Enlightened Absolutism and Urban Modernity in Moscow, 1763-1881


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines the history of Moscow through the prism of the three-way encounter between the modernizing ambitions of the tsarist regime, the perceptions of Russian and European writers, and Russian social realities. Its thesis is that the enlightened-absolutist project of urban modernization was pursued in Russia far longer than elsewhere in Europe—from the 1770s to the 1850s—and that it achieved limited but steady progress in transforming Moscow society according to the regime’s vision. However, because cultural representations have their own dynamic, educated society’s confidence grew only until the 1830s and then began to wane. During the 1850s-70s, massive social and cultural changes doomed the regime’s urban project in both public perception and everyday reality.