134. Reforms and other distractions…
“- A treatise on the dangers of reforms in general." Isn't it superfluous?
- It is the main idea of Your Excellency that all reforms are harmful at all.
- Yes, indigenous, decisive; but if you change anything, improve anything, I don't say anything against it.
- In this case, it will not be reforms, but amendments, fixes.”
A. Ostrovsky ‘Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man’
«чтоб русская держава спаслась от их затеи, повесить Станислава всем вожакам на шеи»
А. К. Толстой ‘порой веселой мая…’ 
Initially, avalanche of the reforms was met with a general enthusiasm because, with the most touchy issue, the serfdom, being treated cautiously, nobody had serious reasons to object and even the newly opened universities and gymnasiums had been viewed favorably: deficiencies of the home education for the young nobles were quite obvious both due to the related costs and the generally low results. The military schools generated a considerable enthusiasm, especially among the poorer nobility (aka, majority of the noble class) because not only the government was taking care about the education but the graduates of these schools had a guaranteed place in the officers’ corps (the old Petrian system required service from the ranks and, even there were widely used loopholes, they required connections and money and even then a young noble could start with a non-com position) and, depending upon success in education. the graduates could have, in theory
, a right to chose placement in the most prestigious regiments all the way to the Guards .
The same applied to the civic service: an university education was guaranteeing
entry into the service with a “class” position  instead of one of the lower level clerks who were required to pass through the special exam to raise to the lowest rank of College Registrar.
But at some point the reformers got overly enthusiastic. The first proposal at the first glance
looked relatively harmless because it was about the definitions. Subjects of the Russian Empire had to be divided into 3 major classes, each with its own set of the “rights”:
- The nobility has civil and political rights;
- "Middle class" has civil rights (right to movable and immovable property, freedom of occupation and movement, to act on its own behalf in court) - merchants, burghers, state peasants.
- "Working People" has general civil rights (civil freedom of the individual): they are serfs, workers and domestic servants. And any citizen could rise a step higher when acquiring any property.
While pretty much everybody was OK with the first two items, the third one produced a severe backlash: what “civil freedom” was supposed to mean for a serf? Is his lord deprived of a right to punish a serf, within the limits defined by a law? Can a serf became free person if he acquiring some property? Etc.
It went from bad to worse when the idea of an elected
Council of State had been floated. It was proposed that its members have to be elected
though the multi-step step of the elections (uezd-gubernia-state). Of course, the emperor would retain a complete freedom of interrupting the Council’s meetings and ignoring its decisions but this did not help because an idea of any kind of a highest level government organ being elective
rather than selective
was a taboo. Of course, this being 1760s and the Age of Enlightenment (the late Emperor Alexey even exchanged letters with some of the so-called “philosophers” and used services of some of them for purchasing books for the State library in Moscow  ), the enthusiasts had been spared the spectacular punishments of which Peter I was fond of. Instead of being impaled or even a milder punishment of being beaten by the knout and deprived of a tongue, they retained their positions and even got some state awards. It is just that their intellectual capacities being channeled into what Peter considered as more productive activities.
Which did not prevent the loyal supporters of the absolute monarchy from coming with their own declaration called “A treatise on the dangers of reforms in general”,
which started with the following:
“What does the reform contain? The reform involves two actions: 1) abolition of the old and 2) putting something new in its place. Which of these actions is harmful? Both are equally bad: 1st) by sweeping away the old, we give a space of dangerous inquisitiveness of the mind to penetrate the reasons why this or the other is rejected, and draw such conclusions: something unsuitable is swept away; such an institution is discarded, so it is unsuitable. And this should not happen, because this is exciting freethinking and a kind of challenge is made to discuss what is not negotiable. 2nd) by supplying new things, we make a kind of concession to the so-called spirit of the time, which is nothing more than the fabrication of idle minds. “
With the dangerous foreign ideas being discarded some of the definitely useful ones had been adopted and speedily put into implementation.
