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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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4 Empire versus Nation: Russian Political Theory under Peter I


“Throughout history men have been attached to their native soil, to the traditions of their parents, and to established territorial authorities; but it was not until the end of the 18th century that nationalism began to be a generally recognized sentiment molding public and private life. . . Nationalism is a modern movement.” Hans Kohn.1

“The word ‘imperialism’ is, therefore, entirely at the mercy of its user.” Hans Daalder.2

If “nationalism” by any commonly accepted definition of the term was not a force in Russian history before the nineteenth century, when did a “national consciousness” arise?3 Michael Cherniavsky has detected “flashes” of such an “individual and collective self-identification” in “early-modern Russia”-more definitely, in “Petrine Russia.” Actually, “two national consciousnesses” were found: one, that of the Europeanizing Peter I “and his gentry” (“for if they, the ruling class, defined ‘Russia,’ then everything they did was, by definition, Russian”); the ←65 | 66→other, that of the Old Believers and “the peasants in general, [who] began to insist on beards, traditional clothes, and old ritual—creating, in reaction, their own Russian identity.” These two national consciousnesses—elite and popular—were thus in conflict with one another from the beginning, a conflict, Cherniavsky left us to suppose, that was never resolved.4

While agreeing that the Petrine period was a critical one in the evolution of political culture in Russia (assuming both national consciousness and political theory to be aspects of political culture), I propose a quite different...

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