Contemporary Russian Historiography on the Pre-Petrine Era: New Aspects
This review focuses on the most remarkable works in contemporary Russian historiography from recent decades on the pre-Petrine seventeenth century. Consciously ignoring the literature dedicated to diplomacy and war because of the sheer size of the available material, the author isolates questions connected with the socio-political and cultural development of the Muscovite state and society. In particular, she examines works looking at the intensity and direction of pre-Petrine Russia’s socio-cultural contacts with the West and the Orthodox East and the extent of their influence on the country’s historical development. Noting how the exhaustion of Marxist methodology (in its Soviet variant) has led contemporary Russian historiography to revive the opposition of the Slavophiles and Westernisers, the author nevertheless emphasises its new foundations, which are based on different methodological principles. There has been a shift of scholarly interest away from the ‘base’ to the ‘superstructure’ (to use the old Soviet terminology): now dominant is the attention placed on the discursive practices of the epoch and on the problems of intellectual history, the history of personhood, the network-actor interactions that created the fabric of social and cultural reality, and the increasing need to study the sources. The article’s main conclusion is that the varied (and sometimes mutually exclusive) interpretations of the meaning and significance of the cultural changes in the second half of the seventeenth century can scarcely be reduced to some generalising representation of the epoch. This will require the further accumulation and interpretation of empirical materials in the framework of new research paradigms. It is necessary to understand this period as part of an integral whole with the era of the Petrine reforms.