Tsar Vladimir

Speaking on the ‘Rossiia’ TV channel, Metropolitan Ilarion, chairman of the department of external relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared:

It is my opinion that a person who is anointed to reign by priests, a person who receives not merely a mandate from electors to rule for a defined period, but receives sanction for his rule from God through the Church, and remains such for life until he passes power to his successor, is, of course, a form of government which is positively recommended by history and has many advantages compared with any electoral form of government.

No surprise here. The Orthodox Church has long had a preference for monarchy, although its bishops don’t normally proclaim it quite so openly. But who is to be Tsar? Aleksandr Prokhanov has an answer. Responding to Metropolitan Ilarion, he noted that the huge crowds which lined up in the Moscow rain recently to greet the relics of St Nicholas showed that the monarchical spirit was reviving in Russia, and that the time was right to raise the issue of restoring the monarchy. Ideally, the new Tsar would be a descendant of the Rurik and of the Romanovs, but there was no such person in Russia. A new dynasty would therefore have to be created. Prokhanov has a candidate in mind to start it:

It must be a special person; some kind of sign, some sort of sacrament, must be upon him. Vladimir Putin is such a person. In one of his addresses to the Federal Assembly he said that the sacred centre of Russian statehood, of Russian power, returned to Russia along with the return of the Crimea. He had in mind Khersones, where the baptism of Rus took place. And this magical, miraculous, mystical act, when the light of Orthodoxy poured through Prince Vladimir into all the vast expanses of Russia, first from the Carpathians to the Urals, and then beyond the Urals to the Pacific Ocean, this mystical act brought the holiness of Christ into Russian statehood. And the Crimea, restored to Russia by Putin, has brought this holiness into the very centre of Putin’s power, Putin’s statehood. That is why by this act, in some undefinable and undogmatic way, Putin carried the icon lamp of mysterious, mystical light into Russia, into the Kremlin, into his office, into his own mansion. He was chosen for this. He confirmed this choice. And in a very conditional way he was anointed, not by the Patriarch, not in the Uspenskii Cathedral, his coronation was accomplished without the presence of the Bishops. It was accomplished in a mysterious, mystical manner, when the lamp of Crimean Khersones returned in his hands to Russia. And he stood with this lamp, having lit it up with a mysterious light. Thus, in circles close to the Patriarch, in circles dreaming of monarchy, recognizing all the difficulties of restoring monarchy in Russia, more and more often one hears the name of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as a possible first monarch in the Putin dynasty.

Like a lot of Prokhanov’s stuff, this is all a bit OTT. And I’m sorry, Aleksandr, but I have news for you. It ain’t gonna happen. Putin has made it very clear that he has no interest in becoming Tsar, and besides the mass of the Russian population doesn’t seem too interested in the idea. Still, I think that I may use this quotation when I give a talk on the subject ‘Russia and Ukraine’ to the annual symposium of the Canadian Association of Security and Intelligence Studies in September. For it gives a sense of how much some Russians value Vladimir Putin and the annexation/reunification of Crimea. For sure, most of them don’t view these things in the same kind of mystical-religious fashion, but they value them pretty highly nonetheless. The lesson I will draw is clear: if anybody really imagines that there will be ‘regime change’ in Russia, or that Russia will someday return Crimea to Ukraine, they’re living in an even stranger fantasyland than Aleksandr Prokhanov.

23 thoughts on “Tsar Vladimir”

  1. *reads Prokhanov excerpt*
    And to think I’ve seen articles and even academic papers claiming Prokhanov best exemplifies the Russian attitude toward Putin and the Russian state.


    1. I recently read Prokhanov’s ‘Symphony of Fifth Empire’. It’s an eccentric mix of Soviet nostagia, mystical Orthodox imperialism, and technological modernism – ‘steam punk conservatism’, as somebody described it to me: futuristic and retro at one and the same time. I definitely wouldn’t describe him as “best exemplifies the Russian attitude toward Putin and the Russian state.”


      1. I should add that as a loyal subject of Her Majesty the Queen, I am myself a monarchist (albeit of the constitutional variety), and support the motto of my home province of Ontario: ‘Loyal she began, and loyal she remains.’ If only you guys down south had stayed loyal too we’d probably all be better off! Still, I hope that you all had a good ‘Treason Day’ a couple of days ago.


      2. Damn, just as I started typing about a bunch European (values!) countries having kings and queens, I got the email with your comment.

        Yeah, exactly. If they want tsar, let them have one, who cares. It’s not the title that matters.


      3. “If only you guys down south had stayed loyal too we’d probably all be better off! Still, I hope that you all had a good ‘Treason Day’ a couple of days ago.”

        And instead it all resulted in the Great Masonic Civil War 🙂


  2. “Putin has made it very clear that he has no interest in becoming Tsar, and besides the mass of the Russian population doesn’t seem too interested in the idea”

    That’s right! Only Zhirik! Only hardcore!


    1. Mysteriously, a lot of the pictures accompanying this version of the hymn show Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich Senior during his campaign in Bulgaria rather than any Tsar. Seems like the video compilers weren’t too careful about their history!


