Poets appeared in Russia in the eighteenth century. They wore officers’ uniforms and mostly wrote odes for the accession of German empresses onto the Russian throne. In a country where life was lived according to the wartime principle of unity of command, everyone including poets served the government, which was personified by the autocracy. But everything changed with Pushkin. Born in a country where serfdom was only the formal expression of a deep internal psychological slavery, he achieved the most important Russian coup, the greatest Russian revolution: in opposition to the pyramid of power, at the head of which the Czar administers the fates of individuals and nations, he created an alternative pyramid, at the head of which stood the poet. The juxtaposition of the czar and the holy fool—the old divided paradigm of authority—was exchanged for the juxtaposition of the czar and the poet.
Minor quibble: I think rhetorical effectiveness seduced him into writing “The point of Peter’s reforms was to obtain military technology from the West in order to do battle against that very same West”; Peter didn’t want to do battle against the West, he wanted to do battle against the Swedes and Turks, and he genuinely admired the West (which, for him, principally meant the Dutch). Thanks, Paul!