In the historiography, the topic of "Russia and Europe" has a tradition of its own. The depiction of this relationship occurred in constant correspondence with politics, the press and also mythical motifs, and reflected changing cognitive maps of Russia and Europe. In the first half of the 19th century, the university disciplines of history, Slavic languages, and geography brought an end to the European perception of Russia as being in northern Europe. These disciplines, but also popular publishing, now located Russia in the east of Europe.1 This created the cognitive map on which the university discipline of "eastern European history" – which emerged in the late 19th century initially in Berlin and Vienna – located Russia.2 However, opinion regarding the positioning of Russia with regard to the present and history of Europe was not only important in Europe. For Russian historians in the 19th century, it was equally central. From 1818 onward, Nikolai M. Karamzin (1766–1826) published a history of the Russian state in which he depicted the emergence of autocracy as being unique and specific to Russia on the one hand, while on the other hand describing the history of Russia as being of equal importance to the national histories of other European states.3 Sergei M. Solovev (1820–1879) viewed Russian history from a Hegelian perspective as following a general pattern of progression which can be observed in world history – but under specifically Russian conditions. In the enormous territory of Russia, he argued, historical processes move at a slower pace than in the smaller spaces of Europe.4 In his comprehensive account of Russian history, Vasilii O. Kliuchevskii (1841–1911) pointed out that even before Peter the Great (1672–1725, reigned 1682/1689–1725) a noticeable Europeanization of Russia had occurred, with baroque culture and humanist ideals of education being transferred to Russia from Poland and the Ukraine.5 In 1925, Sergei F. Platonov (1860–1933) described the extent of contact between Muscovite Russia and Europe in the 15th to the 17th centuries, impressively summarizing the state of knowledge on this subject in pre-revolutionary historiography.6
Soviet historiography only related the history of Russia to European contexts in an indirect way. It was primarily concerned with the historical legitimisation of the October Revolution and of the first socialist state in the world. The historical genealogy of that state was traced with reference to the Marxist model, which viewed feudalism, capitalism and socialism as following in sequence. Explicit comparisons between Russia and Europe did not fit into this historiographical endeavour. However, this Marxist image of history made the history of Russia appear as a concept developed with reference to European examples.7
Over the past fifty years in Europe, the historiography has been heavily influenced by three approaches to the history of Russia when considering the Russian relationship with Europe: (1) social, economic, and everyday history (Alltagsgeschichte);8 (2) the history of ideas and (3) cultural history. In individual cases, there was also a degree of overlap between these three approaches. Social and economic history viewed the history of Russia through the prism of its supposed backwardness in comparison with Europe and the west. Modernization theory provided the reference points of a capitalist economy, bureaucratic governance, a state based on laws and societal self-organization, milestones which the history of Russia had supposedly not yet reached. Thus, the history of Imperial Russia could be written as a history of state reforms, which almost invariably did not yield the desired results and most certainly did not close the developmental gap between European societies and Russia.9 "Gesellschaft als staatliche Veranstaltung" (society as a state event) and "geborgter Imperialismus" (borrowed imperialism) were phrases which neatly encapsulated these views.10 World-system historical approaches attempted to explain the supposed backwardness of Russia not endogenously, but in terms of interdependence in a global economic division of labour between peripheries, semi-peripheries and core societies in the modern period. In this model, Russia, as an important exporter of raw materials and a great power, was viewed as an example of a semi-peripheral society.11
In the 20th century, the history of ideas worked its way through all of the historical-philosophical material which the reciprocal Russian and European discourses of self-reassurance in the 18th and 19th centuries had produced.12 Imagological research should also be mentioned in this context.13 Additionally, social-historical approaches to the history of the Russian intelligentsia were also explored, comparing this group with intellectuals in France, Germany and Poland.14
Since the 1990s, cultural history has fundamentally changed the view of Russia and Europe. Research into cognitive maps has brought a new awareness of the cultural construction of concepts of space into historiography. The shifting of Russia from the north to the east of Europe in European perceptions of the other in the first half of the 19th century is a prime example of this.15 Cultural history has replaced social-historical and economic-historical comparisons and the focus on high culture and imagology, which was typical of the history of ideas, with cultural transfer. Transfers to Russia, but also the reception of Russia in Europe and the world are now central research topics.16 Finally, the status of actors, their options for action and their autobiographical practices have received far greater importance in recent research. "Russia and Europe", "west and east" now no longer appear as structural constraints, but as contexts in which actors choose to position themselves in particular ways.17
Once again, experiences in the present, such as the end of the Soviet Union and the transformation of cognitive maps which resulted from it, have demonstrated how much they can influence academic knowledge. In the American academic system, Eurasia has increasingly emerged as a region in which the history of Russia is located.18 Finally, global history deserves mention as the most recent factor in the depiction of the history of Russia and Europe. For about the last two decades, historiography has been dominated by a world and global history which seeks to counteract Eurocentrism. The imperative of provincializing the category of Europe, including the removal of its normative position with regard to other regions of the world, has also affected depictions of the long-running topic of "Russia and Europe".19 The history of the relationship between Russia and Europe can no longer be enclosed within the borders of Russia and Europe, which are in any case not unambiguous. There are obvious world and global historical contexts. This becomes clear when Russian elites appear outside Europe as proponents of a European civilizing mission, and, conversely, when in African and Asian perceptions Russia is categorized as belonging to Europe.20
The chronological depiction below of the relationship between Russia and Europe primarily attempts to examine popular concepts of Russia and Europe in a more nuanced way. Instead of drawing a hard distinction between the supposedly closed Muscovite Russia and the Europeanized empire ruled from St. Petersburg from the 18th century onward, I will attempt to point out multiple contrasts. The central focus is placed on perceptions and interactions in the areas of politics, economics, religion and culture. In this, travellers also appear as important intermediaries. A number of transfer processes can be identified for Muscovite Russia of the 16th and particularly the 17th century, while many trends in the 18th century demonstrate how keen people were to experiment with European influences. Finally, in the second half of the 19th century, Russia increasingly participated in processes of internationalization.
