About Genevieve Veres

Genevieve is a sophmore Russian major at Dickinson college with a passion for everything involving video games, and everything involving Russia.

Patriarch Tikhon

The End of an Era

On March 25th, 1917 the Russian monarchy waved a final white flag when Tsar Nicholas II abdicated his throne. He was given little choice; revolutionary mobs were practically on his doorstep, and with a war going on abroad lasting civil unrest at home would have made victory impossible. Therefore, Nicholas declared his reasoning to the people, stating “we have thought that we owed to our people the close union and organization of all its forces for the realization of a rapid victory”.

He states that he did not wish to be away from his son, probably at least in part due to Tsarevich Alexei’s young age and haemophilia. Instead, he chose to pass the weight of the crown on to his brother Mikhail, who in turn was convinced to give the power over to a provisional government rather than taking up the throne.

So, who is to blame for the end of the Romanov house, which had ruled Russia for over 200 years? Did the fault lie with Nicholas II alone? Was it the result of a series of choices made over many decades and generations of rulers? Or was it an inevitable shift that happened in the population of Russia, which no Tsar, no matter how wise or powerful, could have stood against?

Revolutionary Text

The Catechism of the Revolutionary and the Demands of the Narodnaia Volia both demonstrates the extreme side of the revolutionaries in Russia in the late nineteenth century. The Catechism of the Revolutionary is the ideal guidelines which a revolutionary should live by, outlining their goals, behaviors, and even feelings to define a true ‘revolutionary’. The Demands of the Narodnaia Volia is the product of these guidelines, and shows the extent to which followers of the Catechism of the Revolutionary were willing to go to achieve their goals and how they felt they were justified in doing so.

I got a distinct feeling while reading these documents of a cult-like feeling developing. The Catechism of the Revolutionary required not just a dedication of time or beliefs to a cause, but of the revolutionary’s entire life. Most of what is done, even if it only effects one person such as that person connections to their ‘second and third rank’ revolutionaries. This kind of hive-mind behavior coupled with the extremes that Bakunin and Nechaev called for created an almost religious tone. I was also shocked at portrayal of violence that these documents seem to idealize. Not only is it mentioned and encouraged or justified often throughout the texts, but it also seems to address the revolutionary as a tool for violence rather than as a thinking person. Paragraph 13 states “The revolutionary joins the state, society, and so-called civilized world and lives in it only for the purpose of its more total and speedier destruction”, and goes on to discuss how compassion is a weakness. The document attempts to take believers in revolution and make them into blind-instruments by telling them that this is the only way to truly support a cause that they believe in.

Reading these texts left we with questions as to how both the documents themselves and this mindset overall were view by the population of Russia. How did the Catechism of the Revolutionary in particular make it into Russia past the censors? If it was written while the authors were in exile how much of the document was influence by outside ideologies that they encountered, and how much was directly from them (and probably the cause of their being exiled)? Additionally, how many followers were willing to follow such dire measures for the sake of revolution?

Essay Review

This essay is worth an A grade primarily because of its strong thesis statement, which aided that paper in many related ways. The thesis addresses the prompt of the essay  accurately by addressing not only the how of the reforms – “…stratified and expanded government roles” – but also the why – “… in order to strengthen Russia’’s international presence and to pacify conflict within and regulate the daily lives of the nobility and townspeople.” The rubric states that in an A paper the thesis is always kept in focus, and in this paper everything revolves around it just as it should.

The thesis also sets the essay up to be organized in a way that is clear and logical to the reader. Each topic sentence harkens back to a certain aspect of the thesis, pairing a ruler with their specific reforms and the reason for that reform. The essay is set up starting with analysis of Peter’s goal to centralize power, then goes on to talk about his desire to strengthen Russia’s military. The focus then switches to Catherine, starting with a comparison between her reforms and Peters and then going on to talk about her own goals of decentralization and control over the population through ranking. The transition paragraph between the analysis of Peter and Catherine is useful for reader to understand how the later paragraphs relate to the first, allowing the author of the essay to avoid having to talk about both rulers throughout and clutter up the essay.

