The Iron Bridle

Peter the Great was certainly a man of directness. Whether it was his reforms to westernize Russia or slaughtering those who opposed him, it was his way, or the highway. Through his reforms, the trend of servitude to the state for the sake of westernizing sticks out like a sore thumb. Peter enforced an education requirement for rights, while it seems harsh and that those rights should be unalienable, the education would teach the men to serve the state. These services were often directed towards progress and advancing the country towards what Peter wanted. He wanted people to have the same desire for progress that he had. “Peter wanted for Russia an elite composed of individuals capable of taking an active role in transforming society.” (Kaiser 247) He was such a passionate and powerful figure that he seized Russia with the iron bridle and dragged her with him to wherever he thought was best.

statue-315430_640 Peter’s desire to westernize was portrayed in many different ways, but through self portraits and statues, he shows a very clear image of how people should look. The Cap of Monomakh and emphasis on the Church was gone, in it’s place was well trimmed facial hair and clothing that would appear in a western European court.

His directness in getting what he wanted shines through in his Table of Rank. Peter established a hierarchy in the military and civil service that allowed him to give out rewards for serving the state. It was a way to undermine boyars, similar to how Ivan gave out control in the appanage system. By their way of achieving rank through the actions of Peter, they were more loyal to him. People could now go and achieve higher stations in society by serving the state. This new nobility could be passed down hereditarily as well, adding even more incentive to give one’s life to the state. (Kaiser 229) The Chin system allows for Peter to have nobility that are dedicated to serving the state rather while at the same time serving their own personal interests. He brilliantly combines their personal interests with the path to achieving higher levels of nobility.

How effective was the Table of Rank, and did it the newer nobility have any authority in society?

Daniel H. Kaiser, and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860’s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great strived to shape Russia into a systematic state focused on gaining nationalism through order. Inn 1722 after the Table of Ranks was established to clearly define roles in society however, Peter’s intentions never really formed. Russia’s theme of orderliness is exemplified here. Whether it be house-hold as seen in Domonstroi or general customary law such as the Pravda Russkaia; Russia has always been concerned with the well being of citizens and this was reinforced by the idea of orderliness. The Table of Ranks divided the upper/middle class into categories based on merit. An Admiral, or a chancellor would be a 1 while a artillery man or a college registrar would be a 13 and 14. Ranks were passed down from family and one would marry into a their future husbands rank. Russia has been constantly occupied with turmoil concerning ranks, for instance The Time of Troubles occurred because there was no one in the system to take the throne. Peter the Great intended to leave behind a system in which ranks would be the ultimate decider for claims and fill-ins. One of Peters largest goals was to make Russia more united, thus trying to put in this nationalistic system. He wanted to make Russians, excluded the peasantry, accountable for their state so they took pride in performing their civil duties.

1.) In what ways was “The Table of Ranks” a good idea? bad idea? over ambitious idea?

2.) How did Peter fulfill his goal of making Russia a prouder country?

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.

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.