Moscow and Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries: Pragmatism and Opening
For foreign travellers, it was no easy task to gain entry to Muscovite Russia and to travel around in it. Diplomatic missions had to be registered in advance in Moscow. Their delegations were met at the border of the Muscovite state and accompanied through the land and to the court by a servant of the grand prince (from 1547 tsar). The travel route was set by Moscow. Contact with Muscovites and other foreigners was regulated and was often prohibited. Cultural misunderstanding in various areas such as diplomatic protocol, eating habits and the treatment of disease and death were very common occurrences for every traveller from Europe in Russia. Encounters between Protestants and Catholics of the confessional period and members of the Orthodox Church tended to highlight religious differences.21
However, in spite of the marked cultural differences, the behaviour of Muscovite tsars towards foreigners from Europe was very pragmatic. While the Orthodox Church highlighted and defended the religious differences and official Russia did not seek to engage with European knowledge in any serious way, the Russian court nonetheless had no problem with employing foreigners as experts where this proved useful to the Muscovite state. Consequently, physicians, architects, weaponsmiths and officers from Europe were a permanent fixture among the staff serving the Muscovite state in the 15th–17th centuries.22 Muscovite Russia was also integrated into early modern long-distance trade and cultural transfer. While in the medieval period European trade with Russia had been under the control of the Hanseatic League, in the 16th and 17th centuries the English and the Dutch in particular succeeded in replacing the League in this regard. Wood, hemp, potash, cereals, honey and precious sable furs from Siberia were among the goods exported from Russia. In exchange, Russia imported weapons and luxury goods. Transport along the Volga and across the Caspian Sea made Russia an important trade link between Europe and the Orient.23 The economy of Muscovite Russia proved to be open to trade, and the external demand for Russian goods brought about changes within Russia. For example, in the 17th century the European demand for leather resulted in an increase in cattle farming and leather production particularly along the upper and middle Volga.24
Anyone who travelled to Moscow from a European country in the 16th and 17th centuries, did not do so for the love of travelling, but either to perform a specific task in the areas of politics, economics and the church or in search of riches, which were frequently lost as quickly as they were gained. In the 15th century, it was primarily Italians in the service of the pope who travelled to Moscow to ascertain whether it might still be possible to implement the Catholic-Orthodox union of Ferrara-Florence of 1438/1439 – having completely misread the intentions of the Russians in this regard. In the 16th century, an ever increasing number of European travellers came to Russia. These also included Englishmen – no less than 32 travelogues on Muscovite Russia were written by Englishmen in the service of the "Muscovy Company". Papal and Habsburg diplomacy in the 16th century was primarily interested in concluding an alliance with Moscow against the Ottoman Empire – but without success.25
The most famous European diplomat to travel to Russia in the 16th and 17th centuries was without a doubt Siegmund Freiherr von Herberstein (1486–1566). In the service of the Habsburg court, he undertook diplomatic missions to the court of Muscovite Grand Prince Vasilii III (1479–1533, reigned 1505–1533) in 1517/1518 and 1526/1527. In 1517, he was entrusted with the task of brokering a truce between Moscow and Poland-Lithuania. While Herberstein did not succeed in this, on his return to Vienna he succeeded in portraying himself as a seasoned expert on Russia, and Charles V (1500–1558, Holy Roman Emperor 1520–1556) consequently entrusted him with another mission to Moscow in 1525. This time Herberstein was entrusted with the task of gathering enough information on his travels for a description of the Muscovite state. Herberstein published the resulting work in 1549 under the title Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii. In 1557, a German translation of the work was published under the title of Moscovia. In this work, Herberstein wrote a sentence which was to define western concepts of Russia for centuries. He questioned the causal relationship between the characteristics of the government and the people in Muscovite Russia: "Ich weiß nit eigentlich, ob dises unbarmherzig volk eines sollichen tyrannen zu einem fürsten bedarfe, oder ob durch deß fürsten tyranney das volk also unmilt und grausamlichen wird."26
The civil war (the Time of Troubles, in Russian smutnoe vremia) that broke out after the Riurik dynasty came to an end in 1598 was followed from 1613 onward by the rule of the Romanov dynasty, which was a period of restoration and consolidation.27 The focus of this was initially on the structures of rule and the social structures within Russia. The sacrosanct nature of the autocracy and the role of the nobility as supporters of the state were central and continued to define the history of Russia. However, the attempted restoration of the Orthodox church proved to be considerably more complex. Patriarch Filaret (1553–1633, patriarch 1619–1633), who entered the office in 1619 and who had spent part of the Time of Troubles in Polish captivity, made every effort to protect his church against the supposedly deleterious influence of other religions, particularly Catholicism. The Russian terra orthodoxa should be kept pure in his view. However, the 17th century did not conform to this Orthodox masterplan. It did not prove possible to shut the secular elite off from Europe in terms of its cultural orientation and the Russian Orthodox church failed to keep Russian religious life closed off from diverse connections with various external worlds. Additionally, the religious and secular aspects of the Europeanization of Russia became linked in the second half of the 17th century in the context of the Ukrainian question.
