Catherine the Great

Catherine’s vision was to create a better Russia through helping the people.  She recognized how vast her empire was and decided it would be better managed if divided into separate provinces.  The Statute on Provincial Administration created “a much more significant administrative presence in the provinces than been there before” ((Kaiser and Marker 242)) .  The Statue on Provincial Administration creates a more structured, organized role of power for those in charge of the provinces by clearly stating  how the provinces are to be run; for example, “Each province shall establish a criminal court”  (Kaiser and Marker 242)) .   The Statute also establishes the difference in ranks, “The vice-governor, chief of police, chairman of the criminal court, chairman of the civil court,… shall be considered to have a rank of five…” ((Kaiser and Marker 243)) .  Catherine’s organization of the provinces allows her to govern more easily while providing more organization to the provinces throughout all of Russia.

The Charter to the Town truly encapsulates how Catherine was enlightened and what she wished to do for Russia.  Catherine wanted to reform all of Russia, and The Charter to the Town does just that by “clarify[ing] the status of several social groups, to define their privileges and responsibilities to the state, and to give a formal identity to their corporate existence” (Kaiser and Marker 321)) .  Laws in the charter clearly state how “inhabitants of each town” are encouraged and expected to participate in town actives, particularly economic, creating a sense of nationality ((Kaiser and Marker 322)) .  Catherine also provides numerous rights to the working class through this charter, securing the social structure even more and bettering the lives of the townspeople.  Catherine the Great was an enlightened monarch because she reformed Russia by creating a more organized ruling system and by helping to better people’s situations in Russia.




Peter The Great

Peter the Great was a formidable leader, creating an era of heavy changes in Russia as it began to Westernize through his multiple reforms. However, the majority of his reforms tend to focus on social hierarchy and importance of having or obtaining a title for oneself. For example, the Table of Ranks “expressed new definitions of nobility and opened up new avenues of achieving it” ((Kaiser and Marker 228)) in order to suppress the boyars and other nobility from the previous years. Peter the Great desire to create different ways to either obtain nobility or move up the social ladder can be understood as a way to get rid of the old system set in place or as a way to implement western culture in Russian life through the notion of the class system.


Through the enforcement of the Table of Ranks, the chin system was set in place, a “system of rank ordering and niche assignment” ((Kaiser and Marker 232)) . This rank-ordering system created a competition within the people of Russia to try and be the closest to the tsar; the Table of Ranks made it clear how all offices were to interact with each other. Even more importantly, the Table of Ranks “indicated [the officer’s] proximity to the Emperor” (Kaiser and Marker 233). Peter the Great also created ways to give certain people positions higher up in the office, through “birth, time spent in office, or because of skills or actions valued by the Emperor” (Kaiser and Marker 234). Peter the Great’s reforms focused heavily on establishing a social hierarchy in order to continue Westernizing Russia.

How Terrible was Ivan the Terrible?

Ivan the Terrible is a very complicated ruler to label as simply “a good guy” or “a bad guy.”  Both good and overlapped throughout his life, coming up at different times, but I don’t believe one is more prominent than the other.  Even more interesting and important to remember is all of Ivan’s personal troubles while he was young and how they could have possibly affected his future as Tsar.

Ivan was successful in bringing change to Russia, although it can be difficult to view his rule as a reformation rule.  Ivan implemented a new law code, paid order to the church, strengthened the military and ordered out bureaucracy.  Ivan was creating an honest and efficient administration.  These reforms were positive towards Ivan’s rule and Russia benefitted greatly.

However the bad of Ivan also has to be analyzed.  Because Ivan was so skeptical of who to trust, he began to “wipe out all the chief people of the oprichnina” ((Kaiser and Marker 153)).  Brutal, horrific deaths began occurring; Ivan’s brother in law “was chopped to death by the harquebusiers [musketeers] with axes,” “Prince Vasilii Temkin was drowned,” “Peter Seisse was hanged from his own court gate,” and more ((Kaiser and Marker 153)).  What was the cause of these awful deaths?

It is interesting to analyze the beginning or early periods of Ivan’s life.  Many tragic things, the death of his mother when he was a young boy and the death of his beloved wife, could be possible reasons as to why he was so agonized.  Ivan also came to power at age three, so it’s possible he never knew who to trust from the beginning since his mother and wife died early on.  His life and personality are too difficult to label as just good or bad; regardless he was a powerful ruler.

Can Ivan the Terrible be classified as just good or bad?

Is it wrong to blame the tragedies of Ivan’s early life for the brutality in his later life?


Works Cited

Kaiser, Daniel H., and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860’s. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. Print.

Religion and Pop Culture in Post-Kievan Rus’

Religion had a very prominent role in pop culture in Post-Kievan Rus’, influencing the social structure, everyday life,  and art as well.  Churchmen and high officials were easily threatened of the toppling of the social structure throughout Rus’ and were highly cautious of the entertaining minstrels. The Rus’ minstrels were looked down upon by the church because their performances “caricatured the world around them,” ((Kaiser and Marker 128)) no doubt making fun of the church at times.  But because the church was a part of the elite society, they were able to “[prevent] the minstrels from bequeathing these performances to subsequent generations,” ((Kaiser and Marker 128)) thus displaying the church’s power to the people of Rus’.

