Studying Peasant Life in the Late 19th Century

Shanskaia’s Village Life in Late Tsarist Russia, an ethnographic study of peasant life in the late 19th century. Yesterday, we discussed some of the book’s major themes, namely, gender, marriage, and childhood.

Here, I want to focus on religion. Semyonova writes, “Among the mass of peasants, there is nothing mystical about their relationship to the tsar or to God, just as there is nothing mystical about their idea of an afterlife. They simply give no thought to an afterlife, just as they give no thought to the coming year.… Read the rest here

What Makes a Revolutionary?

For Friday’s class, we’re reading “The Catechism of the Revolutionary (1868)” and the “Demands of the Narodnaia Volia.” The “Catechism,” written by Bakunin and Nechaev, describes a Russian Revolutionary: how he should act; what he should value; how she should treat others, etc. This document defines a “Comrade” as someone who is irrevocably committed to the cause. He has no external connections or motives other than causing a complete destruction of the current social political order, and he full-on recognizes that he will probably die in this process.… Read the rest here

Russian Serfdom and American Slavery

As an American Studies major, I found Peter Kolchin’s The Origin and Consolidation of Unfree Labor to be absolutely fascinating. Kolchin’s purpose in the introduction we read is to delineate the similarities and differences between the causes and realities of Russian serfdom and American slavery. Kolchin begins by detailing the origins of Russian serfdom. Serfs originally had freedom to move around the country; however, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century this right was restricted and eventually abolished because serf migration caused too much disruption and therefore decreased the amount of agricultural labor being performed.… Read the rest here

Document Analysis 2 Review

The document analysis we read merits an A grade because of its clear and sophisticated thesis, organized paragraphs, and useful corporation of evidence. The thesis, “Peter the Great and Catherine the Great stratified and expanded governmental roles in order to strengthen Russia’s international presence and to pacify conflict within and regulate the daily lives of the nobility and townspeople,” is specific and clear. While this thesis does answer the prompt, it focuses on one particular aspect of the readings: the stratification and ranking of Russian citizens.Read the rest here

The Code of Law of 1649

The Ulozhenie, or the Code of Law of 1649, illuminates the immense strength of the Russian government at this time. We read the first several chapters, on blasphemy and improper behavior in church; respect for the Sovereign; forging documents; forging money; and travel to other countries. Each section describes violent and physical punishments for people who fight or disagree in church or who plot against the Sovereign. These laws show not only a regimented society, but also a strong and organized one.… Read the rest here

Daily Life and Culture in Post-Kievan Rus’

Although many aspects of daily life in Post-Kievan Rus’, both during the Mongol invasion and directly after, have been lost in the intervening centuries, scholars have been able to determine several valuable insights into Post-Kievan culture. Literacy was not widespread at all during this time period–even some princes were illiterate. However, “birchbark charters” c. 1220 show us that some non-royal children did learn the alphabet and to write their names. Furthermore, the Mongols, through their violent occupation, destroyed buildings and left little market for artists to sell their goods.… Read the rest here

Debates over the Effects of the Mongol Invasion

Halperin’s and Sakharov’s articles offer different historical intepretations of the reception and effects of the Mongol invasion in Rus’. Halperin argues that, contrary to teachings perpetuated by the Church, the Rus adapted many aspects of Mongolian life which advanced Rus’ society. For instance, during the Mongol occupation, Rus’ society learned to use the Mongols’ efficient military structure and postal service. The Mongols also “rerouted the fur trade to extract greater revenue” (Halperin 106) for Rus’, thus assisting the culture they had conquered.… Read the rest here

The “Ideal Christian,” according to Feodosii

The Life of St. Theodosius teaches us that the Russian Orthodox Church had nearly impossible standards for the “Ideal Christian.” According to the Chronicles, St. Theodosius–also known as Feodosii–was a child whose love for God led him to withstand a life of social exclusion and horrible abuse from his mother. Feodosii’s mother continuously bought him nice clothes, but he always gave them away to the poor, preferring not to exhibit his own wealth in order to be closer to God.… Read the rest here