The Revolution of Peter the Great

The Revolution of Peter the Great

The Revolution of Peter the Great

The Revolution of Peter the Great

Synopsis

Many books chronicle the remarkable life of Russian tsar Peter the Great, but none analyze how his famous reforms actually took root and spread in Russia. In The Revolution of Peter the Great, James Cracraft offers a brilliant new interpretation of this pivotal era.

Linking together and transcending Peter's many reforms of state and society, Cracraft argues, was nothing less than a cultural revolution. New ways of dress, elite social behavior, navigation, architecture, and image-making emerged along with expansive vocabularies for labeling new objects and activities. Russians learned how to build and sail warships; train, supply, and command a modern army; operate a new-style bureaucracy; conduct diplomacy on a par with the other European states; apply modern science; and conceptualize the new governing system. Throughout, Peter remains the central figure, and Cracraft discusses the shaping events of the tsar's youth, his inner circle, the resistance his reforms engendered, and the founding of the city that would embody his vision--St. Petersburg, which celebrated its tercentenary in 2003.

By century's end, Russia was poised to play a critical role in the Napoleonic wars and boasted an elite culture about to burst into its golden age. In this eloquent book, Cracraft illuminates an astonishing transformation that had enormous consequences for both Russia and Europe, indeed the world.

Excerpt

This book condenses for students and general readers my more extended scholarly studies of the reign in Russia of Peter I β€œthe Great.” In it, as before, I take the position that what happened of greatest historical significance during this long and ever controversial reign was not the achievement for Russia of the great-power status acclaimed by succeeding generations of historians, politicians, and publicists. Nor was it Peter's modernization of the Russian army, creation of a navy, secularization of the church, foundation of St. Petersburg, or establishment of an absolute monarchy in Russia, momentous as they were. Rather, it was all of these and something more, something that linked together these major historical developments and yet transcended them. That something, I argue, was a cultural revolution, one that I documented at considerable length in three separate volumes, two devoted to visual culture (architecture and imagery), the other to linguistic matters (see Further Reading). But those volumes are much longer and far more detailed than would be needed by beginning students or the interested general reader. Hence this little book.

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