Gilan Gostiny Dvor In Astrakhan As A Trading Post Of Persian-Azerbaijani Merchants


The article analyzes the attitude to the problem of individual rights and freedom of Russian political parties of the early 20th century. The problem is connected with the positions of democratic socialism – a direction for which the issue of equal and mutually beneficial relations State – Society – Individual. Democratic socialism in Russia was represented by the Narodniks, as well as Mensheviks. The liberals who formed the Party People's Freedom supported the sovereignty of the individual, the need for its comprehensive development, and the value for society of every person, regardless of their social belonging to the platform of democratic socialism. The ethical side of politics is developed by leaders of the parties, as the recognition of the individual as a key subject of social development, radically distinguished them from adherents of totalitarian socialism – the Bolsheviks. Democratic parties played a great role in the socio-political modernization of Russia and laying the foundation of civic culture in the country. In addition to developing software installations aimed at gradually involving the working people in self-government processes, they carried out daily informational and propaganda work. This significantly increased the general level of civil consciousness of workers and peasants. The study also reveals some features of the domestic political culture and political consciousness that impeded the modernization dynamics of the country. Traditional Russian sociocentrism, the dominance of the massive ideas characteristic of agrarian societies, and the inertia of sociocultural patterns in the aggregate hindered the development of personal potential among the working people of pre-revolutionary Russia.

Keywords: Personal freedomdemocratic socialismsocietystate


The problem of the correlation of the political culture prevailing in a particular society, the interdependence of political consciousness and the behavior of the population and specific events, phenomena, processes occurring in society, will be always relevant. Most of the historical, sociological, political and socio-psychological studies focus on this topic, but the issue itself will never be studied till the end. The dialectical relationship of laws and contingencies, objective and subjective factors in socio-historical studies cannot predict the future, however, it explains a lot in the past, providing an opportunity for a political-cultural analysis of the social reality of a certain era and the political experience of its representatives. The definition of the political culture needs to consist general issues of ordinary citizens and political activists.

According to culture studies, Russian society has a peculiar "Eurasian" mentality, which combines both eastern and western features. In pre-revolutionary Russia (if we talk about the overwhelming majority of its population, including the peasantry), the eastern cultural-mentality clearly dominated, with sociocentrism, collectivist ideas, traditionalism and extremely small social mobility. These traits negatively affected the development of personal potential. A person in Russia is considered not a universally valid value, but the one who neglects self-care expecting help from the society. This remind social infantilism (the formula of social psychologists), inherent not only to representatives of traditional Russian society, but also to citizens of the Soviet era, is a legacy and the result of this side of mentality. A person perceived responsibility more as a desire to follow a certain pattern, to be “like everyone else”, rather than as an orientation to the result. The idea of conscience carried the meaning not so much of moral internal self-control as of emotional, indicative experience. The concept of freedom was replaced by "will", manifested in the absolutization of one's independence and indifference to the freedom of another person. The definition of labor has been traditionally considered as conscription, not as a condition for achieving well-being. The social and cultural immaturity of the overwhelming mass of the Russian population, in comparison with Europe, was well-known among the educated people (no matter liberals, populists or Marxists).

Russian sociocultural life is described within its cultural and historical paradigms layered on top of each other: one stage has not yet ended, the other has already begun (Protasova, 2017). The multistructure of the Russian economy, all of Russian life is one of the consequences of this peculiarity. It characterizes the multidirectional sociocultural processes happening in Russia since Peter the Great. There were such activitites as the Europeanization of the narrow higher cultural layer of society and, at the same time, the deepening of the Asian production. Nevertheless, despite the Russian household environment flow, the patriarchy of the mass consciousness and other attributes of traditional society became more noticeable. Especially the Russian economic and socio-political spheres were greatly developed since the early 20th century.

Problem Statement

The parties of democratic socialism greatly influenced on the socio-political modernization of Russia founding civic culture in the country. Their ideological heritage has been still relevant to study. Firstly, during the entire Soviet period they were examined exclusively from a negative critical point of view, therefore, a number of constructive components of their programs, by their universality quite suitable in modern conditions, were avoided by historians and political scientists. Although the post-Soviet stage of the development of the social sciences has partially eliminated these information gaps, a comprehensive study of Russian democratic socialism is still starting to its way. Secondly, the Russian pre-revolutionary parties of democratic socialism to political activity consider political struggle as a process with its ethics and morality which cannot be neglected. This is the difference between the domestic socialist democrats and the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks created an avant-garde party, for which political, class expediency overshadowed universal values and moral foundations.

The goal of democratic socialism is to achieve a balance of individual and collective principles of life, to build a society where each individual will be able to develop their personal skills, using the guarantees of human and civil rights. The fundamental principles of such a society are freedom, the solidarity of workers and social justice. As for the bad practices: dictatorship in any form (class, intra-party, state), totalitarian managerial principles of any scale, blind and unconditional submission of personality to group, class interests, even for the social progress.

