact that the Empire needed protection from the policies of Peter III, which was treasonous.
But the reign of Catherine II brought many innovations - this is the policy of enlightened absolutism.
Innovations in the reign of Catherine II
Enlightened absolutism of Catherine 2 is not something that only applies to Russia. The brightest of such monarchs, who carried out "educational" reforms in their state, are Gustav III, Joseph and Frederick II.
Strengthening absolutism in the Russian Empire was to reassure the public about the fact that the throne is in the hands of one person. At the same time, it was necessary to ensure that representatives of all strata of society, including peasants, supported the emperor. The belief of the people that the actions of the monarch are aimed at achieving the good for all, in this case was very important. This is the policy of enlightened absolutism.
Absolutism in Russia consisted in the fact that the emperor deliberately asked advice from the greatest thinkers of the time, enlisted their support with the aim of adapting the order in the state to new socio-economic relations.
In her younger years Catherine II studied many books written by French enlighteners: Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot and others. Their ideas carried away the future empress. In her opinion, absolutism in Russia should help the state and its subjects become richer. She expressed such thoughts long before she ascended the throne.
The Empress's "Command"
Two years in a row, Catherine II wrote the reign program, which was published in 1767 and was called the "Nakaz". In it everything was like absolutism. This is because the Nazak propagated the idea of a common good. In this document it was said that people needed to be deprived of their liberty, but their actions should be directed only at good deeds. The unlimited power of the empress was due to the fact that the state was huge.
The enlightened absolutism of Catherine II is a kind of declaration that the equality of all citizens before the law will protect the monarchy from the transition to despotism. The Empress also spoke out against serfdom, but there were no demands to abolish it.
The absolutism of Catherine 2 was very contradictory: it seems that the enlightenment philosophy was propagated in the state, and on the other hand, the domination of the noble estate was proclaimed, serfdom and autocratic power were preserved.
The convening of the Commission, which was held in 1767, is nothing but a manifestation of absolutism. Representatives of all sections of the country's population were expected to take part in its work. However, the commission could not cope with the mission entrusted to it - the creation of a new set of laws.
New "enlightened" laws
The policy of enlightened absolutism was embodied in the laws adopted by Catherine II. One of the most significant is the decree, according to which anyone who has the opportunity can create factories and factories. And in 1767, citizens were allowed to earn their craft.
Still, the policy of absolutism could not bring real freedom, since serfdom was not abolished. Contradictions that took place in the "Order" of Catherine II, even more manifested when she began to solve peasant issues. In 1766, the Empress proclaimed the task, the purpose of which was to give the peasants the right to property. Catherine did not begin to carry out the division of all the settled lands among the landlords, although the aristocracy insistently demanded this. She ordered the representatives of the Livonian nobility not to charge the peasants.
Successes of the nobility
But still, during the reign of Catherine II, the nobles managed to achieve that almost unlimited powers were established with regard to the serfs they owned. The year 1763 was remembered by the fact that from afar the decree according to which the peasants, who allowed themselves all kinds of audacity and liberty, except for severe punishment, will have to reimburse all the costs of maintaining a detachment of soldiers sent for them.
In 1765 the landlords obtained the right to independently link serfs to the Siberian lands, to work on penalties. In 1767 another law appeared, according to which any complaint of a peasant against his actual master was equated with a state crime. He was given a very severe punishment, which often passed the brink of cruelty. In fact, for the peasant, the landowner was a judge with unlimited power. The actions of the latter were not controlled by the authorities.
Reform in the Senate
The central authorities underwent serious reforms in order to strengthen absolutism. This was due to the fact that, according to the empress, the Senate bit off a pie of power too big a piece. In 1764 the Senate was divided into 6 representative offices, two of which were located in Moscow, and the rest - in St. Petersburg. Each department was appointed an independent authority: it had a clearly defined range of cases and had its own office. This made it possible to significantly weaken the Senate. At the same time, the personal office of Catherine II became much more influential than before. From now on, legislative acts were prepared only under the control of the empress herself. This is yet another proof of how vividly the unity of the monarch's power was manifested, what characterizes the Russian era of absolutism.
Reform of local government
Reforms of local government were primarily aimed specifically at strengthening the authority of the emperor. In 1775, the project "Institutions on Governance of the Gubernias" came into force, which was developed by Catherine the Second independently. The number of provinces and counties was increased, the authority of the governor became single (however, it was subordinate to the monarch's power). In this law, it was also possible to discover absolutism. This was manifested in the fact that the principle of election of the judiciary was now in effect in the state. They separated from administrative bodies and became class. Judicial institutions now consisted of three levels:
- The county and upper zemstvo court - for the resolution of cases of representatives of the nobility.
- The Provincial Magistrate and the Town Court are for ordinary citizens.
- Lower and upper punishment - for the peasant class.
Besides him, a conscientious court was established in each province, which received complaints from those who stayed in custody for more than three days, but they did not inform the reason for the arrest and did not conduct a single interrogation. If the citizen was not seen serious crimes, he was released (this clearly shows an attempt to use the guarantee for the inviolability of the rights of the individual, which appeared in England).
The Provincial Order of Public Charity is also imbued with enlightening ideas. Its purpose is to help citizens create hospitals, orphanages, schools, etc.
Catherine also begins to develop letters of appreciation for the nobility, cities and state peasants. They start to operate in 1785. Thanks to reading and writing, each hereditary nobleman was exempt from taxes, compulsory service, corporal punishment. He was given the right to any property, only the same nobleman could sue him. In addition, a nobleman could open factories and factories, and trade. Noble communities from each province got the opportunity to assemble, choose their leader and conduct treasury. But the empress even here reminded of a single power: the activities of such meetings were under the control of the governor of the province.
According to the diplomas, petty bourgeoises (the so-called "average people") also received the right to inheritance and property. Traders stood out against the backdrop of other townspeople, as they were recorded in the guild, which gave a lot of privileges: it was possible to pay off the recruit's duty with money and was granted exemption from state orders. To merchants of the first and second guilds, as well as to eminent residents (among them bankers, scientists and artists), it was now forbidden to apply corporal punishment.
The center of city government was appointed "general duma", which included representatives of all urban estates.
The project "Rural position"
The Empress did not have time to finish the project "The rural situation", because after the revolution in France, Catherine's attitude to enlightenment ideas has changed very much. In 1794, in one letter, she even mentioned that philosophical ideas lead to nothing but destruction. In her opinion, the world will always need a ruler, since the idea of universal freedom leads to one madness.
Changes in foreign policy
Foreign policy has changed instantly. When Catherine II believed in the idea of "enlightenment", the state had successes in the world arena: a victory was won in two Turkish wars, as a result of which the entire north of the Black Sea withdrew to the Russian empire; conquered Novorossiysk steppes and the Crimea. In 1773 and 1793, sections of Poland took place, as a result of which the eastern part of Byelorussia and the right-bank Ukraine entered into Russia. But after the course of Catherine II changed, she decided to give Gdansk, a large share of Great Poland and Torun. The Poles begin revolts and rebellions. In 1795 they were defeated and the third partition of Poland took place, as a result of which the Rech Pospolita ceased to exist. Russia received Lithuania, Courland and many other lands.