Religion was also important in everyday life for the people of Rus’ as displayed by The Last Will and Testament of Patrikei Stroev.  Stroev introduces himself as a “slave of God” ((Kaiser and Marker 130)) and mentions the Holy Trinity throughout his will.  Interesting to note is how the first sentence of the document is as if he were saying the sign of the cross, and beginning to pray “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” ((Kaiser and Marker 130)).

Beyond influencing social structure and everyday life, religion also heavily impacted the art in Rus’, especially the artwork of Andrei Rublev.  Rublev painted to decorate the churches because his “faith overflowed from him, and inspired him in his creative achievement” ((Kaiser and Marker 142)).  Because the themes in his paintings were heavily religious, they were able to “silently [take] part in Orthodox liturgy” ((Kaiser and Marker 142)).  Rublev’s work provides evidence of a cultural awakening in the fourteenth century, after the destruction of the Mongols.

Question to consider:

Why does Stroev begin his will as if he were about to pray by using the sign of the cross?

Works Cited

Kaiser, Daniel H. and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.



Cultural Changes due to Mongol Invasion

It is clear that the Mongol’s conquest of Russia was the cause of huge amounts of destruction in Russia as they are consistently described as “cruel and evil infidels” ((Kaiser and Marker 105)).  However, Halperin’s view on the Mongolian influence was particularly interesting as he does not focus on the negative contributions from the Mongols but the positive  influences the Rus people borrowed from them in order to better their society.  In order to fully understand the influence of the Mongol’s in Rus’ society, It is important to recognize the different perspectives taken when analyzing this historical event.

Both documents clearly state that the Mongol’s were the cause of serious destruction in Rus and they can even be blamed for our present lack of knowledge of early Rus societies due to the mass burnings of hundreds of written texts.  But both documents also claim that the Mongols had a prominent impact on multiple aspects of the Rus culture.  Sakharov states that the art in Rus suffered greatly as this job “rested upon manual tools and involved many years of practice,” and he continues to blame the Mongols and their mass slaughter for the decline of Rus art and architecture ((Kaiser and Marker 137)).  Halperin argues another view point, provoking the thought that “Mongols influenced Russia, but the Russians did not influence the Tatars,” essentially saying that Russia did not have anything to offer the Mongols to better their society ((Kaiser and Marker 105)).  This same thought is carried on throughout Halperin’s piece as he stresses the point that the Russian’s were the ones borrowing military, political, and administrative ideas from the Mongols.  Interesting to note is the fact that religion, a key aspect to culture, is one of the only things that remains untouched by the Mongols.

Why did the Mongols believe it was so important to keep Russian Orthodoxy prominent in Rus?

How big of an impact do the Mongols have in affecting our knowledge of early Rus today?  Would we have more knowledge of the culture had the Mongols not invaded?


Works Cited

Kaiser, Daniel H. and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994

Building a State in Post-Kievan Society

As Kiev was declining in power, Novgorod was growing and becoming more powerful, evolving into a “’merchant republic’” ((Kaiser and Marker, 84)) (Kaiser and Marker, 84). In Novgorod, princely power existed, but was limited, as seen in The First Treaty of Novgorod with Tver’ Grand Prince Iaroslave Iaroslavich.   This specific treaty lists a number of rules the prince is to follow when in power; it is interesting to note that the majority of the rules deal with land and property rights displaying the importance of land at this time. In Southwest Rus’, the Galician-Volhynian Chronicle provides insight to a different form of princely power; instead of princes in Southwest Rus’ the boyars fought for power.  Unlike The First Treaty of Novgorod however, the Galician-Volhynian Chronicle does not discuss the importance of land and property but rather the important role power plays in the creation of the state. In Northeast Rus’, The second Testament of Moscow Grand Prince Dmitrii Donskoi displays the importance of property but also provides insight to what kind of roles women had at this time. For example, Donskoi provides an ample amount of land and villages for his princess but he constantly repeats the importance of the princess in his son’s lives; she is to have the last say and the sons are to listen to her.


What can the role of property in these documents tell us about the importance of property or land at this time?


What can the role of Donskoi’s wife tell us about gender roles at the time? Can we claim that all women had an important role in society or only women in the princely, upper class?

Jawaharlal Nehru

In order to progress India’s society, Jawaharlal Nehru analyzed the different forms of government around the world, specifically Marxism and Capitalism. Nehru admits that violence is present in both forms of government, but Marxism appealed more to Nehru because of the lesser amount of violence. Due to this appeal, India ended up adopting a Marxist form of government and adopting five year plans similar to that of Russia. Nehru believed that because India was such an underdeveloped nation, Marxism was the only way it could progress and succeed in the world because of the careful amounts of planning put into this kind of government. Interesting to note is the fact that after completing their first five year plan, India decided to stay neutral and stay out of foreign countries affairs. They chose this path because they believe the less countries interact and interfere with each other, the more likely it is that a peaceful outcome will occur.