The most important of them was the British practice of making the muskets out of the standardized components. This allowed both improve the productivity and to get rid of the existing problems (with the high discrepancy of the non-standardized muskets each soldier had to prepare his own bullets and the shooting performance was all over the place).
The second was deployment of the road construction technology developed by Pierre-Marie-Jérôme Trésaguet.
Of course, it was impossible to implement it for all Russian roads so the trial run was on Moscow - St. Petersburg Road.
The border line by Kuban and Terek rivers was depriving the locals of some of their traditional pasture lands so, of course, they were not happy. But they could do little because the region was a loose confederation of the tribes lacking any semblance of a modern army. However, what they were lacking in the terms of organization and weaponry, they expected to compensate by the bravery and horsemanship. The main problem, as they saw it, were the Russian fortifications, which they had no means to take.
In January 1764, several Kabardian nobles led by Atajuq Misost Bematiqwa
met met with the representative of the Russian Kizlyar commandant N. A. Potapov and unsuccessfully demanded the demolition of the Mozdok fortress built by the Russians. By that time the Russians had Azov-Mozdok and Kuban-Kizlyar fortified border belts the last of which was going along the Kuban and Terek rivers, with over 30 fortresses and smaller forts and redoubts placed every 30 versts.
In June 1767, Bematiqwa, by himself, started a military operation against Russia, but many other Kabardian nobles did not want a war and preferred to surrender. In the middle of 1768, fifteen of the Kabardian princes who decided to surrender reported to Kizlyar that they were ready to "take an oath" of allegiance to Russia. Misost Bematiqwa and some other local princes, refused. However, their main problem was an absence of allies. Sultan Mustafa III, in his capacity of a caliph, sent a secret message that he is approving a holy war against the infidel but in his secular capacity (which included a formal protectorate over the region) he did not have any intention of spoiling relations with Russia, not to mention going to war. So Bematiqwa and his followers had to go to war on their own. In the same year, Russian army fought a battle against the Kabardian Circassians with the support of the Kalmyk Khan
's 20,000 cavalrymen, and were victorious as they destroyed the whole Kabardian army. After this the hostilities dwindled to the small border skirmishes with the settlements being burned on both sides but no meaningful changes of the situation.
The Russian and Turkmen piracy on the Caspian had history many centuries long. With the Cossacks of Don falling under control of the Russian government, this component was gone but the Turkmens remained active. Peter I installed a severe naval order in the Caspian Sea, after which piracy came to naught. Warships caught up and shot the small boats of the "gentlemen of luck." But a decade after the death of the first Russian emperor, in 1735, when his Caspian flotilla ceased to be given funds from the treasury and it began to become unusable, pirates reappeared in the Caspian Sea. The Persian authorities begged the Russian government to take action against the Turkmen gangs attacking merchant ships from the islands: after Khiva became Russian protectorate the Turkmens formally became Russian responsibility even if in a reality most of them never were truly controlled by the Khanate.
Turkmens on light boats began to attack coastal Persian settlements and smash them, stealing prisoners and cattle and the Russian government had to recreate the Caspian flotilla and establish the naval station on the island of Ashur, lying at the entrance to the Gulf of Astrabad. On this Persian island, Russian military sailors checked Turkmens going to Persia, issued them passports and took away weapons. However, as contemporaries wrote, the Turkmens still managed to hide their guns and, albeit on a limited scale, continued their activities.
 “To save the Russian Empire from their ideas, decorate their leaders with the state awards” A.K. Tolstoy “merry month of May”
 This right meant little in practice because, without a serious financial backing from home, an officer simply could not afford to serve in the Guards: the “social” part of the service was too expensive. However, the graduate from a poor family still could choose placement in a prestigious regiment with a great military record.
 One of those listed in the Table of the Ranks.
 They proved to be cheaper than the pure-breed greyhounds and much more fun.
 Stolen from “Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man”