Pobedonostsev, Konstantin Petrovich


Pobedonostsev, Konstantin Petrovich
(1827–1907)
   An influential statesman in Russian imperial politics under Tsar Alexander III (1881–1894) and Tsar Nicholas II (1894–1917). After his studies at the School of Law in St Petersburg, Pobedonostsev began his career as an official in a department of the Russian Senate in Moscow. Between 1860 and 1865, Pobedonostsev became professor of civil law at the Moscow State University and was instructed by Tsar Alexander II (1885–1881), a promoter of reforms and modernization, to teach his sons law and administration management. Pobedonostsev also took part in the reform of the Russian judicial system in order to make the Russian autocracy more effective, but he never doubted the superiority of Russian autocracy over Western democracy. As Pobedonostsev was an uncompromising conservative, he had a decisive impact on the Tsar’s son and successor, Alexander III. After the assassination of Alexan der II, Alexander III installed a repressive and authoritarian regime that was deeply influenced by Pobedonostsev’s ideology. As chief procurator of the Holy Synod beginning in 1880, Pobedonostsev’s ultraconservatism resulted from his orthodox belief. Pobedonostsev thought that human nature was sinful without a strong religious education. Consequently, he rejected Western ideals of freedom for the Russian Empire; independence and democracy as demanded by young Russian intellectuals Pobedonostsev considered as an “outburst of juvenile nihilism.” Pobedonostsev spoke respectfully of England, but he thought that individual freedom and democracy would fit the English character but not the Russian. Pobedonostsev also denied any education for the Russian worker and peasant classes because they had to learn to live by the work of their hands. Any intellectual education would harm their productive force. As the head of the Russian Orthodox Church until the revolution of 1905, Pobedonostsev had an immense influence on domestic policy, especially on religion, education, and censorship. Although in domestic politics he propagated a most repressive policy toward nonorthodox religions - especially toward Jews - and non-Russian ethnic minorities, he was familiar with European and American literature and philosophy.
   FURTHER READING:
    Byrnes, Robert. Pobedonostsev: His Life and Thought. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968;
    Pobedonostsev, Konstantin P. Reflections of a Russian Statesman. London: G. Richards, 1898;
    Thaden, Edward. Conservative Nationalism in Nineteenth Century Russia. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964.
   EVA-MARIA STOLBERG

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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