The reign of Alexander I was a pivotal moment in the construction of Russia's national mythology. This work examines this crucial period focusing on the place of the Russian nobility in relation to their ruler, and the accompanying debate between reform and the status quo, between a Russia old and new, and between different visions of what Russia could become.
Drawing on extensive archival research and placing a long-neglected emphasis on this aspect of Alexander I's reign, this book is an important work for students and scholars of imperial Russia, as well as the wider Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic period in Europe.
“It has been said that 1848 was a turning point when Europe “failed to turn.” Russia reached a similar juncture under Alexander I. For a brief moment, it seemed that the Tsar, supported by a minority of progressive nobles, might free the serfs, issue a constitution, and enable Russia's successful entry into the modern age. Why this did not happen is the subject of this outstandingly researched and argued book. Weaving together noble society and culture, provincial and imperial politics, and the debates among the Russian elite, Patrick O'Meara provides a masterful interpretation of early 19th century Russia that is both stimulating to the expert and accessible to the novice.” ―Alexander Martin, Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, US“Based on extensive sources, including memoirs and local archives, this is an authoritative account which explains the role played by nobles in the Russian Empire, the flawed policies of Alexander I, and the subsequent parting of the ways between the Tsar and the educated noble elite by the end of his reign. It will become the standard work on the subject.” ―Janet Hartley, Professor of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science“A commanding work of synthesis, this volume offers a dispassionate, richly textured portrait of the Russian nobility, this amorphous, hugely diverse and layered, at once supine and self-important estate, whose historical responsibility has divided historians. O'Meara deftly surveys the territory, taking the reader into a lucid and comprehensive analysis of political culture in the age of Alexander I, while also allowing the voices of contemporaries to speak directly to us. This surely will be a lasting work of reference.” ―Professor Andreas Schonle, Head of the School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol“In this fundamental work all aspects of the history of the Russian nobility of the first quarter of the XIX century are considered. The work is based on extensive documentary material, in particular, archival documents found by the author in the central metropolitan and provincial archives. A great creative success is the author's approach to the presentation of the material: the book combines generalizing conclusions and various cases that demonstrate the diversity of the fates of the nobility.In general, we can say that the book Patrick O'Meara will be a very significant event in the history of the study of the Russian nobility.” ―Elena Marasinova, Professor at the Higher School of Economics, Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences
Patrick O'Meara is Emeritus Professor of Russian and former Master of Van Mildert College, Durham University, where he worked from 2004 to 2011. He taught in the Russian Department at Trinity College Dublin for 30 years and was elected an Honorary Fellow in 2013. He has published extensively on the political history of Alexander I's reign and on the Decembrists in particular.