Eastern European Absolutism: The Unforseen Catalyst

Eastern European Absolutism: The Unforseen Catalyst

Russia before France? The truth lies in history.
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Amid the devout sense of nationalism and societal order we see today in modern Europe, its history may not have been so pristine and precise. Filled with bloodlust, religious tolerance and constant warfare, the turning point for European history must have been the rise of new monarchies during the 16th century that facilitated greater exploration, new innovations, boosted economy and centralized authority that ultimately led to the sense of nationalism and sovereignty between the states seen today.

Beginnings Of Eastern European Absolutism

From the start of the Thirty Years War from 1618-1648, the constant feuds between the Holy Roman Empire house of the Habsburgs and states such as France, Spain and England, severely weakened the monarchy through loss of population, economic downfall, especially in Germany and inevitable debt. In addition, the Bubonic Plague of the 14th century created tremendous labor shortages and decline of the reputation of the church.

In Eastern Europe, absolutism began to develop after a period of instability, which ultimately led to the resurfacing of serfdom between 1500-1600, a system of being a feudal laborer under the command of the nobility. Lords demanded that kings and princes issue laws that restricted peasant mobility and tied them to their jobs as the ensure their participation in the labor force. In Russia, non-serf peasants were also affected under the robot in which they had to work three to four days without pay. Hereditary serfdom was re-established in Poland, Russia and Prussia, thus giving more power to the nobility and revenue for the monarch. This created the ideal that monarchs needed the nobles to retain their status as Eastern Europe was closed off in isolation during the rule of the Mongol Yokes, especially in Russia.

Austrian Rise (Hapsburgs) v.s. Ottomans

As the ruler of Austria retained the title of Holy Roman Emperor, Austrian land included parts of Naples and Milan in Italy, Belgium, Hungary and Transylvania in modern day Romania. After the Spanish wars of succession from 1701-1703, the Spanish throne was then occupied by the Bourbons of France under Henry of Navarre, causing the loss of land for the Hapsburg Empire. Thus, they turned inward and westward in an attempt to unify the state and consolidate its diverse holdings. Reorganizing Bohemia was the first step toward absolutism. Under the rule of Ferdinand III ( 1619-1657), the HRE was provided a permanent standing army and increased revenue for the monarchs under serfdom, centralizing the old hereditary provinces of Austria Proper. The Ottomans were under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent who used slaves and armies to conquer the heart of Europe. Under Leopold I of 1658-1705, the Siege of Vienna successfully removed the Ottomans from central Europe, weakening the sultan's rule and expanding the Hapsburg even further. Under Charles VI, the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 issued a claim that Hapsburg possessions had to be unified in order to be successful; therefore, Maria Theresa inherited all the lands of the Hapsburgs under single rule for 40 years. This was the beginning to a more centralized and strengthen monarchy.

Prussia under the Fredericks

Brandenburg was the absolute basis for absolutism in Prussia. Though part of the HRE, it was rarely influenced by international affairs. Years of dynastic marriages thus allowed the Hohenzollerns, very wealthy landowners, to come into power, effectively weakening the power of the Estates, Prussian representative bodies and the nobility. After the devastation of Brandenburg with the invasion of the Tartars of Russia, over 50,000 were killed. The Estates and noble power were now in need of money for a larger army and refused to join representatives of towns resisting royal power. "The Great Elector" was now able to step forward to unify the lands of Brandenburg, Prussia and Rhine holdings.

The Great Elector consolidated the greatest military in Europe through heavy taxation by decree with no noble exemptions, military order of tax collection which expanded the bureaucracy and encouragement of trade and industry by attracting skilled craftsman and Dutch farmers. The Estates controlled by the Junkers were weakened without the power of the purse and a new militaristic society was created.

Frederick William I was the successor who ultimately brought Prussia to its height. Infusing militarism into Prussian society, he created a very disciplined state and doubled the size of the army. More than 80% of the government's revenue went into the military, removing local autonomous governments as each region had to pay taxes to him. The Estates were abolished and the Junkers were now listed into the army and the new nobility were now chosen based on merit, not lineage. The Junkers now agreed the taxation as they could command peasantry in the army and other serfs. This allowed the expansion of monarch absolutism as he had no noble opposition, and other commoners were too weak to charge against. This reign became the first example of absolutism in Prussia.

Russia The Great

Russia's development was lagging behind that of Western Europe. After the Thirty Years War and Peace of Westphalia, the HRE was extremely decentralized and Russia did not benefit from any initiative or incentives from the rest of Eastern Europe. Additionally, the Mongol Yoke until 1330 cut off Russia from Europe. Though not directly occupied by the Mongols, nobility and monarch had to pay tribute to Mongols in order maintain peace. The rise of the Islamic State and Ottomans also posed a threat to centralization and trade.

In the midst, Ivan I (1328-1341) became extremely wealthy. When the city of Tver revolted against Mongol rule, Ivan I went to the city Mongol authorities who then placed him in charge of the Mongol-Russian army to defeat Tver. After Tver's defeat, the Mongols deemed Ivan I as the Great Prince and the tax collector for all Slavic lands. Additionally, because of his newfound status, Ivan I was able to bring the metropolitan city of Kiev to settle in Moscow, which brought him and the Russian Orthodox church more power and wealth.

