W4343: Imperial Russia, 1682-1918


  1. Kate, your friendly neighborhood TA, will be out of town this Tuesday, September 26, and thus not holding office hours. Feel free to schedule another time, or come on Thursday.
  2. Sorry about the weird formatting issues that have been going on here this week. My computer died a miserable death recently and I've had to readjust to using lab computer setups to update the page. Note to all: MS Word is a BAD HTML editor! Anyway, should be mostly fixed now, and I apologize for any unnecessary eye-boggling that may have occured.
  3. On Thursday, Professor Wortman handed out the following announcement regarding the first paper assignment for undergraduates (graduate students - you can ignore this handout. Refer to the syllabus for your assignment, and talk to Prof. Wortman about further details).
    Essay Assignment- History W4343

    The historical memoir, real or fictionalized, sets the protagonist in a particular social and political setting, confronts him/her with certain issues of the time, and presents the events and figures of the period through the authors or central figures eyes. Your assignment is to discuss one of these texts and show how the central figure perceives and understands the historical setting, and what the story may reveal about particular subjects raised in the historical readings, documents, and lectures such as political and social attitudes, cultural norms, westernization, economic conditions.

    Papers should be 5-8 pages long and submitted by 5 PM, Monday, October 16, to the reception desk of the Harriman Institute, 12th floor, International Affairs Building.

    The list of suggested memoirs includes:
    • Catherine II- Memoirs - For those of you with particular interest in Catherine, these of course would be the obvious choice. She's a lively writer and there are plenty of juicy details. Keep in mind, she was writing these memoirs years after the events, and with very definite political and personal goals in mind.
    • Sergei Aksakov- A Family Chronicle - Great historical fiction, about a provincial gentry family in Catherine's time, fairly closely modeled on Aksakov's own family. Earlier translations also published under the title "A Russian Gentleman." Sergei Aksakov was the father of two famous Slavophiles, Konstantin and Ivan Aksakov.
    • Nadezhda Durova-The Cavalry Maiden: Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars - Durova dressed as a man in order to enlist in the Russian army - fascinating stuff.
    • Alexander Herzen, My Past and Thoughts, Volume 1 - Herzen was a radical journalist and thinker, who was exiled under Nicholas I, and later went abroad and started the first Russian emigre journal. His memoirs are exceedingly well-written.
    • Alexander Pushkin, The Captain's Daughter - Again, this is technically historical fiction, though Pushkin's history is wonderful. An especially good choice for those of you who may be more literary-minded.
    • NB: There are certainly other memoirs out there from the period, quite a few in English, like those of Ekaterina Dashkova, lady-in-waiting to Catherine the Great, a co-conspirator in her coup, and later head of the Academy of Sciences - these are available in paperback, I think still in print. There are also the memoirs of Prince Adam Czartoryski, an early Polish Nationalist brought to service in Russia by Catherine the Great following the third partition of Poland. He became a close friend of Alexander I and later his foreign minister. The memoirs are hard to purchase (unless you're willing to cough up $200 on Bibliofind.com), but Butler has a copy (which I very recently returned - anyone who's interested may have to ask for it at circ). They're long, but you would only want the first volume, and possibly only a section of that. With these and any other memoirs you might find on your own, speak to Professor Wortman to OK the choice before you start working!


History W4343, Fall, 2000
Professor Richard Wortman, 1231 IAB
Office Hours-Tues., Thurs., 4:30-5:30

Imperial Russia, 1682-1918

Texts Required for Purchase:

James Cracraft, Major Problems in the History of Imperial Russia
Nicholas Riasanovsky, A History of Russia
Thomas Riha, Readings in Russian Civilization, Volume II
Ronald Suny & Arthur Adams, The Russian Revolution and Bolshevik Victory; Causes and Processes

(Available at Labyrinth on 112th Street, or try Bibliofind.com and The Strand for used copies)

1. Muscovy and the Reforms of Peter the Great (September 5)

Riasanovsky, 3-10, 175-227
Riha, 233-37 (Perry)
Supplemental, Cracraft, 46-58

2. The Petrine Heritage  (September 12)

Riasanovsky, 228-53.
Cracraft, 81-99, 110-125,  245-48
Supplemental, Wortman, Scenarios of Power, (Reserve) 42-80, Cracraft, 127-46,

