CREES Noon Lecture. “Constructing the Enlightened Metropolis: Modernity and Backwardness in Moscow, 1762-1855.”
It is a cliché that tsarist Russia had two rival capitals: St. Petersburg, Russia’s “window to Europe,” and Moscow, the tradition-bound metropolis of the Orthodox heartland. In fact, Europeans and many Russians scorned Moscow as part of Asia, and the tsars themselves thought it a benighted place that endangered their political security and their effort to Westernize their country. As a result, beginning with Catherine the Great, the tsars sought to remake Moscow on the model of St. Petersburg. How was the urban environment transformed in the century that followed? How did these changes affect the lives of the inhabitants? Did Moscow’s modernization resemble that of Western cities? Lastly, how was Moscow’s modernization interpreted by social commentators in Russia and the West from the Enlightenment to the mid-19th century?
Alexander Martin’s research focuses on Imperial Russia between the mid-18th and late 19th century. In Romantics, Reformers, Reactionaries: Russian Conservative Thought and Politics in the Reign of Alexander I (1997) he examined the genesis of modern Russian conservatism in the era of the Napoleonic Wars. Martin’s current book, Enlightened Metropolis: Constructing Imperial Moscow, 1762-1855 (forthcoming in 2012), examines the transformation of Moscow into a modern city from the perspective of social history, intellectual history, and the development of urban planning and institutions. His next project, tentatively titled Seeking a New Life in an Age of Revolution: A German-Russian Odyssey, 1768-1870, is an examination of the history of Germany and Russia through the lens of the experience of one German emigrant family.
Alexander Martin, associate professor of history, University of Notre Dame