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. Their demands to combat this are to redistribute land and to establish a new system with a representative body that is voted in by the people. In part A, they state that the current state of Russia is in “absolute slavery” of the people, where they are so deprived that they “cannot even think what is good and what is bad for them.” They recognize the power struggle in the capitalistic power and the excessive exploitation of people stuck and enslaved in the lower class. Part B is where they begin to express their demands: to freeing of people enslaved and the access to power by more in the nation. They want the power of the authoritarian government to be expanded for the people of Russia to have access to their own fate by creating an Organizing Assembly to make decisions (that are voted in by the people). Part C discusses the demands for personal freedoms of the people such as popular representation, self- controlled villages (economic and administrative autonomy), redistribution of land ownership to the people, and personal freedoms of speech. This document is written after Alexander II’s assassination and presented to Alexander III- it represents a warning for what could happen to him if he does not enact change and demonstrates the affect of the masses on Alexander III’s policies.

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). As time progressed it became more obvious that serfs were no longer self- fulfilled through this (as they could be in the past by selling themselves into serfdom for monetary purposes) as they were both tied more harshly to both the land and their owners,

The Decembrists

The Decembrist Revolt was a result of and consisted of a state of confusion. Russians in whole did not have a firm understanding of the line of succession, and so when Nicholas came to power rather than Constantine many people felt betrayed. The Decembrists revolt came from a group of people in the Russian army who decided to make a public statement by not swearing allegiance to Nicholas as their loyalties were with Constantine. However, because the declaration of Nicholas as tsar was abrupt the organization of the revolt was as well (“poorly and hastily planned, inadequately executed… no other units joined them”). There was some hierarchy in the design (from the various officers in the army) but in general there was no order. Nicholas suppressed this revolt quickly by ordering the artillery to fire against them, and many leaders that survived were either forced into exile along with their families or were hanged. This event determined much of Nicholas’s mentality toward his reign. This was his very first experience as tsar: To see a lack of loyalty towards the imperial rule and a lack of respect towards the hierarchy of the state proved to him that he must strictly enforce his will. His entire regime was a reactionary tactic against people who didn’t support him (censorship for the intellectuals, secret police for the underground societies, supporting serfdom for the peasants) because he viewed his reign as constantly being pushed back against by the people- and the more he pushed back, the more the people disapproved of his rule

Whittaker- The Dual Autocratic Identity

Whittaker’s thesis and stance on the reforming of Russia encompasses the two mentalities of Russia: the conservative history under autocracies and the desire for progress. She mentions that because Russians had only ever truly been governed under a strong, authoritarian leadership that there was an expectation of that way of societal structure (as nothing else had ever been implemented) where the state always came before the individual. However, she importantly notes the contrast that was brought about by reforming tsars. Once reforms were initiated into society, people began to demand more and more of their government and continuously wanted more and more reforms for a better way of life (as seen, and referenced in this article, to Mikhail Gorbachev with glasnost and perestroika). Thus, as western ideas flooded into Russia, the Russians constantly asked for more- but still under the mixed ideology of being under an authoritarian government. This left the tsars in a place where they had to continue to modernize Russia culturally yet maintain much of the control that had been taught to them as the way to govern Russian society.

Domostroi: 24- 38

These chapters dictate more on how one should lead their lives morally and ethically. The first two chapters differentiate living a morally, Godly life with dedication to one’s “neighbors” and the values of God- and make a clear statement that if those are not followed then one would be going directly to Hell. There are a lot of religious affiliations in these chapters as they state that the way to be a beneficial member of society is to dedicate yourself to God’s values. Following these chapters, there are a few chapters that discuss the economical way of living. This includes living within one’s means, including not acquiring slaves that one cannot afford to take care of. There is a special mention of ensuring that one can take care of their slaves with food, clothing, and hospitality; and that one should not have more slaves than they can take care of fully. Much of the rest of the chapters discuss the role of women: as subordinates to their husbands. A wife is to listen and obey whatever their husbands say, and to do so willingly with love. She has a regimented schedule that includes domestic work and overseeing servants. Despite the fact that a woman “uses her intelligence,” it is all under her husbands instructions as to what she does with that intelligence. This is how women who respect and honor God are told to behave.

Ivan the Terrible Questions

What was the reputation of the zemshchina? Were they revered in society, or seen as traitors to their people for working for the repressive regime? This reading also brings up questions about the church- why such a change of heart towards the church so that they weren’t exempt from these purges? In addition, why the distrust of foreigners? There had been a phasing out of them for some time, but why the sudden hatred for anyone associated with them?

Life in Post- Kievan Rus’

The evidence of the growth of literacy among the population in post- Kievan Rus’ breaks ground for many reasons. First off, it shows an attention to the youth and the next generation- not only so that they could have the ability to utilize these resources, but also as the investment to further generations. The fact that there were young people learning to write shows that society wanted further preservation of it’s culture past the point of the monks and the church. The second point that this evidence makes is about the standard of living for these people. If there was investment in the literacy and writing for the youth then perhaps this shows that the standard of living was increasing so that children could spend time studying in addition to their work with their families. Although seemingly unrelated, this raises questions for me regarding the family structure; such as if more concentration on the academics and quality of life of one child was evidence of smaller households at the time (where maybe there were more investments that could be made for each child). Certainly all of this could be an exaggerated analysis as most likely only the very elite had the ability to teach their children writings, but it simultaneously brings into question at what point the general public reached the standard of living that they would be educated as well.

Post- Kievan Rus’ and Mongol Influence

The two writings of “Interpreting Mongol Yoke: Ideology of Science” and “The Mongols and Cultural Change” display differing versions of Mongol and Rus’ interactions. While the latter perceives the Mongol rule as entirely destructive with little to no cultural achievements made for Rus’ during this time, the former believes that this idea is a narrow- minded way of viewing Mongol influence. Although there was a severely recognizable amount of destruction upon Rus’, there were also achievements in societal structures. For incidence, while one writing claims that the literature of the land was inhibited and ruined (with writings being destroyed and writing characters altering). Conversely, the opposite view is that the Mongol presence in the region created an influence in Rus’ culture that allowed them to embrace parts of other cultures in the area (instead of seeing the literature of Rus’ being destroyed, it was viewed as being altered through Arabic influence).

Power Shifts in Post- Kievan Rus’

In post- Kievan Rus’, the power dynamics shifted significantly because of the changing sources of the power. There were two specific ways that the power in the area shifted: through dispersing power from the prince to other officials in the area, and to give the elite citizens more power. The first type describes a system where officials had to be elected to power, but once in office had authority to limit the prince’s power and to govern the area (mainly found in the northwestern region). The second type mainly took place in the southwest and consisted of the princes power being reduced once again, but this time the authority went to the elite who only placed people in power who would aid their personal goals. Of course, many places saw no change, but in general this era marks a shift from entirely princely rule to a, somewhat, more open system.