3. Catherine the Great (September 19)

Riasanovsky, 254-99
Cracraft, 166-79, 197-212, 234-43, 249-51
Riha, 256-79 (Solov'ev, Radishchev)
Supplemental, Cracraft, 179-97

4. Reform and Rebellion (September 26)

Riasanovsky, 300-22
Cracraft, 255-68
Riha, 280-302 (Karamzin, Decembrists)

5. The Apogee of Autocracy  (October 3)

Riasanovsky, 323-47
Cracraft. 268-82, 292-312
Riha, 303-31 (Chaadaev, Belinsky, Herzen), Cracraft, 329-40 (Herzen)
Supplemental: Geroid T. Robinson, Rural Russia under the Old Regime,
34-63 (Reserve), Wortman,  247-332, 379-405.

6. The Emancipation and the Peasant Problem  (October 10)

Riasanovsky, 368-74.
Cracraft, 313-16, 340-55
Gerschenkron, A., "Russia:  Agrarian policies and industrialization, 1861-1917,:" Cambridge Economic History, VI. pt.2, 706-63, also in his Continuity in History and Other Essays. (Reserve)
Supplemental, Wortman, Vol. 2,  Chapter 2

7. The Political Movement and the Narodnichestvo  (October 17)

Riasanovsky, 374-84
Cracraft, 316-29, 381-88
Riha, (Dobroliubov, Breshkovskaia, Uspenskii, Footman) 332-77
Supplemental, Phillip Pomper, The Russian Revolutionary Intelligentsia (Reserve), 57-142

8.-The Crisis of the Autocracy and the Counterreforms  (October 24)

Riasanovsky, 391-98
Cracraft, 360-69
Riha, (Aksakov, Pobedonostev), 378-83, 390-401
Supplemental: Cracraft, 370-81, Wortman, Vol. 2, Chapters, 6-7

Midterm Examination-October 26

9-The Russian Empire: Foreign Policy and the Nationalities  (October, 31)

Riasanovsky, 384-90, 398-401
Cracraft, 398-438
Riha, (Danilevsky, Pipes), 383-89, 430-44
Supplemental:  Hans Rogger, Russia in the Age of Modernization and Revolution: 1881-1917,162-207 (Reserve)

10. Industrialization and Social Change (November 9-14)

Riasanovsky, 422-30
Riha, 409-29 (Workers, Witte)
Cracraft, 441-53,  469-89, .
Gerschenkron, Cambridge Economic History, VI. pt.2, 763-83, or Continuity in History and Other Essays.
Supplemental, Cracraft, 454-68, 528-48

11.-Marxism, the Liberation Movement, and the Onset of the Revolution of 1905  (November 16-21)

Riasanovsky, 398-411
Cracraft, 595-602
Riha, 402-08 (Miliukov)
Tucker, A Lenin Anthology 12-31, 67-91, 99-101, 112-14, 120-34 (What is to be Done? Two Tactics of Social Democracy)
Supplemental: Tucker, xxv-xliii, Cracraft, 552-78, Pomper, 143-90 (The Revolutionary Era)

12.-The Ebb of Revolution and the Aftermath  (November 28)

Riasanovsky, 411-21
Riha, 445-78, (Nicholas II, Government Declaration, Stolypin, Durnovo)
Cracraft, 619-33
Suny-Adams, 7-49
Gerschenkron, Cambridge Economic History, VI. pt.2, 783-800
Supplemental, Wortman, Volume 2, Chapters, 12, 13.

13.-1917  (December 5)

Riasanovsky, 453-61
Tucker,  295-300, 305-06, (April Theses, Enemies of the People)
Suny-Adams, 50-69, 166-95, 241-268, 376-431
Supplemental: Remaining sections in Suny-Adams.

Lecture Outlines

September 5 Background

  1. Russia and its History
  2. Geographical Setting
  3. Problems of Organization, Production, and National Identity

September 7 Muscovite State and Society in the 17th Century

  1. The 17th-century crisis in Russia
  2. Development of the Russian military
  3. Law Code of 1649 and System of Orders
  4. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and the Cultural Crisis
  5. Peter the Great and Old Russia

September 12

[Alexei and cultural crisis, continued.]

