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The Petrine Revolution in Russian Culture

The Petrine Revolution in Russian Culture

James Cracraft

ISBN 9780674013162

Publication date: 07/30/2004

The reforms initiated by Peter the Great transformed Russia not only into a European power, but into a European culture--a shift, argues James Cracraft, that was nothing less than revolutionary. The author of seminal works on visual culture in the Petrine era, Cracraft now turns his attention to the changes that occurred in Russian verbal culture.

The forceful institutionalization of the tsar's reforms--the establishment of a navy, modernization of the army, restructuring of the government, introduction of new arts and sciences--had an enormous impact on language. Cracraft details the transmission to Russia of contemporary European naval, military, bureaucratic, legal, scientific, and literary norms and their corresponding lexical and other linguistic effects. This crucial first stage in the development of a "modern" verbal culture in Russia saw the translation and publication of a wholly unprecedented number of textbooks and treatises; the establishment of new printing presses and the introduction of a new alphabet; the compilation, for the first time, of grammars and dictionaries of Russian; and the initial standardization, in consequence, of the modern Russian literary language. Peter's creation of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, the chief agency advancing these reforms, is also highlighted.

In the conclusion to his masterwork, Cracraft deftly pulls together the Petrine reforms in verbal and visual culture to portray a revolution that would have dramatic consequences for Russia, and for the world.


  • [This is] the third volume of James Cracraft’s authoritative study of what he terms Peter’s ‘cultural revolution’… In his first two volumes Cracraft dealt with architecture and the arts. In The Petrine Revolution in Russian Culture, the focus is on ‘verbal culture’: the creation of what was virtually a new language, with a greatly expanded vocabulary, written in a ‘civil script’ suited to printed publication… James Cracraft provides a solid and thorough evaluation of Petrine Russia’s great leap forward in the arts of civilization.

    —John Keep, Times Literary Supplement


  • James Cracraft is Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Book Details

  • 576 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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