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Kees Boterbloem, “Moderniser of Russia: Andrei Vinius, 1641-1716” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013): As you can read in any Russian history textbook, a series of seventeenth-century tsars culminating in Peter the Great attempted to “modernize” Russia. This is not false: the Romanovs did initiate a great wave of “Europeanizing” reforms.

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As you can read in any Russian history textbook, a series of seventeenth-century tsars culminating in Peter the Great attempted to “modernize” Russia. This is not false: the Romanovs did initiate a great wave of “Europeanizing” reforms. But it’s not exactly true either in the sense that they–the tsars themselves–didn’t generally do the work of Europeanizing reform because they knew next to nothing about Europe (Peter being something of an exception). In order to import and assimilate European institutions, the Russian elite needed, well, Europeans. In his fascinating book Moderniser of Russia: Andrei Vinius, 1641-1716 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), Kees Boterbloem explores the life of an on-the-ground reformer who was perfectly fit to do the tsars’ reformist bidding–Andrei Vinius. He was not only European (Dutch, in fact), but he was also Russian (having been raised in Russia). Vinius was there at nearly every moment of top-down attempt to reform Muscovy. By investigating his life, however, we get to see the reform process from below. Just how was it done? Read Kees’ terrific book and find out.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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