Epilogue: Beyond the Nicholaevan Ideal — Russia in the Coming Years

  • Rebecca Friedman


In 1849, just five years after the Minister of Education had ‘winked’ at the discovery of student corporations in St Petersburg, only a year after students in Kazan’ posted their letter of protest against their ‘scoundrel’ inspector Lange, and amidst waves of revolutionary protest across Europe, a group of men known as the Petrashevsty were discovered by the authorities in St Petersburg. Members of this group, scores in number, were suspected of hatching a conspiracy against the autocracy. On April 22, 1849, these young men — many of whom were graduates of the Empire’s most elite institutions, including the university — were arrested. The group’s leader, Mikhail Butashevich-Petrashevskii, himself a recent graduate of St Petersburg University, hosted regular meetings in his home on Fridays where members socialized and discussed the burning questions of their day, from serfdom to censorship to the legal system. Although they rarely agreed on strategy or approach regarding the direction of Russia’s future, the group as a whole represented, as Cynthia Whittaker remarks, ‘a conspiracy of ideas.’ They were, in many respects, what Nicholas had always feared. The connection between education and revolution had been confirmed in the eyes of the autocracy on that April day.1


Collective Identity Collective Interest Corporate Identity Police Authority Elite Institution 
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  1. 1.
    Cynthia H. Whittaker, The Origins of Modern Russian Education: an Intellectual Biography of Count Sergei Uvarov, 1786–1855 (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1984), 235.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., 35–236. Samuel Kassow points out that the numbers in St Petersburg rose after 1855. By 1855, the total number in St Petersburg had risen to 476 and by 1858 to 1,026. On this, see Samuel D. Kassow, Students, Professors and the State in Tsarist Russia (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 53.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Marc Raeff, Understanding Imperial Russia: State and Society in the Old Regime (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 203.Google Scholar
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    Richard S. Wortman discusses Alexander’s devotion to his father in Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, vol. II (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 20–91.Google Scholar
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    This shift in vocabulary is mentioned in Abbott Gleason, ‘The Terms of Social History.’ In Between Tsar and People: Educated Society and the Quest for Public Identity in Late Imperial Russia, ed. Edith Clowes, Samuel D. Kassow, and James L. West (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), 15–27. This new emphasis anticipated the changes on the horizon at the end of the century, as individuals were increasingly able to create autonomous spaces for their participation in a growing civil sphere, between Tsar and people.Google Scholar
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    Gary M. Hamburg, Boris Chicherin and Early Russian Liberalism, 1828–1866 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992), 224.Google Scholar
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    Spravnitel’naia tablitsa ustavov universitetov 1884, 1863, 1835, 1804 (St Petersburg, 1904) 186–202. It is interesting to note that contrary to student demands the new statute of 1863 codified, for the first time, the all-male nature of the student body. Six years later in 1869 in St Petersburg women began to enroll in the university’s special higher courses for women. One student memoirist indicated in his writings that from the fall of 1869 several women appeared in the lectures of K. D. Kavelin, a very popular St Petersburg professor. The university, closed for much of 1861–3, officially disallowed female students in the new statute of 1863. On this brief interlude, see L. F. Panteleev, ‘Zhenshchini v peterburgskom universitete.’ In Leningradskii universitet v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, ed. V. V. Mavrodin (Leningrad: Leningrad University Press, 1963), 62–5.Google Scholar
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    From Nicholas Hans, The Russian Tradition in Education (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1963), 60.Google Scholar
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    In Kostenetskii’s memoir, he recounts the events involving Malov and, like Herzen, calls them a ‘demonstration.’ Yet, the detail he provided reflects not a general upsurge against authority, but anger at the professor’s mockery and rudeness. Ia. Kostenetskii, ‘Vospominaniia iz moei studencheskoi zhizni,’ Russkii arkhiv 5 (January 1887): 340.Google Scholar

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© Rebecca Friedman 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Friedman
    • 1
  1. 1.Florida International UniversityUSA

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