The paper also follows all of the guidelines found in the “Tips on Writing for Me” resource. Besides following the basic formatting and grammar rules, the author also demonstrates an ability to achieve the more complicated goals set. The quotes used throughout the essay are only used when the benefit the argument the most, or are being closely analyzed. They are also always introduced in a way that makes the transition fluid and natural. It does not wear out any particular phrases, and utilizes a variety of sentences structures in composing the argument. The writing of the essay is also very concise: it says only what is needs to in order to get its point across clearly, be that analysis or examples, and nothing extraneous.

The Domostroi (Chapters 50-67)


In terms of food, large estates had a wide range in diet. The upper-class ate nearly every type of meat imaginable: chicken, pork, swan, chipmunk, elk, hare, duck, mutton, goose, etc. They also ate many different types of fish. Grains consisted of barley, kasha, bread, and even noodles. For fruits and vegetables, the upper-class ate cabbage, turnips, various types of melons, apples, and berries. They drank different variations of mead, made with honey, spices, or berries. Servants’ diets were more restricted. Staples included cabbage, various types of soups and porridges, and kasha. On Sundays and other holy days, servants were allowed turnovers, jellies and pancakes. Their beer was “second-grade,” although on Sundays servants could drink ale.

If the master of the house hosted a feast, the steward had to supervise the kitchen and bakery. The steward also had to assign other servants to different stations both to serve and supervise the guests to ensure that they did not become too drunk or steal any of the master’s belongings. After the feast, the steward was in charge of counting how much food and drink had been consumed, as well as counting up the silver and dishes to make sure none had been stolen. He then had to report these numbers to the master.

This background on food and feasts grants insight into the diets and values of sixteen-century Russians. The Domostroi specifies that the upper-class would eat not just meat, but kidneys, giblets, gizzards, tongue, necks, and joints, etc. People ate nearly every part of the animal. On one hand, this information suggests that their diets were sustainable because they left very little waste. On the other hand, it suggests that food may have been scarce at times; consequently, people had to eat every part of the animal in order to survive. Furthermore, the different diet listed for servants reveals that social classes determined what people ate. In general, the upper-class ate a protein-heavy diet, whereas the servant staples were grains and vegetables. Finally, the description of the feast indicates that theft was relatively common at gatherings. The fact that the servants had to patrol the guests and count the silver after the meal implies that guests often brought home goods from the hosts’ household, and the hosts tried to avoid such practices.


The Domostroi very clearly states the tasks that the servants are supposed to carry out and the proper manner of performing them. Chapters fifty-five to fifty-seven outline the ways that a servant would store equipment, treat the animals, and deal with excess food. Chapter fifty-five states how and where to store clothes, hunting gear, horse-riding gear, and used goods (such as building materials and tools) in the household barn. Fifty-six and seven detail the storage of hay in a barn, the proper treatment of animals, the storage of wood, and the disposal of food scraps. Some of the most interesting points in these chapters are the instructions to servants to record all stored items, to save food scraps and feed animals with them, and the instruction to the house master to check the progress of the servants every night.

Chapter fifty-nine details how a house master should reward a servant who does his job well and its inverse. The master should treat good servants well by giving them better food and drink, having them sit with you at meals, and verbal encouragements. If a servant is bad, the master should verbally reprimand him in front of all the other servants and he should physically beat him if he offends repeatedly or in a particularly bad manner. In addition, it states that the female maids are the responsibility of the mistress of the house. Chapter sixty states that the master of the house should audit servants who are buying for the house every week (or he should have his son do it). If the master finds the servant doing his job well and happily, he should reward him, but if he finds the servant working poorly, then he should rebuke him. If the servant cheats him, then he should fine the servant monetarily, and if the servant continues to do his tasks poorly, the master should send him away.

