The book We was written by Yevgeny Zamyatin in 1921 in early Soviet Russia. Zamyatin became a Bolshevik in the early 1900’s, working with the Bolsheviks throughout the years leading up to the October Revolution and being exiled multiple times by the Russian government. Zamyatin was an Old Bolshevik and he truly believed that Russian society had to change, so he supported the October Revolution and was present in St. Petersburg when it took place. However, in the years following the October Revolution, the Communist Party began to become more oppressive, primarily regarding censorship. Zamyatin was an author, he’d been writing consistently for about ten years by 1921, and he became very critical of the Soviet Party as they became more oppressive and began to censor more works.

We was written during the post-Revolution period of increasing censorship and it was a blatant criticism of the society that the Soviet Party was looking to create. In We, Zamyatin creates a dystopian society to represent how far from the original revolutionary ideals the Soviet Party has gone. The society that he creates is ruled by a government called the “One State”, a government that micromanages the lives of every citizen. Zamyatin writes We in a way that makes the reader think that the Soviet Party will eventually make Russia like One State and attempt to control everything that they do. He uses language in the book that is very similar to the propaganda used by the Soviet Party during that time period and he uses analogies that the reader would easily associate with the Soviet Party.

Zamyatin was a very brave individual. We was censored by the Soviet government before he could publish it in Russia, but he made sure that the manuscript made the journey to America where it was published in 1924. Eventually, his open criticisms of the Soviet Party would get him exiled from Russia, but before that time he did everything that he could to protest the absolutism that Russia was headed towards.

Nikolai and the Abdication

The language used in Nikolai II’s abdication says quite a bit about the man himself. Though he led Russia through a period of strife and turmoil, he uses clever writing and unclear statements to try to avoid being blamed for any of Russia’s issues.

Right from the start, Nikolai is trying to throw blame off of himself by saying, “We” before using his actual name. This promotes the idea that he was not solely responsible for the strife of the Russian people. Following this, in the second paragraph he says, “…it pleased God to send Russia a further painful trial.” when referring to the February Revolution and the unhappiness of the Russian people. He uses this sentence immediately after he spoke of Russia struggling against a powerful enemy in a bloody war, associating the nation of Russia struggling militarily against a hated foe with the “internal troubles” that had begun in Russia. This clearly throws the blame onto the revolution that is forcing his abdication.

Next, he states that the people must, “…conduct [the war] at all costs to a victorious end.” This subtly implies that if the people continue to do that which he began, they will be victorious, and it also implies that the losses that incurred in the war are not due to his leadership or decisions. He continues this by saying that, “The cruel enemy is making his last efforts and the moment is near when our valiant Army… will finally overthrow the enemy.” This clearly implies that Russia is not struggling in the war at all; instead, it tells the reader that the Russian military is nearing victory and that the war will be won because of the leadership of Nikolai.

These are some of the many examples of deceptive language that Nikolai uses in his abdication letter so that he may absolve himself of blame and escape from punishment by the Russian people.

The Catechism of the Revolutionary

The Catechism of the Revolutionary is disturbing to say the least, but it clearly defines the lengths that the revolutionary fanatic authors were willing to go to see Russia destroyed. From the very beginning, Bakunin and Nechaev define a true revolutionary as someone that exists solely for the purpose of carrying out a revolution, and for a revolutionary, all else in life is a distant second.

The pure annihilation preached by Bakunin and Nechaev is extreme, but they state in no uncertain terms just what a revolutionary is and what they live for. Their idea of revolution could be said to be pure, as it defines the revolution as a central aspect of life. In fact, their commitment to the revolution and their belief in its purpose is borderline religious. They write that to be a true revolutionary, one must sever all ties, visible or not, to the government and civil order itself, and they may only exist in the civilized world “for the purpose of its more total and speedier destruction” (p. 352).

The Catechism of the Revolutionary classifies people into different classes based on their dedication to the cause, their standing in the Russian government, and even their sex. They determine a person to be a comrade only if they can devote themselves to the revolution and a human only if they can offer something to the revolution. Their class system is nearly as complete as the Table of Ranks created by Peter the Great, and it clearly defines the purposes and fate of many different people groups.

Nechaev and Bakunin are absolutely clear when they define their vision, but one of the most important statements that they make is said in Paragraph 24. They state that they didn’t lay out this design for a group that would seize power from the government, they only created the system to tear down the government that already existed. After the social order and the government are gone, they leave it up to the people to build a new system after they’ve done their job.

