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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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8 Church and Revolution in Russia


Friends, we honor today the late James W. Cunningham, whose historical research focused on the Russian Orthodox Church in the early twentieth century.1 In these remarks, dedicated to his memory, I combine his interests and mine in a discussion of church and revolution in modern Russian history.

My point of departure is the work of an esteemed Russian colleague and fellow Petrine specialist, Evgenii Viktorovich Anisimov, who is a senior member of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences—an institution that, like the city itself, was of course founded by Peter the Great and, like Anisimov himself, has survived the Soviet perelom or great break in his country’s life. In several important publications Anisimov advances the thesis that in its coercive totalitarianism the reign of Peter in Russia in the first quarter of the eighteenth century may be compared with that of Stalin in the second quarter of the twentieth, which it anticipated and, indeed, ultimately begot. In particular, Peter’s church reform, certainly “one of the most important of all the Petrine reforms,” had “a most baneful effect on the spiritual development of society and on the history of the church itself.” As Anisimov sums it up:

←141 | 142→The conversion of the church [by Peter] into a bureau of religious affairs, the subordination of all its values to the needs of the autocracy, signalled overall the elimination for the people [narod] of a spiritual alternative...

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