Staunton, June 4 – Despite the fears of many and the hopes of some, the new Russian nobility is quite unlike the feudal aristocracy because its members do not feel secure as “they have no rights, self-consciousness or freedom from the state, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. Consequently, they are unlikely to play the positive role such groups did in early modern Europe.
Instead, the Russian economist says, the situation in Russia today is to a certain extent “similar to the feudal orders” which preceded and then gave rise to the European nobility, orders when “a high position in society, just as the appearance of wealth from land depended less on family than on the will of the bearer of supreme power” (snob.ru/entry/161620).
“Under conditions of the obvious shortage of formal guarantees of the preservation of property, clear criteria of professionalism, and parameters of career growth,” Inozemtsev continues, no one should be surprised that the Russian regime is seeking to use family and clan ties to strengthen its stability.
The regime really has no other choice, and history suggests that this could even have progressive consequences if the elite is able to secure its property rights. Then members will have every incentive to increase the wealth of the country in order to pass it on to its
“However,” he says, “the key moments in the formation of a noble stratum are, on the one hand, the monarchical character of power and, on the other, unqualified membership in the higher strata by right of birth without any constant affirmation of loyalty.” Those are both things Russia now lacks.
Indeed, Inozemtsev says, “a political system planning to rely on an aristocracy can exist only under conditions of the indisputable right of the monarch to power, the absence of any undermining institutions of the type of universal electoral rights and the presence of a resource (above all land) which guarantees the order of things economically.
“There is nothing like this in present-day Russia,” he points out, “and more to the point, it is not visible on the horizon.” The supposed “nobility” do not feel themselves protected from the arbitrary action of the ruler; and the ruler does not feel himself guaranteed in office by birth alone.
Moreover, the system in place in Russia now does not have social lifts within those called the nobility. Instead, its elite is dependent on rents that can be taken away at almost any time by the ruler. This does recall an earlier system but not that of mature aristocracy. Instead, it is very much like “feudalism in the making” of a much earlier period.
That earlier system and Russia’s today encourage individual actions by members of the elite that harm state interests rather than contribute to their realization, Inozemtsev argues.
There is, of course, another analogy to the current Russian system: Napoleon’s attempt to create a new aristocracy in Europe after the ravages of the French Revolution. For a brief time, it looked as if he would be successful in imposing his “new nobility” on the governments of Europe.
But few of these noble houses survived the First Empire, Inozemtsev says. The only exception was in Sweden. Undoubtedly, “the majority of Russia’s ‘new aristocrats’ would be happy to repeat his path and not the fate of Murat and Ney.”