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A Monarchist Solution for Russia

Published: October 18, 2005 (Issue # 1114)


When former Soviet bloc countries shook off the one-party state and rejoined the community of nations, it seemed self-evident that they should all remain republics. Attempts in Bulgaria to restore a legitimate sovereign to the throne produced ironic sniggers in civilized quarters.

In Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, monarchist movements have never been anything but a fringe element, even if it has now been acknowledged that its liberal democracy has failed. Elections for governors have been abolished, and while the president and the State Duma are still elected, the process increasingly resembles Soviet-era rubber-stamping. Yet, for all the criticism of Vladimir Putin’s “power vertical,” there has never been any question about whether or not Russia should remain a republic.

Nevertheless, the restoration of a legitimate monarchy, with a sovereign drawn from one of the Romanov heirs, may hold out a solution to a variety of Russia’s problems. First and foremost, it is the question of identity that holds the key to Russia’s future. Post-communist Russia has always been an organic outgrowth of the Soviet system. Russia has never found a way to acknowledge and condemn the crimes committed by the Bolshevik regime, and it is unlikely that it will ever undergo any form of de-Stalinization. Reaching back to the monarchy, then, Russia could finally connect to its pre-communist history and turn the page on the tragedy of Bolshevism.

More importantly, ever since the October 1917 coup, Soviet rulers had trouble legitimizing their rule. Their justification was Marxist historical necessity, which quickly proved to be a sham. The legitimacy problem clearly lingers on. Today, it is a staple of official propaganda to contrast Putin’s strong, purposeful Russia with Boris Yeltsin’s chaos and drift.

Lack of legitimacy is the root of the 2008 succession problem. Having undermined liberal democracy, the Putin administration has deprived itself of the legitimacy of the ballot box. And, lacking legitimacy itself, it cannot bequeath it to a rightful heir. The next ruler will have to seek his own legitimacy — most likely, by heaping abuse on Putin and his cohorts.

A constitutional monarchy could provide the continuity that republican Russia has lacked for nearly a century. It could also be a solution for the succession issue. With United Russia dominating the Duma, there is no limit to how many terms a Prime Minister Putin could end up serving.

Today, advocating monarchy is a thankless task. Republics not only predominate among the 191 members of the United Nations, but the view that the state is better off when headed by an elected politician is probably the most widely shared political idea of our otherwise contentious age.

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