Compared to the rest of Europe, Russian history is exceptionally dark and bloody. Let's look at the highlight of the 18th century, known today as "Enlightenment".
The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, and came to advance ideals such as liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state. In France, the central doctrines of les Lumières were individual liberty and religious tolerance in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. The Enlightenment was marked by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism along with increased questioning of religious orthodoxy - an attitude captured by the phrase Sapere aude, "Dare to know".
French historians traditionally place the Enlightenment between 1715, the year that Louis XIV died, and 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution. Some recent historians begin the period in the 1620s, with the start of the scientific revolution. Les philosophes (French for 'the philosophers') of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffee houses, and through printed books and pamphlets. The ideas of the Enlightenment undermined the authority of the monarchy and the Church, and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. A variety of 19th-century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, trace their intellectual heritage back to the Enlightenment.
The Age of Enlightenment was preceded by and closely associated with the scientific revolution. Earlier philosophers whose work influenced the Enlightenment included Francis Bacon, René Descartes, John Locke, and Baruch Spinoza. The major figures of the Enlightenment included Cesare Beccaria, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant. Some European rulers, including Catherine II of Russia, Joseph II of Austria and Frederick II of Prussia, tried to apply Enlightenment thought on religious and political tolerance, which became known as enlightened absolutism. Benjamin Franklin visited Europe repeatedly and contributed actively to the scientific and political debates there and brought the newest ideas back to Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson closely followed European ideas and later incorporated some of the ideals of the Enlightenment into the Declaration of Independence (1776). Others like James Madison incorporated them into the Constitution in 1787.
Where was Russia in all this time?
Since the Dark Ages, Russia had undergone a cultural stagnation. It took no part in this post-Plague advance and luxuriousness. It was simply stuck in the Dark Ages. Westernization had to wait until Tsar Peter the Great changed Russian culture and made his empire as European as the rest of Europe.
But this still proves that Russia was pretty slow on the history track. But did it have to be the case?
Would Russian history be less bloody (Nicholas I, Lenin, Stalin, to take into consideration) if Russia simply tagged along with the rest of Europe and had its Enlightenment in sync with the other nations?