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Enlightened Despotism in Russia

The Reign of Elisabeth, 1741-1762


James F. Brennan

Generally when historians consider englightened despotism in Russia they turn to the reign of Catherine the Great. The twenty-year reign of her predecessor, Elisabeth Petrovna, is ignored as some sort of «dark age». With the passage of time, scholars have found that elements of enlightened despotism were well developed before Catherine. Internal tariffs were abolished in 1753, law codes were written but not enacted, Moscow University was opened in 1755, the death penality was unofficially abolished, the Academy of Fine Arts was founded and efforts were made to spread education. Indeed, there were unenlightened aspects of the period, such as the treatment of Jews and Old Believers. But if the Seven Years' War had not interrupted the process, there is little doubt that the reign of Elisabeth would be the one historians would first consider when studying Russian enlightened despotism.
Contents: The Origins of Enlightened Despotism in Russia: The Internal Development of Russia During the Reign of Elisabeth Petrovna, 1741-1762