The Emancipation of Russian Serfs

Alexander II issued a document of emancipation for the Russian serfs in 1861.  In it, he stipulates that the nobility agreed, for the benefit of their country, to release the serfs from their status at the end of a two year reconstruction period.  After serfdom is abolished, the nobles are required to give their former serfs land so that they may continue to earn a living.

This document echoed the Enlightenment principles of the former reformist monarchs.… Read the rest here

The Overcoat

I think that Gogol is using this story to critique the flaws of the bureaucratic society that was created with the Table of Ranks.  Akaky is so involved in his government work that he has no time to experience life and in unable to do so because of the financial hindrances of his job.  That Gogol makes a point of discussing how Akaky was born for the job he has and remaining stagnant despite others movement seems to critique the harshness of legalized social status and emphasize the trap that is civil service.  … Read the rest here

Document Analysis Paper

The introduction of this paper sets up a complex analysis of the primary documents because it links the documents through change over time between the two rulers.  The thesis statement is clear and direct, summarizing the most important aspects of the documents as a whole.

The topic sentences of each body paragraph are also easily identifiable and have the ability to be discussed from multiple viewpoints.  Within the paragraphs, the author uses specific aspect of each document to illustrate the point of the topic sentence. … Read the rest here

18th Century Serfdom

Something that stood out to me in this chapter was the quote by Sumner at the beginning of the reading.  He states that serfdom lasted longer in Russia than in the West because “humanitarian and other ideas of the value of the individual spirit were little developed.”  It is strange to attempt to reconcile that fact that Catherine the Great set up a Noble Wardship and a Bureau of Public Welfare for the peasants but that she was also the monarch responsible for entrenching serfdom the most.  … Read the rest here

Domostroi (Chapters 1-18)

The Domostroi represents the many facets of life for the “fortunate few” in Muscovy’s social hierarchy.  Those living under this social system were subjected to strict and detailed standards of behavior and expectations.  We have determined that at the crux of this system was a “culture of fear” that was responsible for ensuring proper social conduct.  This means that this group of people followed the Domostroi‘s guidelines not because it was necessarily beneficial but because they were motivated by fear of consequences.  … Read the rest here

State-Building in Post-Kievan Rus’

These readings illustrate the diverging types of states that developed after the fall of Kiev, and geography is a main factor in the separation of different governments.  Novgorod and the north attempted to establish restrictions to princely power and set up a system of elections and assemblies to limit the influence of the elites.  In the southwest, the elites had more power than the prince, who was subject to the will of the boyars.  Finally, in Moscow and the northeast, princely power grew and became more entrenched as land rights were transformed into personal property.  … Read the rest here

On the Kievan Economy

The nature of the economy in the Kievan state reflected the geographical diversity of the region.  Indeed, some of the sources on the economy are derived from the commentary of outsiders, such as the Byzantine Constantine Porphyrogenitus, reflecting the wide space of influence exerted by the merchant-prince of Kiev.  The foundation of the trade system was tribute, which moved furs, wax, honey, and slaves throughout the state from north to south.  Tribute, besides being an effective means of gathering money and subordinating rival merchants, reflected the importance of trade because it was designed to protect Kiev’s commercial interests from rivals.  … Read the rest here

Russian Ark

I watched Russian Ark this week.  I might preface by saying that I was a little confused by this movie, not only because of the artistic license  but also because, having no real knowledge of what early Russian figures looked like, I had no idea who some of the people were until I looked it up online.

In any case, I was very impressed by this movie.  It clearly required so much painstaking choreography to film this movie in a single shot.  … Read the rest here


On Saturday I went to see the Dickinson Orchestra’s performance of Augural Years in Music.  The pieces from Stravinsky’s The Firebird particularly stood out from the rest of the performance because of the tone and feeling that I associated them with.  At first, it honestly reminded me of the waltz from the Godfather, low, dark and haunting, the kind of thing my father said he would play to scare all the non-Italians at my wedding, but I digress.  … Read the rest here

Russian Civil Liberties and Social Uncertainty

I thought that Angela Stent’s brief mention of the reaction to Putin’s reset in her US-Russian relations talk this evening was interesting because of the contradiction set up between class and civil rights.  She said that the urban middle class believed that the Duma election was rigged and that they had no say in the matter.  She then went on to say that the thing the US has the most in common with Russia is a concern for civil rights.  … Read the rest here