Catherine’s conceptions of state and subject

Her reforms were progressive in the sense that they moved Russia towards modernization and brought the state in line with Western concepts of the relationship between a government and its subjects. One theme present throughout Catherine the Great’s reforms is an attempt to balance state powers and individual liberties. The Statute on Provincial Administration states that “the personal security of each loyal subject is quite precious to the Monarch’s philanthropic heart,”  and the establishment of an ordered, hierarchical bureaucracy within the provinces is one way to enforce order and protect personal security among and of the subjects.… Read the rest here

Peter the Great’s top-down reforms

Peter the Great sought to create a nuanced hierarchy of the Russian population. This goal is evident in his system of ranks and orders, which outlines military grades and created a new basis for determining social status. The system represents Peter’s efforts for top-down modernization of his population: he believed that by catering to the needs of the elite classes and bringing them up to pace with Western Europe, he would create a class of leaders that would then bring change to the common and peasant classes.… Read the rest here

Domostroi 12-23

Chapters 12-23 of the Domostroi emphasize the importance of piety at all levels of society, from national politics to household affairs. Chapters 12 – 17 focus on the role of religion in the home and the importance of religious education for children. The man is the spiritual guide of his family, and he is expected to lead evening vespers and morning prayer for his wife, children, and servants. Men must go to church every day, and women and servants ought to attend services whenever they have relief from their domestic duties (Chapter 12).… Read the rest here

The Psychology of Ivan IV

As a young child, Ivan IV was a victim of the same caprice and cruelty that would later characterize his own reign. After his mother’s “haughty and arbitrary” 1)  regime, the young Ivan lived under chaotic boyar rule where “imprisonments, exiles, executions, and murders proliferated.”2  The boyars who had served Ivan as an autocrat while his mother was alive became neglectful and cruel of the young heir in his private life. Ivan seized his rule at age 13 and insisted that he be crowned as tsar (rather than Grand Prince) at age 16.… Read the rest here

The Novgorod Judicial Charter and the Sudbnik

Comparing the Novgorod Judicial Charter and the Susbnik of 1497 tells us a great deal about the evolution of judicial procedures after the arrival of Ivan III. The most drastic change that the Subdnik brought was the introduction of investigations into criminal proceedings. The judicial practices outlined in the Novgorod charter follow three steps: a plaintiff levels a charge, the judge issues a decision, and the defendant is punished or exonerated for wrongdoing. The charter placed restrictions on who could serve as a witness (slaves, for instance, could only act as witnesses in cases where other slaves were being tried) and the court proceedings were threaded with religious rites and rituals.… Read the rest here

The Mongols and Russian Progress

What struck me in tonight’s reading was the Mongols responsibility for effectively severing Russia’s historical and cultural ties to the West. We can only place so much stock in historians’ projections for what could have been, as Riasanovsky and Steinberg write, “it has been suggested that, but for the Mongols, Russia might well have participated in such epochal European developments as the Renaissance and the Reformation.”1  The Mongols imposed exacting financial punishments on the Russians, divesting an already poor society assets and property.… Read the rest here

A very late post.

A few weeks ago, I attended the Dickinson College orchestra performance to hear their rendition of Stravinsky’s Firebird. Not having the most discerning ear for classical music (or rather, having no discerning ear for classical music) I expected the pieces in the line up to bleed together. And, as I expected, the first few did (Sorry to Qualls and Caitlin, and any other sophisticated music-phile or performer out there). However, firebird stuck out to me because it conveyed a different tone and seemed to have a different purpose.… Read the rest here

US-Russian relations

Dr. Angela Stendt’s lecture on the prospects of US-Russian relations during the second Obama term presented valuable viewpoints on an important contemporary issue. To me, one of the most interesting aspects of her presentation was her discussion of Russian respect for state sovereignty.

                Since the 19th century, the US has built an image as the policeman of the world. US intervention in foreign affairs is a contentious yet recurring issue, and often begs the question of whether or not one nation has the right to interfere in the actions of a legitimate sovereign state.… Read the rest here

The Arts and the Cold War

This post is going to veer pretty far from our course material (and jump ahead into the Cold War). Nonetheless, the Soviet Union has been popping up a fair amount in another course I’m taking this semester called Transnational America. It’s my first course in the American Studies department, and it examines how US culture has been formed by our interactions with foreign peoples at home and abroad. We’ve just done a series of readings about American attempts to win over citizens in countries in Africa and the Middle East from Soviet influence, and I’m realizing that some aspects of American culture can be seen as a reaction to the Soviet arts.… Read the rest here

Nicholas and Alexandra

When I came home for spring break, my mom welcomed me with a good dinner, homemade brownies, and a copy of the 1971 Oscar-winning film Nicholas and Alexandra. Based on Robert K. Massie’s book of the same name, this film chronicles the story of the last Tsar and his family from the birth of their son Alexi until their execution in 1918. My mom said the book and the movie were among her favorites when she was a kid, and she has an interest in Russian history that she has been satisfying by living vicariously through me over the course of the semester.… Read the rest here