Peter the Great, Reformer or Revolutionary?

By Marc Raeff | Go to book overview

Secular Schools under Peter the Great

P. N. MILIUKOV

After making a most important contribution to our knowledge and under-
standing of Russia's social and economic conditions under Peter the Great (see
the selection above), P. N. Miliukov left the world of scholarship to become
the leader of the liberal Constitutional Democratic Party (so called "Cadet
Party") in the last decade of the Tsarist regime. But during moments of in-
activity forced on him by the repressive measures of the imperial government,
Miliukov undertook a major work of historic synthesis, Outlines of the History
of Russian Culture, which he completed only on the eve of his death in exile.
In connection with this work of synthesis Miliukov made an exhaustive study
of all available sources pertaining to the formation of Russian political thought
and culture in the 18th century. This naturally led him to a close examination
of the schools established by Peter.

The selection below conveys some of the difficulties encountered in lay-
ing the groundwork for modern education and culture in Russia. As seen by
Miliukov, the difficulty stemmed mainly from the fact that education and cul-
ture were first viewed exclusively as instruments of state policy and goals,
made compulsory and forced on an unwilling and ill-prepared society.

WHILE scholastic textbooks were being introduced into the academic curriculum by the brothers Likhuda,1 the 16-year-old Peter was hard at work on his notebooks of mathematics. In a style that did little honor to his rhetorical and dialectical abilities and also grossly violated the rules of grammar and spelling, Peter worked out the rules of addition and subtraction and solved problems in artillery and astronomy. Everyone knows the results of these mathematical exercises: five years later, sporting a sailor's outfit, Peter was repeating in broken Dutch greetings and curses in Arkhangel'sk, Russia's only harbor at the time. Still five years later, in the same sailor's outfit, but with a somewhat larger Dutch vocabulary, Peter was sawing and filing in Amsterdam. Upon his return home he demanded that all Russians who wanted to serve be capable of sawing, filing, building, and navigating ships as he was himself.

The most direct way of acquiring this knowledge was to go abroad, as Peter himself had done, and as he compelled many of his contemporaries to do. But abroad the Russians proved too little prepared and could not properly benefit from the trip . . . For this reason, during his first trip abroad ( 1698) Peter hired the Englishman Farquharson as teacher of mathematics and navigation. In 1701 the "school of mathematical sciences and navigation" was established in the Sukharev Tower in Moscow and Farquharson began to teach navigation to Russian youth--"some voluntarily, some under compulsion."

In this fashion, alongside the professional school of theological studies there arose in Moscow another professional

From P. N. Miliukov, Ocherki po Istorii Russkoi Kul'tury [Essays in the History of Russian Cul-
ture]
, Jubilee edition, vol. II, part 2, Paris, 1931 (izd. "Sovremennyia Zapiski"), pp. 732-743.
[Editor's translation]

____________________
1
Two Greek brothers who taught at the Slavonic, Greek, Latin Academy in Moscow in the second half of the 17th century. [Editor's note]

-61-

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