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Samoderzhets - Nomenclature

The S-500 program has too many names chasing not enough hardware. The names Samoderzhets, Prometey [Prometheus] and Triumfator have all been associated with this program. Triumfator is a missile, Yenisei is the high-altitude radar detector, but the relationship between Samoderzhets and Prometey remains obscure.

In Russian usage, Emperor (Imperator) was quite a distinct term in the Tsar's title from that of Autocrat (Samoderzhets). From Peter the Great in 1721 onwards, the formal titles of the Tsar began with "By the Grace of God Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, ...' (Bozhe milostyu Imperator i Samoderzhets Vsekh Rossisskikh...'). The Autocrat of All the Russias ruled over a realm that included Great Russia, Little Russia (Ukraine), and White Russia (now Belarus). Samoderzhets Vsekh Rossisskikh is sometimes rendered as Autocrat of All the Russians, but this seems less apt, since Russia is not a nation state. From the start it has been a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual polity - an empire. [see "'All the Russias . . .'?" Simon Franklin and Emma Widdis]

The decree of 11 November 1721 : "We, Peter I, by the grace of God emperor and autocrat [Imperator i Samoderzhets] of all the Russias, of Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod; tsar of Kazan', tsar of Astrakhan', tsar of Siberia; sovereign of Pskov, and grand duke of Smolensk; prince of Esthonia, Livonia, Karelia, Tver', Ugra [former Novgorod possessions in the Arctic region], Perm', Viatka, Bulgaria [on the Volga], and of other [principalities]; sovereign and grand duke of Novgorod of the Nizovian land [i.e. Nizhnii Novgorod], of Chernigov, Riazan', Rostov, Iaroslavl', Beloozero, Udoria, Obdoria, Kondia [the last three names designate the former Novgorod possessions in northwestern Siberia], and overlord of all the Northern land; sovereign of the Iverian land [part of Georgia], and of the Kartalinian and Georgian tsars; and hereditary sovereign and suzerain of the Kabardinian land and of the Circassian and mountain princes [Cherkasskikh igorskikh kniazei, i.e. in the northern Caucasus]."

The term Tsar [Caesar] continued in used through modern times, it was an informal usage rather than a formal title. Isabel de Madariaga made the argument that in 18th-century Russian usage the term samoderzhets -- autocrat -- was used as the precise counterpart to the French souverain. Contrary to received wisdom, it did not connote a specifically Russian notion of despotism, she concluded, but confirmed that Russia was part of the European mainstream. [Ivan The Terrible: First Tsar of Russia ] Ivan IV, "the Terrible" (1533-1584), is one of the key figures in Russian history, yet he has remained among the most neglected. Notorious for pioneering a policy of unrestrained terror - and for killing his own son - was credited with establishing autocracy in Russia.

The status of his predecessor Grand Duke of Vladimir Moscow Ivan III in relation to other previously independent princes changed after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In 1476 Ivan III ceased to render tribute to the Golden Horde, and in 1480 his armies prevented the Horde from crossing the Ugra river. "Standing on the Ugra" finished in a bloodless victory of Muscovy, and the Golden Horde Yoke was overthrown once and for all. Thereafter, Ivan assumed the title of Samoderzhets, a style which had already been used by Grand Prince Boris Alexandrovich of Tver (1425-1461), Ivan Ill's principal rival.

In the final decades of Soviet power, the preferred name for the strong state, the construction of which began in the late 1920s, was derzhava (great power). This term was borrowed from the Tsarist vocabulary, and was particularly popular in conservative circles. In Lenin's time a derzhavnik (an advocate of derzhava) was the derogatory term for supporters of ruthless nationalism. Its later popularity came from an association with samoderzhets (autocrat) - the official term for the power of the Tsar. As of 2007, this title had devolved to H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, Maria I, Titular Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias (born in 1953).

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Page last modified: 14-04-2018 18:00:22 ZULU