In the 17th century, the Russian Orthodox church was confronted with diversity of religious practice. After the Time of Troubles, people in some regions of Russia – for example the middle Volga region – claimed that the church was no longer a church. The upheavals of the civil war in the early 17th century had also called into question the authority of the institutional church. As early as the 1620s, contemporaries were talking about a split (raskol) in the church.28 Furthermore, in Orthodox religious services there was a lack of consistency between the liturgical books. There was a lack of clarity regarding which hymns and prayers should be performed in which order. The unification of Moscow and the Ukrainian Cossacks, who were also Orthodox, through the Treaty of Pereiaslav in 1654 made abundantly clear once more that the Orthodox church had adopted different forms among the East Slavs. Patriarch Nikon of Moscow (1605–1681) decided to remedy this. He engaged churchmen from the Ukraine to correct the liturgical books with a view to making them more uniform. Nikon also attempted to make this liturgy binding for all East Slavs in the church reforms which bore his name (Nikonian reforms). What at first glance appears to be a church matter proves on closer examination to be a fundamental process which contributed to the Europeanization of Russia in the second half of the 17th century. The Ukrainian churchmen who drafted the Nikonian reforms for the Muscovite state had themselves been influenced by the debate between the Orthodox Ruthenians/Ukrainians and the Catholic Counter Reformation in Poland-Lithuania. In this way, educational concepts such as the seven liberal arts (septem artes liberales) made their way into Muscovite Russia. This increase in education had its own consequences and led to the first theological controversy in the Russian Orthodox church, in which the opposing parties debated the issue of transubstantiation in the Eucharist.29
The transfer of European knowledge (primarily from Poland) to Russia through the Ukraine was not limited to the religious sphere. In the second half of the 17th century, the court of the tsars was a prominent site in this regard and contributed to the acquisition of Polish-European culture. Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich (1629–1676, reigned 1645–1676) had plays performed a court, much to the displeasure of the clergy. Baroque music was performed and Polish clothes were worn. Some wealthy aristocrats – such as Vasilii V. Golitsyn (1644–1714), the most influential advisor to the regent Sofia Alekseevna (1657–1704, regent 1682–1689) in the 1680s – also displayed a great openness towards Europe in the arrangement of their country residences, for example by accumulating libraries of western books.30 The role played by Ukrainian elites as intermediaries between Europe and Russia spans the end of the Muscovite period in the second half of the 17th century and the first two thirds of the 18th century. Contrary to the myth which portrays Peter the Great as the initiator of the Europeanization of Russia, from the Ukrainian perspective a phase in the Europeanization of Russia can be identified between 1654 and 1764.31
Russia and Europe in the 18th Century: Empire and Civilization
However, it would be going too far to ignore Peter the Great as a factor in the history of Russia and Europe. During Peter's reign, the connections between Russia and Europe became closer and more diverse. Peter viewed the Protestant seafaring countries of Sweden, the Netherlands and England as particularly good models for Russia. Already in his youth, Peter spent a lot of time in the foreign district of Moscow, the district assigned to non-Orthodox Europeans, and his time spent there awakened his interest in things foreign. Peter took the opportunity to see Europe for himself as a young tsar on his so-called Great Embassy of 1697/1698. Peter's victory over the Ottoman Empire in 1696, through which he gained the Black Sea fortress of Azov, provided the motive for this journey. Peter was now prepared to give Europe something which European diplomats in Moscow had asked for in vain throughout the 16th and 17th centuries: the committed engagement of Russia in the Holy League against the Ottoman Empire. The Great Embassy took Peter to a number of capital cities, coronation cities and royal residence cities: Königsberg, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Dresden and Vienna. The original purpose of the journey, to conclude a grand alliance against the Ottoman Empire, was not achieved. On the eve of the War of the Spanish Succession, European diplomacy was completely preoccupied with the issue of succession on the Iberian Peninsula. The Great Embassy proved nonetheless a big event in Russian history, which had far-reaching consequences in many respects – it was the first time that a Russian tsar had travelled to Europe. Peter was able to prepare the ground for future alliances with Denmark, Brandenburg-Prussia and Saxony, which would prove important during the Great Northern War against Sweden in 1700–1721. However, quite apart from the affairs of state which were pursued, Peter gained a decisive insight into the mechanisms of cultural transfer which was to prove very important. On the journey, Peter came to the view that the passive use of European technology and the hiring of foreign experts would not advance Russia's cause in the long term. In the eyes of the tsar, Russia's status demanded that his subjects, including the aristocratic elite, should personally acquire the knowledge and skills of the Europeans in the sciences and the crafts, in order to then be able to independently develop them further for the benefit of Russia. With a mixture of enthusiasm and stoic commitment to duty, young Russian aristocrats made their way to Europe in the years and decades that followed to implement the will of the tsar.32
In the Great Northern War (1700–1721) and in particular through his victory over Sweden at Poltava in 1709, Peter impressively demonstrated the new military capabilities of Russia on the European stage. However, Peter's eagerness to bring about change was not limited to the military sphere. He drastically reduced the number of the old central institutions of administration in Moscow and he converted them into administrative colleges based on the Swedish model.33 In 1721, he gave himself the title of "Emperor" (Imperator), drawing on models from ancient Rome to display his new status.34 To promote the sciences and on the advice of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), he decided to found an Academy of the Sciences, though he himself did not live to see its opening in 1725.35 Peter's desire to reshape all aspects of the Russian state and society was also directed at the area of culture. Peter initiated a cultural revolution.36 He moved the capital of the empire from the old city of Moscow to the new city of Saint Petersburg, though the latter did not receive the baroque and neo-classical appearance which it still has today until the period between 1750 and 1850. During Peter's lifetime, the city that bore his name looked more like a giant construction site. Peter broke with Muscovite Orthodox traditions in ceremonial court culture and re-orientated the latter instead towards baroque forms and the classical Greek and Roman system of symbols.37 Peter ordered his aristocracy to dress in accordance with European fashions and to shave off their Orthodox beards.
