A Look into Peasant Life in Tsarist Russia

After reading Village Life in Tsarist Russia by Olga Semyonova Tian-Shanskaia and edited by David L. Ransel, one has gains new insight into what the world of a peasant in tsarist times looked like.  For instance, as they lived in the countryside and were not a part of urban society, their views on religion were much different than citizens living in cities.  While in the city, people were practiced Russian Orthodoxy quite strictly; however, in the countryside, peasants did not receive formal education when it came to religion, and this led to an odd mixture of paganism and Orthodoxy.  … Read the rest here

Looking at Literacy in a Multi-Ethnic Russian Empire

While Kappeller discusses several different aspects of ethnicity in the nineteenth century in the eighth chapter of The Russian Ethnic Empire, the portion discussing the growth of literacy most definitely stands out.  When discussing literacy, Kappeller first explains that the censuses taken in the latter half of the century, he notes that literacy was defined by reading, but not necessarily writing.  Additionally, only the ability to read and write Russian was recorded, making literacy rates among certain ethnic populations lower.  … Read the rest here

Russian Serfdom

When first coming to the understanding of serfdom in Russia, many draw comparison to slavery in the Americas; however, there are subtle differences between these two institutions.  Although both were instilled for agricultural labor, slavery had always set humans as the property of their owners.  Serfdom, on the other hand, tied serfs to the land, which in turn tied them to the owners of that land, be them nobles, the church, or the tsar, himself.  Slaves were never permitted to leave their masters unless they had been granted freedom, as they were physical property.  … Read the rest here

Nicholas and the Decembrists

At the very beginning of his reign, Nicholas I faced rebellion as his succession to the throne was called into question.  3,000 members of the Russian military stood against the state on the date which subjects were to pledge fielty to the new emperor.

As Alexander I had no heirs before his sudden death, the next logical successor was his brother Constantine.  Constantine was favored by Russian subjects as they viewed him to be more liberalized, mainly because he was living in Poland and isolated from St.… Read the rest here

Cynthia Whittaker and the Reforming Tsar

In her article “The Reforming Tsar: The Redefinition of Autocratic Duty in Eighteenth Century Russia” published in Slavic Review in 1992, Cynthia Whittaker claims that the reign of Peter the Great and his reforms led to an era of new rulers with a new mentality and aim of becoming a “reforming tsar” instead a “good tsar.”

Overall, this is a reflection of how Peter’s reign changed rule in Russia.  Firstly, the transition from “good tsar” to “reforming tsar” marks how Peter transitioned Russia from a medieval era to a modern one.  … Read the rest here

Домострой, глав 39-49. (Domostroi, chapters 39-49.)

In this section of The Domostroi, the author instructs the aristocratic Russian man on how to maintain stores for the household.  It is made clear that one should only rarely have to go to the market to buy certain things (like fish, timber, or imported goods like beaver or squirrel skin); however, many items of foods, grains, or beverages should be maintained by one’s own estate.  A Russian man who is “farsighted” is one who thinks of the future and is able to have stores that would supply food/drink for his household for a year, and be able to supply the correct type of food during a fast.  … Read the rest here

Questions on Ivan Groznyi

After reading the first-hand account of Heinrich von Staden, here are the questions I have:

  1. How often did Ivan IV ride out with the Oprichniki?
  2. Why did he allow for the burning of churches if he was a holy man?
  3. Why were all the places he slept all burned afterward?
  4. On pg. 153 it mentions “Aleksei [Basmanov] and his own son [Fedor], with whom the Grand Prince indulged in lewdness were killed.”  What exactly does von Staden mean by “lewdness?”  Was he implying that Ivan IV was bisexual?
Read the rest here

Halperin, Sakharov, and Silence

There is debate among scholars about the quality and quantity of change the Mongols imposed on society in the Rus’.  Much of this has to do with the ideology of Silence, in this context meaning the general notion of omitting any positive achievements the Mongols brought to the Rus’ from historical documentation.  Historians Charles Halperin and A. M. Sakharov are good examples of both sides of the Mongol argument.

Even in the development of their arguments, one can see differences form from the way both writers view the subject.  … Read the rest here

The Start of Moscow’s Rise

The documents ascertaining to different regions of Rus’ in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries depict rather well how power was viewed and exacted.  The most important thing to note is since the different regions of Rus’ were ruled differently, the expansion eastward and away from Kiev is logical.

Firstly, we can tell how the mentality of the Northwest, Southwest, and Northeast parts of the Rus’ were different in the types of the documents given.  The document for Northwest Rus’ is a treaty between boyars and the prince.  … Read the rest here

The Iaroslav Statutes: an Expansion on the Law

While some articles from The Statute of Grand Prince Iaroslav carries over from the Pravdaya Russkaya (such as the prohibition of cutting another’s beard, stealing, and arson), there are several notable differences between the two sets of law. On the part of the Iaroslav Statutes, there is quite the inclusion of new laws. These new statutes predominantly fall under the relations between the men and women of the Rus’, with conspicuous ties to the Bible. In the first article, Iaroslav himself even notes he and his officials looked over the Greek Nomocanon in the making of these laws (KM, pg.… Read the rest here