Revolutionary Ideologies. Revolution and Religious Reformation

Revolutionary Ideologies. Revolution and Religious Reformation
Author: Tsirel Sergey V.
Almanac: Evolution:Complexity in Nature, Society, and Cognition


In the article the author investigates ideological aspects of revolutions, including the role of an ideology in revolutions and its connection with the other components, driving forces, factors and courses of revolutions.

Revolutions do not only imply political and social changes, they also involve ideological and cultural changes. In our opinion there is a deep connection between the Reformation of monotheistic religions (primarily Abrahamic religions) caused by the growth of literacy and knowledge of the world, leading to the rejection of traditional forms of ritualism and dual faith (that mixed the monotheistic religions with traditional paganism and its vestiges). In Russia in the early 20th century it took a form of search for equality/justice and transition from unreformed orthodox beliefs to Bolshevik atheistic beliefs. Later, Reformation processes swept the Muslim world.

The main conditions for the creation of revolutionary situations include not only the delegitimization of the existing regime, but also the existence of an alternative or, more precisely, the ideas of the existence of an alternative to the current regime. The role of ideologies is different in different cases. In some cases, the key ideological factor is not another ideology or another political ideal, but the very illegitimacy, inadequacy and injustice of the existing regime. But quite often are opposite cases, when a new ideology, a new moral, religious or political ideal, which the existing power does not satisfy, becomes the leading factor of deligitimization. And it is this disparity in the protesters' view that explains its weakness, failure, inability and unwillingness to organize life the way protestors would prefer.

Keywords: ideology, revolutionary ideology, legitimization, delegitimization, regime, religion, revolutionary situation, political ideal.

Types of Revolutionary Ideologies

The main conditions for the creation of revolutionary situations include not only the delegitimization of the existing regime, but also the existence of an alternative or, more precisely, the ideas of the existence of an alternative to the current regime. If in a country among those, who are dissatisfied with the existing power and even those, who hate it, there is no belief in the possibility of а better regime, then discontent simply remains discontent, without turning into a revolutionary situation.

At the same time, it is by no means necessary for the protesters against the regime to have complete or even similar ideas about the desired form of power. These ideas can be quite vague and differ greatly in different groups of the dissatisfied. It is only important for them to simply exist. In such cases, the key ideological factor is not another ideology or another political ideal, but the very illegitimacy, inadequacy and injustice of the existing regime.

But quite often are opposite cases, when a new ideology, a new moral, religious or political ideal, which the existing power does not satisfy, becomes the leading factor of deligitimization. And it is this disparity in the protesters' view that explains its weakness, failure, inability and unwillingness to organize life the way protestors would prefer.

Of course, there is no impenetrable boundary between these two poles; most of the revolutions occurring in the world belong rather to the intermediate type. Moreover, even if the main mass of protesters is led by a certain ideology, the weakness of the power, the probability of its rapid replacement, leads to the activation of all protest groups with very different ideological ideas, and they begin to act energetically, most often on the side of the protesters, trying to change their ideology, but sometimes on the opposite side, supporting the wavering power and at the same time trying to transform it, or simply demanding a certain payment (concession) for the support.

At the same time, even in the absence of an explicit ideal opposed to the hated regime, as a rule, among the various ideas present among the protesters, there are some dominant attitudes that, of course, can not only be strengthened in a revolutionary situation, but, on the contrary, weaken, giving way to others. A good example of two different types of revolutionary situations is the perestroika in the USSR, primarily in Russia itself, and velvet and non-velvet revolutions in the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic Soviet republics.

In the USSR, ‘at the opening of the boiler cover’, there appeared a variety of protest groups, supporters of socialism ‘with a human face’, the Stalinists, social democrats, liberals – advocates of market economy, nationalists of various types (National Liberals, Orthodox monarchists and fundamentalists, pagans, and pure Nazis), etc. At first, the supporters of socialism ‘with a human face’ and the Social Democrats dominated, but then, due to socialist reform failures, liberals and Russian nationalists came to the foreground, a short-lived union between whom accelerated the dissolution of the Soviet Union and brought Boris Yeltsin and his changing entourage to power in Russia.

One could observe quite a different situation in Eastern Europe, where the protest was both national liberation and anti-communist, with the general slogan of returning to Europe (despite the fact that during the Soviet occupation Western Europe was not sure that there were brothers and other close relatives living in the East). A strong alliance between liberals and nationalists ensured the unity among the protesters and, since the unifying and liberal Europe did not welcome the manifestation of nationalism (especially xenophobia and antisemitism), on the surface, until very recently, liberal slogans covered the nationalist and xenophobic moods of a large part of the population. Early theories of revolutions, including Marxist ones, either postulated that the main ideological motive of revolutions was the elimination of hunger, poverty, exploitation and lawlessness, or generalized this motive to the protest of the poorest and oppressed classes and social estates, adding to them the national liberation movements of the peoples of colonies and captured territories. More recent theories of revolutions focused mainly on the socio-political conditions of the formation of revolutionary situations, emphasizing the existence of general laws that do not depend on the ideological ideas of the insurgents at all or depend a little. Nevertheless, considering the revolutions of the 21st century, we cannot ignore the ideological notions of protest movements. Of course, this topic is too broad to be covered in just one paragraph. Therefore, we will proceed as follows. At first, we will simply list the ideological motives of revolutions, and there will be two lists.

The first list will correspond to the notions of a single global history with the traditional dominance of Eurocentric views, and the second one to the East-West opposition. Then, we will choose one ideological motive from these lists, the most mysterious of those widely represented in history, and, in our opinion, most important for understanding the formation of revolutionary situations at the beginning of the 21st century, and will consider it in detail. The central point of our narrative will be the Russian Revolution of 1917, the most important revolution of the 20th century, combining the ideological motives of both the revolutions of the past and the revolutions of the beginning century. Jack Goldstone (2013: 4) partly returns to the traditional notion of revolutions, pointing out that an indispensable component of revolutions is an ‘ideology carrying a vision of social justice.

However, it is proposed to expand the notion of justice by removing the word ‘social’ from it, because ideologies which cause mass mobilization and require institutional changes can be national liberation nature (and, on the contrary, require a restriction of rights of various ‘harmful’ minorities) or religious, requiring changes in the rights of religious groups (towards equality and vice versa) or the restructuring of political institutions in accordance with the dogmas of a particular religion. Moreover, the list of revolutions presented by Goldstone in this book includes anti-colonial and religious revolutions of different epochs in the Islamic and Christian world.

Thus, within the framework of ideas about a single global history, we distinguish four types of ideological motives for a revolutionary struggle:

·    the struggle for status and rights, including both civil and property rights (this includes mainly liberal ideologies);

·    the struggle for social and property equality (primarily socialist ideology);

·    the struggle for national liberation (less often for national oppression);

·    the struggle for the right religious order.

Let us consider in more detail another approach based on:

·    either opposing the West as a separate civilization, or as the most progressive modernized society, or as the main oppressor of all other societies, that have straggled from it or chosen alternative pathways;

·    or the opposing of classical oriental despotism as the main path of human history (at least from the third millennium B.C. up to the New Age, or Industrial revolution in Europe, or even the near future of mankind after a short break) to all the other: western, semi-western, westernized, undefined, etc., policies.

1. We believe that the classical eastern/oriental despotism is a stable (although, perhaps, dead-end) line of social evolution. In case of deviations from the prototype related to overpopulation, corruption, conflict of elites, etc., it has very good chances of recovery in its original form. Therefore, in classical Oriental despotism with power-ownership, including conditional supreme power over land and other natural resources, the prevalence of subsistence economy and redistributive commodity exchange, etc. (in the absence of strong external influences), only one type of revolution is possible. This only type of revolution is the restoration of the original form of the state system (and as a rule the change of the ruling dynasty). The nature of these revolutions is connected with the fact that various violations such as the increasing role of aristocracy to the detriment of the monarchy, the development of commodity-money relations and the growth of property inequality, as well as military defeats, overpopulation, famine, natural disasters, etc., delegitimize the former power. The revoluti-on essentially transforms the institutions but does not change their essence. On the contrary, it restores and even strengthens the former traditional (according to M. Weber's classification) type of legitimacy. For example, the uprising of the ‘Red Guards’ in China in the 14th century is well within the formulated definition of the revolution.

2. In contrast, in Western and similar societies, the most diverse grounds for legitimacy (Aristotle 1912) and various types of revolutions are possible. The greatest number of examples can be found in the history of Ancient Greece, as well as the city-states of Northern Italy of the Renaissance.