European visitors to Russia identified a fundamental change. The Hanoverian ambassador Friedrich Christian Weber (died 1739?) depicted the Russian empire as a "verändertes Russland" (a Russia transformed),38 and in 1739 Count Francesco Algarotti (1712–1764) coined a metaphor that was subsequently quoted widely and often, when he said that Peter had opened a "window on Europe".39 For the first time, there was convergence between Russia's perception of itself and European perceptions of the Russian Empire. Vasilii N. Tatishchev (1686–1750) suggested a new map of Russia, which divided the empire along the Urals into a European part and an Asian part:40 Russia appeared to have arrived in Europe. Of course, the successors of Peter the Great faced the question of how to accept this legacy and how to continue it. Overall, the 18th century in Russia appears as an imperial laboratory of Europeanization.
The elites at the imperial court now began to notice in broad terms the difference between the Russian (russkii – ethnic Russian) nation and the Russian (rossiiskii – Imperial Russian) Empire. In the Grand Principality of Moscow and also in the Muscovite Tsarist Empire after 1547, there had been a common practice of incorporating non-Russian elites into the Russian nobility as the need arose. Loyalty to the grand prince, and subsequently the tsar, was the most important criterion when it came to membership of the elite, not ethnicity or language. This practice became a cause of conflict in the period after Peter the Great, as Germans became the most influential advisors at the court of Empress Anna Ivanovna (1693–1740, reigned 1730–1740), particularly Ernst Johann von Biron (1690–1772). This led Russian nobles to doubt the Russian character of the empire. In the 18th century, the Ukrainian question also highlighted the tension between nation and empire. Under Elisabeth I (1709–1762, reigned 1741–1762), the number of Ukrainians among the episcopate of the Orthodox church and at court reached its highest. After she ascended to the throne, the Ukrainian Cossacks presented Empress Catherine II (1729–1796, reigned 1762–1796) with a petition in 1763 in which they requested the foundation of a Ukrainian parliament. The petition clearly employed the rhetorical style and political concepts of the Polish-Lithuanian republic of the nobility. Had it been granted, this would have significantly transformed the imperial structure of Russia. Catherine II denied the request.41 The empire remained a political conglomerate whose multi-ethnic elite loyally served the Romanov dynasty. However, the Russian element increasingly demanded a more important role within the empire.
In the area of foreign policy, it became apparent to Peter's successors that the status of a European great power could not be based solely on prestigious military victories, such as the victory at Poltava in 1709. Recognition as a great power was based on an intersubjective component and it was also dependent on decoding the rules of the system of European great powers and acting in accordance with them. While Peter the Great had still perceived this system as an exclusionary mechanism which disadvantaged Russia, Russian diplomats in the subsequent decades succeeded in establishing Russia as an insider in the system. At the beginning of the reign of Catherine II, the foreign minister Nikita I. Panin (1718–1783) continued to employ an alliance policy which had already emerged at the time of Peter the Great. Alliances with states in the Baltic region and negotiations with England were used to give Russia security with regard to its eastern central European neighbours. However, this continuity in approach regarding alliances was elevated into a change in terminology which reflected the increasing familiarity of Russia with the European model of the alliance system. Panin called his alliance concept the "Northern System".42
The reign of Catherine II was characterized by both continuities and change in the Russian relationship with Europe. In foreign policy, she broke with the concepts which Russian diplomacy had developed in the preceding decades. The empress left the path of a system-based approach to foreign policy that was focused on stability. In relation to Poland-Lithuania and the Ottoman Empire, she was eager to capitalize on the internal and external weaknesses of her neighbours in order to expand her empire.43 This foreign policy led to the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 and the first partition of Poland in 1772. Russia expanded to the west and the south, and it cemented its status as a European great power by becoming a guarantor power in the Treaty of Teschen between Prussia and Austria in 1779. The Russian Empire no longer tried to insert itself into a system but established itself as a player whose consent was needed in order for the system of European power politics to function.
