When considering pivotal years in Russian history, one naturally thinks of 1861 (the Serf Emancipation), the 1905 Revolution, or the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Dr. Paul Werth’s 1837: Russia's Quiet Revolution (Oxford UP, 2021), invites us to reconsider that list of revolutionary years. Werth’s wide-ranging discussion analyzes such subjects as Pushkin’s death and Petr Chadaaev’s criticism of Russia’s past, to the Khiva campaign in which the Russian’s learned all they ever wanted to know about camels, but were afraid to ask. By the end of this engaging narrative, the reader comes to realize that post-1837 Russia was clearly on track (literally, in the case of the new railways) to become a different sort of place than it had been before. The era of Nicholas I has, with some justification, been portrayed as a stagnant, stultifying period. Werth’s book, however, demonstrates that the events of 1837, from the heir’s cross-country trip to the burning of the Winter Palace, did in fact add up to a “Quiet Revolution.”

Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western, in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.

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