Goal of research: To identify the role of informal social practices and relationships in the formation, evolution, and functioning of emerging formal institutions, modern hierarchical structures, and new types of interpersonal relationships, including education and state service, in the Russian Empire during the second half of the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Methodology: In terms of methodology, emphasis is placed on the use of epistolary complexes reflecting the nature of informal connections between members of the elite, such as the patrons and their clients, both within the elite and outside it; the structure of these connections, and the level of their penetration into the society. Particular attention is paid to the analysis of such ego-documents as the notes by retired Collegiate Councilor Orlov, notes by Malinovsky and others. Extensive material that sheds light on the nature of informal ties and the range of participants is contained in the papers of investigations conducted by the Secret Chancellery (RGADA, f. 7): its documents contain records of all sorts of interactions between persons of different status, and also of rumors and gossip about personal connections circulating in the realm. Finally, this project drew on a complex of previously unpublished and/or unknown (manuscript) translations of Western European political treatises that reflect the process of developing a language for describing political and social reality in general and informal relations in particular.
Empirical base of research: In accordance with the terms of reference, the project participants carried out research in the following areas: formal institutions and informal practices: constructing and structuring the imperial elite; descriptive languages of formal institutions and informal practices; and education as an instrument for the formation of new social groups and group identities. In particular, in the course of studying the extensive system of long-term voluntary, unequal, and unofficial links between influential individuals (patrons) and their clients, analyzing specific cases found in the Russian sources dating from the18th-19th centuries through the prism of theoretical constructs borrowed from the arsenal of social sciences (S. Eisenstadt) and in comparison with studies conducted by scholars of Western Europe on the basis of Western European cases (for example, the identification of several subtypes of the phenomenon of “friendship” in the early modern period, such as personal attachment, a mode of communication, and clientelism; see S. Kettering), allowed to consider the relevance of these models in the Russian context and to clarify their relationship to the specific historical realities of Russia in modern times. In particular, this work included a detailed study of the clientele built by the leadership of the College of Foreign Affairs in its Moscow archive (G.F. Miller, N.N. Bantysh-Kamensky, A.F. Malinovsky, M.N. Sokolovsky). In the focus of the study was the system of sharing “gifts”, in which symbolic services (such as the dedication of a book or historical work) were the product of an “exchange” relationship with the power personified by high-ranking patrons and, ultimately, by the sovereign himself, which in turn served to strengthen internal communication within the elite. Our study of epistolary sources shed light on the ways the the concept of “friendship” operated within the Imperial elite as a conduit of interaction in a hierarchized society and as an instrument for building social ties based on the enlightened idea of the unity of human race that transcends the class hierarchy. As far as the languages of the political description of formal institutions and informal practices are concerned, among the most significant results of the project is the introduction in the academic domain of a large number of little-researched translations of socio-political literature preserved in manuscript form in the archives and libraries of Russia. The focus was on identifying the key concepts that would reveal the gap between the formal and the informal against the backdrop of the broader set of published translated works. This, in turn, can serve as a basis for a comparative study of the circulation and use of manuscript and printed texts in Russia in the 18th century, and will also help to provide a fuller picture of the development of the language of “civic sciences” in the era of (post)Petrine transformation. Finally, extensive efforts have been made to develop a conceptual apparatus suitable for studying the role of education in the processes of “social engineering” in Russia in the early modern and modern periods. The theoretical framework of this effort was set by the interpretation of education as a form of social and cultural capital, opening up avenues for studying the role of education in structuring the early modern Russian elite in general, including the issues of intergenerational social mobility and the formation of group identities.
Results of research: The results of this projects have been presented by the project participants at a number of seminars and academic conferences, both Russian and international. Overall, 22 presentations based on the results of this project have been made over the past year. 15 articles and 5 preprints based on the results of this project have been published or prepared. Two joint workshops with the Laboratory of Socio-Historical Research have been held.
Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results. The results of this research can be used in university courses on Russian and world history, history of reforms, history of public administration in Russia, economic history, history of education; when developing new concepts of social history, as well as in the studies of state-building and state administration in the past and in our time.