In 1730 the gentry set out to emancipate themselves from the servitude placed upon them by Peter. By 1762 the nobles no longer needed to serve at all unless they wished to do so; simultaneously, the authority of noble proprietors over their serfs was increased.
The former became the government’s agents for collecting the poll tax; the latter could no longer obtain their freedom by enlisting in the army and could not engage in trade or purchase land without written permission from their masters.
To understand the revolutionary nature of the liberation of the nobles from the duty to give military service, one must remember that they had historically obtained their lands and serfs only on condition that they would serve. Now they could keep their lands and serfs with no obligations. Yet the service that had been hated when it was compulsory became fashionable when it was optional. There was really little else for a Russian noble to do except serve the state and to tighten controls over the serfs.
In these middle decades of the eighteenth century, successive waves of foreign influence affected the Russian nobility. German influence gave way to French, and with the French language came French literature.
French styles of dress were copied by both men and women, and some gentlemen claimed that it would be impossible to fall in love with a woman who did not speak French. Quite literally, nobles and peasants no longer spoke the same language.