From Supplication to Revolution: A Documentary Social History of Imperial Russia

From Supplication to Revolution: A Documentary Social History of Imperial Russia

From Supplication to Revolution: A Documentary Social History of Imperial Russia

From Supplication to Revolution: A Documentary Social History of Imperial Russia

Synopsis

The first authoritative collection of primary documents on the social history of Imperial Russia, this volume delineates the basic issues of social structure and change in pre-revolutionary Russian society as it headed toward the cataclysm of 1917. Gregory Freeze has collected and translated original materials from the Soviet archives, including many never before published, in which members of the major social groups of Russian society--the nobility, military and civil service groups, clergy, townspeople, peasantry, workers, professionals and educated elites, and minorities--articulate their experiences. Organized into three chronological sections--the reign of Catherine the Great in the 1760s, the reform movements of the 1860s, and the rising tide of revolution in 1905-06--the book offers a unique and valuable comparative analysis of various groups with each other, of a single group over time, and of the relative patterns of change among several groups over time. As the collective statements change in form, tone, and substance, they provide a dramatic sense of how Russian society evolved and why the Imperial autocracy collapsed.

Excerpt

"Let the people speak"--such is the spirit that inspired the present volume, a collection and translation of original sources in Russian social history. As such it seeks to satisfy the acute need for materials on the prerevolutionary social order, which has generally received little attention in the specialized or, especially, general literature on Imperial Russia. To be sure, the existing source volumes and general histories do not wholly neglect social history; it is nonetheless true that documentary collections and secondary accounts have tended to concentrate almost exclusively upon the political chronology of the old regime. As a result, we have neither a good documentary collection nor secondary syntheses to address the basic issues of social structure and change in prerevolutionary Russia--and one need not be a Marxist to appreciate how fundamental these problems are to a proper understanding of the ancien régime as it drifted toward the shoals of revolution.

"Let the people speak." And then listen to what is said--by the nobility, civil and military service groups, clergy, professions and educated elites, townsmen and commercial-industrial elites, peasantry, industrial labor, and minorities and women. It is my hope that this material will bring to life the ancien société and enable the reader, student as well as specialist, to come face-to-face with the various groups in society. By seeing what these groups decried and demanded, how they defined themselves and formulated their demands, and to whom they turned for redress of grievances, one can obtain rich insights into the life and problems of various strata in prerevolutionary society. Moreover, the structure of this collection--three cross-sections of the social order at discrete intervals (1760s, 1860s and 1905-6) -- serves to cast in sharp relief the dynamics and patterns of change in Imperial Russia. More important for the social historian, it was precisely at these junctures that society obtained--or usurped--the right to assert its grievances and aspirations; the documents left behind provide an extraordinary opportunity not only to hear the voice of a particular group at a particular time, but to observe how that voice . . .

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