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Working paper

Towards the Panopticon: School Building and Discipline in Early Modern Russia

This article explores the notion of discipline in Russia since the late 17th century and up to the accession of Catherine II. Discipline and disciplining occupy a central place in our thinking about early modern state, and the reconstruction of debates about school building helps to illuminate the ways in which this notion has been articulated. The article traces the emerging concern with using the school building as an instrument of confinement and surveillance, and demonstrates unexpected links between the Noble Cadet Corps in St Petersburg and Bentham's «Panopticn» via the Ecole Militaire in Paris. It argues that the peculiarly modern understanding of discipline was rooted in specific religious sensibilities that had not been developed in seventeenth-century Orthodox thinking. Rather, it stresses the central role of Pietism and the Pietists in introducing these notions in post-Petrine Russia, as well as the ways in which these notions have been appropriated, «domesticated,» and «secularized» by a variety of Russian palters.  At the end, the article reflects on the relationship between discipline, religious sensibilities, was, and the estate in a non-Western early modern context.