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Russia, The Turks and Europe: Legitimations of War and the Formation of European Identity in the Early Modern Period

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An essential criterion of belonging to a community is the expressed willingness to play by its rules. "Europe" in the Early Modern period can be seen as a moral community of "Christian" and "civilized" states which abided by the principles of ius gentium. The core of this code was the limitation and regulation of warfare. Although moral and legal principles of bellum iustum were often overruled by considerations of interest, there was at least one thing common to all European wars: the states always took pains to prove publicly that they were waging a just war. This essay examines the significance of printed legitimations of war for the formation of European identity. It focuses on the case of Muscovy, which before the end of the seventeenth century had not been concerned with its image in Europe, and was thus left at the mercy of the propaganda of its western neighbors who were instrumental in constructing the image of Muscovites as Asiatic barbarians, more similar to the Turks than to Christians. Tsar Peter the Great, however, took a novel decision to launch a campaign of public legitimation of Muscovy's attack on Sweden in 1700. The legitimations of war published during Peter's reign can be seen as essential components of his quest for the acknowledgement of Russia as a fully-fledged member of the European moral, legal, and political community.


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Affiliations: 1: St. John's College, Cambridge


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