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Russia and Ukraine: The Difference that Peter I Made

Description: CIUS Seminar Audio Part 1 and 2. Part 1 Audio begins at 3:35.

In his presentation, "Russia and Ukraine: The Difference that Peter I Made," Dr. O. Subtelny, Associate Professor, Department of History, Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, argued that the state, as an institution, does not provide a useful framework for analyzing Ukrainian-Russian relations (or relations between Cossack Ukraine and Moscovite tsardom) prior to the period of Peter I for two reasons:

(1) the two basic pillars of the early modern state - a standing army and a full-fledged bureaucracy - were non-existent in the Hetmanate, and only began to evolve in seventeenth century Muscovy; and (2) the basic functions of the absolutist state - coordination, coercion, and extraction of wealth - were inoperative in the tsars' relations with the Hetmanate.

If the institutions of the state did not bind the two lands together, what did? The only other means by which two very different lands could be linked in early modern Europe was some form of vassalage. The Treaty of Pereiaslav established a modified form of vassal relationship between the Zaporozhian Host and the Muscovite tsar. The point of these modifications was that they allowed the tsar to preserve the forms of Muscovite autocracy (his refusal to swear an oath to his new subjects), while it gave the Ukrainians the terms which all vassals could expect of their new sovereign (non-interference in internal affairs, etc.).

The significance of Peter I's innovations was that they abolished an essentially personal relationship between the Ukrainians and the tsar and created the institutions which could encompass both Ukrainians and Russians in one common state. It was no longer a common monarchy but a common state which linked Ukrainians and Russians: all the innovations which Peter I introduced in Ukraine fit neatly into the basic functions of statehood. Only after Peter I's changes were implemented did the tsar have the capacity to pursue coordinative, coercive, and extractive policies in Ukraine.

Found in CIUS Newsletter Vol 3 Issue 1 (Winter 1978)
Author: CIUS
Publisher: CIUS
Date: October 30, 1978
Contributor: Orest Subtelny
Language: English, Ukrainian
Original Format: Magnetic tape, audio cassette





CIUS, “Russia and Ukraine: The Difference that Peter I Made,” CIUS-Archives, accessed May 30, 2024,
Unless otherwise noted, this work is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license .