About this book
Alexander Radishchev's major work, A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, first published in 1790, was the most scathing denunciation of serfdom and autocracy that had ever appeared in Russia. Its author was immediately arrested, tried for treason, and condemned to death, the sentence being later commuted to exile in Siberia. Catherine the Great, who had provided Radishchev with a schooling in despotism in the Corps des Pages and with an introduction to the Enlightenment at the University of Leipzig, saw in his book a gratuitous insult to herself as well as an attempt to incite a revolt that would bring him to power. Forgetting that many of its ideas were the same as those she had herself expressed earlier, she denounced it as the fruit of foreign abstract theories acting on an excitable, ambitious and resentful man. The Journey was effectively suppressed for more than a century. Any mention of Radishchev was discouraged by the censor for seventy years. A generation after Radishchev's death in 1802, Pushkin's biography of him was refused publication permission on the ground that the subject of it was forgotten and deserved to remain so.
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