More Than an Overcoat

In Gogol’s Overcoat, the reader is overcome with a great sense of pity for Akaky. He’s a sad man – not just because of his relative linguistic incompetency or his inability to perform tasks that extend beyond a simple copy job but because all of his peers see him as utterly beneath them. He is unfit of any type of respect. They can torment him without any sort of recognition for the important tasks he can complete without fail.… Read the rest here

Female Rule – Western Europe vs. Russia

Catherine the Great ‘s fame derives from her leadership and rule of Russia during eighteenth-century Russia. Like all autocrats during the time, she received criticism from countless different sources. However, Brenda Meehan-Waters argues that criticisms of Catherine differ along the lines of the sources’ areas of origin. In particular, Meehan-Waters suggests that Western European and Russian writers differ in that “Russian writers viewed her more positively and displayed much less agitation over the female issue. Catherine is desexualized to the extent that she is treaded as an individual rather than as a women.”1

Meehan-Waters examines the writings from the period of Catherine the Great’s reign.… Read the rest here

Changing Areas of Focus

Throughout this semester law codes help show the changes occurring throughout Russian history. Written under the rule of Aleksei the Ulozehnie of 1649 differs greatly from previous law codes such as the Sudebnik of 1497. The Ulozehnie is organized into sections like previous law codes; however, the order of the articles reveals important shifts in the structure of the Russian state. Article I of the Ulozehnie protects the dignity and sanctity of the Russian Orthodox Church.… Read the rest here

Domostroi, Ch. 24-38

Chapters 24-37 of the Domostroi deal with how the people of the household should live their lives. Men of their household must live a christian lifestyle and treat all of their responsibilities with care. If a man is not able to help those in need or commits crimes against the state, he will bring, “… his soul to destruction and his house to disgrace.”1 Rulers must be fair to their people and not be selfish in all of their decisions they makes.… Read the rest here

Maniacal or Misunderstood?

No one likes to be misunderstood; however, sometimes we cannot control how people perceive our actions. The two short readings on Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) present two contrasting narratives about his character and manner of rule. The first document is the account of Heinrich von Staden – a foreigner who served Ivan IV. The account describes Ivan’s seemingly unrelenting and unrestrained violence. He sacked prosperous cities, burned and looted churches, let his henchmen run wild, and killed countless kin.… Read the rest here

Mongol Cultural Influence

Perhaps this will be an overly and overtly charged blog; however, the two readings from Reinterpreting Russian History: Reading 860s-1860s present an excellent example of how historians can use the same sources but generate two very different narratives. In his article, “Interpreting the Mongol Yoke: The Ideology of Silence” Charles Halperin examines the variety of influences that the Mongol empire had on Russian society: its culture, politics, and economy. He challenges the popular notion that Mongol control only resulted in negative impacts on Russian culture.… Read the rest here

Habitual Violence

In the article “States of Exception”, the authors Mark Edele and Michael Geyer examine the extraordinary and unique violence that occurred on the Eastern front, the conflict between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The authors assert that the relationship between the two states produced the violence, and it’s escalation. They argue that “the devastating nature of this war, [they] suggest, is the consequence of the inimical interrelationship of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union”1. … Read the rest here

Habitual Terror

The In Sheila Fitzpatrick’s book Everyday Stalinism; Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, the chapter “A Time of Troubles” analyzes the nature and evolution of the Great Purges of 1937-1938. She introduces the notions of surveillance, when the State monitors its population, and terror, when the population are the target of extreme State violence, and tracks their relationship in the Soviet Union1 . She writes about how State violence, originally aimed at specific classes, eventually turned inward and escalated due to paranoia and publicity.… Read the rest here

Creating a Modern Public

In the fifth chapter of Three New Deals titled “Public Works,” Wolfgang Schivelbusch compares the motivations for and the goals of the large public projects carried out by Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the United States during the 1930s. Schivelbusch argues that each country’s project responded developments within the Soviet Union, their shared competitor1Although Italy’s drainage of the Pontine Marshes, German’s construction of the autobahn, and the United States’ construction of dams and power plants through the Tennessee Valley Authority Act uniquely reflected each country’s unique social context and needs, all of the projects reflected the modern theme of promoting individualism through collectivism. Read the rest here

A Fluctuating State

I used to think of Fascist regimes as strict and highly consistent. However, Christopher Leeds’ article, “The Fascist State” describes the vast changes that occurred within the Fascist party during its time in power. The party’s lack of concrete political ideologies granted it the flexibility to react to economic, social, and political developments throughout the decades.

The Fascist party, led by Mussolini, could implement policies even if they seemed useless or superfluous. I particularly enjoyed the example of the party’s incentives to increase the Italian population and the exchange between Emil Ludwig, the German writer and reporter, and Mussolini.… Read the rest here