Peter the Reformer

In general, Peter’s desire to modernize and Europeanize Russia led him to enact changes too quickly without enough thought of the effects on the peasantry. By focusing only on the upper classes of society, Peter created an even sharper division between the elites and the general population. While the elites were forced to embrace modern practices and assimilate these into everyday life, the general population had no understanding of why changes were being enacted, and found the changes to be irrelevant to them. The modernization of Russia was confined to a small group of people in a small area, leaving the rest of the population separate and uninvolved. Peter’s modernization was unnatural in that he did not make plans for it to occur gradually and widespread, but instead imposed many changes extremely quickly, focusing on only a small fraction of the Russian population.

By establishing the Table of Ranks, Peter intended to tie personal interests more closely to the interests of the state. By giving high rank and status to those he deemed to be most useful to society, Peter exercised authority not only over state matters but also over the definition of personal self worth. People were working for the approval of the tsar.

3 thoughts on “Peter the Reformer

  1. Keeping this in mind, it is important to add how Peter the Great was hopeful that a type of “trickle-down system” would work as a long-term effect. He implemented these reforms on the nobility and upper class because that was his main capacity in which he could implement reform. Like Marc Raeff states in “The Well-Ordered Police State,” Peter the Great expected the newly reformed upper classes would “perform their leadership functions well,” resulting in the Europeanization of the lower classes over time.
    Additionally, it is crucial to note how this is the first time in the official language that loyalty to the autocracy is not only expected of subjects, but also a loyalty to the “fatherland.” Previous documents did no use of the word “fatherland,” and this is a concept which would carry throughout the rest of Russian history and culture.

  2. It is imperative to acknowledge that Peter’s actions didn’t only separate the elite structure and the peasantry, but altogether neglected the issues of the lower class. By only restructuring the rankings of the elite and how the upper classes of society should function he not only isolated the lower class but made it very apparent that the cultural and societal issues that mattered were those of the elite. Examples such as the Holy Synod demonstrate how the benefits of his reforms were really only accessible to people in that class (such as creating hierarchy within the church)- the peasants would not receive any of the benefits of this and at this time were potentially viewing these changes as attacks to their cultural heritage that had been instituted for so many years prior.

  3. As the other two commentors already stated, the lack of acknowledgement of the lower class certainly had a negative impact on Peter’s attempts to Westernize Russia. As the elites progressed and became more modern, the peasantry only got further behind. Illiteracy among other limiting factors severely limited the peasants’ comprehension of Russia’s modernization. While Russia as a whole did indeed Westernize and many felt the effects of it, even the peasantry, few knew why or what it meant for them.

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