Serfdom and American Slavery

There are interesting parallels between Russian serfdom and the form of slavery found in the Americas. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Russian serfdom changed dramatically. The beginning of the 16th century brought economic prosperity to Russia, but from the 1560’s into the early 1600’s Russia was struck by many brutal periods of chaos that combined to cause large reforms in serfdom. These reforms drastically restricted the movement of the serfs and turned serfs from peasants into property.

In the second half of the 16th century, Russia was affected by regime changes, instability, revolts, foreign interventions, crop failure and famine, and a government that didn’t have the strength or organization to provide for or protect the peasantry. The combination of these factors led to a steep decline in living conditions and prosperity for the peasants. Many of the peasants became slaves or criminals, but the majority packed up and left their homes to try and find better living conditions. The mass migrations of agricultural workers caused a great strain on the nation as a whole, as it could barely support the needs of the population.

Serfdom in Russia had become necessary due to the lack of labor and the Russian government instituted laws that rapidly took away the remaining freedom of the serfs. Slavery in the American colonies was used because of a lack of sufficient population for the necessary agricultural work. Both American slavery and Russian serfdom were used to compensate for an insufficient population of agricultural workers, but they also were similarly maintained by the respective governments for a time. The American government allowed slaves to be owned by specific people or households that typically required them to be stationary and work on farms and orchards, and the Russian government created laws that prevented serfs from leaving the land that they worked.

Russian serfdom and American slavery had some key similarities. Primarily, the usage of slaves/serfs to perform agricultural work, rather than work in secondary or tertiary industries. The main difference between them comes from the necessity of their existence. Slavery in the Americas was important because of economic reasons, but serfdom in Russia was necessary at the time in order to keep the nation functioning and stable.

The Decembrists

The Decembrists were, however unfortunately for themselves, just another group of revolutionaries that failed to make an impact or bring about a change.  They fought to put the rightful heir, Constantine, on the throne, rather than Nicholas. The strange part of the revolution is that Constantine renounced his claim to the throne years before, but Alexander kept this secret from the public until his death.

After the passing of Alexander in December of 1825, a small group of officers and soldiers (numbering about 3000) marched on the palace. Their hope was to overthrow Nicholas, who wasn’t yet fully recognized as the next tsar, and have Constantine take the throne. The Decembrists were quickly and easily defeated by forces loyal to Nicholas, but their actions caused a small amount of other units in South Russia to rebel as well. These units were also stopped quickly.

Despite the ease with which Nicholas defeated the revolt, it needn’t have happened at all. In 1823, Constantine legally denounced his claim to the throne, making Nicholas the next tsar in line. Alexander did not reveal this information, though; rather, it was kept secret from the public until the time of Alexander’s passing.

I think that Alexander kept this information a secret because he expected a revolt to occur upon the public finding out that Constantine would not be his successor. This way, should any group try to make a move to take the throne from Nicholas and put Constantine on it, they would not have had the time to prepare properly. Without having months to prepare a coup d’etat, any conspirators would not have the support, the structure, or the plans to be successful.

Document Analysis

The writer of this paper fulfills the requirements of the rubric very well and structured his/her essay properly to make the essay clear and easy to understand.
The topic sentence is set up well by the rest of the intro paragraph. By the time the reader gets to the topic sentence, he/she has a good understanding of the situational context. The sentence itself is concise, but very clear and describes effectively what the paper will be focusing on. The thesis is proven relevant by answering “so what?” and it is also an arguable statement.
The position of the author is well defined and clear. Evidence is effectively used to clarify points. The author analyzes a wide variety of resources to prove his/her points. The numerous resources are also properly cited.

The sources are well placed and agreeing with the claims made by the author. They effectively convey and respond to the points analyzed in the document.

Very few errors in the document overall, grammatically or structurally. The document appears to be very well-revised (probably three times at least).

The document also does a good job of maintaining my attention.

Overall, the paper was very well structured, well revised, and analyzes an interesting, arguable point.

Minstrels in Rus’

Due to the destruction caused by the Mongols during their invasion of Rus’, the culture of the time is not as well known as it is in other times. The Mongols obviously had significant impact on the culture of Rus’, but they also left large amounts of destruction in their wake, meaning that culture came second to other activities (namely: survival).