Among them, the classical bourgeois revolutions of Western Europe should be singled out as the most important and special type. According to the accepted interpretation, these revolutions are primarily transitions from traditional legitimacy to rationality: firstly, because of their great importance for the theory and practice of the revolutionary movements of the Modern Times, and secondly, because of the atypical direction of further changes in state institutions. If in earlier times (in antiquity, in China during the transition from the Zhou to the Han era, and even in the formation of absolutist regimes in modern Europe) territorial expansion, technological progress and the complication of societies led to easternization rather than to westernization, these revolutions, in due course, changed the direction of transformation, corresponding to technological progress. They led precisely to the westernization of non-European societies, the transformation of Europe from a geographical into a politological concept.

3. In the semi-western, fuzzy and other traditional societies that do not fit into the East-West dichotomy, both the revolutions of ‘osternization’ and westernization are theoretically possible. However, in fact, deep osternization in traditional societies (primarily of Byzantium and North Africa) was rather gradual evolution, coup and external seizure of power than revolution. The Russian Revolution of 1917, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the seizure of power in Cambodia by Khmer Rouge in 1975, the Taliban revolution of 1995–1996 in Afghanistan, etc. can be attributed with considerable grounds to revolutions of osternization (which will be discussed in greater detail below). To some extent, many other events of the 20th century can be added to this type, for example, the Chinese Civil War and the events of Europe between World War I and World War II, especially the events of the 21st century in Islamic countries, culminating in the formation of ISIS.

One should remember that osternization is by no means synonymous to de-modernization and traditionalism. Most of these revolutions and coups, along with the restoration of traditional and even archaic norms, were accompanied by an increase in literacy (at least for reading the sacred books) and the development of industry, especially in the field of armaments.

Moreover, even in the conditions of the revolutions of modernization and westernization aimed at forcing a catch-up development in non-Western (primarily Eastern) societies, changes in state institutions are made up of absolutely different phenomena, not only copying European institutions, but also traditionalist responses to Western influences and endogenous transformations, typologically similar to the processes in Europe of the New Times (Reformation, Enlightenment, formation of national states). Such a mixture can, of course, be applied not only to modernization revolutions in non-western societies, but also to classical European revolutions, and not only to revolutions, but also to revolu-tionary ideologies that unite the unconnected and change in the course of revolutions and subsequent wars and coups.

The task of describing all this diversity and the subtle transitions from one ideology to another is far beyond the scope of this paper. We will confine ourselves to examining only those revolutionary ideologies, which, on the one hand, have a great chance of playing an important role in the revolutions of the 21st century, and on the other, cause the most controversy among the researchers.

Therefore, the classical revolutionary ideologies of class, political and national liberation (primarily liberalism and Marxism), to which extensive literature is devoted, will be only mentioned briefly in this chapter. The main focus will be on the ideologies related to religious reformation and the restoration of traditional (or supposedly traditional) norms in the societies of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Abstract Reasoning about Revolutions and Reformation

The starting point of the reasoning will be a discussion concerning religions in general from the perspective of the connection between religions and revolutionary ideologies, and the most important issue will be the Abrahamic religions and their epochs of Reformation and Renaissance (in the plural). For the sake of brevity, in this part of the paper there will be practically no references or different opinions; even those allegations that are based on extensive empiricism will be given without references to evidence.

The first point of reasoning is the difference between Abrahamic religions and the religions of East and Southeast Asia. As it is easy to understand or read in any textbook on religious studies, Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and numerous sects and movements close to them) unite many components of the spiritual and social life of mankind not directly related to each other.

Without attempting to make a list, one can immediately point out the cosmogonic myth, problems of life and death, moral norms and the search for unconditional authorities, the social organization of society (which is especially true for Judaism and Islam), moral support for people in difficult moments of life and the need for various rituals forming and supporting group solidarity, as well as magical actions (fortune telling, predictions, various charms, etc.). In principle, there is no obligation to ensure that all these things are combined in a single social phenomenon.

In today's world many believers and semi-believers choose from this long list only that part which they are willing to entrust to religion or, conversely, receive from it. And those, who are ready to accept the entire list, are called fundamentalists and are often accused of inadequacy by the rest of the believers and non-believers. However, such a great unification of all aspects of spiritual life and many phenomena of public life, characteristic of Abrahamic religions and religious movements, as well as sects and movements close to them, does not at all extend to the whole world.

The most distant from them is the religious situation in China, where three main religions-ideologies have been coexisting for a long time, and other ideologies (e.g., Legism or Maoism) and the worship of ancestor-spirits are included in the full list of religions and ideologies. A profound difference from Abrahamic religions does not allow ethnographers to make a concordant assessment of the religious situation in China; China is declared to be an atheistic country, then Confucian (with Confucianism often called a religion), then Buddhist. To a lesser extent, this applies to other countries of the Far East, including even Korea, where up to 30 % of the population call themselves Christians (Catholics or Protestants), go to Christian churches, perform Christian rites, but most have preserved certain Buddhist beliefs and customs, as well as pre-Buddhist traditions – superstitions.

In a certain sense, India occupies an intermediate position between China and the West-Eurasian populated universe, where the components of spiritual life are divided between the trinity of the main gods and their numerous incarnations, as well as the Samsara wheel and related concepts that stand either in the center of the Indian religions or above them. It is quite possible that it was the extraordinary uniqueness of Brahmanism and Vedism that allowed the following Indian religions (primarily Hinduism) to retain the greatest similarity with pre-Axis beliefs and to avoid monotheism, strict codification and the characteristic contradictions inherent in Abrahamic religions. Speaking of these religions, we will omit a very important stage of their existence, namely, the period of formation or assimilation, in the course of which a religion matures, transforms, arouses the most violent feelings, from absolute faith to readiness for painful and shameful death, to complete rejection, persecution and hatred.

We will begin our discussions from the time, when the Abrahamic religion developed and became dominant in a semi-literate or even predominantly illiterate society. Naturally, in an uneducated society the texts of sacred books, the complex system of commandments and dogmas, recede into the background and become primarily the heritage of educated people, clergymen and lawyers, while various rituals come to the fore, up to the worship of various idols (icons, statues, amulets, relics, tombs of famous ancestors), generally speaking, not recommended or even strictly forbidden by the canon. Rites replace intellectual and moralistic components, and faith in ritual is becoming the norm of religious life. In addition, the spiritual needs of poorly educated people, and not only of them, require fortune-telling and magical practices, including magical ways of dealing with various calamities, salvation from adversity, love spells and techniques of catching luck, with which the Abrahamic religions are initially poor. Therefore, different miracle workers and diverse magical rites fit into them, and along with rituals incorporated into religion at its early stages, pagan spiritual practices persist, live, develop and get transformed.

The adherence to an Abrahamic religion, for example Christianity, turns into a two-faith belief (dual faith), and the struggle against clearly non-Christian customs often ends with the actual defeat of the original dogma, the combination of clearly non-Christian practices with Christian ones. At the same time, the total two-faith religion becomes so incoherent and contradictory, that its own contradictions and problems of the original religion, such as theodicy or the problem of freedom of will, recede to the background and are not realized by the majority of the believers. The incoherence and inconsistency of spiritual practices, of course, do not have a strict binding relationship with the ecclesiastical pomp and luxury, the welfare of the church itself and its clergy, corruption and simony. But, as a rule, growing freedom from the original commandments and dogmas facilitates the collection of tribute from the parish and close contacts with those in power, as well as the accumulation of wealth, especially of lands, and the trade in the remission of sins and eternal bliss.

This two-faith belief, quite cozy for the uneducated majority, and beneficial to all sorts of sinners of high and low origin, does not suit people with greater spiritual needs, higher education, and a more rational mindset. While such people are few, they need to look for their place among the clergy, join monasteries, go to big cities and distant lands and found new confessions (sects). However, due to the development of the forms of preaching or general upsurge of education, two different phenomena united by rejection of faith in ritual, two-faith belief and salvation trade, the spiritual situation in the society is changing in very different ways.

·    More often than not, the spiritual uplift caused by local actions of preachers and enlighteners faded after their death, at best slightly alienating the general situation from ritual and two-faith belief.

Another possible outcome was the creation of a new monastic community, a sect, a spiritual circle, a new current, etc. within the clergy separated from the bulk of believers.

·    The opposite answer, also highly possible, was that the collision of two (or more) forms of faith generally alienated from religion the least religious or most logically thinking people. At the same time, the weakness of the ritual – the two-faith belief, could be so obvious, that the alienation from religion (certainly not turning into real atheism or agnosticism), indifference to it, could capture the broad masses of population and undermine the foundations of regional or state unity.

·    The appeal of the broad masses of population to the basics of religion, denouncing the confessors, mired in ignorance, debauchery, simony, oblivion of the highest values and spiritual foundations of their own religion, reaching up to the removal of the most odious figures and a certain purification of the whole religious life.

·    The most significant result was the split of the original religion into various independent denominations that eventually became infected with the same diseases as the original one.

The choice of this or that variant essentially depends on two factors:

– the level of literacy among the population;

– the attitude of the authorities to the wealth of the church and to its encroachment on the prerogatives of secular power.

