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Education and social mobility in early modern Russia: the case of the noble cadet corps, 1732-1762

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
2013
Department: Laboratory of Social History

Object of Research: The role of education as a factor of social mobility and social stratification in the middle of the 18th century.

Goal of Research: To evaluate the role of education as an instrument of social mobility in early modern Russia and the impact of socio-economic and cultural characteristics of noble families on their willingness to engage with the "western" education in the case of the Noble Cadet Corps in 1732-1762.

Empirical basis of the study is a unique database covering 2293 cadets who graduated from the Noble Land Cadet Corps in 1732 - 1762, including data on the socioeconomic characteristics of students' families. To collect the data the authors performed a comprehensive search in the annual registers of the Corps’ incoming correspondence (including applications for admission) in the Russian State Military Historical Archive and a selective search in the files of the Heraldry Department, the Senate and other agencies in the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts.

Results of research: Analysis of the data collected shows that within the narrow social group under and within the specific school study the government managed to build a system where the wealth and social status of fathers did not directly affect the success of their sons. The only significant factor for success in school (receiving a particular officer rank at graduation) was the family’s access to "western" education and cultural skills. Thus, the results indicate that the presence of a certain education and social skills did give the holder a measurable advantage even when competing against other members of the elite, which can be considered as one of the mechanisms contributing to the sustainability of the cultural and social regime created by Peter I. It is noteworthy also that, as the study demonstrates, the cadets were recruited on a voluntary basis, so their educational and career preferences were expressed already at the enrollment stage.

Field of application: The research results can be used in an analysis of social mobility in Russia in the long term perspective. 

Publications:


Fedyukin I., Gabdrakhmanov S. Cultural capital in an early modern elite school: The Noble Cadet Corps in St Petersburg, 1732-1762 / Basic Research Programme. Series HUM "Humanities". 2014.