CitizenRight in Russia
Threequestions about the reading
In his fight against oppression in Russia, what are the ideas that Radishchev inherited or borrowed from his father?
In his book The Journey, what did Radishchev criticize about the Empress and the administration for the Empress to refer him as a ‘rebel worse than Pugachev’??
Is it not defeat in itself for Radishchev to take his own life when threatened by Count Zavadowsky for upholding his opinion on reforms??
“Thecondemnation of the poor Radishchev hurts me deeply. What a sentenceand what a commutation for a mere blunder! What will they do for acrime or a real revolt? Ten years in Siberia is worse than death fora man who has children that he must part, or who he will deprive ofan education or a chance to enter the service if he takes them withhim. It makes me shudder”.
Thisquote was written by the Russian Ambassador to England afterRadishchev was arrested, imprisoned, condemned to death and latercommuted to Siberia for writing against the oppressive Russianregime. The Ambassador decried the intolerance and the autocracy ofthe Russian regime after the sentencing of Radishchev for advocatingfor the rights of the oppressed. Radishchev (1790, p. 266 – 267)complained about forced labor, unfair taxation among other forms ofoppression that were subjected to the peasants by their masters. Atthe time, the peasants were forced to work in their masters’ landfor the whole week, leaving them with no time to work in their ownfarms. The peasants were further made to pay taxes, the amounts ofwhich were determined by their masters. The peasants were not allowedto spend time with their families since they spent majority of theirtime working in their masters’ farms.
TheEmpress was not impressed by Radishchev’s views. She considered hisviews as an attempt to break the rule of law and to promoteinsubordination of the superiors by their subjects. Empress’ viewwas a direct contrast to the Western ideologies. Whereas Radishchevwas condemned and sentenced to death for protesting againstoppression, Voltaire gained popularity in France for his fightagainst injustice and intolerance (Raeff, 1966, p. 149). By the merefact that Radishchev wrote his book at a time when the Frenchrevolution was under way, the Empress was persuaded to think thatRadishchev was influenced by the protagonists of the FrenchRevolution who, according to the Empress, ought to have been hanged(Radishchev, 1790, p. 263.
Ata later time however, the democratic space opened up more in Russiaas it assimilated some of the Western ideologies. Raeff (1966, p.151) observes that in the eighteenth century, Russia was stronglyreminiscent of the Central and the Western Europe two or threecenturies ago. Western Europe put more emphasis on dignity and worthof an individual. An individual was supposed to define and establishhis own place in the society and the world at large. This ideologicalthinking in Western Europe was gaining popularity in Russia in theeighteen century (Raeff, 1966, p. 152). This was a hugetransformation from the past where the Russian people were supposedto observe a strict code of conduct or risk punishment from theauthorities.
Radishchev,A. N., (1790). AJourney from St. Petersburg to Moscow.Cambridge, CB: Harvard University Press.
Raeff,M., (1966). Originsof the Russians Intelligentsia: The Eighteenth-Century Nobility.New York, NY: Harvest/HBJ.