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The Russian Empire 1450-1801$
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Nancy Shields Kollmann

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280513

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280513.001.0001

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Nobility, Culture, and Intellectual Life

Nobility, Culture, and Intellectual Life

(p.427) 21 Nobility, Culture, and Intellectual Life
The Russian Empire 1450-1801

Nancy Shields Kollmann

Oxford University Press

This chapter surveys the social, economic, and cultural status of Russia’s nobility in the eighteenth century. This was an “Imperial nobility” that integrated high-born elites from new lands—Baltic Germans, Ukrainian Cossacks, Polish noblemen, Georgian princes—into a predominantly Russian elite that was defined by European education, etiquette and culture. The nobility was highly economically diverse, with the majority enjoying status but minimal wealth and land and only a very few owning enough land and serfs to live a life of high culture and attendance at court. As a whole the nobility established cohesion around common cultural norms, particularly European languages, etiquette and education. By Catherine II’s time a lively literate public, primarily nobles but also including some raznochintsy, thrived in the capitals and major provincial cities, supporting political discussion in theater, prose, and poetry that was shaped by the nobility’s overall commitment to autocracy and moral solutions to public problems.

Keywords:   nobility, social hierarchy, serfdom, raznochintsy, Europeanization, Enlightenment, Catherine II, public sphere, etiquette, Radishchev

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