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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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6 Feofan Prokopovich


PROKOPOVICH (1681–1736) lived at a time of profound cultural crisis not only in Russia, but in Europe generally, and in his career and writings can be discerned the uncertainties, the ambiguities, the frequent paradoxes of that difficult age as well as the method of their eventual solution. His was, I have suggested elsewhere,1 the first authentic voice in Russia of the early Enlightenment, and a more appropriate figure to consider in a book of essays devoted to Russian culture in the eighteenth century is unimaginable.

For Prokopovich was both a friend of piety and an implacable foe of superstition, both a preacher—polemicist and a government propagandist, unashamedly the outstanding champion of the new learning and a man, we must suppose, who regularly prayed. He was the close collaborator of Peter the Great in the later and decisive years of a reign that is still rightly regarded as marking Russia’s great lurch into modern times. He was the chief ideologist of the revolutionary Petrine state whose doctrines no doubt helped to sustain the awakening minds and troubled consciences of the ruling classes of his own and succeeding generations. He was the author, in the literal sense of the word, of Peter’s church reform, the most radical, that is the most clean in its break with the past, of all the Petrine reforms. And it is my tentative conclusion that he invented not only the Holy Synod, both the name and the thing (this can be fairly...

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