Peter the Great

  1. Peter and Muscovy
  2. Military Reform
  3. The Building of Industry
  4. Tax Reform

September 14

[Tax Reform, continued]

Peter the Great, Part Two:
The New State, the New Elite

  1. The "Police" State
  2. The Russian Nobility and the New Official Culture
  3. The Nobility and the Throne

Reports on the Ecclesiastical Regulations and the Table of Ranks

September 19

The Noble Monarchy

  1. The Monarch and the Nobility
  2. Westernization
  3. The Noble Estate and the Peasants
  4. Pugachev

September 21

[The Peasants and Pugachev, continued]

Catherine the Great

  1. Catherine as Legislatrix
  2. Catherine as Journalist
  3. Catherine as Reformer

Report on Radishchev's Journey from Petersburg to Moscow

Important Names, Dates, Russian Terms

For the alleviation of puzzlement and as informal aid to exam review...

CHRONOLOGY (Linked on a separate page - it's a long list!)


House of Rurik - Princes of Moscow



Daniel (son of Alexander I of Vladimir; prince of Moscow, 1263 or later)


Yurii (son)


Ivan I, Kalita ("moneybags") (brother)


Simeon the Proud (son)


Ivan II, the Gentle (brother)

Grand Princes of Moscow-Vladimir



Dimitri Donskoi (son)


Basil I (son)
also, Vassily


Basil II, the Blind (son)
also, Vassily


Ivan III, the Great (son)


Ivan the Younger (son; co-regent)


Basil III (brother; co-regent 1502)
also, Vassily

Tsars of Russia



Ivan IV, the Terrible (son; crowned tsar 1547)


Theodore I (son)
also, Fyodor, Fe(o)dor

House of Godunov



Boris Godunov


Theodore II (son)
also, Fyodor, Fe(o)dor


Dimitri (pretended son of Ivan IV)

House of Shuiskii



Basil IV Shuiskii (deposed, died 1612; interregnum 1610-13)

House of Romanov



Michael Romanov
also Mikhail


Alexis (son)
also, Alexei Mikhailovich


Theodore III (son)
also, Fyodor or Fe(o)dor


Ivan V (brother)


Peter I, the Great (brother, emperor 1721)


Catherine I (widow)
born Martha


Peter II (grandson of Peter I)


Anne (daughter of Ivan V)


Ivan VI (maternal grandson of Catherine, sister of Anne; deposed, died 1764)


Elizabeth (daughter of Catherine I and Peter I)

House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov



Peter III (son of Anne, sister of Elizabeth, and Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp; deposed, died 1762)


Catherine II, the Great (widow)
born Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst


Paul I (son)


Alexander I (son)


Nicholas I (brother)


Alexander II (son)


Alexander III (son)


Nicholas II (son; deposed, died 1918; provisional government, then Soviet rule)

from The Wordsworth Handbook of Kings & Queens, 1989.
See also Appendix I, p. 629,  in Riasanovsky for the same info in family-tree format.


