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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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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I'm Not Voting, And Guess What, That Is OK

To all of the recent political endorsements by celebrities and Facebook posts telling me I should register to vote, I'm not voting.

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I am not the type of person to normally ever write a Facebook post related to politics, yet here I am dedicating a whole article to it. Or rather about voting itself, not my political affiliation. For the most part, I like to keep my political outlooks to myself instead of broadcasting them to all of my friends, family, coworkers, and that handful of people I do not actually know but I accepted their friend request anyway. Instead, I grace this group of people with animal videos because it doesn't cause any friction, the videos are always light-hearted, and there are already so many other people posting about the next election.

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Quite frankly, I do not identify as a liberal democrat or conservative republican so I should not be subjected to vote for either. I choose not to vote because I do not support either side of the political spectrum and I do not think any of the candidates are true to what I want in the future of my country. There are some ideas I like from Democrats as well as some ideas I like from Republicans, but because of the political climate in recent years, the political parties are becoming more polarized than ever with their ideas, and instead of seeking a moderate stance, are becoming more extreme. I understand that voting is seen as a civic responsibility that comes with being a U.S. citizen, but I have the right to vote not the obligation to vote, and people should respect that decision.

Can you imagine amending the constitution to include penalties for not voting? Where is the democracy in forcing citizens to the ballots via scare tactics? I just do not want to be forced into voting or supporting something that I do not believe in. I will vote when there is a candidate that earns my vote and that I support instead of voting just to vote.

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