Chapter sixty-three details the proper preservation of food. It states that servants should clean food properly and they should check it often to ensure that it does not spoil. Drinks are to be stored in ice and refilled often. Clothing should also be checked often, and spoiled food must be disposed of. Food in danger of spoiling should be fed to animals or given to the poor.

These chapters of the Domostroi tell us how advanced the storage and maintenance abilities were at the time. Also, they give us insight into the running of the household.

Management of the Estate

The life of a master was not all luxury. Although they enjoyed many more indulgences than the common man, they had their share of duties as well. The master of the estate was responsible for giving orders to the steward to carry out. Everything, down to the drinks served and the items on the menu at feasts, was his choice. Following a feast, the master would follow up with the steward to check that everything was in order, and then punish or reward the servants according to the quality of their work. The mistress had responsibilities as well, such as checking all of the food that was to be served to the family. Every morning the master and the mistress would check the locks on all of the gates and doors around the estate, and check for theft if a lock was left undone or broken. Every night he himself would check all of the storage rooms, barns, and stables for quality of the inventory within.

Every night the master would also go around the estate and check that all fires had been properly extinguished. All stoves where expected to have a floor beneath them, and a non-flammable front to stop any sparks from flying out. Areas around the stove were supposed to be cleared of any clutter that could either kindle a fire, or get in the way of any people attempting to put one out. Additionally, the courtyard and garden should have had wells, and if they did not then they were expected to keep water handy. This demonstrates the fear that the people of the time had of fires, which were a reoccurring problem in Moscow at the time, as most of their building were made of wood.

Several aspects of religious life were present in this section as well. The estate observed many fast days, and had special meals assigned to both the upper and lower class for such occasions. The master was expected to care for his servants and the peasants under his care, giving them food, drink, and clothing, and always be aware of any injury or neediness amongst them. In doing this, they were supposedly pleasing God so that they might be given a place in heaven.

The estate was advised not to let their taxes build up. If they paid them gradually and ahead of time then their family would be happy, secure and well trusted. If the estate took too long to pay back taxes they would have to pay double, and if they took to long to pay back loans they would have to pay an additional fine.

Culture in Post-Keivan Rus

Due to several factors, most of which were a result of the Mongol invasion, there is very little evidence detailing the day-to-day culture which existed in Post-Keivan Rus. What we do have, however, does provide interesting clues about literacy, the arts, and entertainment of the day.

One source is a doodle by a boy distracted in the middle of practicing his alphabet. The boy, Onfim, provides a drawing of an unidentified man atop a horse stabbing another unidentified man lying upon the ground. One of the reasons that this is interesting is its implications about education and literacy of the time. It’s likely that this student was being formally educated from the nature of his work. Because literacy was rare amongst the common people we can assume that he was not being taught in a school-like setting, so he may have been working with a tutor of some sort. Onfim’s education may indicate that literacy was more important to the culture than previously believed, if his parents were concerned enough to start his learning at a young age.

A popular but controversial form of entertainment for the common people was the minstrels, or the skomorokhi. The skomorokhi did a variety of things for the entertainment of others, including animal training, acting, juggling, playing music, and dancing. They were easily identifiable by the bright colors of the costumes that they wore. Though loved by the common people, they were not so popular in the church. In a collection of sermons called the Zlatoust they are condemned for “preparing the road to perdition for themselves and their followers”. Even after being put down by the church their popularity rose still in spite of it. It’s interesting that the people seemed to care more about the entertainment the minstrels provided than the opinion of the church on that form of entertainment, judging from  the fact that the people were still listened to the group that the church looked down on. It’s also interesting that the people who made up the skomorokhi held positions all along the social hierarchy, some being  well off, others being poor.

