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The Enigmatic Tsar and His Empire

Russia under Alexander I. 1801–1825


Edited By Alexander Kaplunovsky, Jan Kusber and Benjamin Conrad

In many ways Russia under Alexander I was an epoch of exploration and revision of empire and state-building. The authors of this volume explore the Alexandrine-era Russia not from the traditional vantage point of the emperor and his inner circle but from the point of view of experts and elites. These «men on the spot» drafted «maps» of the empire and its collective subjects and constructed social, political, and economic imaginaries of the empire. All these revisions and projects did not necessarily lead to an immediate and consistent (re)organization of the political, social, and cultural structures of imperial space. The Alexandrine Russia may be interpreted much more as a «laboratory» in which different potential scenarios for modernization were designed, discussed, and tested—but also rejected and forgotten.

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The Time of State-Building Discoveries: Governing Techniques in Health Care and Education (Elena Vishlenkova)


Elena Vishlenkova

The Time of State-Building Discoveries: Governing Techniques in Health Care and Education1

If we imagine that a society in its development moves toward a preselected point or a predictable visualization, then any part of the path that lies behind will be deemed incomplete and merely preparatory. What if this stretch is far from straight? Then the zigzagging path will seem deflected from the desired goal by concessions, reactionary advances, weak will, or bad planning. Both personal wishes and historical evidence may push a historian of Alexandrine Russia to accept such logic of historical narrative and take the path of judgmental reasoning. After all, the ideologues of Nicholas I’s reign—that is to say, everyone who set up its tasks and interests in the social sphere—indicated a breakaway from the previous practice of public administration.

Summarizing in 1843 the outcomes of his ten-year administration at the Ministry of Education (Ministerstvo Narodnogo Prosveshcheniia), Sergei Uvarov commented on tables that illustrated the rise in the numbers of schools, teachers, pupils, and professors. He told a story of the decay that school education had experienced before his arrival on the job.2 Such accounts were nothing new—members of the Holy Synod who once worked at the Bible Society looked back in sadness and talked of a decline in faith.3 President of the Academy of Medicine and Surgery in St. Petersburg, Ia.V. (James) Wylie, lamented the decay of “medical matters” at the sessions of the 1828...

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