Christianity, the Service Ethic and Decembrist Thought

  • Franklin A. Walker
Part of the Studies in Russia and East Europe book series (SREE)


At first glance it appears that the upholders of the Russian autocracy and its radical opponents in the first quarter of the nineteenth century were polarised on religious as well as on political and social questions. The Decembrist revolutionaries, in wishing to abolish serfdom, institute representative government, promote education, humanitarianism, prosperity and the rule of law, represented the Russian version of a European ferment against governments which had reacted against Enlightenment ideals. Behind Tsar Alexander I’s ‘Holy Alliance’ was the ‘throne and altar’ belief that religious infidelity was a source of political subversion. The future Decembrists and their associates, on the contrary, resented increased censorship and obscurantism in domestic affairs and an anti-liberal foreign policy. But for most Decembrists Christianity in itself was not an issue. If many Decembrists thought that the authorities had oversimplified and distorted the Christian message for narrow-minded goals of political security, the revolutionaries did not set out to replace Christianity with a ‘religion of reason’. They were not inchoate Saint-Simonians nor were they the last ripple of Jacobin anti-clerical Utopianism, but rather they were reformers whom Christian moral goals had profoundly influenced.


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© School of Slavonic and East European Studies 1991

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  • Franklin A. Walker

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