Cold Truths: The Failed Decembrist Revolution

The Decembrist movement, named after the month of the failed revolution, was a movement championed by military men of higher standing from educated backgrounds.  The leaders of the movement were officers who couched their positions in the military amidst assumed political responsibility derived from positions in secret societies.  The “Northern Society,” responsible for the formation in the Senate Square in St. Petersburg, kept the rank and file men supporting them unaware of the purpose for their insurrection. … Read the rest here

Father of the Fatherland: A Modern Tsar

The concept of a “reforming tsar” as a secular and progressive position is interesting, given the long history Russian rulership has with the Orthodox Church.  Indeed, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century the tsar was a far cry from the parallel monarchs of Western Europe. He was assumed to be a protector of the lower “castes,” and, bound in such a role, was unable to provide the domineering influence necessary of a true autocratic ruler to provide guidance.… Read the rest here

Pagans and Patriarchs: Russian Orthodoxy and the Mongols in the Thirteenth Century

The Mongol tide that swept much of the civilized world in the thirteenth century played an integral role in shaping the history of Asia and Central Europe, and few nations maintain as strong a legacy to this day as Russia. During its history under the rule of the Rus princes, the Orthodox Church was a mainstay institution of society, but it truly flourished under the Mongols. Protection from tax collectors, land redistribution, and the ability to pass judgement on any crimes in their holdings gave the Church a next-to unheard of degree of political influence and flexibility.… Read the rest here

Salvation and Liquidation: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Perception in the Soviet Union was one of the most critical concerns of the government, from identifying “kulaks,” real or imagined, to outing prisoners-of-war turned German spies, and the legions of orphaned vagrants in the streets were no exception.  The prospect of orphaned children in the public eye created a challenge to the effort to portray the Soviet Union as an idyllic society free of the capitalist-based sins of the West.  Eventually, however, children were subjected to the same “work or starve” ethic that their elders found themselves placed under, and the focus of rescuing wayward children became an initiative to build socialism rather than add any particular meaningful happiness to their lives.  … Read the rest here

The Factory of Man Himself

With the reshaping of a nation into something never before seen on earth, Russia in the early twentieth century was asking its people to become something utterly unique. The Russian people were tasked with transforming their nation into the world’s largest communist state, and that task came with the responsibility of becoming citizens capable of making fundamental changes to their lives to allow the system to prosper.  With a population of a quarter million growing over the span of three years, the development and growth of Magnitostroi was dependent on the wrangling of vocational school graduates, urbanites, even decommissioned military regiments.… Read the rest here

Blood and Iron: Gastev’s Socialist Message

Aleksei Gastev takes values of strength and perseverance to new heights with his factory-oriented socialist poem, We Grow Out of Iron.” A laborer himself, Gastev knew full well the hardships found on the factory floor, and took advantage of his experiences to maximize the relatability of his poetic works. Drawing on the iron aesthetic of the workspace, Gastev’s verses support the rhythm of the piece exactly as the cross-beams he references support the factory. Between the beam’s demands for greater strength and the pouring iron blood of the workers, Gastev makes it clear that there is no strength without sacrifice.… Read the rest here

The Cultural Revival of Old Russia

The discussion of Russian popular culture and art in the early twentieth century is one heavily characterized by innovation, novelty, and experimentation. With the expansion of free speech seen in the advent of hundreds of newspapers and magazines, including the still famous Pravda, so too expanded the artistic venues by which painters, poets, composers, and actors plied their craft. In the closing years of the nineteenth century the Symbolists reigned supreme in Russian arts. Very much representative of traditional Russian culture, Symbolists followed a very hierarchal view of creative works, holding the artist as a “high priest,” affording him the right of interpretation and the ability to dictate the meaning and value of a work to the masses.… Read the rest here