However, in the motionless and / or cyclic history, all listed variants of spiritual change outbreaks over the long decades and even centuries did not lead to significant changes, and on the scale of long centuries, on the contrary, they did not stop the degradation of religion and the growth of readiness for mass conversion to a different faith.

This description would be comprehensive, if time and history did not really have a general direction of change in what is usually called progress, be it with a plus, or with a minus sign. At some point, these changes cause the action of powerful positive feedback. The growth of literacy among the population causes a greater distrust of the church steeped in ritual and simony, and independent attempts to reach the divine truths, laid down in the sacred books and writings of pious preachers, stimulate the growth of literacy. The growing separation of laymen, especially the most educated and influential ones, from the church, supported by the cleanest, educated or simply uncomfortable and ambitious figures inside the church, stimulates the actions of the authorities (less often the counter-elites of the opposition) in the struggle for church lands, church riches and in resistance to the intervention of the church into matters of secular power, and, on the contrary, stimulates the political activity of new religious figures, the struggle for the transformation of secular power into a theocracy. And the conflicts between church and secular authorities, ruling elites with counter-elites, shake the ruling regimes, cause unrest among the literate and illiterate people and stimulate the formation of revolutionary situations. Although the Reformation as one of the most important and complex spiritual currents and events in European history cannot be fully laid down in the description given above, for our further discussions on the links of the Reformation and the revolutions it will become the main one, directing the thread of the narrative.

The Russian Revolution and the Reformation

Undoubtedly, the Dutch Revolt of the 16th – 17th centuries and the 17th-century Revolution in Great Britain are considered to be Reformation revolutions. Nevertheless, we are not going to consider them in this paper.

Firstly, extensive and easily accessible literature is devoted to both of these revolutions (e.g., see Huizinga 1997; Israel 1998; Parker 1981; Trevelyan 1965; Woolrych 2002; Hill 1991, etc.). Secondly, they took place in a historical setting different from the revolutions of the 21st century. At that time the global world (The Modern World-System according to the terminology of Wallerstein [2004]) was just beginning to form, there were no mass media and, most importantly, these countries did not lag behind the rest of the world in their technical, political and social development like most countries where the 20th – 21st-century revolutions took place and are currently taking place. On the contrary, they overtook other countries and paved the way to a new world, although they themselves did not know about it.

Our basic example will be the Russian Revolution of 1917, which played a huge role in the history of the 20th century. Traditionally, it is not regarded as reformation, but due to its atypical nature as simultaneously belonging to purely social revolutions as well as modernization and counter-modernization ones, to revolutions of Westernization and Osternization, which is key to understanding revolutionary ideologies and their connection with religious reformation. Since the question of the analogy of the reforming revolutions of the New Times and the Russian Revolution has already been raised several times, we will first of all list the main existing approaches. Rohrmoser (1989) found a direct similarity between the pre-liberal, pre-bourgeois spirit of the classical Reformation and the socialist messianic spirit of the Russian Revolution. V. Tsymbursky (2007) found an extremely wide analogy between ‘urban revolutions’, beginning with those of Ancient Egypt to our days (transition from rural to urban lifestyle), and the Russian Revolution, which, in his understanding, was a radicalization of the already existing processes of urbanization in Russia. The analogy between the October Revolution and the Reformation is detailed to a great extent in the book by Zhukotskiy and Zhukotskaya (2008). The authors saw the proximity of the anti-bourgeois motifs of the Reformation (Anabaptists, Hutterites, etc.) and the Russian Revolution, and in contrast to Rohrmozer, the similarity of the very nature of the transition from the ritual two-faith belief to the quest for a single truth. To illustrate their theses, they refer to P. N. Milyukov, ‘P. N. Milyukov very accurately expressed the essence of the church reformation as a universal: “the process of religious development consisted in the gradual spiritualization of religion, in the gradual transformation of the religion of the rite into a religion of the soul”’ (Milyukov 1994: 103). For an accurate description of Zhukotskiy and Zhukotskaya's understanding of the essence of the Revolution-Reformation I will quote one more excerpt from the book by P. N. Milyukov, quoted by Zhukotskiy and Zhukotskaya, close enough not only to them, but also to me. It describes not only the Reformation, but also the transition of the reformation religious upsurge to individual faith, balancing on the border with non-religious ethical search and agnosticism. ‘It is not by chance that P. N. Milyukov distinguishes two fixed stages of the church reformation, of which the irreligious vector of all further cultural evolution is ultimately formed’.

‘In the first (stage) the church tradition is denied, and religion is considered possible to be built on the direct instructions of its Founder: on the Gospel. This stage of protest against medieval formalism corresponds to the evangelical Christianity of the German world. In the second stage the Gospel is also recognized as an unnecessary mediator between people and God. It is considered possible to arrange an intercourse with the deity directly: “in the Spirit” to worship God and in one's own spirit to find His reflection. The heart of every true Christian is thus recognized as the abode of the Holy Spirit. At this stage, faith breaks all ties with tradition and with the Scripture – hence, it generally abandons a positive, open religion and turns into the so-called spiritual Christianity’ (Milyukov 1994: 103–104).

However, while deeply analyzing the analogies between the Catholic Reformation and the anti-bourgeois sentiments of the pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary Russian intelligentsia, Zhukotskiy and Zhukotskaya just barely touch upon the reasons of why sentiments, so similar to the classical Reformation, embraced not only the Russian intelligentsia, but millions of semi-literate workers and peasants in the cities and villages of Russia. A study of these causes, common to the Catholic countries of Europe in the early Modern period, to Russia at the end of the 19th – early 20th centuries, and contemporary Islamic countries is a key issue for understanding the relationship between reformation and revolution, and even predicting a significant part of future revolutionary processes.

The Processes of Formation
of the Pre-Reform Situation in Russia

Let us start with the well-known fact, that the first attempts to ‘go to the common people’, that is, revolutionary agitation of the peasantry by urban revolutionaries (by members of Narodnaya Volya / ‘People's Freedom’) in the 1870s ended in complete failure. They failed to raise any insurrection at all, and a considerable part of these attempts ended in the surrender of the troublemakers to the police by the peasants themselves. But only 30–40 years later, in 1905–1906, during the first Russian revolution, agitation already achieved considerable success. Here and there, manors went up in flames. In the first elections to the State Duma peasants voted for the representatives of the leftist parties.

In 1906 the deputies, elected to the first State Duma from peasants, mostly joined the faction of the Trudoviks (Russian populists), which occupied a leftist position, or supported the left-liberal party of the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets). In the summer of 1917, peasants and soldiers of peasant origin, who had returned from the front on their own will, burned mansions across Russia, divided the land according to the number of family members and called the help of the Socialist-Revolutionaries to compose texts that formulated their demands.

What happened in this very short time?

One of the main driving forces of Reformation was literacy. According to A. G. Rashin (1956), it was in the post-Reform period that there was a dramatic increase in the literacy rate of the Russian population (see Table). If we confine ourselves only to Russian provinces and ignore significant geographical differences (proximity to the capitals and a high percentage of peasants engaged in different trades that strongly increased the level of literacy), then the following approximate estimates can be made:

Table. The level of literacy of the Russian population










8–12 %

2–5 %

45–50 %

25–30 %


25 %

10 %

55 %

35 %


35–40 %

12–15 %

60 %

40 %

Source: Rashin 1956; Mironov 2003, 2012.

At the same time, among the most active people of young and middle age (from 15 to 40 years old), literacy was about 1.5 times higher than the average for Russia. In particular, the percentage of literate people recruited for military service in the period of 1874 to 1912 increased from 21 % up to 68 %. In St. Petersburg and Moscow at the beginning of the Revolution the literacy rate among young people was 80–90 %. Thus, one can state that minimal literacy rate was a norm.

The second fundamental change was the growing shortage of land, caused by a sharp increase in the population (2.2 times in the European part of Russia). According to S. A. Nefedov (2011), due to lack of land and increase of export, even with an increase in total yields, the consumption of bread for the majority of the peasantry decreased. The consumption of meat and dairy products by the rural population decreased sharply as plowing of the meadows and deforestation sharply reduced the areas for grazing, as well as the number of cattle. One should note that reducing consumption does not imply an increase in malnutrition. Due to the changes in the age structure of the population (an increase in the proportion of children and adolescents), as well as the reduction of peasant employment in heavy physical labor (according to various estimates, the employment of the peasantry in the early 20th century was from 40–50 to 70–80 % of the middle of the 19th-century norm), peasants' need for ‘food energy’ was satisfied not worse, but probably even better than in earlier times.

