“Contradictions at the Heart of Russian Liberalism” Pavel Miliukov's Views of Peter the Great and the Role of Personality in History as an Academic, a Politician, and an Émigré

in Russian History
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Abstract

Laurie Manchester examines how Pavel Miliukov, one of Russia's most renowned academicallytrained historians, prominent liberal politicians, and later émigré intellectuals, portrayed Peter the Great in his various historical works. Examining the entire corpus of Miliukov's pre- and post-revolutionary writings on the Petrine reforms, she argues that Miliukov, driven by his dismissal of or outright contempt for the peasant masses, betrayed his liberal commitment to democracy. This view of the masses remained consistent in his work, and even his shift from a largely negative to a positive view of Peter did not betray his historical methodology, which had always allowed leeway for the role of personality. Assigning a single individual a major role in historical causality was the only way Miliukov could reconcile placing a Russia he had always insisted was backward onto a Western path of development. He believed the democratic end would justify the undemocratic means.

“Contradictions at the Heart of Russian Liberalism” Pavel Miliukov's Views of Peter the Great and the Role of Personality in History as an Academic, a Politician, and an Émigré

in Russian History

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