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Social and Cultural Processes Among the Bureaucracy and Law Practioners of Russia and France in Early Modern Time

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
2019
Department: Centre for Modern Russian History
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research

To discover new data about the culture and social practices of officials and lawyers in early modern Russia and France.

Methodology

Critique of historical sources, cultural history, new social history

Empirical base of research

Published historical sources (mostly legislative), state and judicial records from Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts, Russian State Historical Archive, Scientific and Historical Archive of Saint Petersburg Institute of History  

Results of research

The analysis of the historiography devoted to early modern Russian and partly European bureaucracy confirmed the relevance of microhistorical approach to this field. Overriding of the opposition between Weber's “ideal bureaucracy” and clan ties, “informal practices” etc. also proves to be fruitful.

On the first line of the research the book Dicaearchiae Hernrici regis christianissimi progymnsmatata (Exercises of the Most Christian King Henry in legal rule) written by of Parisian lawyer Raoul Spifame was explored. This book contained fictional decrees of king Henry the Second and shows to which extent a particular lawyer could be sensitive to tendencies of the State evolution. Apparently, Raoul Spifame had grasped the general direction of some Henry’s the Second measures (actions aimed to demonstrate the readiness to withdraw with the Papacy in 1551, the establishment of 60 new courts in 1552 etc.). As a result Spifame described a system of the monarch’s power based on three private royal courts, syndical courts, a hierarchy of the King’s representatives in the Church, and a number of other institutions. In addition, the king was vested with the right to directly enforce his court decisions without registering them in the Parliaments, as it was in existed practice.

The study of the projects for reforming the monetary system (1711 – 1723) revealed a rather high level of the petrine officials acquaintance with European theories of that time. In the project of 1711 presumably written by Savva Raguzinskii an internal loan was supposed to be used in addition to debasement of the coins. Another form of internal loan was offered by the "matrix cutter" Danila Voronov (1712). Prince I.A. Shcherbatov proposed a project based on the "System of John Law". These projects are interesting mainly as evidence of an expanded knowledge of the officials: the projects themselves were unrealistic and, apparently, should be considered as attempts to attract the attention of the monarch and the resources. However, the Head of the Berg collegium (Yakov Bruce) and his deputy (A.K. Zybin) argued that inflation resulted that losses exсeeded the income from the coin debasement. This fact can apparently be considered as an example of the successful adoption of of Isaac Newton and John Locke views by Berg collegium top rank officers.

The interweaving of the merits of the Weberian “ideal bureaucrat” and involvement in patron-client relations and inter-clan struggles is especially striking in the case of Avraam Sverchkov. On the one hand, he was industrious, qualified law writer, familiar with foreign legal practice. The legal books he dealt with spoke of the "general public benefit." At the same time, his qualifications would be hardly sufficient for making a career if he had no credence of influential officials - Aleksei Makarov and Mikhail Golovkin. During the struggles for influence, A.S. Sverchkov turned out to be an opponent of another "enlightened bureaucrat" - Vasilii Tatishchev and an ally of Irkutsk vice-governor Aleksei Zholobov who was known mostly as a corrupted bureaucrat.

Similarly, the unofficial contacts of Senator Roman Vorontsov and the nobles of the Schlusselburg district contradicted the law, and pursued mostly private good. At the same time, some provisions that Vorontsov proposed to include in the instruction speak of the benefits to the state, agriculture and tillage. Schlusselburg nobles were not satisfied with some of Vorontsov ideas, and those that were suitable, they were accustomed to justify via their noble privileges not the ideas of the State benefit. Thus, a by-product of a building a patron-client relationship was some (albeit insignificant) acquaintance of the Schlusselburg nobles with the ideas of the “common good”.

This bizarre interweaving of formal and informal can be also observed in the situation that led to the suicide of Major Vasilii Apukhtin. The latter knew how to bribe judges and could afford to use the help of a qualified lawyer. For a long time he safely avoided responsibility for various misconducts. However, Apukhtin’s connections could not give him full confidence that the next lawsuit would be resolved in his favor. And having been convicted once a wealthy nobleman turned out to be a “suspicious man” defenseless in the face of the “state machine”.

Thus, the study of officials and their work can hardly be built on the opposition of formal and informal, rightful and corrupt. The development of “progressive” state doctrines and the implementation of reforms went hand in hand with the clan struggle and personal enrichment. But in order to accurately describe the specifics of this interweaving in each particular era, additional research is required.

Publications:


Kamenskii A. B. Catherine the Great's Foreign Policy Reconsidered // Journal of Modern Russian History and Historiography, USA. 2019. No. 12. P. 169-187. doi
Уваров П. Ю. Три печати французского короля (история неслучившегося) // В кн.: Золотой век европейской монархии. Политическая культура Средневековья и раннего Нового времени. СПб. : Евразия, 2019. С. 81-91.
Joukovskaia A., Akelev E. L’historien entre aux archives: Comment l’historiographie russe d’avant 1917 a découvert l’État moscovite // Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales. 2019. Vol. 74. No. 3-4. P. 591-621. doi