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Enlightenment ContestedPhilosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752$
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Jonathan I. Israel

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199279227

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199279227.001.0001

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‘Enlightened Despotism’: Autocracy, Faith, and Enlightenment in Eastern and South–Eastern Europe (1689–1755)

‘Enlightened Despotism’: Autocracy, Faith, and Enlightenment in Eastern and South–Eastern Europe (1689–1755)

Chapter:
(p.295) 12 ‘Enlightened Despotism’: Autocracy, Faith, and Enlightenment in Eastern and South–Eastern Europe (1689–1755)
Source:
Enlightenment Contested
Author(s):

Jonathan I. Israel

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199279227.003.0012

This chapter explores the philosophes’ responses to developments in the Russian empire. Newly forged western skills and ideas made exceptional and impressive progress in Muscovy before 1750 but only, seemingly, due to the exceptional zeal and energy with which one particular despot, Tsar Peter I (reigned 1689–1725), imported new ideas and expertise from the West while expressly setting out to attack custom and tradition. If the official ideology of the Russian Enlightenment engendered a new cult of tsarist autocracy — a pragmatic philosophy even more authoritarian than that of the newly ‘enlightened’ Prussian monarchy of Frederick the Great, or that of Maria Theresa in the Habsburg lands — the only other significant ‘enlightenment’ in eastern Europe before 1750, that flourishing among the newly thriving south-east European Greek diaspora, was itself fervently Russophile and authoritarian in attitude. Politically as well as religiously, culturally, and intellectually, the two indigenously east European ‘enlightenments’ were firmly linked.

Keywords:   Russian Enlightenment, Russian empire, Peter the Great, Western ideas, tsarist autocracy

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