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2020 Vol. 11 № 3

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The concepts of citizenship and estate in Russian history — conti­nuity and / or intermittence

DOI
10.5922/2225-5346-2020-3-8
Pages
115-127

Abstract

The author studied the development of the concept “people” in contemporary history tak­ing into account its possible interpretation as a bearer of sovereignty. This concept goes back to the time of early bourgeois revolutions. The author holds that there are certain parallels between the ideology of citizenship, the development of the concept “people / nation” and the interpretation of the concept “citizenship”. Contemporary theoretical debates about citizen­ship are fully applicable to the history of the interpretation of citizenship in Russia. The Unit­ed States or Great Britain have a century-long tradition of citizenship. Unlike them, Russia has gone through several stages of radical changes associated with deep political and social transformations, hence a variety of understanding of the concept analysed. A paradoxical interpretation of the concept "citizen" in Russia became evident in the 18th century. Then a citizen and a subject tended to be used either as synonyms or “citizens” were understood as a social group related to nobility. Thus, the concept analysed was used in a variety of meanings and contexts. The same duality in the interpretation of citizenship within the class society manifested itself on the eve of the 1917 Revolution. The class-based duality of citizenship was also noticeable during the Soviet period. After the radical break with the past proclaimed by the Bolsheviks, the old class stratification system had to be changed. In the first month after the Revolution, the Bolsheviks officially abolished estates, titles and ranks. Under the 1918 Constitution of the RSFSR, the concept “class” became a legal term in Soviet Russia. Only “workers” received political rights and thus full citizenship. The official civil status or citi­zenship was an integral part of the ideology of workers and “exploited” classes as opposed to “non-working, bourgeois elements”. The idea of citizenship ceased to depend on territory and nationality. As a result, a group of people was legally deprived of citizenship while perma­nently residing in the state. Paradoxically, in Soviet Russia citizenship was defined through its absence, through what it was not. The concepts of citizenship and classhood during the Imperial and So­viet periods often coexisted, complementing each other and forming a bizarre synthesis of traditional and modern approaches to the interpretation of the concept of citizen­ship.

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