The Effects of Mongol Rule in Rus

The articles by Halperin and Sakharov both pose opposite arguments regarding the Mongol’s effect on the development of Rus. Halperin claims that the view of the Mongols as “blood-sucking infidels” (106) was a result of the Orthodox Church’s so called “Ideology of Silence”. He argues that The Mongol’s actually did a lot to help advance Rus culture through integration of their own methods rather than only doing harm as the writings of the Church would have us believe. For example, many of the Princes were able to gain position with the hoard through marriage and then learn about and use the knowledge that they gain of the Mongol’s military and political techniques. The Church, Halperin states, could not accept the Mongols as having been in any way beneficial to Rus as they may have felt that acknowledging anything positive about a culture that followed a different religion undermined their own, and thus they simply refused to acknowledge the positive effects that the Mongols had.

Sakharov takes the opposing view, stating that any and all putting down of possible historical information was done by the Mongols themselves. He claims that all types of craftsmanship, from architecture and construction to art and literature, suffered under the rule of the Mongols (137) and that the growth of the nation was practically stunted because of it.  He says that the Mongols destroyed a great number of books, and therefore knowledge, which we now have no way of knowing what might have contained. Overall, he views the effect of the Mongol rule in Rus as one of profound negativity that in no way aided the nation in any way.

Sakharov talks about the Mongols using very general terms, applying them widely and without exception, saying that they “… enriched [Rus] with nothing whatever” and claiming that the negative effects of the invasion were an “indisputable historical fact” (138). Claims on such a dramatic scale are very difficult to back up, and I felt only went to make his argument read as more of a biased rant than a logical argument. Had he allowed for some movement and acknowledged even the possibility that any good might have come from the Mongols I may have found his argument to be more convincing. I certainly did find some of his points, such as the destruction of books, to be interesting, though even that idea is based on the absence of something rather than hard evidence. Although I was not convinced by Sakharov that the Mongols were an unarguable evil, neither was I convinced by Halperin that the Mongols aided Rus to the extent that he claimed they did. Although I agreed that they must have benefited Rus in several ways, I wonder how much that is weighed down by harm that they might have done. Is it possible that, had the Mongols not invaded,  and had Rus therefore not had to cover certain expenses and meet certain expectations because of that, Rus may have developed in an equally efficient yet distinctly different way? As many “what-if” questions, it’s impossible to know for certain. I do, however, believe that while Halperin’s claims were accurate, he does not consider enough how the harm they brought as well may have effected Rus’s growth.

Jesus Christ as the Ideal Christian Figure

The Orthodox Church’s notion of the ideal Christian was a person as close to Christ himself as it was possible for a human to be. The stories of historical figures idealized by the church display this both in their actions and in the situations which they lived in.

The Life of Theodosius, for example, contains many parallels to the life of Jesus Christ. In Childhood, Jesus was supposedly an extraordinary student (Luke 2:41-52), but we can also assume that he was not the awesome and powerful figure that he would later become from the fact that so little exists documenting his early life. Theodosius, called Feodosii in the text, also spends his youth studying the word of God, all the while being very respectful to his parents and his teachers. As he grows older, he takes on many other Christ-like qualities. He busies himself with giving aid to the poor, and insists upon being as meek and humble as he can be, even as those around him attempt to convince him to act like any other boy in his position. When he was beaten and enchained by his mother or mocked by his peers he stood strong in his faith regardless, just as Jesus was not swayed by those who did not believe in him. Just as Jesus’s actions earned him his followers, so too did Feodosii’s humble behavior and selfless actions also managed to inspire others to support him, such as the governor of the town who grew to love Feodosii more each time he gave away his nice clothing to the poor.

Unlike Jesus, Feodosii was not martyred, and was able to live the rest of his life in service to God. The ideal of giving one’s life for God is represented instead in the story of Saints Boris and Gleb, whose deaths symbolized “a particular form of piety which came to be highly regarded in Rus’ culture”. Boris and Gleb were both killed by their elder brother, Sviatopolk. Rather than attempting to fight back, they allowed him to make martyrs of them so that they would not have to corrupt their peaceful lives with acts of violence. So too did Jesus sacrifice his own life without fighting back against his killers.