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    Behrends, Jan C. 2011. Visions of civility: Lev Tolstoy and Jane Addams on the urban condition infin de siècleMoscow and Chicago. European Review of History: Revue europeenne d'histoire, Vol. 18, Issue. 3, p. 335.

  • Volume 2: Imperial Russia, 1689–1917
  • Edited by Dominic Lieven, London School of Economics and Political Science

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Book description

The second volume of The Cambridge History of Russia covers the imperial period (1689–1917). It encompasses political, economic, social, cultural, diplomatic, and military history. All the major Russian social groups have separate chapters and the volume also includes surveys on the non-Russian peoples and the government's policies towards them. It addresses themes such as women, law, the Orthodox Church, the police and the revolutionary movement. The volume's seven chapters on diplomatic and military history, and on Russia's evolution as a great power, make it the most detailed study of these issues available in English. The contributors come from the USA, UK, Russia and Germany: most are internationally recognised as leading scholars in their fields, and some emerging younger academics engaged in cutting-edge research have also been included. No other single volume in any language offers so comprehensive, expert and up-to-date an analysis of Russian history in this period.


'This book has been published at a time when interest in the Russian state and its society is highly likely to grow owing to the recent series of events relating to Russia's more independent stand in the international arena. The volume will, no doubt, meet the demands of the next generation of scholars for up-to-date views and interpretations of imperial Russia. I recommend this book without reservation, to both academics and students of Russian history.'

A. A. Fedorov - University of Derby

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  • 1 - Russia as empire and periphery
    pp 7-26
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    Empire is one of the most common types of polity in history. In the long term the most interesting and important empires were those linked to the spread of some great high culture or universal religion. Tsarist Russia was a worthy member of this imperial club. The three most crucial acquisitions in the imperial era were the Baltic provinces, Ukraine and Poland. The first was vital because it opened up direct trade routes to Europe, which contributed greatly to the growth of the eighteenth-century economy. By the end of the nineteenth century New Russia and the southern steppe territories were the core of Russian agriculture and of its coal and metallurgical industries: without them Russia would cease to be a great power. Expansion into Ukraine and the empty steppe was Russia's equivalent to the New Worlds conquered and colonised by the British and Spanish empires.
  • 2 - Managing empire: tsarist nationalities policy
    pp 27-44
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    Almost from its inception, Russia has been a multinational state. Long before anyone spoke of the Russian Empire, a designation that dates from the latter part of Peter I's reign, a variety of ethnic groups lived in territories claimed by the Muscovite tsar. However, the very concepts of nations and nationality, now considered a central element of human identity, were largely absent in Imperial Russia, at least until the later nineteenth century. Tsar Nicholas I is perhaps best known for the tripartite formula Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality thought up by his minister of education, Sergei Uvarov. Tsarist policy in the post-1863 decades would aim to secure the Russian position in the Kingdom of Poland, or as it was now officially called, the Vistula Land, while limiting Catholic and Polish influences in the Western Provinces. This policy, both in this region and throughout the empire, has been described as Russification. The First World War in the east was fought in non-Russian regions.
  • 3 - Geographies of imperial identity
    pp 45-64
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    The problem of identity in modern Russia is commonly framed in terms of the elemental tension between the country's alternative embodiments as empire or nation. This chapter explores identity in pre-revolutionary Russia by examining three configurations of the imperial vision: as a European empire, as an anti-European empire, and as a national empire. The Europeanisation of Russia's imperial image involved many things including the need for a basic perceptual rebounding and rebranding of its domestic geographical space. The most important element of the ideological inversion proved to be the civilisational juxtaposition between Europe and Asia. There was an alternative response to the dilemmas thrown up by Russian nationalism regarding the quality of the country's identity vis-a-vis the West. The fact that the vision of Russia as an anti-European empire continued to accept the civilisational distinction between Europe and Asia set out in the eighteenth century insured that it would remain encumbered with the fundamental nationalist dilemma regarding Russia's European identity.
