The Sexual Revolution in Old Russia

Dr Matthew Raphael Johnson brings us a new Orthodox Nationalist, this week looking at the pre-revolutionary sexual liberation movement in Russia. The death of Nicholas I in the midst of the Crimean War signaled the start of the revolution. The abolition of serfdom in 1861 (just a few years later) seemed to hammer the final nail into the coffin of the “shameful past.” The few survivors of the Decembrist revolt, a noble revolution stopped by Nicholas, saw this event as a worthy end of their lives, and a victory over their nemesis, the conservative Nikolai and all that he stood for.

The nobility of the Russian Empire, at one point accustomed for centuries to serve the throne and Fatherland, ingloriously left the stage. They also led the revolutionary movements. Not quite capitalist, not traditional, ideologically confused and altogether secular, these indebted families, the target of all royal policy from Ivan III onward, went to the cities and led the liberal revolution in 1905.

After the freedom of the serfs in 1861, the nobles were to be compensated for their lost labor. The fact that the Emperor could easily cancel these payments shows the irrelevance of this class. The nobility did not invest the money in the improvement of Russia, but preferred to consume it in their wasteful lifestyle. Thus was laid the cornerstone for imminent economic impoverishment and the ruin of the nobility on the one hand, and the collapse of the Russian Empire – on the other.

This broadcast therefore, centers on the death of old Russia. As always, it comes from within. Dmitri Pisarev (see above) was the the intellectual leader of the “Nihilists” in Russia, or what in the west would be called the “Positivists.” Nihilism was never the belief in “nothing.” Nihilism was synonymous with nominalism, or the rejection of universals. No universal meanings or values were inherent in the natural order. There was no human nature and the only “universal” permitted was cause and effect. The “world machine” that was music to the ears of the new elite.

At the turn of the century in Petersburg, many dominant, elite families consecrated themselves to Dionysus and used the artificial “crystal palace” as their symbol. This served as the epicenter for the rich and powerful in Peter’s “Floating City.” The desire was to bring “Parisian” manners to Russia, as they were understood to mean at the time. To be “Parisian” was to be Bohemian and politically revolutionary. Gypsy choirs, seen as libertine and non-Christian, were used to bring the Dionysian feelings to their apex while the vodka flowed. The idle rich, the old noble families long replaced and the salon women, were all willing to listen to any “spiritualist” that flattered them. The males were almost all deeply involved in Freemasonry and Jacobin politics.