From the very beginnings of modern Russian literature, Russia's writers have consciously dealt with politics. Following Peter the Great's death in 1725, there was a danger that his modernizing reforms would be frustrated by conservative forces. Consequently in 1729 Feofan Prokopovich who had been a fervent panegyrist for Peter, proposed to his younger protigt Antioch Kantemir, a writer of satires against the anti-Petrine reactionaries, that they should consider themselves members of a “Learned Watch” dedicated to the defense of the westernizing reforms. Assuming a distinct ideological position, these Russian writers were not content with being mere reflectors of the political scene, but chose to play an active part in the political process. In future, this had serious consequences. By placing themselves close to the seat of autocratic power, writers inevitably encouraged the Russian autocrats to seek to control their production and their lives. At the close of the century, the minor writer I. F. Bogdanovich could even propose that writers be dressed in uniform and given ranks commensurate with the distinction of their service to the state.' The strict discipline implied by that “uniform” has been present throughout most of the history of modern Russian literature; its links with politics have made its writers subject to the control of censorship and to the sanctions of exile, imprisonment or even execution.
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