  • 4 - Russian culture in the eighteenth century
    pp 65-91
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    Several edicts issued within a few weeks of each other offer a foretaste of the trajectory of Russian culture in the eighteenth century. With this in mind and with a focus on high culture, this chapter examines developments in architecture, the figurative arts, theatre, music and literature from the late seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth. Elite Russian culture at the beginning of the eighteenth century developed in a peculiar hot-house environment, show-cased in St Petersburg. The new capital's creator, Peter I, summoned foreign architects to construct palaces, and foreign artists to fill them with pictures. Historians once neglected the period between Peter I's death and the accession to the throne of his self-styled 'spiritual daughter' Catherine II. The Academy of Arts would remain the virtually unchallenged centre and arbiter of the figurative arts in Russia until the middle of the nineteenth century. Theatre made a substantial contribution to the 'civilising' mission of the Russian Enlightenment.
  • 5 - Russian culture: 1801–1917
    pp 92-115
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    To gain a sense of the achievements of Russian culture during this period, it is instructive to compare the comments made on the subject by Petr Chaadaev in a 'Philosophical Letter'. The fate of Chaadaev's 'Philosophical Letter', meanwhile, exemplifies the cultural atmosphere under Nicholas I as a whole. During Alexander II's reign Russian culture flourished. Alexander III reacted to the violent circumstances of his father's death by introducing repressive measures which actually attempted to undo some of the 1860s reforms, and by increasing censorship. Tchaikovsky also made a serious contribution to the renewal of Russian church music. The main symphony concert series, which had been inaugurated by the Russian Musical Society in 1859, had become increasingly reliant on the classical repertoire by the 1880s and was beginning to lack freshness. Two new ventures which were to have a lasting impact on Russian cultural life were launched in 1898, one in Moscow and the other in St Petersburg.
  • 6 - Russian political thought, 1700–1917
    pp 116-144
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    Muscovites almost universally regarded the grand prince as anointed by God and thus as deserving obedience. The most consequential thinker of the Russian Enlightenment was Catherine the Great, whose Nakaz treated liberty as a crucial ingredient of just rule. Between 1789 and the early 1830s a distinctively Russian variant of conservatism began to emerge. After the turn of the century but especially between 1826 and 1855 Russian intellectuals focused on the historical, religious and philosophical problem of Russian national identity. The Slavophiles' chief adversaries were the so-called Westernisers, a loose knit network of intellectuals usually thought to include the literary critic Vissarion Grigor'evich Belinsky. The Great Reforms so altered Russian social and civil life as to radically affect subsequent political debates. Dostoevsky's conservatism was predicated on opposition to Western liberalism and socialism, on hostility to individualism and capitalism, on rejection of Catholicism and religious authoritarianism.
  • 7 - Russia and the legacy of 1812
    pp 145-162
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    Russia stood at a historical crossroads when it experienced the trauma of the 1812 Napoleonic invasion. The liberal nationalist reading of the war contains an element of historical truth and is itself a part of history thanks to its place in Russian society's cultural consciousness. Cultural Europeanisation had given the elite an identity separate from everyone else's; as Richard Wortman has argued, 'by displaying themselves as foreigners, or like foreigners, Russian monarchs and their servitors affirmed the permanence and inevitability of their separation from the population they ruled'. This chapter discusses the challenges Russia faced on the eve of the war; the war's contribution to a xenophobic and reactionary nationalism, a reflexive social conservatism, and what might be called 'the paranoid style in Russian politics'. Russia was at war almost continually from the 1790s to 1814. These wars entailed a vast mobilisation of people and created new role models for society.