      1. “Mysteriously, a lot of the pictures accompanying this version of the hymn show Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich Senior during his campaign in Bulgaria rather than any Tsar”

        While you, Professor, wrote a book about his son whom you often reference in your blogposts… “Coincidence? I don’t think so!” (c)

        But on a serious note… You know, Octavian Augustus didn’t proclaim himself a “King” either. He was just “Princeps” 🙂


      2. You know, Octavian Augustus didn’t proclaim himself a “King” either. He was just “Princeps”

        In Bosnia they have ‘High Representative’, who is really the King. Or perhaps more like viceroy.


  3. This post reminded me of The Romanov Prophecy, a thriller in which Russia votes to bring back the tsar and one man (an American lawyer) must track down the rightful heir – a direct descendent of Nicholas II. I reviewed it here a year ago. It was terrible.


    1. Thank your lucky stars Ted Bell didn’t write the book or that Alex Hawke would be the one tracking down the rightful heir and that would be an excruciating book to read and review.


    1. “I’m all for a tsar—as long as it ISN’T Putin.”

      1) Why are you for having a czar?

      2) Why you are against Putin becoming one?


  4. Didnt Putin and some point say that his problem with Czardom is the immense difficulty of avoiding an incompetent one?

    Dynastic succession does have some benefits, namely:

    1: Leaders have incentives to think longterm, and be more conservative/cautious since their successor will be someone they are typically quite fond of.
    2: There is a significant timeframe available for training the successor on the job.

    Democracies meanwhile tend to operate in pretty short timeframes. However, due to the challenges of winning an election, anyone who gets elected should not be completely incompetent.

    The other advantadge of a democracy is the possibility of a peaceful transfer of power, which lessens the odds for all internally involved actors.

    An issue which I think makes democracies less effective now compared to 50 years ago is that what the skillsets required to win elections are more distinct from the skillsets required to be an effective president then what used to be the case.

    Politics concerning elections in democratic countries (including btw. Russia) are becoming increasingly soap-operatic, so it is hardly surprising that a reality TV stars are suddenly competitive.


    1. In systems where the President is elected directly by the voting public, his (or her) removal is often very difficult, even when he is a big danger to all (Nixon, booze, bombs). In a parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is selected by the Party or his parliamentary caucus, and his removal is easier (Chretien).


      1. In the US system, theoretically at least, the President – who by the way is not elected directly by the public; that’s the job of the Electoral College – can be challenged by Congress and the Supreme Court. If an incompetent President comes to power, his/her ability to act can be limited by Congress debate and refusal to approve Presidential Executive Orders. This is an important part of what is known as the separation of powers (legislative, executive, judicial).

        In the Westminster system, while it’s true that Prime Ministers can be removed and replaced by their parties, such a practice tends to undermine public confidence in the political system, as was the case when Kevin Rudd was removed as Australian Prime Minister by the Australian Labor Party ahead of a general election in 2010 and his successor Julia Gillard was similarly removed by the ALP ahead of a general election in 2013. The ALP lost that 2013 election and a big part of the reason for its loss was that Australian voters lost faith in the ability of that party to stick with whoever was its leader if that person became PM.


    2. I should think the British and Saudi monarchies each illustrate two disadvantages of a dynastic succession. In the first example, the fact that Prince Charles has had several decades of training as future monarxh and yet still doesn’t appear to most people as being possessed of sound judgement and character would argue against one form of dynastic succession in which the crown passes from parent to first-born child. Even if Prince Charles could be bypassed, who would then be the most logical successor? Prince Williams wouldn’t necessarily be that successor and the odious Prince Andrew (who definitely doesn’t appear to have sound judgement in his choice of friends) could be just as likely a successor as his nephew.

      At the other extreme, the sort of dynastic succession followed by the Saudis and other Arab dynasties, in which all brothers get a shot at being king, really doesn’t encourage long-term policy making (especially if all the brothers are elderly and have health problems, as has been the case in the KSA over the last decade or so) and likewise training on the job isn’t necessarily long enough.

      In both the British and Saudi scenarios, sooner or later an incompetent monarch cannot be avoided. Even the Malaysian system of an elective monarchy, in which a new monarch from several royal families is voted into office for 5 years, can’t avoid selecting an incompetent king if the pool of available candidates is poor or if the electors themselves are incompetent.


  5. And one more thing (c). Here Lenta.Ru asked representatives of various religions (in Russia), about their attitude to the monarchy, as the preferable form of rule (for Russia). They asked not only “the traditional denominations” – they asked… “various” people, so to say. For those of you, who don’t read Russian, here’s a tl;dr version. Disclaimer – all was said ex cathedra, so to speak, and is, therefore, non-binding and might not even be the official position of that religious groups:

    Catholics: “Monarchy is better, but we kinda-sorta for democracy and human rights, sooooo… Not now”.

    Lutherans: “I have no opinion whatsoever… but democracy is less bad”.

    Old Believers/Staroobryadtsi: “The Rule of God is the only preferable option. Russia, menwhile, had always been quasimonarchical. The current situation is good for us, soooo… why change?”. [+Obligatory invectives thrown into ROC]

    Judaism: “As Above so Below. Monarchy is preferable, but in Russia there is currently no such person, who’d unite the nation by being proclaimed a monarch”.

    Islam: “That’s a can of worms that should not be opened. In fact – first 4 caliphs were elected. Islam is not pro-monarchy by default.”

    Slavic Neo-Pagans/Rodnoveri: “Only localized libertarian democracy – only hardcore!”

    Satanism: “No way! Satanists are supporters of secular state!”

    Buddhism: “Eh!”


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