Parution – Igor Fedyukin, “The Enterprisers: The Politics of School in Early Modern Russia”, Oxford, 2019

The Enterprisers traces the emergence of “modern” school in Russia during the reigns of Peter I and his immediate successors, up to the accession of Catherine II. The efforts to “educate” Russia represent a trademark of Peter I’s reign and reformist program, and innovations in schooling in Russia in the eighteenth century have traditionally been presented as a top-down, state-driven process. As with many other facets of the emerging early modern state, the Petrine-era school usually appears as the product of the practical needs of the tsar’s new “regular” army, which demanded skilled technical personnel. It is also commonly taken to be the personal creation of Peter I, who singlehandedly designed it and forced it on an unwilling population. Contrary to this received wisdom, The Enterprisers argues that schools were instead invented and built by “administrative entrepreneurs”—or projecteurs, as they were also called in that era—who sought to achieve diverse career goals, promoted their own pet ideas, advanced their claims for expertise, and competed for status and resources. As the in-depth study of some of the most notable episodes in the history of educational innovation and school-related “projecting” in Russia in the first half of the eighteenth century demonstrates, the creation of “modern” schools took place insofar as it enabled such enterprisers to pursue their agendas. The individual projects these enterprisers proposed and implemented served as building blocks for the edifice of the “well-regulated” state on the threshold of the modern era.

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