The Historical Experience of Reforming Russia in M. M. Speransky’s Projects and Notes

Keywords: M. M. Speransky, history of Russia in the 17th–18th centuries, Code of 1649, absolute monarchy, government policy in the field of legislation, Commission for drawing up a new Code, modernisation of public administration


This article studies the historical basis of M. M. Speransky’s legislative projects and notes, the definition of features of historicism, and the identification of distinctive features of his concept and periodisation of the history of Russia. The most significant feature of Speransky’s historicism was a juridical view of the Russian past and also the fact that he regarded the Russian historical process as the evolution of legislation in close connection with the development of statehood. Special attention is paid to Speransky’s assessments of the modernisation processes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the significance of domestic codes and, more particularly, the Regulations of 1649. Also, the author focuses on the role of the “reformers on the throne”, i. e. Peter I and Catherine II in developing domestic legislation and improving public administration. The reformer considered the governmental search for the ordering and systematisation of laws over the 100 years of the imperial period a single integral process and an integral part of Russian modernisation, and associated it with the reform of the administrative system of the empire. Nevertheless, he is characterised by a cautious and balanced attitude to the transformative legacy of the preceding eras. The ambiguity of Speransky’s historical assessments relied on the combination of Western-inspired and original tendencies in his historical consciousness. At the same time, the paper shows that his restrained characteristics of unsuccessful experiments on the creation of a new Code, the consequences and results of institutional reforms resulted from the official compromise-driven concept of state-building according to Western models with their adaptation to national conditions, which caused the Russian development model to catch up.

Author Biography

Tatiana Andreeva

Dr. Hab. (History), Leading Researcher, St Petersburg Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

7, Petrozavodskaya Str., 197110, St Petersburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-6941-1639


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How to Cite
Andreeva, T. (2022). The Historical Experience of Reforming Russia in M. M. Speransky’s Projects and Notes. Quaestio Rossica, 10(3), 811–830.
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