Research Questions

The subject of the study is the programmatic and political views of the parties of socialist revolutionaries and national socialists. Their policy affected the problem of forming the foundations of civic self-awareness and the moral culture development among the laborers in Russia. These parties contributed to the integration of the laborers into the socialist society.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to generalize the views of the well-known representatives of the Russian parties of democratic socialism in the early 20th century. The study analyzes their point of view on the role and place of the individual in the processes of social and political modernization, and compares the positions democratic socialists, Bolsheviks and liberals on ethics and morality of the politics and everyday life.

Research Methods

The study is conducted following the principles of historicism, concreteness, objectivity, system compliance, historical sources, the principle of historiographic tradition.

Basic working methods:

  • system-structural method (the study considers all issues related to neo-Narodism as an important part of Russian democratic socialism in Russia),

  • comparative method (the study compares different approaches to the problem of the role and place of the individual in a progressive (democratic) society) – the Socialist-Revolutionary parties, national socialists, liberals and Marxists – Mensheviks and Bolsheviks,

  • method of generalization (identified general principles of these views),

  • the method of historical personification (the individuals who made the most significant contribution to the discussion of this problem).


The knowledge of the rights and freedoms and ability to use them by the individual are factors that characterize a developed civil society and a stable rule of law. The comprehensive development of the individual as a person and citizen is an indispensable condition for social progress. Thus, the personality acts as the initial “substance” for large-scale social changes, and its sociological role in this sense cannot be underestimated. Today, under the influence of the long-term success of liberal and socialist practices in democratic countries, Russia has come to understand the importance of this issue, but this has not always been the case. Such a “microsociological” approach on the scale of the tremendous changes that Russia faced at the beginning of the twentieth century was not understood and recognized by all political forces – at that time they often used the concepts of “classes”, “masses”, etc. However, genuine democracy does not call for sacrificing a personality for the sake of the large social groups, firmly insisting on the inseparability and interdependence of these social actors.

The Bolsheviks even for internal party affairs sacrificed their freedom (personal, ideological, economic, etc.) for discipline, centralism, and of course dictatorship. On the opposite, the representatives of democratic socialism gathered together at the beginning of the twentieth century, organized in the party of socialist revolutionaries and people's socialists, who paid great attention to the problem of personality, as well as ethics in politics. In this, the positions of Russian liberals and democratic socialists had much more similarities.

Russian liberals and socialists of a democratic nature before their neonational positions were the members of the Liberation Union (Soyuz Svobody). The beginning of the work of this organization coincided in time with the Russian-Japanese War, which revealed both the political and personal feelings of the opposition democrats.

First, patriotic sentiment prevailed in the Union of Liberation. However, the failures of the military campaign, the enormous loss of life absorbed by the war, and the gigantic material costs dramatically changed the attitude towards the foreign policy of the autocracy in Russian society. However, for all their opposition, the liberals and moderate Narodnik Liberation people did not want to defeat their state.

They did not support the position of the Menshevik L. Martov, who stated that Russia's failures in the Russian-Japanese war were beneficial to the revolutionary movement (Protasova, 2017). Martov welcomed the favorable conditions for the development of revolutionary potential and, although he did not go against of morality openly. According to Marxist journalistic researches, human disasters are considered to influence the revolutionary consciousness of the Russian proletariat will grow. Right-wing Marxists sometimes seemed embarrassed to turn to universal topics, so as not to seem sentimental, soft, "non-modern." Moreover, in private life, they mainly tried to follow moral laws. On the whole, Marxism gained popularity among the young generation of Russians who joined political activism in the last two decades of the 19th century. The main reason for this is that Marxism, with its European roots and international orientation, seemed to promise Russia to turn it from a semi-Asian country into the new country, with its culture, its institutions and attributes representing a free political system (Valentinov, 1993). P. B. Struve started his socio-political career from Marxism. He later became famous as a liberal, and V.M. Chernov became the leader of the populist party of socialist revolutionaries. In their convictions, they were able to combine a number of philosophical and economic “successes” of Marxism with the ethical and organizational-political principles of their less militant and radical ideologies.

The approach to the human dimension and moral issues of the Narodniks and Cadets was completely different from that of the Marxists. The fact that the Person was the cornerstone of the political philosophy of the liberals is an axiom. But the Narodnik socialists, who were rather interested in society and the collective, also constantly addressed the topic of personality and morality that were considered universal values to any democrat. Moderate Socialist-Revolutionaries, national socialists and cadets supported the idea of the individual being the most important social substance, the primary basis for building a highly developed, just society. The Russian Socialist Democrats, including the Socialist Revolutionaries supported Kautsky’s (1990) statement saying “there is nothing more ridiculous than requiring us to give us a picture of the state of the future we are striving for”(p. 14) (Problems of social progress and the socialist ideal in social thought at the end of the 19th and 20th centuries). No one can predict or identify the forms a new society will take – it happens unexpected in historical development. As we approach the ideal result (goal), some details of this idea can be corrected, changed. This postulate of the German revisionist was mostly supported by the party leaders.