Change also occurred in another area of Russia's relationship with Europe under Catherine II. European concepts of civilization were received in a different way in Russia in the last third of the 18th century. Peter the Great, Anna Ivanovna and Elisabeth I had viewed the civilizing mission primarily as a religious one and had placed it in the hands of the Orthodox church. The first two thirds of the 18th century witnessed a high tide of Orthodox missionary activity within the empire. Catherine II maintained this, but she pursued a pragmatic religious policy, which incorporated the confessions into the administration of the empire.44 She assigned new tasks to the civilizing mission. The emphasis was now placed on European modes of living, agriculture and sedentary society, as well as the cohesion of the empire.45
However, it cannot be overlooked that Catherine II viewed the Russian Empire as being in a continuum of Europeanization. At the start of her instruction in 1767 to the Legislative Commission, which was charged with the task of drafting a new code of laws, she stated that "Russia is a European power".46 The instruction borrowed unapologetically from such Enlightenment thinkers as Montesquieu (1698–1755) and Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794). In her code of laws, Catherine II declared her commitment to good legislation, the separation of powers and the abolition of corporal punishment. To familiarize the population with the laws, the empress focused on education policy. However, over the subsequent decades her policies fell far short of these lofty ideals. The institution of serfdom, under which the Russian peasants lived, was at its strongest during the reign of Catherine II.47 While her education policy was ambitious, she did not succeed in introducing a universal system of education with a school in every village.48 However, through close contact with famous representatives of the French Enlightenment, Catherine II nonetheless managed to maintain the impression of an enlightened monarch. She corresponded regularly with Voltaire (1694–1778), and she helped Denis Diderot (1713–1784) out of his financial difficulties by buying his library from him but allowing him to retain it on loan until the end of his life.49
After Russia annexed the Crimea in 1783 and dissolved the Islamic Crimean Khanate, the last remaining successor state of the Golden Horde of the Mongols, Catherine II undertook a journey to the peninsula, which was now called Taurida, in the company of Emperor Joseph II (1741–1790, Holy Roman Emperor 1765–1790) and the French ambassador to Saint Petersburg, Comte Louis-Philippe de Ségur (1753–1830). The choice of a new name for the peninsula was a reference to ancient Greek history and the ancient Greek name for the Crimea. In the context of European enthusiasm for classical Greek antiquity in the late-18th century, it was intended to emphasize that Russia was contributing to the resurrection of Hellenic culture in the face of the Ottoman Empire. The journey included a cultural programme of festivities and enactments, which underlined the concept of Russia as a protagonist in European civilization.50 The Crimean, under its new name of Taurida, not only connected Russia with Europe symbolically, the Russian conquest of the northern shore of the Black Sea opened up new routes for Russian exports through the Black Sea and along the Danube. In the last decade of the 18th century, exports of grain through the Black Sea ports exceeded those through Riga and Saint Petersburg. The Ukraine was proving to be not only Russia's bread basket, but Europe's also.51
But Europeanization in the late 18th century was not a project pursued by the empress alone. The culture and daily lives of the nobility and of some of the clergy showed the influence that French culture and the Enlightenment were having. After the nobility had been released from its duty to serve the state in 1762, nobles increasingly lived and concentrated on their rural estates. Those who could afford to invested in their estates, so that the latter reflected the social status of the owners. Architecture, landscaping, libraries and festivities brought Europe to provincial Russia. French became the language of social interaction among the nobility in Russia.52 At the same time, the concept of identity of many of nobles viewed a "wahre[n] Sohn des Vaterlandes" as being a loyal servant of the empress and a Russian patriot, as well as an enlightened person with a European education.53 Religion and the Enlightenment were by no means mutually exclusive. As in 1771 Moscow was hit by a plague epidemic, the faithful sought assistance from above by kissing the "Our Lady of Bogoliubovo" icon at the St. Barbara Gate in the Kitai-Gorod district of the city. Fearing the risk of contagion involved in touching the icon, Archbishop Amvrosii (1708–1771) had it locked away in a church. But his enlightened concern for the health of the faithful cost him his life, as he was lynched by an angry mob.54
The Enlightenment underwent a degree of institutionalization in late 18th century Russia. In 1766, the Free Economic Society was founded in Saint Petersburg. It explored physiocratic ideas and aimed to increase agricultural productivity in the empire.55 The Enlightenment also found its way into the masonic lodges. Nikolai I. Novikov (1744–1818) was probably the most famous aristocratic freemason in Russia. He supported the publication of periodicals, engaged in philanthropic activity, set up schools and supported kitchens for orphans and the poor.56 In 1790, Aleksandr N. Radishchev (1749–1802) published his description of a Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow.57 In it, he condemned the intolerable living conditions of Russian peasants under serfdom. Novikov and Radishchev were both severely dealt with by the government as a result. Novikov was imprisoned from 1792 to 1796 in the Shlisselburg fortress. Radishchev paid for his book with banishment to Siberia. The punishments meted out in this case were in stark contrast to the enthusiastic attitude to the Enlightenment in the early part of Catherine's reign. The French Revolution and the reform efforts of Poland-Lithuania under King Stanisław II August of Poland (1732–1798, reigned 1764–1795), and in particular the passing of a Polish-Lithuanian constitution on May 3 1791 cast the Enlightenment in a new and dangerous (particularly for the Russian autocracy) light in Catherine's eyes.58
Russia and Europe 1789–1855: Revolution, Nation and Empire
Between the French Revolution of 1789 and the Crimean War of 1853–1856, new complications arose in the relationship between Russia and Europe. The political and cultural connections between Russia and Europe remained unbroken. At the same time, the discourse of difference continued undiminished on both sides. In Russia, the internal debate about how Russia relates to Europe became a permanent topic in public and learned discourse. Revolutionary Europe, the emergence of nation-states in Europe, and partitioned Poland remained a constant challenge for autocratic Russia from 1789 to 1848. However, the history of Europe during that time cannot be written without reference to Russia. Russia was an established member of the Concert of Europe.
