Peter the Great, Reformer or Revolutionary?

By Marc Raeff | Go to book overview

The Conflict of Opinion
". . . in the eyes of the vast majority, Peter's measures were shaking the very foundation of Church and State."

-- SHMURLO

" Peter and his closest aides were not as isolated in their society as some historians assume."

-- PAVLOV-SIL'VANSKII

"In the person of Peter, the supreme state power entered into an implacable struggle with custom, eradicating it without mercy and taking upon itself the entire task of leading its subjects."

-- BOGOSLOVSKII

"What are we to conclude from our study of Peter? Was his activity traditional, or did it represent a sharp and sudden revolution in the life of the Muscovite state for which the country was entirely unprepared? The answer is quite clear. Peter's reforms were not a revolution either in their substance or their results."

-- PLATONOV

". . . the conception of reform as the logical consequence of a century-old evolution and the notion that the reform was an artificial contribution were not necessarily irreconcilably opposed to each other. In one sense, Peter's reform had truly been a necessary outcome of a logical development. . . . At the same time, however, it doubtlessly had been a personal and artificial accomplishment. . . . The reform was at the same time natural and personal, deep and superficial, simple and complex, a single block and a mosaic."

-- MILIUKOV

"Most of what had been done in Peter's day was still in its initial stages. Much was still no more than a blue print for the future. . . . This is why we have spoken of the work begun in the age of reform as a program which Russia is still carrying out and will continue to carry out in the future. . . . No people had ever equalled the heroic feat performed by the Russians during the first quarter of the XVIIIth century. . . . The man who led the people in this feat can justly be called the greatest leader in history, for no one can claim a place of higher significance in the history of civilization."

-- SOLOVIEV

" Peter accomplished a great deal toward the creation and strengthening of the national state of the landowners and merchants . . . and the strengthening of the national status of these classes was carried out at the expense of the serf peasantry, which was being fleeced threefold."

-- STALIN

"The contradiction in his work, his errors, his hesitations, his obstinacy, his lack of judgment in civil affairs, his uncontrollable cruelty, and, on the other hand, his wholehearted love of his country, his stubborn devotion to his work, the broad, enlightened outlook he brought to bear on it, his daring plans conceived with creative genius and concluded with incomparable en-

-xvii-

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