  • 8 - Ukrainians and Poles
    pp 163-183
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    In the middle of the seventeenth century, Orthodox clerics trained in the rhetoric and languages of the Polish Renaissance and Reformation settled in Moscow. Ukrainian clerics, for example, all but controlled the Russian Orthodox Church. The Cossacks profited from Pereiaslav to free themselves and much of Ukraine from Poland, but then under Hetman Doroshenko aimed for an alliance with the Ottomans. The Congress of Vienna created a Kingdom of Poland, usually known as the Congress Kingdom, which included Warsaw and some of central Poland. Romantic nationalism, as exemplified by Mickiewicz, also treated Russia rather as a political perversion than a national enemy, and emphasised not so much Polish national uniqueness as the Polish national mission. The partitions of Poland brought right-bank Ukraine, lands west of the Dnieper, into the Russian Empire. Ukrainian politics in Russia was forced towards the centre, but remained preoccupied with the peasant, who in Ukraine was or wished to be a farmer.
  • 9 - The Jews
    pp 184-201
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    The history of Russian Jewry has appeared as a self-reinforcing triad of discrimination, emigration and revolution, a turbulent reflection of the tsarist doctrine of 'Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality' inaugurated by Nicholas II's great-grandfather and namesake, Tsar Nicholas I. This chapter first concerns the era prior to the partitions of Poland at the end of the eighteenth century, during which Jews were legally barred from Russia. Next, it considers the period extending from the partitions to the Great Reforms of the middle of the nineteenth century to survey the earliest efforts by the tsarist government to reform its newly acquired Jewish population as well as the currents of pietism and enlightenment that began to recast Jewish society from within. Finally, the chapter concerns the period from the Great Reforms to the First World War to trace the increasing presence of Jews in Russian society, and the rise of independent Jewish political movements.
  • 10 - Islam in the Russian Empire
    pp 202-224
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    Taking Islam and the Russian empire for natural antagonists, such a vision relied on the Orientalist approach representing Islam as a homogeneous and timeless entity opposing all non-Muslim cultures. Having recognised Islam at the end of the eighteenth century, the authorities constructed a complicated imperial network of Islamic institutions including Muslim clergy, parishes and four regional muftiates. The administration of Muslims differed in central Russia and the borderlands. In a number of frontier regions such as the North Caucasus and Central Asia, Islam had not been institutionalised even at the end of the old regime. New Muslim elites emerged in response to these new Islamic institutions, which were accepted by most Russian Muslims. Despite this long history of interaction, however, the crisis of the tsarist regime beginning in the last third of the nineteenth century generated new fears and trepidations concerning Islam among tsarist functionaries.
  • 11 - The elites
    pp 225-244
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    Throughout the imperial period Russia's political and social elites were drawn overwhelmingly from members of the hereditary noble estate. The civil bureaucratic elite of the nineteenth century was mostly educated in one of four higher educational institutions: the Alexander Lycee and the School of Law, both exclusively noble boarding schools, and the universities of St Petersburg and Moscow. In the imperial era the Russian elites, both aristocratic and bureaucratic, were part of a broader European elite culture and society. This was more true in the nineteenth century than in the eighteenth, and it always tended to be most true the higher up the social ladder one travelled. By the last quarter of the eighteenth century the Petersburg and Moscow intellectual elite, inevitably drawn overwhelmingly from the wealthier nobility, was developing its own variation on the theme of modern European literary culture.
  • 12 - The groups between: raznochintsy, intelligentsia, professionals
    pp 245-263
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    The multiplicity of economic, service and protoprofessional subgroups that made up the raznochintsy highlighted both the complicated structure of Russia's 'groups between' and the desire of the government to impose legal administrative controls across society. Whether historians focus attention on economic activities or state service, a dynamic relationship between governmental policy and spontaneous societal development underlies the phenomenon of the raznochintsy. On-going scholarly research shows that the conceptual and historical reality of the intelligentsia, no less than that of the raznochintsy, cannot be subordinated to any single collective meaning. Despite years of debate, argument and counter-argument, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the Russian intelligentsia had its origins in the Enlightenment culture of the educated nobility or educated service classes of the late eighteenth century. The self-conscious arrival of the intelligentsia in the 1860s showed that the 'parting of ways' had developed into ideological and social identity.