In 1789/1790, Nikolai M. Karamzin (1766–1826) stayed in Paris as part of a tour of Europe which also saw him travelling through Germany, Switzerland and other countries. His Letters of a Russian Traveller focused on the events of the revolution in the French capital. His work also illustrates how the European Grand Tour had become a normal part of the socialization of a Russian nobleman in the late 18th century. In spite of this level of contact, Russians travelling in Europe were constantly confronted with the European view of the backwardness of Russia. Karamzin recalls a conversation in which he was forced to admit that the historiography of Russia was further advanced in France than it was in Russia itself.59
From 1789 onward, Russian reactions to events in revolutionary France can be divided into three phases.60 In the first phase from 1789 to 1799, imperial Russia viewed the revolutionary republic with incomprehension. The violence of the revolution in particular horrified the Russian court and educated circles in Russia. This was not how they had imagined the light of the Enlightenment. Aristocratic émigrés from France, who had sought refuge in Russia, also contributed to the negative image of the revolution in Russia. From 1792 onward, the autocratic government in Russia made considerable efforts to prevent the flow of news and information from France to Russia and the flow of people from Russia to France. Educated people in Russia turned to historical analogies in their attempts to make sense of events in France. A commonly asked question was, would a figure similar to Caesar emerge and impose order on the revolution? The second phase of reactions began with the rise of Napoleon (1769–1821, emperor 1804–1814) in 1799 and continued to 1814. It saw two empires facing each other. In this confrontation, Russia was able to rely on its past experience of the competition between empires. The conflict shifted from the unfamiliar revolutionary and ideological sphere to the familiar sphere of the rivalry between great powers. However, Russia was still very much able to learn from its opponent. Mikhail M. Speranskii (1772–1839), the most influential advisor during the reforming part of the reign of Alexander I (1777–1825, reigned 1801–1825) in the decade from 1801 to 1811, drew on French models for many of his reform projects. While drafting a new Russian law code, he studied the Code Napoleon. In his reform of the highest organs of state, he was prompted by the French Conseil d'Etats to establish an institution which up to the end of the empire in 1917 was known as the "State Council" (Gosudarstvennyj Sovet) – it was frequently referred to as the Reichsrat in German – and which was the highest organ of government under the tsar. Russian education policy, which featured the re-ordering of the university landscape by Alexander I, was more heavily influenced by the French concept of the interests of the state, than by the German concept of personal development: "Die russische nauka glich mehr der französischen science als der deutschen Wissenschaft".61
Russian perceptions of Napoleon covered the whole spectrum from genius to Satan. Educated Russians saw in him a historical figure of the stature of Peter the Great. During his Russian campaign of 1812, the Orthodox church viewed him as a demon and a Satan. Alexander I adopted this religious interpretation of the conflict between the two powers, which appeared to follow the Orthodox calendar: at Christmas 1812 the Grande Armée was expelled from Russia; at Easter 1814, an Orthodox Easter mass was held in the presence of the tsar on the Place de la Concorde, where in 1792 revolutionaries had executed – depending on one's ideological standpoint – the citizen Louis Capet or the former monarch Louis XVI (1754–1793, reigned 1774–1792). However, the other powers in Europe could not relate to the religious convictions of the Russian tsar. In his attempts to establish a Holy Alliance, Alexander I viewed politics from a cross-denominational religious perspective. He viewed the monarchs as the benign protectors of their subjects, and, in his view, the states should be guided by the spirit of Christian love for one's neighbour in their dealings with one another. Clemens von Metternich (1773–1859) pruned back Alexander I's suggestion to the form which emerged after the Congress of Vienna of 1814/1815 as the Alliance of the Three Black Eagles for the conservative restoration in central and eastern Europe.62 While Alexander I's project of a Christian Europe could not be translated into the realm of real politics, after the Napoleonic War he nevertheless enjoyed his reputation as the "Saviour of Europe" from Napoleonic hegemony.63
In terms of its reaction to revolutionary France, its relationship with Europe and its own understanding of itself, Russia entered a third phase of searching for new ways after 1815. The military and power-political prestige which it had gained was expressed in Russia through the strong influence of the French Empire style in architecture. Forums, triumph arches and monuments were borrowed from the imperial forms of the defeated France.64 However, behind the self-confident presentation of the autocracy, the revolutionary challenge of France and Europe continued to have an effect. Constitutional questions and concepts of nations dominated the agenda of educated Russians after 1815. Young officers who had travelled through Europe on behalf of the Russian Empire in its wars against the revolution and Napoleon discussed constitutional projects – be it a constitutional monarchy or a republic – and asked how Russia had avoided the revolutionary violence that France had experienced in the 1790s.
After they had seized the moment in December of 1825, these officers came to be known as the Decembrists. On Senate Square in St. Petersburg, they refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new tsar, Nicholas I (1796–1855, reigned 1825–1855), in the hope of leading Russia towards a constitutional future. The attempt failed where it began, on Senate Square, where loyal troops brought an end to the rebellion. Five of the rebels were executed, while other Decembrists were banished to Siberia. However, this did not bring an end to the constitutional challenge in Russia. The Grand Principality of Finland and the Kingdom of Poland each had their own constitutions within the Russian Empire. However, Polish noblemen hoped for a complete restoration of Polish sovereignty and rebelled against the rule of the tsar in the November Rising of 1830, following the lead of the French July Revolution in the same year. The uprising culminated in the deposing of Nicholas I as the king of Poland. St. Petersburg responded by using military force to suppress the rebellion. In the subsequent years, Warsaw was developed into one of the biggest fortresses in the Russian Empire. Numerous Polish aristocrats emigrated, primarily to Paris. The public displays of support for Poland which they encountered while passing through the territories of the German Bund may have been some comfort to them.65
The Decembrist revolt and the Polish rebellion demonstrated that concepts of the nation that proceeded from the principle of the political sovereignty of the people repeatedly challenged the rule of the tsars. The Russian education minister Count Sergei S. Uvarov (1786–1855) reacted to this in 1833 by proclaiming the official triad upon which Russian education should be based, which was subsequently called after him. This triad consisted of autocracy, Orthodoxy and nationality (avtokratiia, pravoslavie, narodnost). The Russian term narodnost (nationality) points to a massive semantic debate around the concepts of nation and people in the Russian language. The nation as a demos was rendered in Russian with the word natsiia from this time onward. The term can be found in the language of educated Russians during this period. Narod, on the other hand, implies the nation as an etnos and the cultural traditions connected with it. Uvarov was attempting to make a concession to the nationalist terminology of the early 19th century without deviating one iota from the unrestricted power of the autocracy.66 The triad of "autocracy, Orthodoxy, nationality" can also be viewed as a Russian response to the French slogan "liberté, égalité, fraternité".
