The execution of the Decembrists, furnished with awesome theatricality - at first uniforms with orders flew into the fire, then their swords were broken over the heads of the condemned and only then they were led to the gallows - did not put an end to the public discussion regarding the conspiracy and rebellion, nor to the conflict of absolutist power and the army. “The prison is in honor of me, not in reproach: for the right cause, I am in it. And should I be ashamed of these chains when I wear them for the Fatherland, ”the lines scratched by the hereditary noble nobleman Ryleyev on a prison plate, in historical run turned out to be stronger than the death sentence minted by Emperor Nicholas I.
Execution split the elite of Russia. Moreover, from now on, the rulers felt discomfort - either explicit or subconscious - even among those caressed by them, because after the Senate they knew: honor may turn out to be stronger than devotion. The consequence of the 14 uprising of December 1825 of the year on Senatskaya Square was also the persistent fear of the authorities over the thinking army and the officer corps formed after the war in their country and abroad. This fear turned out to be more durable than the empire itself: not only in the 19th century, the authorities were afraid of the military, ready for the good of the Fatherland to “go to the square” against the state, ready to replace the generals' epaulettes with hard labor shackles. On the phenomenon of Decemberism, our conversation with the author of historical monographs ("Events and People of 14 December", "Revolt of the Rebellion", etc.), the chief editor of the magazine "Star" Yakov Gordin.
- An unprecedented phenomenon in world politics - not the oppressed, but the representatives of the class of oppressors opposed the existing system. The coup d'état in the name of “establishing justice” was initiated not by “humiliated and offended”, but by high-ranking military men and owners of wealthy estates. For the equality of all classes before the law, it was not the disfranchised slaves who fought for serfs, but eminent hereditary nobles. And none of them claimed to participate in public life if the uprising succeeded - that was the fundamental tenets of the Decembrist ideology. How did the Russian society react to the sentence of the Decembrists and the execution of five of them?
- The reaction to the execution of the five rebels was, of course, closely related to the perception of the insurgency itself. Russian society, even the most educated part of it, was by no means uniform. I will confine myself to several expressive examples. At one pole was the "nobility" mood. According to the police agents, who carefully monitored the reaction of various social groups after the insurrection, the trial and the execution, among the cantonists (the soldiers' children who studied in special schools and then enrolled in the army) there was an opinion: “They began to hang up and refer to penal servitude, sorry that everyone was not outweighed ... ”On the other hand, there is evidence that, in many places, they were very sympathetic to convicted Decembrists during their transportation in Russia to Siberia.
If we talk about the reaction to the events of 14 December of the cultural elite, then it was sharply multidirectional. Two weeks after the rebellion, Nikolay Karamzin wrote to Peter Vyazemsky: “God saved us on December 14 from great misfortune. It was worth the invasion of the French ... "Vasily Zhukovsky, the kindest and noblest man, wrote on December 16 to his friend Alexander Turgenev, brother of one of the leaders of the conspirators-northerners Nikolai Turgenev:" Providence saved Russia ... What did all this band of thieves want? .. “Despicable villains who wanted to slaughter Russia with such mad ferocity.” Both Karamzin and Zhukovsky were driven by horror not before the real leaders of the uprising, many of whom they knew and appreciated, but just before the elements of the insurrection that they woke up. Did Karamzin and Zhukovsky want to cool off from the first shock, death sentences? Certainly not. Suffice it to recall the role of Zhukovsky in the fact that immediately after his accession to the throne, his pupil Alexander II pardoned all "state criminals." Prince Peter Vyazemsky wrote in his notebook: "13 number (day of execution. -" MN ") severely justified my presentiment! For me, this day is worse than 14 (the day of the uprising. - "MN"). According to my conscience, I find that executions and punishments are disproportionate to crimes ... The point is now to determine the measure of what is possible and what should not be tolerated. ”
Many were shocked not only by the cruelty of the verdict, but also by the hypocrisy of Nicholas, who said that he would amaze everyone with his generosity ... He ordered that the Supreme Criminal Court, who decided the fate of the Decembrists, be handed over, that he "rejects any punishment connected with the spilling of blood." That is, he deprived five sentenced officers, two of whom went through the Napoleonic wars, fought at Borodino, had military awards, and the rights to be shot. He condemned them to a shameful execution - to the gallows ... All this, of course, was taken into account by society. Including the officers.
- Is it possible to say that the uprising and the events that followed it contributed to the formation of public opinion in Russia, about the absence of which Pushkin spoke?
- Let's remember when Pushkin said this. This is a phrase from a letter to Chaadaev from 19 in October 1836 of the year ... If you believe Pushkin, the events that followed 14 in December were crushed by public opinion. “We must admit that our social life is a sad thing. That this lack of public opinion, this indifference to any duty, justice and truth, this cynical contempt for human thought and dignity - can truly lead to despair. " So, public opinion was formed, in the exact sense of the word, under Catherine II and flourished under Alexander I. The catastrophe on Senate Square interrupted its development. That is, it has always existed, but the influence on the surrounding reality has become no earlier than the forties. When Herzen proposed his famous formula about guns that woke an entire generation, he meant his generation. And he was born in 1812 year. People of this generation entered the public arena precisely in the forties. But the further, the more intense the memory of the Decembrists influenced the public consciousness. And in this regard, we can talk about some kind of assistance. This is a very interesting in the historiosophical sense situation - the echo from the December 14 explosion did not fade, but intensified with decades and, perhaps, the maximum sound it reached in the Soviet period. Promoting decabrism, the Soviet government did not calculate the effect, and when she caught herself, it was too late. Decabrism as a myth became one of the most important elements of oppositional consciousness.
