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

The Catechism of the Revolutionary

The Cathechism of the Revolutionary seems to be contradictory. The prevalent theme is that the primary and single motivator behind all decisions is the consideration of how said decision will benefit or harm the revolution. Any action that will benefit the revolution must be undertaken immediately, regardless of any personal conflicts or entanglements and, likewise, any action or person who could harm the revolution must be destroyed. While the idea that the revolution stands above all else remains constant throughout, there are discrepancies in the teaching that the entire modern world must be hated in order to appropriately embrace a new world embodied by happiness and peace.… Read the rest here

Grievances and Demands of the Revolutionaries

The “Program of the Narodnaia Volia” in 1879 early on declared that the implementation of socialist principles is the purpose behind their disapproval of the government and subsequent assassination of Tsar Alexander II. They view their socialist principles as the most progressive way to maintain and establish  welfare for the people. Their overall grievances revolve around the autocracy of the government where people do not have expression, and in fact are so enslaved and repressed that they don’t recognize that there is another option.… 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

Russia as a Multi-Ethnic Empire

In the latter half of the nineteenth century,  Russia experienced a massive shift in population in a number of ways.  From ethnicity, to occupation, Russia became more modern than it had ever been before.

Kaeppler talk about the expansiveness of Russia’s ethnicity.  The vast array of backgrounds was established by the 1897 Russian Empire census, the only official one they had ever taken at that time.  In the census, it was revealed that the Russian ethnicity/ nationality made up only 44.3% of the entire Empire.  … Read the rest here

The Emancipation Manifesto, 1861

The Emancipation Manifesto of March 3, 1861 released serfs from their serfdom. However, this improvement of the peasant condition was emphasized as gradual, leading to the establishment of many temporary measures and statuses to ensure the process of serfdom abolishment went smoothly. For example, the peasants were still required to fulfill obligations to the nobles, so much so that they were “temporarily bound” to their nobles, which hardly seems different from their situation previously. Language regarding the nobility was extremely courteous, praising the nobility for their generous hearts in voluntarily renouncing serfdom, implying that the renouncement may not have been as “voluntary” as it was portrayed to be.… Read the rest here

Russian Serfdom and American Slavery

While the two systems of human bondage appear significantly different, they are more similar that most realize.  At the basis for both systems was the shortage of labor.  For the Russian system, this was less prominent until the Mongol period.  Mongolian conquest, Mongolian centralization of the state, and plague  caused population shifts, forcing the nobility to largely abandon the indentured servitude systems that had been used for centuries, replacing it with serfdom, where the workers tied to land, rather than an individual.  … 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

Slavery and Serfdom

Both slavery and serfdom developed as a means of labor for agricultural cultivation; however, as time progressed the status of those slaves and serfs became more property oriented with less societal mobility and less of exclusively a labor force (both growing in force as the years went on). The differences stem from how the institutions were created: tied to their “masters” or to the land. Because the serfs were tied to the land their individual liberties declined as the Russian state centralized- more power was given to the tsars who in turn attempted to add loyalties by giving land that contained serfs to nobles (whose power continued to grow over time, so their control of the serfs also broadened).… Read the rest here

Gogol’s “The Overcoat”

In “The Overcoat”, Gogol ridicules Russia’s ranking system and the emphasis placed on being a “significant person” in society. The flaws in this, system which is based in superficiality and vanity, are most readily evident in Akaky Akakiyevich’s attempts to report the theft of his greatcoat. He begins his efforts with a policeman, who failed to witness the crime even though it happened right in front of him. Akaky then implores the assistance of the next highest level of authority, the district superintendent.… Read the rest here