Uvarov's focus on Russian identity and his intellectual and political distancing from Europe was an insult to many intellectuals – for example Petr Ia. Chaadaev (1794–1856), who in his First Philosophical Letter of 1829 pronounced a damning judgement on Russian history. In his view, over the centuries Russia had contributed nothing to the development of culture and civilization. Every principle and idea that Russia had imported from abroad had been implemented wrongly and had thus been spoiled, according to Chaadaev. Russia stands alone, outside of humanity and its cultural history, he argued. Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837) responded by writing a letter to Chaadaev in which he discussed the topos of Russia's isolation and attempted to make sense of it. He argued that, by accepting the fate of Mongolian rule in the late Middle Ages, Russia had defended Europe against the advance of the Mongols, and had thereby created the conditions for Europe's cultural blossoming in the modern era.67 Without intending to do so, Pushkin had established a myth which forms the basis of western perceptions of Russia to this day: the total isolation of Russia in the late medieval period as the cause of the supposed backwardness of Russia in the modern period.
Chaadaev's Letter also contributed to a split in a reading circle of scholars and students around Nikolai V. Stankevich (1813–1840) in Moscow. This circle had been meeting to read and discuss the contemporary philosophers Fichte, Schelling and Hegel together. A discussion now developed around Chaadaev's Letter which split the young intelligentsia into two camps: Westernizers and Slavophiles. They had fundamentally different opinions on the history of Russia and on Russia's relationship with Europe. While the Westernizers greeted Peter the Great as a reformer whose efforts to bring Russia closer to Europe should be continued, the Slavophiles viewed him as having killed the old pre-Petrine Russia, which should be revived. The Orthodox church and its focus on the commonality of all believers in the parish, the sobornost, were viewed by the Slavophiles as important ideals which could protect the uniqueness and independence of Russia.
Russian reactions to the revolutions of 1848/1849 in Europe clearly demonstrated the differences between Westernizers and Slavophiles. While Alexander Herzen (1812–1870) bemoaned the failure of the liberal revolution in exile in Switzerland, Fedor I. Tiutchev (1803–1873) viewed the revolutionary violence and upheaval as confirmation of the Slavophile philosophy of history and its implied plea for the retention of the unique character of Russia and Orthodox values.68 Of course, a section of the peasantry in Russia had perceived it differently. Rumours of a revolution in Europe were greeted with interest among Russian serfs, as it raised hopes of bringing an end to serfdom in Russia.69 Nicholas I, by contrast, proved to be the "gendarme of Europa",70 who continued to support conservative values and the interests of the order established by the Congress of Vienna in 1814/1815, even after the end of the Metternich era. He intervened militarily to assist the Habsburgs and suppressed the revolution in Hungary.
The negative image of Russia which this gave rise to in Europe – a pamphlet entitled Krakehler printed in Berlin declared on June 22 1848 that "Die Russen kommen"71 – continued through the Crimean War of 1853–1856. Gustave Doré's (1832–1883) History of Holy Russia – a "history" of Russia in the form of a comic – brought all of the negative ideas about Russia in Europe together in one volume: despotically autocratic, arbitrary policy state, limitless violence and oppressive lack of freedom.72
Russia and Europe in 1855–1917: Empire and Globalization
In spite of the continued existence of negative stereotypes, a significant change in Russia's relationship with Europe and the world from the 1850s onward should not be overlooked. The accession of Alexander II (1818–1881, reigned 1855–1881) in 1855 was the beginning of a phase of massive restructuring from above in Russia. The reign of Alexander II is described in the historiography as the period of the Great Reforms.73 The history of Russia from the mid-19th century to 1917 is often depicted as a history of reform, counter-reform and revolution.74 During the reign of Nicholas I, which on the face of it appeared to be a period of calm and restoration, a group of enlightened bureaucrats had been educated in Russia, whose reforming ideas were further developed and partially realised after 1855. These ideas included the abolition of serfdom, which occurred in 1861, judicial reform and the reform of local administration in 1864, as well as the introduction of universal military service in 1874. The bureaucrats who drafted and implemented the reforms were informed about corresponding models in the countries of Europe.75 Some historians of Russia propound the view that the orientation toward European standards of civilization and the idea of organizing Russia politically as a nation-state were the only guiding principles for the elites in the latter decades of imperial Russia.76 However, this ignores aspects which – as regards both the structures of rule and the cognitive maps around 1900 – prove the existence of a difference between the Russian nation and the Russian Empire.77
Debates about transfer from the mid-19th century document a broad spectrum of potential borrowing contexts in Russia. Russian actors also became increasingly conscious of the fact that Russia was not juxtaposed to Europe as a monolith. Rather, Europe appeared as a collection of national and sectoral models, which in their heterogeneity relativized the difference between Russia and Europe.78 Additionally, in the search for usable models for Russia, people began to look beyond the borders of Europe. During the planning of a railway network for Russia, the example of the USA was regularly referenced, as it provided an example of how this means of transport could open up a very large territory.79 Likewise, the observations that Lev Mechnikov (1838–1888) had made during his travels in Japan between 1874 and 1876 provided an important impetus for the development of anarchism in Russia. Looking at the example of the Meiji era, Mechnikov had learned how important cooperative assistance is in the self-organization of small groups. Mechnikov then developed a social maxim of anarchism, which was based on the principle of mutual assistance. This went beyond Mikhail A. Bakunin's (1814–1876) call to destroy the existing order and was ultimately taken up by Petr A. Kropotkin (1842–1921).80 Related to the traditional histories of cultural transfer is the history of professionalization in Russia from the mid-19th century. In Oriental languages, anthropology, and international law – to name just a few disciplines that have been researched for the Russian imperial period – Russian academics were integrated into the respective international community of the discipline. In these cases, transfers appear circular on various levels such as training, the internationalization of professions and the analytical concepts employed.81