At the same time, despite the reduction in the number of cattle, the transportation of meat significantly increased (Davydov 2016), which indicates an increase in ‘food stratification’. In other words, the diet of the poorest strata of the population became more monotonous against the background of improved quality of nutrition of the middle and wealthy strata. One should be noted that in this respect Russia in the early 20th century differed little from Europe in the 18th – 19th centuries (Montanari 1997). Unification of farming methods and narrowness of diet increased the total food energy and stimulated population growth, but also increased the risk of starvation in the years of poor crop yields (the most vivid example is the potato famine in Ireland in 1845–1849). Although a great variety of natural and climatic conditions in Russia, as well as the possibility of increasing domestic consumption by reducing grain exports, prevented such terrible starvation, but did not prevent the occurrence of periodic outbreaks of famine, and did not prevent the catastrophic famine of 1921, which occurred in the period of reduction of planted area and disorder of the na-tional economy. However, the poverty of the main part of the peasantry (the so-called ‘poor peasant’ and ‘middle peasant’), accompanied by a decline in employment, food monotony and enduring threat of hunger, amidst a sharp increase in the well-being of the better-off peasants and most of the townspeople, provoked envy and hatred, pushed the peasants towards the idea of a general redistribution of land and other property.

Political figures and non-socialist publicists pointed to the futility of the general redistribution and the harm caused by the destruction of the most successful farms (landlords, rich peasants, who lived in villages or separate farms). By that time the peasant class had already bought out most of the land from the former landowners. Simple calculations showed that a complete transition of arable land estates into peasant hands yielded an increase from 10 to 40 % in different provinces and could not fundamentally solve the problem. The solution of the problem, as world experience shows, was more likely to lie in urbanization, transition to urban occupations, and a sharp intensification of land use, as Russia had a little less property per peasant than in France, as much as in Germany, and more than in England or Austria (Mironov 2003). However, the peasants wanted to receive not only the land of the landlords, but also all other land, including that of the farmers who had left the communities, and to divide it equally among all the consumers. The idea of destroying private property affected not only the rural, but also the urban population, the so-called ‘sequestration’, that is temporary nationalization of the largest military factories, was fervently supported by the majority of workers (Polikarpov 2008), and later served as a prototype of Soviet nationalization. Thus, one should add that the introduction of a rationing card system for the distribution of food and essential commodities in many belligerent countries of Europe, although not directly affecting the attitudes of the Russian village, nevertheless reached the front-line soldiers in one way or another (e.g., through socialist agitators), residents of large cities and strengthened the desire for nationalization and / or ‘black’ redistribution.

Thus, there are three objective factors:

– a change in the age composition of the population, the appearance of a youth prominence (Moller 1968; Goldstone 1991);

– a sharp increase in literacy, especially among the young and the most active population;

– the growing shortage of land, sharp decline in employment of the peasantry, the stagnation of the standard of living for the greater part of the peasantry, and the growing stratification of the incomes of the lower strata of the population of Russia.

To this the growth of the urban population should also be added, primarily due to the temporary semi-urban/semi-rural population that spent one part of the year in the city, engaged in low-skilled poorly paid labor, and another part of the year in the village, where many of them did not have regular job at all because of a lack of land and draft cattle (horses). It was under these conditions that an alternative to the Russian Reformation, which was discussed above, was taking shape.

Transition from the Pre-Reform Situation
to the Analogue of the Reformation

Let us leave aside the well-known twists and turns of the Russian revolutions of 1917, the ‘dual power’, the rise of Kerensky and his fall, the ‘The Kornilov revolt’, the provocative speeches of Lenin and Trotsky, the prolonged preparations for the Constituent Assembly, etc. One can suppose that all these events were primarily a background, allowing the basic contradictions of pre-revolutionary Russia to manifest themselves in the tangle of rapid changes. At the other extreme of the Russian society there was a movement not toward liberal democracy or even liberal autocracy, but in a completely different direction. The reforms of P. A. Stolypin (1906–1911) aimed at liquidation of the communal land tenure and introduction of private ownership of the land were met with a counter-desire to arrange a general ‘black redistribution’ following the Chinese model, which diverged from Russia's past as radically as the Stolypin reforms did. And the closer to the center of Russia, the less respect was shown to property, the more willingly the peasants burned down the mansions, waiting not for the allocation of plots, but for the ‘black redistribution’. But how did it turn out that the competing elites chose the same path, while the people and the Narodnik populist intellectual counter-elite chose a completely different one? The main and obvious reason is the already discussed agrarian overpopulation. But the reaction to peasant agrarian overpopulation can be absolutely different, for example, firstly, to move to the city and become a hired worker, secondly, to use more effective methods of farming and try to squeeze as much as possible out of one's own plot of land (as already mentioned, very large in European and especially Chinese norms), and finally, thirdly, not to pay attention to the right of ownership, to divide and redistribute all agricultural land ‘fairly’, i.e. equally. Why did the third way become the main one? Because of the Russian striving for justice, repeatedly described by the classics of Russian literature? In our opinion, the roots of this choice and this understanding of justice were primarily in the policy of monarchy and landowners that had been carried out for many centuries. In order to maintain the number of taxpayers and serfs and not to exclude the weaker and to limit the more powerful,
a peredel/repartition, not typical for earlier periods of Russian history, was artificially imposed for centuries.[1]

It was rather the tradition of changing places and not the tradition of redistribution, the willingness to part with the land, that had already passed the peak of yield, and to go in search of new more productive lands (with which the authorities had previously fought by limiting and prohibiting transfers on Yuryev's day). Finally, in the 19th century, the policy of the government reached its goal: equalizing redistribution of land from an externally imposed rule turned into
a moral norm, and, in addition, became almost the core of popular notions of justice.[2]

Even in Siberia, when the population grew and there was a shortage of land for extensive farming, the peasants basically did not change the way of farming, but started dividing the land (Kaufman 1908, 2011). But success came too late, precisely when the government changed its mind and began to limit its own redistribution plans first with 12-year intervals and in the course of the Stolypin reform even tried to liquidate them all.

The return path turned out very difficult as the peasants accepted the 12-year period between the redistribution of land[3], and the transition to private ownership of land caused the protests of most of the peasantry[4] in central Russia as they considered it as morally unacceptable. In addition to the previous remark, one can add that the relatively slow rate of urbanization (in comparison with the growth of land hunger) was largely due to the actions of the government, which was mortally afraid of the ‘ulcer of the proletariat’. But even the moral imperative of the government-imposed form of landownership does not explain why the desire of the peasants to get all the land for free turned from an impossible dream into the slogan of the day and why the ownership and the traditional order (for the support of which redistributions were introduced) lost credibility. The common response to this question is that the liberation of the serfs happened only a century after the nobility liberties[5], and the peasants ceased to recognize the power of the landowners (who had lost the moral right to receive bread and money from peasants after they were freed from the duty of state service) and continued to rely only on the Tsar.

Perhaps, such an interpretation described the situation in 1861 quite well, but not in 1917, when the overthrow of the Tsar and even the subsequent execution of the royal family left practically the entire population of Russia including the supposedly monarchist peasants, indifferent. However, the events of 1905 and 1917 showed that the real mood of the peasants, for whom the growing landlessness coincided with the failed but expected Reformation, required not only absolute abolition of serfdom, but also complete equality, both legal and property. Very interesting, although based mainly on certain evidence and indirect data, studies (see Posadsky 2000; Porshneva 2000; Polikarpov 2008; Kiryanov 1997; etc.) largely confirm these assumptions. It is important to note that Russian culture, which organically combines political, religious, ideological and philosophical themes with art, followed almost the same path (leading by a century or even half a century) to the Reformation. Without going into the details of this very complex phenomenon (see Davydov 2012), one can assume that the works of A. S. Pushkin (1799–1837), the starting point of the Russian literary and philosophical tradition, is associated with the Renaissance as a middle path (see Ossowska 2000), enriched by the experience of the Reformation and Enlightenment. The post-Pushkin debates between the Slavophiles and Westerners, despite significant differences in the objects of disagreement, can be associated with the opposition of the counter-reformist attitudes (and at the same time of the preceding traditional and subsequent nationalist ones), pre-reformation and reformation, in extreme social forms. As mentioned above, the ideas that the peasants themselves came to in the early 20th century were already voiced by the Narodniks, not only of the Western revolutionary-democratic, but also of the Slavophile currents. However, prior to the beginning of the 20th century, numerous deviations from the Orthodox tradition were formulated either as a departure from Orthodoxy (more often towards Catholicism than Protestantism) or religion as a whole, or as superstructures over it, supposedly not affecting the orthodox interpretations of the Bible and Sacred Tradition.[6]

Nevertheless, it is very difficult to prove that the Russians did not lose interest in religion, and that people really needed real faith. Sociological surveys were not conducted at that time, and just a few the most vivid examples allow any conclusions to be drawn. Moreover, external manifestations, at first glance, indicate rather mass indifference to religion, for example non-participation in the Eucharist, indifferent reaction to the execution of the Tsar, a very languid protest against the closure of churches and unbridled anti-religious agitation in the post-revolutionary years. I will list a number of indirect arguments in favor of my assumption. First, the mass belief of the townspeople in Marxist quasi-religion (see below) in the pre-war years and most of the people in the post-war years suggests that religious feelings in the people have not died out, but the church could not satisfy them. Still, this is too indirect an argument, for the mood of the people changes, and post-revolutionary, and even more post-war attitudes, do not allow us to judge pre-revolutionary ones with certainty.