Painting, literature, and other forms of the performing arts were not as prevalent in this time, but we know that one thing that was very prevalent was wandering minstrels. These minstrels would go town to town performing their various arts or crafts for the people.

They were popular among the general populace (mainly in villages), but not as commonly seen in larger cities. This is primarily due to the Church warring against, and banning in some cases, the traveling minstrels due to their activities and methods. The Church was still trying to eliminate traces of paganism and they were very clearly carrying on the traditions of paganism.

Law in 15th Century Rus’

The judicial system of 15th century Rus’ was significantly more developed than the old system used during the time of Kievan dominance. While we don’t have much more evidence for the Kievan judicial system, we do know the basics of the system. In contrast, a large amount of evidence remains from the Post-Kievan period that details the workings of the system, and in many cases, individual court cases.

The system used in 15th century Rus’ was probably more developed because of use and years of troubleshooting. The system had a large amount of time to grow by “verbally and mentally recorded case-law”. The judges that were found in the 15th century would have learned how to deal with issues not detailed in the main law codes through years of experience and teaching from former judges.

Despite the amount of development and use for the judicial system, some of the practices remaining are quite contradictory to today’s standard judicial systems. In this instance, we’ll use a land dispute between two parties as an example. A judge would travel to the location of the dispute and mediate the argument between the two parties by determining which party has the stronger evidence. The most important evidence to have is the word of local men (preferably elders) who have good knowledge of the area. Second to this is written evidence, such as a deed or charter. After these evidences, should neither party have them or should no conclusion be reached, judges would often rely on “God’s justice” or divine intervention for the decision to be made. An example of a method used by these judges is having one party kiss a cross and walk the border of the land that they claim. If they are telling the truth, then they will not be punished by God for lying (it’s very similar to what would commonly be used for witch trials). If all of these evidences fail, then the two parties would send a representative to duel with each other.

Despite the significant developments of the judicial system since Kievan times, the system employed by judges in 15th century Rus’ was not perfect. The main problems lie with their categorization of evidence. Judges would take the word of a local elder over any documents that could be presented, but these locals were often biased in their testimonies and would back a party regardless of the truth. So, the “truth” was often found in power, influence, money, or a big family.

The Roots and Growth of Christianity in Early Rus

Something that I found to be particularly interesting is the manner in which Christianity came to Rus compared to the power that the church wields in Russia today.
Pages sixty-three to sixty-seven paint a very clear picture of the real purpose for the introduction of Christianity to Rus. It’s made quite clear that Vladimir wanted to bring Greek Orthodoxy to Rus because it was a religion that could bring him greater wealth, influence, and power than he currently possessed, but he didn’t have to sacrifice much for it.
The book states that numerous religions presented themselves to Vladimir in order to grow throughout his lands, but Vladimir declined them because of personal opinions or dislikes for them. For example, Vladimir rejects Islam because it requires him to become circumcised and stop drinking alcohol (apparently his favorite activity).
Then, Vladimir sends judges to the lands of these religions to determine which one he wants to accept or which one is most favorable to him. Eventually, Vladimir decides that because he can extort a wife, a city, and an alliance of sorts out of it, he will convert himself and all of Rus to Greek Orthodoxy (I should also mention that his envoys liked the Greek church services the most, too).
It takes time, but the Orthodox church grows over the next few centuries to become a significant political, cultural, and religious (obviously) player in Russia with major influence over the direction that the nation takes.
The part of this whole situation that is most interesting to me is the course of growth that the church and the state take together. In much of Europe the Roman Catholic church (or the Orthodox church in Eastern Europe) grew independent of the state. In fact, the church often grew in times that the states were not growing, but in Russia, the church often grew with the state. The timeline of growth is not perfect for this as the church grew in times when the state was stagnant and the state grew in times when the church was less influential, but I think that two factors have primarily caused this unusual growth pattern.
First is Vladimir made the Orthodox church the state religion at a time when Rus did not yet have a great sense of “self” or national unity. This allowed the church to establish at a time when the state gained a greater identity, causing the two bodies to have a very heavily linked history of growth.
Second is the mutual relationship between the church and the state. Vladimir made Orthodoxy the state religion for the benefits that he (and his children) would reap. The church benefited from the large amount of previously unreached people and the state benefited from the economic and cultural effects that the church had on Rus.