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Working paper

Education in Early Modern Russia: Beyond the “Petrine Revolution”

Education in early modern Russia has been traditionally described as imported from the West; secular; imposed by the state – or more specifically, by Peter I himself – from above on the unwilling population; driven by the  military needs, and therefore, technical. This chapter seeks to examine and to problematize some these theses. Some of them have already been re-assessed by scholars, especially insofar as the role of the church in providing education is concerned. In other cases, the discussion is limited to identifying the gaps in our current understanding and pointing to ways of addressing them. In particular, on the basis of he author's own research as well as that of other scholars, it seeks  to outline the responses of the tsar’s subjects to the educational change;  problematize the role of the “state” as an actor in this process, and that of Peter I himself; to understand what exactly is meant by the practical/military drivers of educational change and how exactly the role of these drivers could be ascertained; to emphasize the role of non-state, traditional, and informal genres and providers of education in that period. The last two sections seek to place the early modern education in Russia in the Western European context by identifying more precisely what exactly has been borrowed and how this “borrowing,” in fact, resulted in innovative reconfiguring of educational forms; and to discuss the role of early modern Russia as a pioneer, in some sense, of explicitly using education as a tool of social engineering.