Another argument is a dramatic increase in the number of sects and massive spread of Old Believers, sectarianism and Protestantism in the pre-revolutionary years. The estimates of 25 million of Old Believers and sectarians announced by the State Duma are probably overstated, but 10–15 million can be a fairly true estimate (Nikolsky 1985; Kablitz 1881).

The success of the sermons given by John of Kronstadt[7] shows the willingness of the people in those years (seemingly indifferent to religion) to listen to any lively words about God and salvation.

The third argument is an unexpected statistics, which can be found in B. N. Mironov's book,

‘The percentage of registered born out of wedlock children among Orthodox Christians was declining: it was 3.4 in 1859–1863; 3.0 in 1870; 2.7 in 1885, and 2.3 in 1910. Thus, it turns out that along with modernization, urbanization and industrialization there was a relative decrease in the number of children born out of wedlock among Orthodox women, while among Old Believers, Catholics, Protestants and Jews it increased’ (Mironov 2003: 203–204).

Mironov himself explains this by the spread of contraception and abortion. While not completely denying their role, we still cannot agree that Catholics were much less severe than Orthodox in condemning extramarital births, and that contraception among the Orthodox had become so widespread that it was able to reverse the trend. These statistics together with the well-known fact of increased severity of morals in Russia in the 19th century in comparison with the 18th century, suggests, in our view, the preservation or even increase of awareness of the sinfulness of adultery, despite urbanization (and urban prostitution) and growing alienation from the official Church.

Of course, one should not assume that the desire for reformation (both in Russia and in Germany four centuries earlier) had purely religious motives. The guiding motive of the alternative Reformation was not a return to early Christian standards, but a desire for justice, understood as universal equality. Incidentally, one сan note once again that many trends of the West European Reformation (Adamites, Anabaptists, Hutterites, Levelers, Diggers, etc.) also demanded for maximum social equality. The countrywide desire for reformation is also indicated by the movement on the other side. Both church leaders and the public who had not read my reasoning felt the need, if not for Reformation or Renaissance with capital ‘R’, then at least of reforming with lower case ‘r’.

The activities of the church authorities led to the restoration of the patriarchate (and then with great delay, on October 28 [November 10], 1917) and numerous other changes in church life. As a result of religious unrest in Russian society, ‘a number of “religious and philosophical societies” were founded, for example in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev. In these societies there were lively debates on the most burning religious-philosophical, religious-cultural and religious-social issues’ (Berdyaev 1935). However, the total result of religious unrest[8] was meager – the only mass movement was Tolstoyism, which did not solve the basic problem of the peasantry (lack of land), and except for it there were only still-born abstruse sophiology and servile renovationism. On the whole, there was not yet Wycliffe or Huss, while Luther and Calvin were already strongly needed.

Was It Possible to Avoid a Revolution?

At present the arguments that repeat the basic ideas of the judgments of P. A. Stolypin or P. N. Durnovо[9] (1922) are becoming very popular, for example that Russia needs 20–30 years of quiet life to make the people accustomed to the economic order created by Stolypin's reforms (which destroyed the community and established private ownership of land for peasants), and getting results from these orders. It seems to us that the above analysis provides grounds for very strong objections to such approaches. First of all, the 90 % result of the socialists in the elections to the Constituent Assembly, a massive, almost all-peasant (at least in the central part of Russia), support of land redistribution, including ‘Stolypin's’ hamlets and allotments[10], left very little chance of success for the reforms. As was shown above, the idea of black repartition also inspired the semi-peasant population of Russian cities.

In order to increase the chances of implementing the reforms that have been initiated, additional, elusive conditions were necessary, for example transfer the land ownership to the peasants and redistribution of all or at least the greater part of the land estates; accustoming peasants to the achievements of agricultural technologies and stopping the emerging ecological crisis (Lury 1997), caused by excessive plowing of the land (transfer of the skills of traditional three-field system with meadow to continuous permanent land use). Moreover, Russia needed an alternative to expanding socialist (‘re-allotment’) views, which, despite all the efforts of the government and the ruling classes, could not be stopped either by the Black Hundred, or bourgeois agitation, or even by the respect for the traditional monarchy. The Orthodox Church, as discussed above, was not ready to offer in a short historical period an updated version of Orthodoxy, capable of capturing an increasingly literate population. It is likely that even 20 years of quiet life, which Stolypin considered a condition for the success of his reform, would not at all solve these contradictions, but, on the contrary, would aggravate them no less than Russia's unsuccessful participation in the First World War did. Moreover, in the light of these arguments, it is logical to assume that Stolypin's reforms, contrary to popular belief, were not a way out of revolution, but a movement towards it. The military defeats, which are most often referred to as the prologue to the revolution, only turned the slow descent into a headlong collapse, discrediting not only Nicholas II and his family (Kolonitsky 2010), but also the whole ruling dynasty, consecrated by the Orthodox Church and 300 years of rule. Therefore, the way out of this situation in the form of a victorious war and the spread of nationalist views (e.g., liberal-nationalist in the spirit of the right-wing Cadets and Octobrists) seemed to be reasonable to reverse the situation.

It is obvious that the real experience of the disastrous Russian-Japanese war, which in many respects contributed to the Russian revolution of 1905, and, most importantly, the actual course of the First World War, which led in a short time to the complete discredit of the monarchy and Tsar Nicholas II, together with his family and closest associates as well as to the rebirth of anti-clerical sentiments and the growing popularity of extreme leftist agitators, are powerful arguments against my assertion.

But let us try to look at these events from a different perspective. First of all, let us note an unprecedented patriotic and nationalist upsurge in the country in the first days of the war. In a single impulse, the monarchy, the liberal opposition, the pogrom-makers, who had attacked the German embassy, and 96 % of the recruits, who appeared on the summons to the recruiting stations, all joined together. This argument proved to be very weak in real history, for the unsuccessful course of the war and its hardships (by the way, much smaller than in France or Germany, which had largely retained their fighting spirit by 1917) quickly changed the mood of the Russian population. So the unsuccessful war in accordance with the forecasts of Durnovo (1922) turned into a factor of delegitimization of the power and the formation of a revolutionary situation. Nevertheless, the experience of the Second World War, when the difficult victories of 1943–1945 were achieved after the heavy defeats of the first war period between Russia and Germany (1941–1942), shows that the increased legitimacy of power can prolong the life of an unpopular regime.

Thus, in our opinion, Russia's entry into the World War I (and even the call for this war after the Austro-Serbian crisis) was a very risky, but perhaps only possible way of saving the existing regime – contrary to the logic of the Reformation. The unlikely economic success after Stolypin's reforms would hardly have become an insurmountable obstacle to the revolution. It should be noted that another almost equally dramatic reforming revolution in Iran in 1978–1979, which will be discussed below, occurred after a long period of rapid economic growth.

Post-Revolutionary Ideology

Since the Russian Reformation had very specific and material goals, its post-revolutionary future was quite problematic.

In general, one part of the population, the farthest from the old peasant dual beliefs, from Orthodoxy or even from Christianity in general, adopted communist Bolshevism as a new ideology.

An ideology which is formally aggressively atheistic, but in fact significantly religious, both in the ritual field (from worshipping Lenin's mummy to the oath of allegiance to the party and the proletariat), and in the ideological field: neither the messianic role of the proletariat and communist parties, nor, moreover, the possibility in a very short time, of construction of the kingdom of prosperity and justice on Earth (communism) could be justified in terms of Marxism, based on Hegelian philosophy. No Marxist clearly answered the question of why the contradictions of capitalism will generate or synthesize communism and why this synthesis will be effective and definitive.[11]

Historical evidence provides very contradictory information about the ideological state of the post-revolutionary Soviet society. The most precise estimates can be obtained regarding the urban society. By the beginning of the Second World War, following mass repressions and eviction of people suspected of disloyalty to Soviet power, the urban population, which amounting to 31 %, mostly consisted of ideological supporters of the new government. Combining them with rural communist activists, we get about 35–45 %. Another estimate can be obtained by the percentage of believers according to the rejected census of the population of 1937 – it was 57 % (i.e., 43 % of non-believers [Volkov 1990]). At first glance, these estimates differ significantly, but when you consider that in 1937, even agnostics were recorded as believers (it seems to me that some kind of higher power does exist), these estimates turn out to be very close to each other. The rest of the population hardly consisted of open opponents of the Soviet power, as indicated by the weak resistance to collectivization (which, in the official interpretation, continued to some extent the struggle for the sacred equality and justice) and other repressions, but hardly supported the Soviet regime. Simultaneous non-attendance of church services and lack of support for the new government indicates an ideological crisis, which, in our opinion, was the cause of mass reluctance to fight in 1941 and the heavy defeats of the USSR during the first stage of the war with Germany. However, the victory in the war, attributed both to the communist ideology and to Joseph Stalin personally and to the remarkable military qualities of the Russian people, reconciled the bulk of the population with the Soviet regime and allowed it to last until the 1990s (and possibly until the first or even the second decade of the 21st century, if only Mikhail Gorbachev had not tried to give a second impulse to the aging regime).

