From Passions to Ambitions: Human Nature and Governance from Peter I to the Emancipation of the Nobility
Posted: 12 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 12, 2015
This essay focuses on debates about the proper rules and procedures of promotion in military service from Peter I’s reign and into the 1740s. It begins by considering the meaning of such peculiar Petrine innovation as selection of candidates for promotion through “elections” and the subsequent permutations of the promotion mechanism, and then moves on to analyze the discussions regarding the service obligations of the nobility culminating in the 1762 emancipation, marking official recognition by the monarchy of the nobles’ autonomous subjecthood. While debates about the rules of promotion conveniently illustrate the reconceptualization of human nature in the 18th-century Russian administrative discourse and practice, they also provide a useful opportunity for discussing how and why ideas and institutional designs evolved. Rather than portraying the rethinking of human nature as a “natural,” self-propelled process of transfer of Western European ideas, an attempt is made here to link various policy proposals and shifts to pragmatic agendas of individual officials involved.
Keywords: Nobility, Peter I, passions, ambitions, service, Anna Ioannovna, balloting
JEL Classification: Z
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation