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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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5 St. Petersburg


St. Petersburg the military base, the shipyard and port, the administrative capital and royal residence, the principal site and then the embodiment of the Petrine revolution in Russian architecture: St. Petersburg was built to order, the order of one man, Peter I. His decision that it should become such a center dates to soon after his forces conquered the site from the Swedes, in the spring of 1703. But a less auspicious setting in which to found a city is difficult to imagine.

In European urban history, as one specialist has noted, “the choice of a site was probably the most significant single factor shaping a city’s growth pattern and urban picture.” And

traditionally the demands to be met included a healthy climate; a year-round fresh-water supply; a fertile surrounding countryside; accessibility to trade routes; safety from floods, avalanches, and landslides; and safety from enemies. The last consideration, although not always decisive, generally was of primary importance to city founders.1

In violation of virtually every one of these principles, the site chosen for St. Petersburg was a marshy river delta, its maze of islands subject to frequent flooding, its damp climate wearying if not downright insalubrious, its extreme northern location—the northernmost of any major city in the world—unsettling in the ←85 | 86→prolonged darkness of its winter months and the extended daylight—the “white nights”—of its short summer. The Neva itself, from the beginning the city’s principal waterway, is free of...

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