Reformer before the Court of History: the Image of Peter the Great in the Collective Memory of Russians

Reformer before the Court of History:
the Image of Peter the Great in the Collective Memory of Russians

Andreyev A.L.

Dr. Sci. (Philos.), Chief Researcher, Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS; Prof. VGIC and MPEI University, Moscow, Russia

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For citation:

Andreyev A.L. Reformer before the Court of History: the Image of Peter the Great in the Collective Memory of Russians. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2022. No 4. P. 136-145


Among the most notable figures of Russian history, the Russians especially single out Peter the Great. For a long time, sociological studies devoted to various aspects of the historical memory in Russian society have consistently shown that Russians value his historical role above the historical role of any of the subsequent statesmen, including those who led the country in Soviet times. In fact, the image of Peter the Great is perceived by the Russians as a paradigmatic image of a successful government corresponding to its purpose. This fact is very important for understanding peculiarities of the Russian social and political mentality, and therefore needs serious reflection, which is the subject of the above article based on the analysis of sociological data of different years. The author of the article asks the question of what exactly attracts Russians to the “glorious deeds” of Peter the Great and answers it by comparing perception of this grandiose historical figure with the collective assessments of images of other prominent figures in both the ancient and recent past using methods of sociological probing. Special attention is paid to comparing Peter the Reformer with the reformers of subsequent eras, including the “young reformers” of the 1990s who claimed a symbolic connection with Peter’s transformations. In the course of this analysis, multifaceted semantics of the image of Peter the Great is revealed, but special attention is paid to the so-called “enlightenment Petrine” (an expression belonging to M.V. Lomonosov). The author proves that dominant position of Peter the Great’s image in our historical memory may be explained by a general sonority of the modern Russian mentality to the hierarchy of values that were established as priority public values during the Peter the Great’s Enlightenment and which ultimately determined the Russian model of modernity and modernization.

Peter the Great; historical memory; images of history; mass consciousness; Russian mentality; “enlightenment Petrine”; model of social development


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Content No 4, 2022