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Revolutions and the Making of the Modern World

From Peter the Great to Karl Marx

James Cracraft

Edited By William Benton Whisenhunt

Professor James Cracraft is an established specialist on early modern Russian history, particularly the era of Peter the Great (1682-1725), tsar and first Russian emperor. This volume gathers some of the many key articles and reviews published by him over the last forty years and more in a wide variety of scholarly venues, some of which are not readily accessible. They constitute in sum important contributions not only to Russian history broadly understood, but also to the study of history itself. The collection will include a preface by the editor and an introduction by the author, where he will sum up his decades of historical work and point to new avenues of needed research, all the while emphasizing that "history" properly understood does not exist somewhere on its own but is the creation, however imperfect, of professional historians (as "chemistry", say, is properly understood as the work, however imperfect, of professional chemists).

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3 Opposition to Peter the Great


The subject of opposition in Russia to Peter I “the Great” (born 1672, reigned 1682–1725) has not been ignored by historians. References to it abound in the extensive literature on the Petrine period while monographic studies have been devoted to major oppositional figures, “affairs,” events, and movements, and to the governmental organs created to adjudicate cases of opposition.1 Yet with one or two partial and quite limited exceptions,2 no single study has focused on the whole phenomenon of opposition to Peter’s government and policies and to Peter himself, although links between various of its occurrences have been posited. This neglect, if it may be so termed, is understandable. Indeed, it is a thesis of this essay that opposition to Peter I in Russia was both constant and pervasive, and that it therefore cannot be adequately described and assessed without detailed reference to the main developments of the time. The history of opposition to Peter is in effect the history of his reign; or so, with qualifications, it will be argued here.

Of course, the problem is in the first instance one of definition. Which of all the known instances of unrest, dissatisfaction, violence to persons or property, or hostility to the authorities, whether active or passive, whether by deed or by oral expression, are to be considered manifestations of opposition to Peter’s government and policies or to Peter personally? Which, in other words, can be seen as having immediate political significance? One approach to answering this...

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