  • 13 - Nizhnii Novgorod in the nineteenth century: portrait of a city
    pp 264-283
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    Nizhnii Novgorod was the capital of a province quite diverse in its ecology and economy. Economic and religious rhythms overlapped to a large extent, as must be the case where the church calendar is the most reliable tool for calculating the passage of time. The two major trade congresses in Nizhnii Novgorod, one for the wood products which were one of the province's staples, and the other a big horse fair, were timed to coincide with Epiphany, respectively. The administration and institutions of every provincial capital were very nearly identical. The Great Reforms wrought deep and immediate changes in provincial administration, creating a new institution, the zemstvo, conceived by the monarchy essentially as an organ for the more efficient collection and disbursement of taxes. A thriving commercial life, the civic prominence of the merchant estate, the distinct cultural flavour of the Old Belief were but some of the particular characteristics of 'Russia's pocket', as popular wisdom dubbed Nizhnii.
  • 14 - Russian Orthodoxy: Church, people and politics in Imperial Russia
    pp 284-305
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    The Orthodox Church, which had possessed enormous property and power in medieval Russia, underwent profound change in Imperial Russia. Although the medieval Russian Church had constructed an administration to exercise its broad spiritual and temporal authority, it exhibited the same organisational backwardness as did the secular regime. The 'clerical estate' that served the Church consisted of three categories: the ruling episcopate, celibate monastic clergy and married secular clergy. Given the dispersion of population, the heterogeneity of local cultures, and the institutional backwardness of the medieval Church, Russian Orthodoxy was actually Russian Heterodoxy, with kaleidoscopic variations in local customs, superstitions and religious practice. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Church undertook to standardise and purify popular religious practice, but as yet lacked the instrumentalities to make a fundamental 'reformation' in popular religious practice. Parallel with the 're-christianisation' of the folk, the Church began to develop and articulate its social and political teachings.
  • 15 - Women, the family and public life
    pp 306-325
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    The changes introduced by Peter and his eighteenth-century successors affected women of Russia's tax-paying population, townspeople as well as peasants, primarily in negative ways. The most significant change derived from the practice of conscription that Peter introduced. Women's subordinate social status became a burning issue in the middle of the nineteenth century, as educated Russians began to subject every traditional institution to re-evaluation, the patriarchal family included. In the opinion of those on the left of Russia's emergent political spectrum, authoritarian family relations reproduced and reinforced the social and political hierarchy. Social critics intended women to play a vital role in creating a new social order, but they disagreed about the character of that role. During the revolution of 1905, women across the social spectrum mobilised in enormous numbers to demand an expansion of political rights and greater social justice.
  • 16 - Gender and the legal order in Imperial Russia
    pp 326-343
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    This chapter explores a single but significant dimension of women's experience in Imperial Russia: the transformation of their legal status from the Petrine reforms to the eve of the 1917 Revolution. It investigates the origins of competing definitions of gender in the realms of property, family and criminal law. The pre-Petrine law of property was characterised by unequal inheritance for sons and daughters and limitations on women's use and control of landed estates. For all that Muscovite law codes allowed women a surprising degree of independence in matters judicial, elite Russian women shared many legal disabilities with their European counterparts. Criminal law, as well as the law of property, made few concessions to female weakness in the eighteenth century. Indeed, in cases of adultery or spousal murder, the law displayed far less leniency for women than for men.
  • 17 - Law, the judicial system and the legal profession
    pp 344-368
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    The 1864 judicial reform created Russia's first constitution. The judicial reform limited the authority of the monarch, since it separated the judiciary from the legislative and executive institutions, and confirmed the principle of judicial independence and tenure as a matter of law. The reformed judicial system and the spirit from which it emerged were rooted in the realm of the European enlightenment, where the reformers dwelt, but their subjects did not. The task of the judicial reform was to make universal the legal consciousness of the enlightened officials. The study of law came into fashion primarily for those who recognised the political significance of the legal professions. These jurists of the 1860s were the ones who turned the courts into strongholds of liberalism. That was the real dilemma of the autocratic reforms: that with the reorganisation of the state, they at the same time brought an opposition into being.
