For most of his life Konstantin Pobedonostsev was engaged in research and teaching activities. His father, Peter Vasilyevich, was a professor of literature and literature at the Imperial Moscow University; therefore, his teaching career was not something new and unexplored for Konstantin Pobedonostsev. In 1859, 32-year-old Pobedonostsev defended his master's thesis in law, and in 1860, he was elected professor in civil law at Moscow University.
Certainly, the impetus for Pobedonostsev’s grand career and getting him a real opportunity to influence the policy of the empire was his appointment at the end of 1861 to become a teacher of jurisprudence to the heir to the throne, Grand Duke Nikolai Alexandrovich - son of Alexander II. That was how Pobedonostsev had a thorough acquaintance with the imperial family. An erudite teacher was involved in the work of the commissions that prepared the judicial reform, and then in the 1868 year they were included in the Senate. But Pobedonostsev's peak appointment was his approval in the position of Chief Prosecutor of the Holy Synod in April 1880. Initially, the appointment of Konstantin Pobedonostsev as the chief procurator of the Synod was favorably received by liberal Russian intellectuals, since he was considered a more progressive figure than his predecessor, Count Dmitry Andreyevich Tolstoy, who held the prosecutor's office in 1865-1880. Suffice it to say that after the Synod, Tolstoy soon received an appointment to the post of Minister of the Interior and the chief of gendarmes. Dmitry Tolstoy was considered a man of extremely conservative convictions, an opponent of liberal reforms, and the intelligentsia treated him very coolly.
Konstantin Pobedonostsev, in contrast to Dmitry Tolstoy, in his youth was a man of not just liberal, but even democratic views. He wrote out the “Bell” of Alexander Herzen, and as a lawyer he defended the independence of the judiciary. By the way, that is why in 1864, he was attracted to the judicial reform - the “liberal” emperor Alexander II needed precisely such advisers. Therefore, when Pobedonostsev replaced Tolstoy, the liberal public, if not triumphant, then at least, sighed with relief. It was believed that the new Ober Prosecutor of the Synod would pursue a more balanced and loyal policy. But this did not happen. Over the years, the worldview of Konstantin Pobedonostsev changed dramatically.
Almost immediately after his appointment to the new post, Pobedonostsev disappointed the Russian liberals. After the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, Pobedonostsev came out with the decisive support of the autocratic power and became the author of the Highest manifesto of 29 in April of 1881, in which the autocratic system was proclaimed unshakable in the Russian Empire.
Pobedonostsev became the main ideologist of power and had a decisive influence on politics in the field of education, religion, and interethnic relations. In Soviet times, Pobedonostsev’s policy was called nothing more than protective, but its basis was not so much a loyal desire to please the emperor as a rather serious basis from his own theoretical developments. According to his convictions, Pobedonostsev was an unconditional opponent of political democracy, which he considered destructive for the state, especially for Russia. The main mistake of democratic ideology Pobedonostsev saw a mechanistic understanding of socio-political processes, their simplification. Being a serious believer, Pobedonostsev defended the mystical origin of power, endowed it with a sacred meaning. The institutions of power, according to Pobedonostsev, have a subtle connection with the history of the country, its national identity. He considered liberalism and parliamentarism suitable only for those states where there is serious ground for such a system. For example, the possibility of the effective existence of the parliamentary system of Pobedonostsev allowed for England, the United States, for small European states like the Netherlands, but did not see its future in the Roman, German, Slavic countries of Europe. Of course, from the point of view of Pobedonostsev, he was not an effective model of parliamentarism for the Russian state either. Moreover, for Russia, parliamentarism was, from the point of view of the chief prosecutor, harmful and could entail only a progressing moral and moral decline associated with the violation of the original, sacred political order of the Russian state.
The main advantage of the monarchy over parliamentarism Pobedonostsev considered the enormous personal responsibility of the monarch for the people and the state managed by them. The elected leadership of the country, realizing its turnover, has far less responsibility. If the power of the monarch is inherited, then the presidents and deputies, having spent several years in their posts, resign and are no longer responsible for the further fate of the country and even for the fate of the laws they passed.
Of course, the government needs a certain limiter, and Pobedonostsev also recognized this. But he saw this limiter not in the institutions of representation, like parliament, but in the religious and moral convictions and qualities of the monarch himself. It is his faith, moral and moral attitudes, spiritual development that can become, according to Pobedonostsev, the main obstacle to the development of despotism and abuse. As a person of conservative convictions, Pobedonostsev paid a lot of attention to religion, and he considered the Orthodox Church to be the only correct Christian church. He saw an urgent need to increase the influence of the church on the public and political life of the country. In particular, the chief procurator of the synod advocated the large-scale construction of new churches, the holding of church holidays in the most solemn atmosphere, supported the opening of parochial schools. But, at the same time, Pobedonostsev’s policy of supporting the Orthodox Church turned around and infringing upon the religious rights and freedoms of religious groups of the population. Old Believers, Molokans, Dukhobors, Baptists and other similar groups suffered most of all under him. Pobedonostsev initiated a repressive policy against these religious movements, turning the state repressive apparatus into a tool for asserting the interests of the Orthodox Church. Such a position Pobedonostseva stemmed from his personal understanding of Orthodoxy. For him, religion was not only faith, but also a state ideology. Therefore, all non-faith groups, especially if their followers were Russians by birth, represented, from the point of view of the synod ober prosecutor, a danger to the security of the state system.