Repetitions of the Soviet Quasi-Reformation
in the Past and the Future

Against the background of the European reformist revolutions of the New Age and modern Muslim revolutions, the Russian revolution, discussed in detail above, in which traditional religion is replaced by a short-lived ideology – quasireligion, seems somewhat exotic. However, this is only the first impression. The earliest attempt to create a revolutionary quasi-religion, substituting the traditional faith, was made during the French Revolution, when the parallel Cult of the Supreme Being [Culte de l'Être suprême] and the Cult of Reason [Culte de la Raison], designed to replace traditional religion, were invented. Although the Cult of the Supreme Being was directly addressed to the masses, in order to facilitate their transition to rationalist positions, both cults had very little success. French Catholicism, which had survived the Huguenots, the Counter-Reformation and the Jansenists, did not need such radical reform.

In fact, on the contrary, both these cults and the widespread use of Freemasonry in the liberal and revolutionary circles indicated the unwillingness of the fighters against religion to move away from it. Rational reformation of religion and quasi-religion ideologies had real success in Oriental countries, which were lagging behind the European ones. Bábism, or Bayání Faith, which originated in Iran in the mid-19th century, and Bahá'í Faith which succeeded it in later times, both rejecting Islam, but at the same time having taken a start from it and using Islamic dogmatic ideas and apocrypha, were not victorious, but rather massive. Although the uprisings of the Baba followers (1845–1850) were local and in no way can be classified as a revolution, but, unlike to the Cult of the Supreme Being and the Cult of Reason, they were rather pre-reformation phenomena in the depths of the Muslim (Shiite) society, than subtleties of educated philosophers and revolutionary activists.

Real successes of quasi-religions came outside the world of Abrahamic religions. The first major success was the victory of the Chinese People's Liberation Army under the leadership of Mao Zedong in China in 1949, which was a real revolution with a mass popular movement (despite the important role of military support from the Soviet Union). The ideology of Maoism, formally a form of Marxism, was in fact a more complex and heterogeneous phenomenon. At the same time, it is necessary to distinguish Maoism of extreme leftist groups in various countries, primarily Western and South American, and Maoism from China, coming from Mao Zedong himself and his milieu. European and South American Maoism was primarily anti-capitalist and anti-tradi-tionalist ideology, akin to Trotskyism, and expressed faith in a free and fair world that would replace the unfair world of the fathers. Although Western and Chinese Maoism relied on the same Little Red Book, composed of quotations from Mao Zedong, and equally professed the cult of violence, their roles as revolutionary ideologies were, in fact, quite different. Western Maoism was the ideology of a clear minority, capable of organizing riots and terrorist attacks, but not mass movements in their homeland (it took mass forms only in the developing countries of Latin America, Africa, and India).

Chinese Maoism at various stages of its existence was primarily the ideology of mass movement, which led to victory in the civil war, and then the ideology of the state power. Distracting from the variability and extreme contradictions of Maoism as a state ideology, one should note important features that have more or less persisted throughout its zigzag history:

·    opposition to liberalism, market, liberal democracy, Western influence, etc.;

·    appeal to justice and equality;

·    non-advertised, but explicit link with traditional Chinese ideologies – religions, primarily with légisme, and to a lesser degree with Confucianism.

All these features bring Maoism closer not just to communism, a form of which it officially proclaimed itself, but directly to the ideologies of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet power before NEP.

The next important revolutionary victory of quasi-religion was the victory of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1975, with great military support on the part of Maoist China. Despite China's open military and political assistance and even the dependence of the Pol Pot government on China, the ideology of the Khmer Rouge was quite different from Maoism. If the goal of Maoism (despite the practice, often contradicting the goal) was China's accelerated military and economic development, then the Khmer Rouge, on the contrary, destroyed the entire urban non-peasant culture, from Buddhist temples to hospitals and schools. Moreover, in order to reject any use of anything alien to the traditional peasant way of life, they intentionally drove people into inhuman conditions or destroyed all urban population and people of nationalities different than their own (including the Chinese, despite their dependence on the PRC), as well as simply surplus population that could not be fed in their traditional way of economic management.

The training of Pol Pot (Saloth Sar) and Ieng Sary (Kim Trang) in Paris and the close acquaintance of Pol Pot, Ieng Sari, their wives and their adherents with French intellectuals indicates that the traditionalist-ecological orientation of the Khmer Rouge doctrine was associated not only with the moods of the Cambodian rural poor, but also with the leftist ideas of Europe (close to the European version of Maoism). Nevertheless, one of the most violent in human history, Khmer Rouge regime, largely based on the ideology of European left-wing philosophers[12], had broad support from the population. The Khmer Rouge's ideas were, in a sense, even closer to the ideology of the Russian peasants in 1917 than the classical Maoism. The destruction of cities, the transformation of the entire non-agricultural population into peasants, universal equality, etc. is entirely in the spirit of 1917. According to some sources, the Khmer Rouge constantly separated families, took away utensils and unnecessary (from their point of view) household items, etc. However, in fact, it is unlikely that these measures were widespread outside the population groups that were subject to re-education, mixed with direct destruction, otherwise the support for the Khmer Rouge would not have been maintained for many years after the fall of their power in Phnom Penh.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, with the support of the PRC, Maoism spread to Africa, primarily to Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Later, due to the changes in ideology and, most importantly, economic practice, the Chinese government was less interested in ideological issues and mainly sought Chinese economic domination and obtaining cheap raw materials for its industry. Nevertheless, the military support of the government of Zimbabwe, one of the most unsuccessful and odious regimes in the world, retaining to some extent fidelity to the ideas of Maoism, continues to this day.

Outside Africa, the Cuban revolution, inspired by the ideas of equality and justice, primarily refers to the revolutions of the same type. Similar ideas have driven and are currently driving numerous guerrilla groups in many countries of South America, and, to a large extent, many leftist governments in South America, especially in Venezuela.

The main question is whether ideologies of this type, which with the decline of official Maoism and the convergence of left-wing and right-wing populism in Europe have receded into the background, but are by no means forgotten, have a revolutionary perspective in the 21st century. In our opinion, although Islamic Reformation will continue to have the greatest revolutionary potential in the next decades, after some time (an approximate period of 5–7 to 15–20 years), these ideas in particular will rival them most strongly.

The main reason for the retreat of Maoism, Marxism and other revolutionary ideologies in the Third world was the possibility of using cheap labor for economic development, stimulated by the transfer of industrial production to developing countries. China, Korea and other countries of Southeast Asia were particularly successful. Along with poverty and economic backwardness, they had a high level of literacy, traditions of respect for education and science, and, most importantly, exceptional labor skills and labor discipline. The development of these countries, the cheapness of manufactured goods entailed the expansion of demand in both developed and developing countries, which required the recruitment of new workers and let to the further economic progress in the countries of the Third world and even the transition of some of them to the first world. At the same time, large countries with large labor reserves, which provided opportunities for the creation of industrial clusters (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico, etc.), received special bonuses.

However, another trend that has received a new impetus to development in recent years, that is automation and robotics, is already slowing down and may even stop this process altogether. The impact of automation, robotization, the use of 3D printers, etc., on the need for cheap labor is not limited to the growth of labor productivity. In addition, there are growing demands for workers, and in most modern industries the payment of highly skilled labor, due to the labour shortages, ceases to be a decisive cost factor, which drastically reduces incentives to build new plants in developing countries. The decline in employment observed in developed countries, covering not only workers in industry but also in the service sector, leads to the situation, when incomes of lower and middle strata stop growing, while underemployment and unemployment increase. Ultimately, this leads to a slowdown in growth rates, and in the future, perhaps, even to a reduction of global demand for goods and services. It is very likely that in the long term these processes will cover the countries of the third world as well. Moreover, the young age of the population, the growing number of unemployed with second-rate higher education and access to social networks will stimulate radical protest moods.

