Was Russia a political outsider in Europe?

What stuck out most to me was that in Ch.3 of The Revolution of Peter the Great, Cracraft talks about the Russian form of government as compared to other forms in Europe at the time. Cracraft indicated that the system that Russia adopted was a new type of absolutist monarchy that had already arisen in “contemporary France, Prussia, or Sweden” (Cracraft 2003, 65). This seems to imply this form of government as some sort of European norm. However in Peter the Great: A Biography, Hughes mentions that while in England, Peter was at odds with the English people regarding forms of government (Hughes 2002, 49). Hughes suggests that foreign visitors to Russia and the English people found the absolutist power of the Russian Monarchy detestable. This seems to bring us to a contradiction, that absolute monarchy was a system that many Europeans took issue with as outsiders to Russia, but that it also could be the predominant system in Europe.

Which is more correct, to say that this was a new and popular system dominating Europe or that it was hated system ?

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2 Responses to Was Russia a political outsider in Europe?

  1. bravery says:

    Cracraft asks the question, “What kind of polity was the Petrine state?” himself and is unable to answer concretely (Cracraft 2003:64). He does offer a couple of possibilities (traditional muscovite ‘autocracy’ in a new form, or a modern police state/military dictatorship) and asserts that the Petrine state was following the general European trend of militarization and bureaucratization (I think this is what he refers to when he writes of “predominant systems”)(Cracraft 2003:65).

  2. hibbelnm says:

    Indeed. I think that, in response to the earlier post, it would be erroneous to label the system of absolute monarchy as a universally hated system. Like all things, it differs in its application and is a product of its context. Rather, we would be right in identifying absolute monarchy’s rising popularity and variety of applications throughout Europe that drove Russia to desire it. Like the above comment notes, it is hard to define Russia’s system just as it is difficult to pinpoint the system is strove to emulate. Rather, the structure and economic situation of Russian society surely isolated it somewhat both economically and intellectually, leading to certain stagnation in government perceived, and made up for, by Peter.

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