Russia's Return to European Civilization--Antecedents of the Work of Peter the Great--The Reformer's Character and Way of Proceeding-- Consequences and Defects of the Reform--Moral and Social Dualism--
In what Manner Autocracy Seems to have Fulfilled its Historical Task. IN this belated and isolated country there arises one day a man who undertakes to bring it to Europe and make it jump at one leap all the interval that divides the two. Was it possible for Russia to snatch at one stroke all that ages had given to her rivals? to get at one pull to the term of a long road, the historical stations of which she had not travelled? Was this the conception of a genius or a chimerical dream, an individual fancy doomed to failure? or was it, in spite of its daring, a plan suggested by nature, facts, and men? For a long time Peter the Great was regarded as one of those lawgivers after the antique pattern, who fashioned states at their will, as a sort of Deucalion, the maker of peoples. History in Russia has not, any more than elsewhere, proceeded by leaps and bounds. The Russians have been the first to feel this; one of their historians' favorite tasks is to fill the apparent chasm between ancient and new Russia.
The work of Peter the Great did not lack historical antecedents. In principle, if not in form, it lay in the logical destinies of the Russian people. Russia was too near Europe, had too much affinity with her, by blood and by religion, not to feel one day the contagion of her civilization. The two parts of Peter's work--bringing his people nearer Europe materially, territorially; and morally, socially, by imitation of foreign