Boris Morozov - tutor of Tsar Alexei and important boiar. His corrupt practices made him extremely unpopular and were the cause of violent riots in Moscow in 1648.
Patriarch Philaret - a.k.a. Fedor Nikitich Romanov, father of Michael Romanov, first Romanov tsar. Compelled to take monastic vows by Boris Godunov, he was released by the first False Dmitri and made metropolitan of Rostov in 1606. Arrested and sent to Poland in 1611. Returned to Moscow when his son Michael was elected tsar and was enthroned at patriarch in 1619. From that time on he ruled Russia jointly with Tsar Michael.
Patriarch Nikon - His reforms created a schism in the Orthodox Church and alienated a section of the clergy and of laymen (the Old Believers). The reforms included the standardization of the ritual and the introduction of a new prayer book (1654). Nikon aroused powerful opposition and was condemned by a church council in 1666-7, deposed and confined to a monastery. His reforms remained in place, however.
Semyon Polotskii - One of tsar Alexei Mikhailovich's tutors, and a monk, preacher, playwright and poet. Known mainly for the metrical innovations of his verse, which was taken from Polish models. He had studied in Poland and brought to Russia the influence of Polish and Classical arts and literature.
Boris Golitsyn - Tutor of Peter the Great, also helped him come to power and was in charge of the administration in lower Volga region. Alcoholic, and rather despotic.
Basil (or Vasily) Golitsyn - Statesman in charge of foreign affairs under the regent Sofiia (also her lover, and real ruler during her regency). Assited in the reorganization of military service and abolition of mestnichestvo.
Alexei Petrovich Romanov - Son of Peter the Great, removed from the succession in favor of Peter's second wife, Catherine, because Alexei "refused to serve the state." Later, Peter was behind Alexei's murder.
Demidov - Urals manufacturer under Peter the Great. Fabulously wealthy, and famous for his cruel treatment of workers.
Ivan Mazepa - Ukrainian Hetman from 1687. Conspired with the Polish and Swedish kings to overthrow Peter, and supported Charles XII's invasion of Ukraine. Defeated at the battle of Poltava in 1709.
Feofan Prokopovich - Ukrainian theologian and archibishop. Summoned to Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great in 1716 to assist in both ecclesiastical and secular reforms. See the Ecclesiastical Regulations in Cracraft.
Alexander Menshikov - Close friend to Peter the Great. Rose from obscure origins to become extremely wealthy statesman and field marshal, and later ruled Russia during the reign of Catherine I and the minority of Peter II. Eventually banished to Siberia due to court intrigue.
Charles XII - Ruled Sweden 1697 to 1718, led the Swedish Army during the Great Northern War with Russia, beginning with a major Russian defeat at Narva in 1700, and ending with the Russian victory at Poltava in 1709.
Sofiia Alekseevna - Regent of Russia from 1682 to 1689, during the minority of Peter and Ivan V. Daughter of Alexei Mikhailovich and well educated by SemŽn Polotsk. Her lover, Vasily Golitsyn, mostly ruled for her during her regency.
Anna Ioannovna (sometimes spelled Ivanovna) - Daughter of Ivan V (Peter the Great's sickly co-tsar, and thus niece to Peter). She married the duke of Courland in 1710, and he died soon thereafter. She was elected empress by the Supreme Privy Council on the condition that she accept a number of provisions ("points," punkty ) curtailing her powers. She accepted, but upon her arrival in Moscow, where she found support from the guards regiments and the lesser nobility (who were suspicious of the powerful old families represented on the Supreme Privy Council), she violated the agreement and took total power herself. She then proceeded to devote herself to luxury while letter her German advisors run the state.
Dolgorukii family - Very old, very wealthy, very powerful noble family. Prince Vasilily was on the Supreme Privy Council that attempted to impose conditions on Anna Ioannovna, and a Princess Dolgorukaia was engaged to marry Peter II, but he died of smallpox in 1729, forcing the "crisis" of 1730.
Vasily Tatishchev - Historian, administrator and geographer. Advisor to Peter the great and supporter of Anna Ioannovna during the 1730 crisis.
Ernst Johann Biron (Buhren) - German favorite of Anna Ioannovna. Her lover from 1727, made a grand chamberlain and count. Extremely unpopular owing to his vindictive and corrupt character. Regent for three weeks after Anna's death, he was deposed and banished to Siberia. Allowed to return under Peter III.
Count Bartolommeo Rastrelli - Court architect under Empress Elizabeth. Built several Baroque palaces for the Romanovs (the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Peterhof, and the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo) as well as the Smolny convent.
Alexander Sumorokov - Playwright, journalist, literary critic, and man of letters. In 1756 he was director of the first permanent theater in Russia. His style mimics French neoclassical literature.
Denis Fonvizin - First Russian playwright, noted for his comedies, many of which satirized the Gallomania of Russian elite society.
Mikhail Lomonosov - Poet and scientist, sometimes called the father of modern Russian literature. As an assistant professor at the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, he did research in the principles of matter and partially anticipated the atomic theory of the structure of matter. He established the first chemical laboratory in Russia and wrote the first Russian grammar. He also wrote a history of Russia and altered the character of Russian prosody by adopting tonic versification in his poetry. He has long been venerated in Russia as a symbol of Russian creative genuis.
(Y)Emelian Pugachëv - Cossack leader of a revolt during Catherine II's reign. Declaring himself Emperor Peter III in 1773, he issued a manifesto promising to free the serfs. Pugachev won widespread support in the Volga area and in the Urals, but the revolt was eventually crushed and he was executed. Hundreds of estates were looted and burned during the revolt, and the landlords with their families often suffered violents at the hands of the peasant. The specter of this revolt hung for a long time over the minds of the provincial gentry, making the prospect of a peasant emancipation almost impossible.
Count Nikita Panin - Statesman and diplomatic advisor to Catherine the Great. Appointed to supervise the Grand Duke Paul's education in 1760 and supported Catherine's coup in 1762. Later led a circle of intellectuals in support of Catherine's Nakaz, or "Instruction."
Nikolas Novikov - Writer and publisher, seminal figure in the early printing industry in Russia. He edited and published four periodicals, including "The Drone," which satirized the idleness of the gentry and engaged in a runnin debate with Catherine's own journal on issues of the day, until Catherine became displeased with his views and began to shut down his journals, one after the other. He took over the Moscow University Press in 1778, but it was closed by Catherine in 1791 and he was later imprisoned. He was released upon the accession of Paul I.
Alexander Radishchev - His Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow exposes the injustices of serfdom and earned him the death sentence. This was commuted to 10 years' exile in Siberia, where he continued his literary activity. Following the death of Catherine the Great, Radishchev was permitted to return and in 1801 served on the commission for the codification of laws. He committed suicide in 1802, despairing that he was unable to effect any real change in the lot of the serf.

