Russian Conservatism and Its Critics (Paperback)

A Study in Political Culture

By Richard Pipes

Yale University Press, 9780300122695, 240pp.

Publication Date: June 28, 2007

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Why have Russians chosen unlimited autocracy throughout their history? Why is democracy unable to flourish in Russia?​

Russian Conservatism and Its Critics provides the first account of Russia’s immemorial commitment to the theory and practice of autocracy, the most formative and powerful idea in Russia’s political history. Richard Pipes considers why Russian thinkers, statesmen, and publicists have historically always argued that Russia could prosper only under an autocratic regime. Beginning with an insightful study of the origins of Russian statehood in the Middle Ages, when the state grew out of the princely domain but was not distinguished from it, Russian Conservatism and Its Critics includes a masterful survey of Russia’s major conservative thinkers and demonstrates how conservatism is the dominant intellectual legacy of Russia. Pipes examines the geographical, historical, political, military, and social realities of the Russian empire—fundamentally unchanged by the Revolution of 1917—that have traditionally convinced its rulers and opinion leaders that decentralizing political authority would inevitably result in the country’s disintegration. Pipes has written a brilliant thesis and analysis of a hitherto overlooked aspect of the Russian intellectual tradition that continues to have significance to this day.

About the Author

Richard Pipes is Baird Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University.