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The Military Revolution, Administrative Development, and Cultural Change in Early Modern Russia

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Among Western historians it is generally agreed that the "military revolution" spurred bureaucratization, and that bureaucracy in turn caused social and cultural change. This essay examines the links between military reform, administrative development, and cultural change in the Muscovite context. It argues that the "Europeanizing" military reforms of the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century indeed had a significant impact on both Russian government and culture, at least among the service elite. In the era of Ivan III (1462-1505), the Muscovite court was a moderately-sized gathering of unlettered warriors who, together with a small group of scribes, managed a considerable principality in northeastern Rus'. A bit more than a century later the court was a much more complex entity comprising a well-stratified political elite, a system of functionally differentiated chancelleries, and a large network of gunpowder military forces. Behind this transformation were successive waves of military reform, waves which brought with them well-elaborated literate administration. The coming of literate administration to the governing class-the court elite, chancellery personnel, and higher gentry-had four effects: integration on an imperial level; increased status and functional differentiation; a slow movement from mechanical to organic solidarity; and, finally, the impersonalization of social identity.

Affiliations: 1: Columbia University


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