The Autocrat and the Open Critic

  • Allen McConnell
Part of the World Profiles book series (WOPR)


IN MAY 1790 an anonymous book, A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, severely critical of serfdom and autocracy, appeared in Russia’s northern capital and was soon brought to the attention of Catherine the Great, then in her twenty-eighth year of triumphant rule. She read the book carefully, making marginal notations, and observed that the author “had learning enough and has read many books.” Catherine, who confessed to Grimm that whenever she saw a new quill her fingers itched to write, understood the desire to make a name through letters. She recognized a fellow intellectual.


Open Critic French Revolution Solitary Confinement Religious Toleration Popular Sovereignty 
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  1. 1.
    A. N. Radishchev, A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, trans. Leo Wiener, ed. Roderick Page Thaler (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), p. 239. Catherine’s marginal notes to her copy of the Journey are given on pages 239–249. This translation hereafter will be cited by page number in parentheses.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 11.
    Peter Gay, Voltaire’s Politics: The Poet as Realist (Princeton, N.J., 1959), p. 172. The correspondence is available in French in W. F. Reddaway, pp. 1–213.Google Scholar
  3. 25.
    Ian Grey, Catherine the Great (Philadelphia, 5960), pp. 56–57. A. N. Radishchev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Moscow and Leningrad, 1941), II, 282.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marc Raeff 1972

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  • Allen McConnell

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