(see also John Paxton, Companion to Russian History, NY: Facts on File, 1983.)

  (If you're viewing this in frames and have trouble with the table, try right-clicking, then open the frame in a new window, and maximize that window. If all else fails, see the simplified hierarchy below.)

Civil Hierarchy

Church Hierarchy

Civil Urban Hierarchy

The Tsar and his Family


Upper Service Class

  • Boyars/Boiars         (Members
  • Okolnichie              of the 
  • Dumnye dvoryane   Boyar
  • Dumnye d'yaki       Council)


  • Stol'niki
  • Stryapchie
  • D'yaki


  • Moscow dvoryane
  • Zhil'tsy


Middle Service Class

  • Dvoryane (Gentry)
  • Deti boyarskie


Lower Service Class

  • Musketeers (strel'tsy)
  • Cossacks
  • Gunners (pushkari)
  • Riflemen (zatinshchiki)
  • Soldiers



  • Landed peasants (krest'yane)
  • Landless peasants (bobyli)



  • Contract bondmen (kabal'nye kholopi)
  • Hereditary bondmen (close to slaves; various types)

- Patriarch

- Metropolitans

- Archbishops

- Bishops

- Monastery heads - archimandrites (in important monasteries, or overseeing several)

- Monastery fathers superior

- Archdeacons

- Monastery cellarers

- Monastery treasurers

- Cathedral elders

- Elders

- Monks

- Priests

- Deacons

- Servants

- Gosti (merchants of the first guild)

- Gostinaya sotnya (merchants of the second guild)

- Sukonnaya sotnya (merchants of the third guild)

- Townsmen (posadskie liudi)

- Dependents (zakladchiki)

(adapted from Richard Hellie. Muscovite Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967)

Or, in incredibly simplified terms:

- Tsar and family
- Boyars (old princely families) and other high nobility (the Patriarch and metropolitans fit in somewhere around here in status)
- Lesser nobility, landed gentry (many very poor, constituting middle service class) (also, Monastery officials and monks)
- Soldiers, merchants, most clergymen, landed peasants
- Serfs, or peasants bound to land and lord (by 1649, very fine line between serfs and slaves)

(This hierarchy remains essentially the same throughout the Imperial period, except that the term 'boyar' or 'boiar' is no longer in use after Peter the Great abolishes the Boyar Council and institutes the Table of Ranks.)


