Catherine’s conceptions of state and subject

Her reforms were progressive in the sense that they moved Russia towards modernization and brought the state in line with Western concepts of the relationship between a government and its subjects. One theme present throughout Catherine the Great’s reforms is an attempt to balance state powers and individual liberties. The Statute on Provincial Administration states that “the personal security of each loyal subject is quite precious to the Monarch’s philanthropic heart,”  and the establishment of an ordered, hierarchical bureaucracy within the provinces is one way to enforce order and protect personal security among and of the subjects. However, the bureaucratization serves a second purpose, which is to quantify and order a population in case the state wishes to mobilize them when they need labor or combat. Article 20 of the Charter to the Nobility mandates that no subject may “spare neither labor nor even life itself in State service,” reminding the nobility that they are subject to the same calls to war and work as the rest of the population.

However, Catherine’s reforms also implement checks on state power. According to the Charter to the Towns, no urban corporation may make regulations contrary to the laws of the state. Catherine’s reforms standardized the rule of law throughout Russia and ensured that no provincial power could infringe upon the rights of their subjects by creating their own regulations. Overall, Catherine’s reforms show the delicate balance, characteristic of many nascent modern states, between using a population as a resource and respecting the rights of that population to encourage their obedience to their government.


Did Catherine’s reforms favor either the subject or the state?

Analysis of an “A” Paper

Except for some minor digressions, the author follows all the requirements stipulated in professor Qualls’ rubric. Most importantly, the paper reflects the topic of the research providing detailed and nuanced answers to the “Why?” and “How?” questions posed within the broader subject of the challenge behind bringing order into Russian eighteenth-century society. Why was order a priority?- It was necessary “to strengthen Russia’s international presence and to pacify conflict within and regulate the daily lives of the nobility and townspeople.” How did the Russian reformist monarchs of the eighteenth century cope with this challenging task? – “Peter the Great and Catherine the Great stratified and expanded governmental roles…” From the thesis to the conclusion the main ideas of the paper are clear, logical are therefore easy to follow.       
                The thesis, as well as the topic sentences are certainly controvertible, they can spark up a heated discussion, even an argument. I personally do not agree with parts of the thesis, or some of the statements throughout the paper, but see it as a positive feature, since it presents the position of the author and leads to a fruitful discussion. A simple example is the first topic sentence : “Peter’s solidified the stratification of nobles as part of his greater aim to centralize power throughout Russia.” Contrary to the author’s opinion, The Table of Ranks did not strive “to create harmony within the nobility.” Based on the novel idea of earning the noble status by merit through honorable service, the Table of Ranks was a challenge to nobility. It gave an opportunity to the lower classes to climb the ladder to level eight and above and become part of nobility. Service to the state deserved the highest praise, with Peter the Great being the most dedicated servant to his beloved Russia. So, the Table of Ranks was not about nobility (only levels eight and above out of 14 levels included nobility), or about “harmony within the nobility,” it was about service to the state and stratifying people by merit. This was Peter’s way to bring order into Russian social structure, get a better control of it and thus centralize his power as an absolute monarch.
                I applaud the author’s analysis of Catherine the Great’s statute on provincial administration. I gained a better understanding of this important document through its detailed explanation based on clear references to the primary source.