The national socialists party was founded in 1906 in Russia. Although the party was small, it had an independence and authority among other political parties. In the value system of this party, man occupied a central place. None of the social forms was considered by them as a self-sufficient entity, without regard to the good of the individual. The program followed the idea of freedom and independence of human, its comprehensive development and endless improvement (Peshekhonov, 1917). The national socialists made high demands on the personality inherent in society, the main of which was labor, since a person is independent while he/she is working (Peshekhonov, 1917). Partly for such attention to the issue of personal sovereignty, attention to a person no less than to the "mass", they began to call the people's socialists "liberal populists."

Decades later after the revolution in 1917, the Social Revolutionary ideologist Chernov (1911) stated that socialism of economic automatism is a socialism without freedom. The labor without freedom does not develop the individuality and the worker is considered as a robot (Chernov, 1947). According to Chernov, Bolshevik socialism consists of socialism of robots. The worker as a person in this system has no freedom, he is considered as the property of the state (Konovalova, 2009). During that time the USSR was used to see the labor as a tool to build a communism, but later the USA during the post-war years developed the famous concept of human relations. Its creators argued that labor is a natural need for a person, therefore, forced labor is useless. They called on the owners and managers of enterprises and organizations to create an internal corporate culture that appeals to each employee, aimed at developing his interest in work, stimulating creative and intellectual potential, etc. Such a culture should be based on respect for the participant in the production process as an individual, sincere attention to his needs and problems, which, ultimately, will motivate him to work not so much for a fee, but for pleasure and self-development. Such a doctrine organically fit into the theory of “constructive socialism” compiled by Chernov already in exile, which was a kind of synthesis of his former convictions and the result of political inculturation in the European socialist area. Communism, as an ideology that acquired a cult character in the USSR, was seen by Chernov (1947) as the new Russian autocracy. According to the excerpts from the memoirs of Kerensky (2005), the history of the Bolshevik reaction once again proves the impossibility of any social and political progress without the individual’s right to freedom of speech, thoughts and beliefs. A socialist, Shub (1969), who emigrated to America in 1908 and became a mediator of the Russian emigration into local socio-cultural conditions supported the idea of Kerensky. He stated that a free society can be created only by free people, but a society of freedom and equality cannot exist without morality.

This note emphasizing ethical and humanitarian ideas was introduced into the Socialist Revolutionary definition of socialism meaning a harmoniously developed, freely deploying all its creative potentials, initiative human individuality. Even the Socialist-Revolutionaries introduced personal notes into the doctrine of the revolutionary struggle. Socialism seemed to them to be the greatest moral force of modern society, and the struggle for its ideals was based on the self-devotion and ultimate sacrifice for their homeland (Chernov, 1917). At the same time, the Socialist-Revolutionaries considered democratism as important within their own party. It was always distinguished by a diversity of opinions and trends: they sought to rally all those who shared the basic principles of their ideological and political position, but did not plan to create a ‘Order of the Sword-Bearers’, oriented towards the unquestioning fulfillment of the orders of leaders and seizure of power (Leonov, 2019).


The Russian socialist democrats and liberals, despite the differences of idea and interpretation of the essence of Russian problems, had an equal attention to the human needs, a common understanding of the importance of personality development to bring up an active civic position and the right attitude towards the labor. There are undoubted similarities in a number of positions related to the attitude to the role and place of an individual in a society of social justice, and to European Social Democracy, which was ruthlessly criticized by the Soviet government and proved the viability and vitality of its ideas over the past century. According to R. Darendorf, at its best, the twentieth century was social democratic (as cited in Rabotyazhev, 2012). Socialism is now seen not as a goal, but as a moral task. According to Eichler (1996) one of the main figure in the international social democratic movement of the late 20th century, the highest meaning of socialism is a person who seeks to live in accordance with self-respect, dignity and freedom. This thesis is connected with the ideological and moral principles of pre-revolutionary Russian democrats – both socialists and liberals. This circumstance allows us to think that under favorable historical conditions, without the “catastrophism” fatal for Russia of the pace and rhythm of events, especially evident in the first two decades of the twentieth century, over time some of the working and programmatic contradictions of the democratic parties would be overcome, which would open to them the path to fruitful parliamentary cooperation also helped to establish in Russia not a confrontational, but a consensus form of resolution of political conflicts, successfully practiced in countries of civic culture.


This article was financially supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), project No. 19-09-00059A.


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31 October 2020

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Pirova, R. N., Ozdamirova, E. M., Rajabova, Z. K., & Shikhalieva, U. K. (2020). Gilan Gostiny Dvor In Astrakhan As A Trading Post Of Persian-Azerbaijani Merchants. In D. K. Bataev (Ed.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism» Dedicated to the 80th Anniversary of Turkayev Hassan Vakhitovich, vol 92. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 2287-2294). European Publisher.