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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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10 Money Talks? A Note on Political Stability in Late Imperial Russia


The paper money of late Imperial Russia is among the copious graphic or indeed visual sources that historians have ignored in our traditional, nearly exclusive preference for purely verbal documents. Why such a preference (or resistance) should persist, in our age of textual criticism and of imagery par excellence, is a fascinating question, but not one that can be pursued here. Rather will this short essay argue, on the basis of intensive study of certain aspects of the graphic material just mentioned, that on the eve of World War I the Imperial system was as “stable” as it had ever been and that its core ideology remained both coherent and consistent, pace the familiar views to the contrary of assorted Marxist and other historians. The essay thus hopes to contribute, however modestly, to the “collective rethinking of the Imperial field—its categories, methods and fundamental concepts”—that was initiated in 1991 by the Social Science Research Council.1

More precisely, my case involves the “state credit notes “(gosudarstvennyi kreditnye bilety) issued by the Imperial State Bank in St. Petersburg between 1898 and 1912 in denominations of one, three, five, ten, twenty-five, fifty, one hundred, and five hundred rubles.2 These I will treat as an obviously important “image-set” created by the Imperial system (its incumbent regime) for dissemination among its subjects, ostensibly for economic reasons alone, and submit them to historical analysis. My aim will be to discover in these images any underlying ←179 | 180→message or “ideology,” meaning the...

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