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Voluntary Associations in Tsarist Russia

Voluntary Associations in Tsarist Russia

Science, Patriotism, and Civil Society

Joseph Bradley

ISBN 9780674032798

Publication date: 06/30/2009

On the eve of World War I, Russia, not known as a nation of joiners, had thousands of voluntary associations. Joseph Bradley examines the crucial role of voluntary associations in the development of civil society in Russia from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century.

Russians populated a growing public sphere with societies based on the model of the European enlightenment. Owing to the mission of such learned associations as the Free Economic Society, the Moscow Agricultural Society, and the Russian Geographical Society, civil society became inextricably linked to patriotism and the dissemination of scientific knowledge. Although civil society and the autocratic state are often described as bitter rivals, cooperation in the project of national prestige and prosperity was more often the rule. However, an increasing public assertiveness challenged autocratic authority, and associations became a focal point of a contradictory political culture: they fostered a state-society partnership but at the same time were a critical element in the effort to emancipate society from autocracy and arbitrary officialdom.


  • This splendid book is lucidly written, shrewdly organized, well researched and forcefully argued. Bradley's contention that voluntary organizations played an indispensable role in the formation of Russian civil society is sound. His exploration of the relationship between voluntary associations and Russia's central government is both intelligent and richly suggestive for historians of Russian political culture. This is a first-rate book that will secure wide readership in Russian imperial history and modern European history.

    —Gary M. Hamburg, Claremont McKenna College


  • Joseph Bradley is Professor of History at the University of Tulsa.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press