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Enforced Modernization

Peter the Great

Force, repression, coercion and violence became the chief means by which Russia was modernized. Her productive forces were developed by becoming still further enslaved. This paradox is central to an understanding of the Petrine Reform  and much else of the Russian later development.

The apparent incongruity between the progressive aims of the Reform and the barbaric means by which it was implemented was probably best expressed by the outstanding Russian historian Vasili Klyuchevsky who, at the start of the twentieth century, wrote:          


Peters reforms were the occasion for a struggle between the despot and the peoples inertia. The Tsar hoped to arouse the energies and initiative of a society subdued by serfdom with the menace of his power, and strove... to introduce into Russia the European sciences and education which were essential to social progress. He also wanted the serf, while remaining a serf, to act responsibly and freely. The conjunction of despotism and liberty, of  civilization and serfdom, was a paradox which was not resolved in the two centuries after Peter.


The rationalization and modernization  initiated by the State unchecked by any kind of control from society inevitably had to be carried through by means of force and administrative coercion. The ideal of an equitable and rational state by which Peter was inspired, led in practice to the creation of a police state.

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Peter the Great


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
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