“The emperor was afraid of sympathy for the conspirators, because he favored their relatives, in particular, he introduced General Nikolai Raevsky — the father-in-law of Prince Sergei Volkonsky who was exiled to penal servitude — to the Council of State, etc. How effective was this measure?
- Nikolay perfectly understood that the fate of the convicts would not add to his popularity in many aristocratic and noble families. He understood that the terrible accusations of violation of the oath and intent on the regicide are strange and not very convincing in the Russian Empire. Alexander, against whom the conspirators conspired and were reasoned about the murder, sanctioned the murder of Emperor Paul, his father. By December 1825, three legitimate emperors had already been killed in Russia and several palace revolutions were carried out. Golenishchev-Kutuzov, who supervised the execution of five, was a participant in the murder of Paul ... Of course, understanding all this, Nikolai tried to do some conciliatory actions. Pushkin’s return from exile was, as you know, one of them. As for Rajewski and the State Council, it must be borne in mind that the Council of State was the seat of an honorable exile. Roughly expelled from the Caucasus Ermolov, whom Nikolai could not bear, was also sent to the State Council. The State Council, an advisory body, appointed those generals whom Nikolay did not want to see in the army. Much more significant was the fact that Nikolai did not pursue the relatives of the convicts. On the contrary, the brothers of some conspirators were promoted in the ranks.
But it should be said that Nikolai missed a unique opportunity to fundamentally change the social and political atmosphere of the country. If he really was a major statesman, then in any case he would not have executed anyone, and in the case of the ideal, he would have pardoned the conspirators. And many of them would become zealous and helpful servants of the empire. This would be a turning point in relations between the authorities and society in Russia. Perhaps it was at this moment that the last chance was missed to fundamentally change these relations and prevent the impending catastrophe — the revolution of the twentieth century. Alexander III’s pardon for the murderers of his father, whom Tolstoy pleaded with him, would not have changed anything, the point of no return was left behind.
- Is there evidence of how the Russian elite perceived the transformation of the heroes of the Patriotic War into conspirators?
- And there was no transformation. Russia was a military empire and the officers traditionally participated in politics. From 1725 of the year - enthronement of Catherine I, bypassing the legitimate Peter II, the grandson of Peter I - and up to 1825, the guards officers were the decisive factor in political life. Participants in all the coups, the killing of Paul in particular, were heroes of the wars that Russia was leading almost continuously. So December 14 was all quite in line with the fundamental tradition. When Pavel Pestel was sentenced to death, no one was embarrassed that he was seriously wounded at Borodino in 19 years and was awarded a golden sword for bravery, and then distinguished himself in a foreign campaign. When sentenced to hard labor - for 20 years - Major General Sergei Volkonsky, it was not at all taken into account that he was a member of the 50 battles, a knight of the gold badge of Preussis-Eylau, a golden sword for bravery and many high orders. All this was in the order of things.
- The interrogations of the Decembrists, conducted with the participation of Nicholas I, suggest that the conspirators fairly quickly confessed to their intentions, sometimes even repentance is apparent in the confessions. Why such ease and sincerity in the rejection of belief?
- They did not refuse convictions. They renounced the method of implementing these beliefs. As for the behavior during the investigation, this is a rather complicated question. First, there were people who behaved quite decently - Lunin, Pushchin, Yakushkin, Nikolai Bestuzhev ... Secondly, we must understand the specific situation. Ryleev, who could not stand the shocks and painfully felt his responsibility for the shed blood, at the first interrogations told a lot. Relying on his testimony, the investigators, it must be admitted, with great skill, forced the rest to be truthful. Thirdly, there was no social barrier between investigators and those under investigation who appeared during the time of the People. General Volkonsky was interrogated by a friend of his youth and comrade in the wars with Napoleon, General Benkendorf. In this situation, it is very difficult to lie. Fourthly, many of them - especially young officers - were ready for death, but not ready for shackles and dark, raw casemates. In addition, the frankness of some differed significantly from the frankness of others. Some were very skillful game with the investigation and, speaking many words, concealed a lot of facts. But, of course, they were crushed by a catastrophe.
“The Decembrists and the 1825 uprising of the year are perhaps the only myth that turned out to be stronger than any propaganda — pre-revolutionary, Soviet, post-Soviet. Why?
- One of the main misfortunes of our political life, we take the Petrine period, which lasts until our days, is the inability and unwillingness of the majority of those who enter into politics to correlate personal interest with general interest, as they said in the 18th century - the nation-wide, group interest with the interest of the state, the country. This was, and is, a grave vice of our political culture.
The people of the secret societies - the true Decembrists - were the first to overcome this vice. And it's not their romantic nobility, but their political professionalism, no matter how strange it sounds. They were able to relate the personal and the general, and this was a fundamental feature of genuine politicians. And through all the romantic husk, through all these tales about young men, who were eager to die beautifully for their brothers, people of different generations - especially people of the Soviet period - saw this disinterested pragmatism. They might not have known that none of the leaders of the Northern society, in the event of a victory in the uprising, claimed any government posts, to participate in the Provisional Government, but they felt this real human basis. I dare say that they believed the Decembrists through the Decembrist myth.
“We will die, but the example will remain,” said Sergey Muraviev-Apostol. In your opinion, an example of what?
- But this example was meant to risk it for the sake of the common. Neglect low for high. To relate the quotient to the nationwide. This is politics, not what we often take for it.