Ivan III, became the new absolutist ruler who undermined the power of the Mongols. By acknowledging him as the supreme ruler, not the Khans, and strengthening the status of the Russian Orthodox Church, Ivan III elevated the Muscovite authority.

However, Ivan IV, better known as Ivan the Terrible, took the title as czar and absolute ruler. He gained much territory from the Black Sea and Baltic Region, opening Russia to some seaports. He also encouraged the Westernization of Muscovy through trade with the Netherlands and England, bringing more revenue to Russia. The Boyar nobility had to serve the tsar through taxes and were murdered in secret. Peasants fled his harsh taxation and formed the Cossack coalition of outlawed armies and free formed groups. Serfdom increased dramatically and merchants were tied to their jobs for easier taxation. This was a sharp contrast to Western capitalism.

Under the Romanov dynasty through Ivan IV's marriage to Anastasia Romanov, Michael Romanov became ruler from 1613-1645. He favored noble authority and ground peasants further down, leading to various revolts. The Church was now threatened by new Lutheran and Calvin beliefs, leading to more instability. Wars raged between the Cossacks and Boyars, causing Russia major influxes but Russia had more stability in comparison to Ivan III's rule.

Peter the Great became the ultimate form of absolutism in Russia. From 1682-1725, he led numerous reforms to unite Russia together and move it toward more powerful centralization like the ones of France. In an attempt to westernize Russia, Peter created a militaristic society and modeled the army after that of Prussia. Noble authority was limited as they were required to serve in the military. He also wanted to look for warm water ports for trade and commerce. Thus, he built numerous ships and opened universities where people could learn the correct etiquette of royalty. He went on expeditions to Western Europe and brought back new technologies and craftsman to build large factories, where peasants were also assigned to work. Taxation by decree was evident and there were no representative bodies. Landowners owed lifetime service to the czar in return for greater control over serfs. The Russian Orthodox Church lost its supremacy as Peter removed the replacement of patriarchs, giving authority to the state. One of Peter's greatest accomplishment was the building of westernized cities such as St. Petersburg, which advocated his greatness. His reforms thus lead to absolutists views and helped bring Russia closer to mainstream Europe.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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I Might Have Aborted My Fetus When I Was 18, But Looking Back, I Saved A Child’s Life

It may have been one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't had done it.

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Due to recent political strife happening in the world today, I have decided to write on a very touchy, difficult subject for me that only a handful of people truly know.

When I was 18 years old, I had an abortion.

I was fresh out of high school, and deferring college for a year or two — I wanted to get all of my immature fun out so I was prepared to focus and work in the future. I was going through my hardcore party stage, and I had a boyfriend at the time that truly was a work of art (I mean truly).

Needless to say, I was extremely misinformed on sex education, and I never really thought it could happen to me. I actually thought I was invincible to getting pregnant, and it never really registered to me that if I had unprotected sex, I could actually get pregnant (I was 18, I never said I was smart).

I remember being at my desk job and for weeks, I just felt so nauseous and overly tired. I was late for my period, but it never really registered to me something could be wrong besides just getting the flu — it was November, which is the peak of flu season.

The first person I told was my best friend, and she came with me to get three pregnancy tests at Target. The first one came negative, however, the second two came positive.

I truly believe this was when my anxiety disorder started because I haven't been the same ever since.

Growing up in a conservative, Catholic Italian household, teen pregnancy and especially abortion is 150% frowned upon. So when I went to Planned Parenthood and got the actual lab test done that came out positive, I was heartbroken.

I felt like I was stuck between two roads: Follow how I was raised and have the child, or terminate it and ultimately save myself AND the child from a hard future.

My boyfriend at the time and I were beyond not ready. That same week, I found out he had cheated on me with his ex and finances weren't looking so great, and I was starting to go through the hardest depression of my life. Because of our relationship, I had lost so many friends and family, that I was left to decide the fate of both myself and this fetus. I could barely take care of myself — I was drinking, overcoming drug addictions, slightly suicidal and living with a man who didn't love me.

As selfish as you may think this was, I terminated the fetus and had the abortion.

I knew that if I had the child, I would be continuing the cycle in which my family has created. My goal since I was young was to break the cycle and breakaway from the toxicity in how generations of children in my family were raised. If I had this child, I can assure you my life would be far from how it is now.

If I had carried to term, I would have had a six-year old, and God knows where I would've been.

Now, I am fulfilling my future by getting a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, having several student leadership roles, and looking into law schools for the future.

Although it still haunts me, and the thought of having another abortion truly upsets me, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I get asked constantly "Do you think it's just to kill a valuable future of a child?" and my response to that is this:

It's in the hands of the woman. She is giving away her valuable future to an unwanted pregnancy, which then resentment could cause horror to both the child and the woman.

As horrible as it was for me in my personal experience, I would not be where I am today: a strong woman, who had overcome addiction, her partying stage, and ultimately got her life in order. If I would have had the child, I can assure you that I would have followed the footsteps of my own childhood, and the child would not have had an easy life.

Because of this, I saved both my life and the child's life.

And if you don't agree or you dislike this decision, tough stuff because this is my body, my decision, my choice — no one else.

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

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This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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