Russian discussions about possible areas in which one could transfer knowledge were accompanied by debates about Russia's understanding of itself. Compared with the other European colonial powers,82 the approach of the Russian Empire appeared an exception. In this discourse, the peaceful expansion, inclusion of non-Russians and sympathetic attitude towards foreign cultures in the Russian Empire and Asia were contrasted with the violent expansion and exclusion which were a feature of other European colonial powers. This view was dominant in particular among the so-called "Easterners" (Vostochniki), who attributed to Russians a fundamentally more sympathetic approach to Asian cultures and who even believed in a Russian-Asian kinship of spirit, which contrasted with the rationalistic and decadent West.83
Of course, there were contrasting discourses which stressed the similarities between all the empires, and wanted to model the institutions of the Russian Empire on examples from the British and French empires. In his much-cited circular letter of 1864, Russia's foreign minister Aleksandr M. Gorchakov (1798–1883) stated that Russia's expansion followed the same pattern as the expansion of all empires of the world. Insecure borders between imperial civilizations and barbarians repeatedly forced empires to secure their borders and thus to involuntarily extent them, Gorchakov stated.84 Writing in A Writer's Diary in 1881, Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevskii (1821–1881) even viewed Russia's expansion into Asia as the ultimate opportunity to demonstrate Russia's cultural and civilizational compatibility: "In Europa waren wir nur Gnadenbrotempfänger und Sklaven, nach Asien kommen wir aber als Herren. In Europa waren wir nur Tataren, in Asien sind wir aber Europäer."85 With just such an appearance of Russia as a European colonial power in mind, in the early 20th century part of the central administration of the Russian Empire advocated the setting up of a colonial ministry with responsibility for the Asian parts of the empire. However, this project was not realised.86
Outside perceptions of Russia in various regions of the world reflected the different ways in which Russia positioned itself vis-à-vis Europe. In Africa, the Russian Empire was primarily viewed as an empire which, unlike the other European empires, did not participate in the so-called "scramble for Africa". Thus, from an African perspective Russia contrasted with the exploitative European colonial powers in a positive way.87 The participation of Russian volunteers on the side of the Boers against the British Empire in the Boer War of 1899–1902 further cemented the perception of Russia as being different from the European colonial powers.88 However, this contrasted with perceptions of Russia in Egypt, India and China, where Russia was primarily perceived as a member of the concert of European great powers. The painful defeat that the Russian Empire suffered at the hands of Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/1905 was viewed in Egypt, India and China as a first blow struck against a European great power, which gave hope for a future emancipation from colonialism.89
Of course, discourses should not be equated with practices and structures. For a prime example of a discourse of difference existing in parallel with structurally similar practices of rule, we need only look at Russian Turkestan and British India in the late 19th and early 20th century. While in Central Asia the Russians and the British accused each other of unbridled expansion and of exploitative oppression of the Asian subjects, Turkestan and India were in reality characterized by similar systems of colonial rule.90
As the above examples of outside perceptions of Russia and the imperial configuration in Central Asia demonstrate, from the mid-19th century Russia's connections with other regions of the world increased. On many levels, the Russian Empire participated in the globalization of the 19th and early 20th century. At the first global exhibition in London in 1851, the Russian Empire presented itself in a way which unintentionally confirmed the negative perceptions that others had of it. Agrarian Russia appeared as a foil for industrialized England. However, the situation was entirely different at the global exhibitions in Paris in 1889 and 1900. Here Russia presented the Trans-Siberian Railway as a transcontinental project that would connect Europe and Asia. In this way, Russia demonstrated its connection with a modernity which was characterized by the conquering of space and the intensification of communication.91 Russia's participation in globalization around 1900 was not limited to representations and perceptions. Many histories which shaped Europe and the world around 1900 cannot be written without taking into account Russia and the Russian part as a borrowing context in chains of transfer. Anarchism, pacifism, terrorism, ballet and avant-garde artistic movements deserve mention in this context.92 Russia also played a significant role in the development of international law as it existed in the early 20th century, as the history of the law of war, of the beginnings of humanitarian international law and of international adjudication show.93 Russia's interconnection with Europe is demonstrated by Russia's role in the outbreak of the First World War.94 The First World War brought an end to both the global dominance of Europe and the Europeanized Russian Empire.