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Reviewed by:
  • Život za cara? Krajní pravice v předrevolučním Rusku
  • Ivan Macek (bio)
Zbyněk Vydra . Život za cara? Krajní pravice v předrevolučním Rusku. Červený Kostelec: Pavel Mervart, 2011. 552 pp. ISBN: 978-80-87378-08-3 (hardback edition).

This book by the Czech historian Zbyněk Vydra deals with the development of radical right-wing movements in Russia during the second half of the nineteenth century and in the prerevolutionary era. The book presents the fate of the radical right, specifically its changing influence on the state and regional politics of Russia, in addition to shedding light on the background of the extreme right, and discusses its adherents goals, values, and political methods. As the author demonstrates, the rightist movement was an alternative to moderate and liberal parties that sought citizens' equality before the law and a parliamentary monarchy. It was also an alternative to radical socialist visions. The book, therefore, also aims to explain why such an alternative failed.

Focusing on right-wing parties such as the Union of the Russian People, the Russian Monarchist Party, the Union of the Russians, and the Russian National Union of the Archangel Michael, Vydra outlines the main features of rightist politics. Members of the rightist political parties and movements, who called [End Page 490] themselves "monarchists," "rightists," or "Black Hundreds," but never "extremists" or "radicals," were devoted to the official state ideology, the triad of "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality" unconditionally. Rightist parties arose from circles believing in autocracy, the estate system, the privileged position of the Orthodox Church and Russian nation, and the indivisibility of the Russian Empire. A principal feature of the radical right was its anti-Semitism, a key issue discussed in the book. The author argues that the rightist groups and parties were openly anti-Semitic without exception. Their vision of the world required an enemy and the Jews were the main target (P. 15). Consequently, they demanded restrictions of Jewish civil rights and far exceeded the government's conservative-liberal policy on the "Jewish question." They wanted "Russian nation as the governing ethnicity" (P. 12), the state belonging to the ethnic Russians. That meant all Orthodox Slavs living in the Russian Empire without considering national distinctions between Great Russians, Ukrainians, or Belorussians as they are perceived today.

Vydra argues that loyalty to "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality" and anti-Semitism, however, were not the rightists' only defining features (P. 13). The book notes that the rightist movements often differed from the moderate right by avoiding the use of the word "party" in their name. They often stressed words such as soiuz- union - and relied on political activism to build their support base across the whole society. They were also willing to form their combat units, commonly known as "self-defense units," and to use force against their political enemies. This practice of the rightist groups bore similarities to some methods of the radical left. At the same time, however, they defended the regime and strove to restore the autocracy as it existed prior to the October Manifesto.

Vydra's monograph is based on an extensive knowledge of both Russian and Western literature, taken with respect and critical evaluation. Russian historiography has produced numerous studies of the topic but, as the author argues, a significant part of these works bears the imprint of their time of origin and the ideological position of their authors. On the other hand, Western, predominantly Anglo-American, scholarship has been interested in this topic to a much smaller extent, as the majority of these historians have devoted their attention to the political left, searching for the roots of the Soviet state and trying to comprehend its nature. There have been some exceptions to this rule, however. The author lists as the most important Western contributions to the academic understanding of Russian rightists [End Page 491] works by Theodore Shanin, 1 Hans Rogger, 2 Geoffrey Hosking, 3 Robert Edelman, 4 and Roberta Manning. 5 He also utilizes the studies written in the 1990s by Don C. Rawson, 6 Walter Laqueur, 7 and Heinz-Dietrich Loewe, 8 as well as those penned by the Czech historians Václav Veber 9 and Radom...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2164-9731
Print ISSN
2166-4072
Pages
pp. 490-495
Launched on MUSE
2012-06-06
Open Access
No
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