What is Fascism?

AUTHOR: Benito Mussolini started out as a strong advocate for socialism and was imprisoned multiple times for his promotion of strikes and the use of violence.  He earned the reputation of a potential revolutionary with incredible rhetorical skills.  Because he has such a strong background with socialism, many elements are prevalent in fascism.

CONTEXT: Mussolini had already been in power for ten years while writing this.  Although fascism had been in place for years, it lacked a clear definition and people were unsure if they were benefitting from this system at all.  To persuade the people of the benefits of fascism, the party published this document to prolong their time in control.

LANGUAGE: The language of this document is very straightforward and direct.  Mussolini is concise, getting straight to the point.  However, their is also some elements of persuasion throughout the piece as he is writing to convince the people to keep this method of government in place.

AUDIENCE: This document is most likely directed towards as many people of the Italian population as possible.  As stated before, the context of the publication date requires Mussolini to persuade the population into keeping fascism.

INTENT: Mussolini’s intent is to promote Fascism throughout Italy and allow people to gain a better understanding of what it truly is.  By publishing the true definition of fascism, Mussolini promotes the idea even more, allowing him and fascism to stay in power.

MESSAGE: Mussolini’s message was that fascism was the best choice for Italy at this moment.  Mussolini displays all the benefits fascism will offer for Italy in order to maintain his power.

For Discussion: How big of an impact did Mussolini’s experience with socialism have on his later work with fascism?




AUTHOR: Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian politician and journalist and played a vital role in the eventual unification of Italy. In 1831, he traveled to Marseille and started a up a secret society, Young Italy, which promoted Italy’s unification. Mazzini pursued his thoughts regarding unification by creating similar groups to Young Italy, such as Young Germany, Young Poland and Young Switzerland.   After Italy was successfully unified, he became a strong advocate of the European unification (( .

CONTEXT: This was published in 1852; two years after Mazzini had been hiding from the Swiss police. Leading up to 1852, Mazzini had been traveling around Europe promoting European unification as well as Italian unification. Revolutions had been prominent all around Europe, such as the French Revolution of 1848 and the October Revolution in Vienna in 1848 (( .

LANGUAGE: Mazzini wrote with a very confident tone, adamant about what was best for Italy. He states what must be done gives specific instructions to the readers regarding Italy’s nationality and unification. His tone is also very prominent when discussing the lack of nationality Europe’s counties have, and how he believes the nations should go about fixing this.

AUDIENCE: Mazzini is directing this piece towards everyone in Europe, specifically those who live in nations undergoing turmoil. He wished to persuade the people to unify their nations for the betterment of Europe as a whole.

INTENT: Mazzini’s intent in writing this was to evoke the people of Europe to make more of an effort to unify their nations. He was trying to show them how big of an issue it was that these nations and Europe itself was not unified.

MESSAGE: Mazzini’s message was to inform the people they would receive much more benefits by living in a unified nation and continent.

WHY? This was written in response to many of the revolutions Mazzini had noticed occur around Europe. He realized that multiple nations were struggling with unification and nationalism, and he encouraged them to find a way to become one.

Yorkshire Slavery

AUTHOR: Richard Oastler was born to a linen merchant in 1789 and later moved to Leeds. He was an Anglican, Tory and protectionist as well as a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery in the West Indies. He was also against Roman Catholic emancipation.

CONTEXT: “Yorkshire Slavery” was written in 1830 after Oastler met with John Wood, a manufacturer in Bradford who introduced the atrocities of the factories to Oastler. The Industrial Revolution had taken off around 1820, therefore, around the time “Yorkshire Slavery” was written in 1830, the revolution was in full force.

LANGUAGE: Oastler uses confidence and information in order to portray his points. However, he also seems horrified and shocked when describing the conditions of factories and the stories about child workers being abused.

AUDIENCE: In this piece, Oastler addresses the English nation, as many of them were unaware of the issues within the factory. He even states, “my attention had not been particularly called to the subject of the factory system, until I had that fact communicated to me.” ((Yorkshire Slavery 1)) As mentioned above, his encounter with John Wood opened his eyes towards what was really occurring within the factories and he felt obligated to share it with the English nation.

INTENT: As previously mentioned, Richard Oastler was an advocate for children’s rights in the factory only after he met with John Wood. However after learning all of the information, he was compelled to share it with the nation in order to bring about change and help the workers.

MESSAGE: Oastler’s overall message is understood to be that the children are being overworked in an inhumane and cruel way. He states that there are some things he would “never [dare] to publish” because of how awful they are (“Yorkshire Slavery” 1). Beyond the working conditions within the factory, he also advocates for shorter work hours, arguing that the children grow up with out knowing what it is like to be loved because they hardly see their parents. Oastler makes the argument that the child workforce is dehumanizing and needs to change.

WHY? As stated before, Richard Oastler had met with a manufacturer in Bradford before writing “Yorkshire Slavery.” During this meeting, he discovered the evils of the factory and the struggles the child workers face; he promised himself he would not stop doing everything in his power to help the workers of the factories.