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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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7 The Petrine Church Reform Revisited


In the fall of 1996 Theofanis Stavrou, our most worthy honorand, arranged for me to speak in two quite different forums at the University of Minnesota. The first was a gathering of the History Department to hear a talk about research in progress, the second, an audience assembled to hear the second annual James W. Cunningham Memorial Lecture on Eastern Orthodoxy and Culture. For both occasions Professor Stavrou suggested that I somehow address this question about Peter the Great’s church reform in Russia, on which I had published a book some twenty-five years before:1 did the reform look any different now, with the passage of time and in the light of my continuing research, than it did back then, when the book was published? It was somewhat troubling to discover that I did have something to say, or admit, on the subject, and I remain grateful to Theo for irresistibly (as usual!) urging me on.

In the world of the 1960s, when that book was researched and written, the churches were manifestly in decline and religion was on the wane, nowhere more so, as it also seemed at the time, than in Russia, where the brutal imposition of Communist rule had only sharpened and hastened the process. That process, which in 1971 I dubbed “secularization” and viewed as a universal movement in modern history, was in Russia irresistibly set in motion, I further posited, by the church reform of Peter the Great. Indeed,

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