At the same time in developing countries in the early stages of industrial upsurge, according to the Kuznets curve, income inequality significantly increases. In developed countries a similar process is also observed (according to Milanovic [2016], this is a new cycle of Kuznets, which will manifest itself first in the growth of inequality, and then in its reduction). Thus, at the time of cessation of the demand for labor force the growth of inequality covers almost the whole world. The list of countries that may find themselves in this situation in about 5–15 years is extremely large. It includes the backward countries of South-East Asia, the Muslim world, South America with its traditionally high property stratification, Sub-Saharan Africa (including Sahel and Sudan) and, finally, India and its surroundings. Of course, this list is not a list of countries where Reformation revolutions will take place; it is an extensive list of countries at risk.

A narrower list of countries at risk includes the Muslim world (see below), as well as some other countries from different continents. Among them, the poor countries of South America should be noted, especially Bolivia, with its poverty and a clear departure from South American Catholicism, which has occupied an extreme leftist position in regard to social equality in recent decades, influenced by the sentiments of its congregation, leftist political movements and its own ‘liberation theology’.

There is also a great risk of such movements in Africa, where different forms of dual faith (Christian-pagan or Muslim-pagan, as well as mixture of different forms of paganism) are prevalent, all of which are unable to explain the world's ill will towards them. The experience of Rwandan genocide and other violent movements (e.g., the radical Muslim Boko Haram movement[13] in Nigeria) shows that in conditions of overpopulation the struggle for absolute justice (of course, only for one's own) can take very severe forms. Certainly, it is hard to argue that their result will be precisely revolution and not peasant unrest, acts of looting, terror and genocide, etc. Nevertheless, the existence of a goal that involves the establishment of justice makes it very likely that expressions of protest will take the form of revolutions.

Unfortunately, India, the most populous country in the world with an ancient religious tradition and a recent high rate of economic development, cannot be excluded from this list. Unlike China, India's high economic growth rates are achieved mainly by a relatively small number of highly efficient firms and do not lead to a rapid increase in employment with a continuing high population growth rate (1.2–1.3 % per year), while approximately half the labor force is still employed in low-productivity agriculture. At the same time, at present there is practically no risk of a sharp transition of agrarian overpopulation into a revolution or mass slaughter.

The scale of the reformist-revolutionary movements and their terrorist actions is relatively small. The Naxalite-Maoist movement, which in some places organized its mini-states within the state, is declining, and clashes between radical Hindus and radical Muslims are local in nature. Nevertheless, a possible slowdown of economic development threatens both the revival of the Naxalite movement and the radicalization of the Hindus (up to reformation, following the Islamic model), which is very dangerous in a country, where the population is mostly very young, and the cults of nonviolence and violence coexist and are capable of transformation and inversion.

Islamic Reformation and Revolutions

While the perception of the Russian Revolution as a Reformation or an alternative to the Reformation is extremely poorly represented in political or religious literature, a comparison of the current trends of Islamic societies with the European Reformation is a commonplace in the scientific and journalistic literature. One of the founders of such a comparison is Gellner (1981), and numerous books and articles by his followers are hard to list, as examples include books by well-known political scientists (Huntington 1996; Calhoun 1997; Zakaria 2003; Reza 2005; Pipes 2017; etc.)

Before discussing the concept of the Islamic Reformation, let us note that Islamism and the Islamic Reformation are not synonyms, just as the European Reformation (in a broad sense, including the Counter-Reformation, various deviations from classical Christianity, e.g. the spread of Arianism in the 16th century, various social movements associated with Christianity) is not equal to the sum of the major Protestant denominations, the Islamic Reformation is much wider than Islamism. Nevertheless, as long as Islamism in its various forms prevails in the Islamic Reformation, sometimes these words will be used as synonyms.

There are also a number of objections to the comparison of the processes in the modern Islamic world and the Christian Reformation, primarily made by professional Islamic scholars, who know its subtleties and therefore object to direct analogies between processes in Islam and Christianity (see, e.g., Zubaida 2016; Ignatenko 2005; etc.) However, one can suppose that these objections (see below) are directed primarily against publicistic cliches that do not take into account the features of Islam, rather than against the concept itself.

1. Islam's rejection of the modern West and its liberal values. This is, perhaps, the weakest objection, for it is quite obvious that the European Reformation also began with an appeal to the original Christianity and stricter adherence to biblical norms, and it is unlikely that Luther, Calvin or even the Renaissance Erasmus of Rotterdam would favorably accept today's secular humanism, one of the main roots of which is certainly the European Reformation.

2. The second objection is that in Islam, unlike Christianity, the idea of renewal by return to the roots and referring to the Quran and Hadith of varying degrees of radicality is a norm, in contrast to Christianity, where such ideas formally lie within the Christian worldview, but actually caused the formation of new church orders, religious trends, denominations, sects, etc. Particularly strong resistance to even the weakest and moderate reformist aspirations exists in Orthodoxy, where the Church Tradition (the totality of the books written by the fathers of the church, the canonical biographies of saints and even local traditions) is no less or even more valuable than the text of the Bible. However, this objection explains the difficulty of the spread of reformist teachings in the Christian world rather than denies the existence of an analogy between Christianity and Islam.

3. Islam, unlike the two traditional denominations of Christianity, Catholicism and Orthodoxy, always encouraged the reading of the Koran by the laity. The Catholic Church, from the early Middle Ages until the second half of the 19th century, tried to restrict Bible reading by the laity (although it often overlooked the fact that many church leaders, from Erasmus of Rotterdam to Jansenists encouraged the reading of the Bible), and personal acquaintance with the Scriptures and the possibility of its interpretation by the laity became one of the most important differences between Protestant denominations and Catholicism. Orthodoxy did not formally forbid reading of the Bible, but the significant divergence of the Church Slavonic language with modern Slavic languages and the illiteracy of the overwhelming majority of the population made reading the biblical texts impossible. Although the language of the Quran was not so much different from the spoken dialects of Arabic as Russian from the Church Slavonic, but the partial or complete illiteracy of the vast majority of the population until the 1960s and 1980s also prevented ordinary Muslims from reading the sacred texts on their own. Therefore, in fact, the situation with the knowledge of canonical texts until the second half of the 20th century in the Islamic world did not differ much from the situation in Western Europe at the turn of the New Times or in Russia in the mid-19th century.

4. The long existence of Wahhabism (from the second half of the 18th century), a leading doctrine of the current Islamic Reformation (among the Sunnis), which long prevailed in Saudi Arabia, but until recently did not show any tendency towards further reformation of Islam. This very thesis demonstrates that the significant manifestations of reformation in Islam can at the same time remain within the framework of the disputes of various Islamic schools and trends, which significantly distinguishes them from the European Reformation. However, the processes currently taking place in the countries surrounding Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia itself have more similarities than differences with the European Reformation.

Let us dwell in more detail on the latter difference, since it seems to us to be the most significant one. On the one hand, the teaching of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab initially had typical Protestant features: a return to the origins, strict adherence to the canons, the fight against idolatry, rationalism (rejection of Sufi mystical teachings), and active participation in socio-economic and political (including national liberation) processes. According to Commins (2009), in the 19th century it was widespread among the city inhabitants. On the other hand, Wahhab's teaching, originally presented by Kitab al-Tawhid, which contains all of its main provisions, are more like a new Salafi movement in Islam, or heresy (according to different Islamic theologians), first spread among the illiterate Bedouins far from the cultural centers of the Western Asia and is not connected with a general increase in literacy and spiritual inquiries, but rather with the personal view of the Islamic theologian.

Therefore, within the framework of the general scheme presented above, the prehistory of the Islamic Reformation differs significantly from the Christian one. Whereas the Christian Reformation was preceded by the phenomena of the Pre-Reformation (primarily the activities of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, organically connected with the Renaissance and anticipating the Reformation of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.), Islam received the ideology of the Reformation in its complete form two centuries before its beginning, which during these two centuries had been playing an important role in the Islamic world, but did not rebuild it (unlike, say, the split of Islam into Sunnis and Shiites).

The wide spread of Islamism in the 20th century was preceded by the times of the spread of secular teachings (primarily Arab socialism in various forms), the weakening of Islam, the spread of literacy and various nationalist projects. It is possible to draw a very dubious analogy between the 1950s – 1970s and the Renaissance, that prepared the Reformation, although, of course, secular rulers of Islamic countries succeeded only in spreading education and technical borrowings from the USSR and Western countries. Of course, they did not revive anything (and had no connections with the pre-Islamic culture of the Western Asia and North Africa); they were not interested in art and built mostly tasteless palaces with golden toilet bowls and missile bases instead of Renaissance masterpieces. Nevertheless, they were engaged in the spread of higher and full secondary education among the elite, improved literacy and at the same time were not very interested in religious issues, emphasizing their (largely imaginary) commitment to Islam only in case of necessity. With the historical era of the Renaissance they are also related by a high level of corruption and
a demonstrative commitment to democracy (especially after the collapse of the USSR), expressed in imitation of rigged elections. It was during these years that Wahhabism and related Salafi teachings began to spread widely outside the Arabian Peninsula, aided both by the efforts of the Saudi government as well as by the failures of the pan-Arab nationalism projects as well as the failures of Muslims in the Arab-Israeli wars. A fertile ground for spreading Wahhabi ideas, both in relatively liberal and in fundamentalist forms, is a sharp increase in the literacy rate of Muslims. Therefore, let us consider modern Islamism, both Shiite and Sunni, as a phenomenon common to all Abrahamic religions akin, although by no means identical, to the European Reformation. The connection of the Islamic Reformation with the Enlightenment and social processes is indicated by almost synchronous propagation of the ideas to restore original pure Islam in the Shiite world, to which Wahhabism could not exert a significant influence. And it was in the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that the similarities with the Christian Reformation were most clearly manifested. Their similarity was expressed during the revolution itself, when, apart from Islamist ideologies, various leftist social movements, including anarchist and socialist, played a significant role.