Konstantin Pobedonostsev’s policy regarding religious minorities was remembered by very tough actions against Old Believers, Baptists, Molokans, whom the authorities began to persecute and subject to real police repression. Often the actions of the authorities acquired simply blatant nature. For example, in February 1894, the archimandrite Isidor Kolokolov, with the support of the Cossack hundreds, captured the old believer Nikolsky monastery in the village of the Caucasian Kuban region. Old Believer monks were expelled from their monastery, while the authorities did not stop at the monstrous act for any Christian - the destruction of the monastery cemetery. The Cossacks destroyed the graves of Bishop Job and Priest Gregory, dug up and burned their bodies, and made latrines in the grave pits. Such cruelty caused misunderstanding in society, and even the majority of the Cossacks of the stanitsa, who did not belong to the Old Believers, were indignant. This attack, of course, was not the only example of state intervention in the sphere of religion in the years of Constantine Pobedonostsev ober-prosecutors.
- Pobedonostsev in his youth
Many preachers of sectarian groups were placed in the Suzdal monastery prison. It is noteworthy that they also sent Orthodox priests to it, who allowed themselves to criticize the overly authoritarian and cruel policy of the Holy Synod. It is known that Konstantin Pobedonostsev was considering the possibility of placing Lev Tolstoy in the monastery prison, whom he considered a heretic. But here already the emperor himself intervened, who did not give the ober-prosecutor his consent to repressions against the great writer.
Pobedonostsev’s no less hatred than representatives of Russian religious minorities was aroused by a large Jewish community. It was Konstantin Pobedonostsev who was behind the serious anti-Semitic turnaround in the domestic policy of the Russian Empire, and the anti-Semitism of the synod ober-prosecutor was not understood and recognized by many prominent state and, more importantly, religious figures. The anti-Semitic policy of state power in those years pursued not only the goal of protecting Russia from the alien, as Pobedonostsev, ethnoconfessional community, but also to direct popular discontent against the Jews. Pobedonostsev himself, in numerous letters and speeches, did not conceal his anti-Semitic views, but at the same time emphasized the intellectual potential of the Jews, who also inspired fear in him. Therefore, the chief procurator of the synod hoped to evict a large part of the Jews from the Russian empire, and a smaller part - to dissolve in the surrounding population. Pobedonostsev, in particular, initiated the eviction of Jews from Moscow in 1891-1892, during which Jewish pogroms began to occur, which were opposed by many prominent religious figures, including the bishops of the Orthodox Church.
However, the repressive policy of Konstantin Pobedonostsev did not lead to the desired results. It was at the time when he headed the synod that the Russian Empire began the rapid spread of revolutionary ideas, the revolutionary organizations of social democrats, socialist revolutionaries, anarchists were created. Did the Pobedonostsevs bring the revolutionary events of 1905-1907 to their reactionary politics? This is unlikely, since the growth of revolutionary sentiment in society was caused by a number of socio-economic and political factors, but still it is not necessary to exclude a certain influence of the policy of the Procurator-General of the Synod. In an effort to ban any dissent, suppress religious communities, censor literature and the press, Pobedonostsev "dug a hole" for the autocracy, because the level of economic and social development of the world at the turn of the XIX - XX centuries. already demanded certain political and cultural reforms. Konstantin Pobedonostsev, perhaps, understood this, but did not want to admit. Nikolai Berdyaev believed that Pobedonostsev was no less a nihilist than the revolutionaries he criticized. Only the object of the nihilistic attitude of Pobedonostsev was not the state system and the social system, but man. Pobedonostsev did not believe in man, considered the human nature to be “bad” and sinful, and accordingly - in need of “curiosity” of repression and censorship.
Another well-known Russian philosopher and theologian, George Florovsky, spoke about Pobedonostsev’s lack of understanding of the spiritual life, theology. In the church, Pobedonostsev saw a state institution that allowed him to sacrifice the existing political system. Therefore, he sought to prevent discussions on religious topics, mercilessly sent clerics to a monastery prison, who allowed themselves a critical assessment of the religious and national policies pursued by the synod.
At the same time, many contemporaries also noted the intelligence and talent of Pobedonostsev. Among them were Vasily Rozanov, and Sergey Vitte, and the same Nikolay Berdyaev - different people with different positions, but agreed that Pobedonostsev was indeed an extraordinary person, with all the controversy of his political position. It is difficult to doubt that Konstantin Pobedonostsev sincerely loved Russia and wished her well, only understood this good in his own way. So, as parents and grandfathers protect their children and grandchildren, sometimes trying to protect the younger generation from mistakes and "bigwigs", but at the same time not realizing that such is the law of development of a person and society - go ahead, learn new and unexplored.
Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev left the post of Ober-Prosecutor of the Synod in 1905, just in the year of the beginning of the First Russian Revolution. By this time, he was already a very old 78-year-old. He did not manage to prevent the appearance of a parliament in Russia - the State Duma, even if it possessed far less powers than the parliaments of European states. Konstantin Pobedonostsev witnessed the revolutionary events and died in the year of the suppression of the First Revolution - in 1907, the eightieth year of his life. A man from the XIX century, who absorbed the value of the old, autocratic Russia, in the new country, which it certainly became after the adoption of the Manifesto, no longer had a place. Pobedonostsev grew old with old Russia and died only ten years before the Russian autocracy itself ceased to exist.