  • 18 - Peasants and agriculture
    pp 369-393
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    Imperial Russia had an overwhelmingly peasant population and its economy was largely agricultural. The peasants' ways of life evolved in the different regions and over the three time periods in processes of interaction with the nobles and state authorities that exploited them and the environments in which they lived. In order to support their growing numbers, cope with the environmental conditions and meet the demands of the state and landowners, Russia's peasants, sometimes in collaboration with landowners or the state authorities, developed practices and customs to ensure their subsistence and livelihoods in the present and the foreseeable future. This chapter considers, in turn, the peasantry's ways of life in: central Russia in the hundred years prior to the late seventeenth century, central Russia between the late seventeenth and late nineteenth centuries, the outlying regions over this second period, and Russia as a whole in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  • 19 - The Russian economy and banking system
    pp 394-426
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    The beginning of the eighteenth century was a period of radical change in Russia's economy. These transformations are connected with the name Peter I, but they proved possible thanks to the development of trade and the accumulation of capital by the Muscovite government in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The second half of the eighteenth century represented a new stage in the development of trade and banking in Russia. The commercial-industrial and financial policy of Catherine II furthered the 'Europeanisation' of the Russian economy. The credit system created under her reign became known as the 'Catherine credit system', and lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century. Reforms in the area of local government helped industrial development in the provinces. The accumulation of capital, as well as the improvement of banking and monetary circulation, created conditions for private credit and the expansion of industrial production.
  • 20 - Central government
    pp 427-448
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    A solid understanding of the workings of central government of the Russian Empire helps to determine the extent to which it and its personnel held responsibility for the collapse of the Romanov regime. Peter the Great's reform of the central government marked the beginning of the imperial bureaucracy's evolution on two different but equally important and mutually linked levels. The ministerial bureaucracy from the early nineteenth century staffed the so-called subordinate organs (podchinennye organy), which at least theoretically handled activities in a designated field. The supreme organs (verkhovnye organy) had the responsibility to manage and co-ordinate the activities of the subordinate organs. Alexander I established Russia's ministerial system which lasted until the collapse of the Romanov dynasty in February 1917. The young emperor initially toyed with the idea of constitutional change but soon showed a preference for administrative reform which he saw as more essential for effective government and Russia's modernisation and less threatening to his autocratic power.
  • 21 - Provincial and local government
    pp 449-467
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    A study of local government raises several important questions about the nature of the imperial Russian state, the level of development of provincial Russian society and the relationship between government and society in Russia. This chapter is concerned with Russian local administration but it should be noted that different structures, different traditions and even different law codes applied in many of the non-Russian parts of the empire until well into the nineteenth century and sometimes until 1917. Local government was an issue which spawned extensive, and lengthy, legislation over the whole imperial period. The tsars, from Peter to Nicholas II, legislated at length on the structures of urban self-government and on the composition, responsibilities and privileges of the urban population. It has been seen that government hoped through legislation to 'Westernise' or modernise Russian towns by the introduction of Western-style guilds, the creation, and then re-creation, of categories of urban citizens and the development of corporate institutions.
  • 22 - State finances
    pp 468-486
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    This chapter discusses the Russian state finances that examines the Russian government's chief elements of expenditure and revenue, and analyses the changes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Russian state budget hardly warranted such an appellation until well into the nineteenth century. It was military expenditure that dominated Russia's state finances. The main component of government revenue during the eighteenth century was the poll tax. The crises that affected the Russian government's finances were mostly precipitated either by war or by the threat of war. The impact of Russia's budgetary policies on its population was considerable. Since the overwhelming majority of Russia's population were peasants, it was inevitable that they would bear the greatest burden of taxation. The Russian state did not have the bureaucratic capacity to maintain accurate records of its finances during this period and the budget-making process was still rudimentary.

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