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Europe in the Russian Mirror: Four Lectures in Economic by Alexander Gershenkron

By Alexander Gershenkron

First released in 1970, Professor Gerschenkron's subject matter is the contribution which the examine of Russian monetary historical past could make to the issues that have preoccupied Western historians. He first considers the best way the case of the previous Believers in Russia, who refused to aid the authentic church yet performed a massive entrepreneurial position in nineteenth-century monetary improvement, bears upon Max Weber's celebrated thesis at the kin among the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. during his dialogue, Professor Gerschenkron offers vital details at the doctrinal ideals of this staff, their social prestige and the level to which they have been persecuted and discriminated opposed to by means of the country. His end is that the persecution definitely afforded enough impulse to interact in ecocnomic actions and to boost the characteristics Weber regarded as particular good points of the 'capitalist' spirit.

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28 The founders of the 'dynasties' were mostly men of humble peasant origin. It is not clear how many of them had been serfs of the estate owners [pomeshchiki] or came from the ranks of the State or Imperial peasantry. It is clear, however, that all three categories were well represented. It appears that in many cases they began in trade, and particularly grain trade, including flour trade. In the far-flung regions along the Volga flour mills and saw mills, first driven by water and then by steam, were established, resulting in the 'milling empires' in the hands of the Old Believers.

It is not for nothing that along with the name of Old Believers [starovery] there was also the name of 'Old Ritualists' [staroobryadtsy] attached to the adherents of the movement. And yet, it was the members of such a group who displayed impressive entrepreneurial talents and engaged with great success in entrepreneurial activities on a large scale and over a wide range. The worshippers of religious immobility, the fanatical enemies of ecclesiastic reforms, the irrational adherents to letter and gesture appear as energetic modernizers in their very rational economic pursuits.

In its defensive reaction against intolerance, the group builds up a feeling of moral superiority to the outsider and then proceeds to bolster that feeling by developing habits that both evidence and vindicate it. Hence came the features of cleanliness, honesty, reliability, frugality, industry and thrift that were so generally observed to characterize the Old Believers. In the same connection 34 must be mentioned the greater literacy of the group. This is paradoxical, because in a sense ignorance and illiteracy of the Old Believers is usually seen as having lain at the basis of the Schism.

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