Edmund Burke did in fact support the American Revolution while he condemned the French Revolution, but what would his opinion be regarding the removal of Czar Nicholas II of Russia? Would Burke have supported the removal of the Czar in 1917 that led to the establishing of the Soviet Union? I believe Burke would have supported his removal due to the fact that it actually strengthened Russia’s national identity.
Why is a national identity so important? According to Burke, a national identity is the most important aspect of any nation. Burke states, “There ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a well-informed mind would, be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country must be lovely” (Burke 517). Burke believes traditions within a nation create a national identity. A national identity acts as a unifying force. It acts as an agent of pride. This pride is what makes a country “lovely” according to Burke. It is what distinguishes one nation from another.
Of course, most are of the opposite opinion of my own. They believe that Burke would not have supported the removal of the Nicholas II. They recall Burke’s comments regarding successful revolutions, “Because among their massacres they had not slain the mind in their country.” “They aimed at the rule, not the destruction of their country” (510). “You had all these advantages in your ancient states, but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society and had everything to begin anew. You begin ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you” (504). They believe that Nicholas II’s removal did “slay the mind” of Russia. To “slay the mind” is the complete denial of the monarchial and capitalist past of Russia in favor of a new, socialist future. But, did the Russian Revolution truly “slay the mind” of Russia and “begin Russia anew?”
According to those leading the socialist movement no. They were actually attempting to strengthen the national identity of Russia. Lenin states, “Sometimes, history needs a push.” In fact, Lenin and the socialist movement believed themselves to be continuing the prideful history of Russia. They were merely pushing it in a new direction. Marx, whose theories were essential to the socialist movement, states, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” Although Marx and the socialist movement aren’t pleased that traditions “weigh” on the present, they agree with Burke that traditions can’t be changed or avoided. They can only be honored and better utilized to serve the populace. And the Russian Revolution did better utilize Russian traditions. It established a stronger, more “lovely” socialist government that created a national identity far greater than that under Nicholas II. Those who survived both the 1918 Civil War and Stalin’s 5 Year Plan retained a nationalism that outweighed past monarchial nationalism. This was evident in Russia’s successful completion of World War II by defeating Germany which they were unable to accomplish under the Czar in World War I.
So, “Were all these dreadful things necessary? Were they the inevitable results of the desperate struggle of determined patriots, compelled to wade through blood and tumult to the quiet shore of a tranquil and prosperous liberty?” (506). According to Burke, yes. The Russian Revolution established a stronger Russian identity which, according to Burke, makes Russia “lovely.”