Secondly, after the Revolution, a theocratic regime was established, which at the same time had the features of a non-liberal democracy and, in many respects, promoted progress, even in the usual modern meaning of this word (Pirzadeh 2016). Among the progressive features of the Islamic system of modern Iran (when viewed from the positions of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries) are, for example, the following:

·    Real elections (although limited by the adherence to Islam of the aspirants to power) with an unpredictable outcome.

·    The fight against overpopulation, which resulted in an unprecedented decline in total fertility rate (TFR) from 6 to 1.8 children per woman of child-bearing age.

·    The expansion of women's education. It is interesting to note that, initially, female medical education has a religious reason. Since strict Islamic law prohibits male doctors from treating women, the government encourages the training of female doctors. At present, there are far more female doctors in Iran than during the Shah's reign, and the maternity mortality rate is one of the lowest in the region.

·    Outspoken and aggressive nationalism, including the creation of a strong and well-equipped army and the occupation of neighboring territories, at least partially inhabited by Shiite Muslims.

The Islamic Reformation was one of the main causes of the Arab Spring revolutions. Already having disappeared into the past (but not completely gone, as the counterrevolution in Egypt restored the old order, and Assad still rules in the largest part of Syria) the secular regimes of the second half of the 20th century gave rise to two types of their own gravediggers.

The first type of gravediggers are students without clear prospects for further work and unemployed people with higher education, holding socialist, left-liberal and nationalist views (often a mixture of all three ideologies), which, while continuing the analogy with old Europe, can be conditionally attributed to the Age of Enlightenment. The second type of gravediggers are religious reformers (primarily Islamists) of varying degrees of radicalism who have long since emerged from a narrow circle of theologians and have included in their ranks broad masses of people, who have finally acquired their own opinion on the most important worldview, religious and political problems, in contrast to the indifference of the declining in number, but still quite numerous, supporters of the old power.

During the Arab Spring, the split of ordinary citizens into Islamists and loyal supporters of the old power played a significant role in empowering not so numerous, but really active representatives of the ‘progressive’ revolutionary-minded young people.

When trying to make predictions, or at least to predict somehow the further course of the Islamic Reformation, one should first of all take into account that the main difference between the Islamic and Christian Reforms is not their prehistory or ways of reading sacred texts, but historical context. While the European Reformation was taking place in the traditional world, opening a way to the New Times, the Islamic Reformation is taking place when the New Times have long been victorious and, perhaps, give way to a different time of Postmodernity, when there exist a global world, the Internet, cellular communications, nuclear weapons, the United States and China, etc. Thus, this prediction should take into account the processes taking place outside the Islamic world.

Nevertheless, due to the logic of things or lack of imagination of the author, the main, and most anticipated, development path is the further escape of people from the state of religious indifference, the continuing radicalization and subsequent de-radicalization of reforming Islam, the discontinuities and connections with the Enlightenment, and, finally, the transformation of the Islamic world from the hot spot on the planet, with wars and revolutions, into a part of that new world, which is now hard to imagine. In our opinion, the most dangerous stage of this way is not the terrorist activity of radical Islamist groups and networks, but the development of nationalism and militarism, examples of which one can clearly see in Iran and to a lesser extent Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Sunni countries that possesses nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. Although, of course, the experience of Iran, Qatar or Turkey will not necessarily be adopted by all countries of the victorious Islamic Reformation (Tunisia is more of an opposite example). Nevertheless, the expected Islamic revolutions, inspired by the ideas of jihad and the coming triumph of Islam, in connection with local nationalism, are likely to give rise to militarist and aggressive regimes.

If we limit the forecast to the near future, then the main issue is the time and character of passing the point of maximum radicalization of reforming Islam. In fact, this forecast is associated with the most radical manifestation of Islamism – the Islamic State (ISIS).[14] In my opinion, the future of radical Islamism (but not the nationalism of Iran and other states of the victorious Islamic reformation) depended significantly on at whose hands the Islamic State would perish.

If it were defeated by more moderate Sunnis, for example, the Saudi Wahhabis (though quite radical Islamists on an absolute scale), then many radical Muslims, even sympathizers of the ISIS, would conclude that their opponents are gracious to the heart of Allah. But since the winners are Americans, Russians, Alawites and Shiites, adherents of radical Islam can easily come to the conclusion that the ISIS did not strictly follow Islamic laws; for example, it was not merciless enough towards the enemies of Islam, and therefore Allah did not grant it victory. Therefore, one cannot exclude a new attempt to create an even more radical Islamic state.

However, coming down to Earth, one should mention the role of oil. If we assume that the peak of oil prices in 2004–2014 was the last one, and there will be no prices in the range of 90–100 modern dollars per barrel, or higher, then the importance of the Middle East in world politics will diminish, which, after a series of terrorist outbursts of despair, will bring about a de-radicalization, the ‘Thermidor’ of the Islamic Reformation. If new energy sources cannot stand the test in the coming years, and after another fall in prices, yet another peak follows, then new acts of the bloody play ‘Islamic Reformation’ are possible.


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[1] In the 16th century – the first half of the 17th century (Khristoforov 2011; Alexandrov 1976: 229–240) local redistribution of the land was widespread, but with rare exceptions it was aimed only at alloting of the smallest plot to the weakest, but not at dividing everything equally.

[2] ‘The source base created at the turn of the century (two zemstvo(district)-statistical surveys for the years 1897–1900 and others) in the 40 post-reform years shows a powerful growth of the peredel (redistribution, replotting) movement, the main indicator of the community's search for its life support in conditions of land shortage. The first replottings were followed by fights, people lay down under the plow, in one case this act resulted in seven murders (!), the authorities resorted to arrests. The next replotting was calmer, communal redistribution of ownership was legalized, the outbreak of the struggle for land was replaced by a legal equalizing and redistributive order’ (Posadsky 2000). Golotik et al. 2003 write about the ‘revival of the land-redistribution functions of the community, especially in conditions of increased migration activity of the rural population and the scale of long-term seasonal work’ in the reign of Alexander III.

[3] According to Pivovarov (2002), twelve-year intervals between global cataclysms of Russian history in the early 20th century (1893–1905–1917–1929) can be explained precisely by the timing of land redistribution.

[4] However, there are also survey data (Chernyshev 1997), showing the predominance of negative attitudes towards communities, but the events of summer and autumn of 1917 raise doubts about their relevance.

[5] The right of noblemen not to be in public service, first granted by Emperor Peter III in 1762 and confirmed by Empress Catherine II in 1785.

[6] By the Sacred Tradition they meant those information and canonical norms professed by the church, which the Bible does not directly contain. In Orthodoxy the Sacred Tradition has not a lower, but, in fact, even higher status than the biblical texts.

[7] St. John of Kronstadt (1829–1909) was an Orthodox priest, one of the founders of the Black-Hundred Union of the Russian people. He was a preacher, spiritual writer, church public figure of right-conservative and monarchist views.

[8] ‘It can hardly be said that we had a religious renaissance. For this there was not enough strong religious will that transforms life, and there was no participation in the movement of broader people's layers’(Berdyaev 1935).

[9] In February 1914 P. N. Durnovo wrote a memorandum (Durnovo 1922), in which he not only pointed to Russia's probable failure in the First World War, but also predicted the subsequent two revolutions of 1917 – both the liberal February Revolution and the October Socialist Revolution.

[10] Stolypin's reform allowed the peasants with the consent of other members of the community and then without it, to allocate their share of land from communal lands and legally formalize it as their private property.

[11] The actual basis of this belief was rather the ability of state economies of belligerent countries, primarily Germany, to cope with the economic difficulties of the war period, than any theoretical constructs or experience of redistributive peacetime economies.

[12] Russian revolutionaries also relied not only on their own and Slavophile ideas about the role of the community, but to an even greater extent on the ideas of Western left-wing ideologists, from Proudhon to Marx.

[13] The terrorist organization is banned in Russia.

[14] The terrorist organization is banned in Russia.