Some terms you will encounter frequently in lecture and readings:

chernozëm - lit. "black soil" - the region with the most productive soil for agriculture (mostly Ukraine)
zemskii sobor - "Assembly of the Land" - an occasional gathering of boyars, clergy, gentry, and sometimes burghers and peasants, called by Muscovite tsars to consider matters of special importance. Abandoned by Peter the Great.
vlast' - "power" - has very strong, often forbidding, connotations in Russian
prikazy - "chancelleries" - departments of the Muscovite government, headed by a boyar or okolnich. There were many.
boiars - members of the medieval Russian aristocracy in the 16th and 17th centuries, as distinguished from the service nobles, "pomeshchiki." Boiars received their titles from the tsars, headed important offices, and participated in the Boiar duma, an advisory council.
pomestiia - estates held on service tenure. In the early 18th century and later, the term is used more generally to describe estates owned by nobles (largely replacing the term votchina, meaning inherited, privately owned land).
strel'tsy - "musketeers" - a military corps established by Ivan the Terrible and holding special privileges. Abolished by Peter the Great after an uprising.
duma - council, or later parliament. There is a "State Duma" in the Russian government today, composed of an upper and lower house.
Rossiia - term adopted after the 17th-century annexations of Ukraine ("Little Rus'") and Belorussia ("White Russia") to "Great Russia". The adjective is "rossiskii," generally connoting empire, or "all the Russias," including many ethnicities beyond that connected with the Muscovite state, as opposed to "russkii" meaning ethnic Russianness or having to do only with Russia proper
Rus' - term for the state / nation originally centered around Kiev, and then around Moscow.
raskol' - "schism" - generally refers to the Great Schism following Patriarch Nikon's reforms in 1666.
raskol'niki - "schismatics" - or Old Believers, followers of the pre-Nikon Church.
mestnichestvo - "system of places" - by which appointment of court officials, ambassadors, and army officials depended upon inherited rank and status. Records of genealogical tables were burned in 1682, thus abolishing mestnichestvo.
dvoryanstvo - "gentry" - a dvoryanin is a gentleman (in terms of class, if not character), dvoryanye, is plural
gubernii - "provinces" - an administrative unit introduced by Peter the Great and abolished by the Soviet government in 1923
kormlenie - "feeding" - a system of local administration prevalent from the 14th through the 16th century, under which local administrators, who were appointed from Moscow, received payments in kind from the local population.
Patronymic - see below.
Tatar / tartar - Turkic-speaking descendants of the Golden Horde Mongols. Tatars settled along the central section of the Volga, in the Crimean peninsula and other areas in the 15th century. The term "tatar" was often used to refer more widely to all the nomadic tribes of the Asian deserts and steppes. From the fifth to the ninth century, the Tatars were predominantly farmers, but from the 18th century onward, became renowned as traders.
Primogeniture - the principle of succession by the eldest male heir. Was the tacit tradition in Russian and other monarchies, but Peter the Great overturned it with his own succession law (the first written law of succession in Russia), allowing the tsar to designate his own successor (see Cracraft)
Preobrazhenskoe - a village near Moscow where Peter the Great spent time with his play regiments as a child. Later one of the senior guards infantry regiments in the Imperial Army was named the Preobrazhensky. The word "preobrazhensk" in Russian means "transfiguration."
Semënov, Semyonnovsky Regiment - Another village of Peter's childhood, from which is derived the name of an elite Guards regiment.
The Bronze Horseman - Famous statue in Petersburg by French sculptor Falconet, commissioned by Catherine the Great. See Pushkin's famous poem of the same name.
Voronezh - Town 300 miles south of Moscow where Peter established a shipbuilding industry during the Azov campaign in 1695.
Azov - River port at the mouth of the Don river, guarding access to the Black Sea. The port was subject to Turkey from 1471, and won briefly by Peter, only to be lost again. It became Russian finally under Catherine the Great in 1774.
Poltava - Ukrainian town on the Vorskiya river, near which the Battle of Poltava took place on July 8, 1709, ending the Great Northern War with Sweden.
Narva - Town situated on the Gulf of Finland in present-day Estonia. Possession was contested between Sweden and Russia - it was the site of a great defeat for Russia in 1700, which spurred Peter onto many military reforms. It was captured by Peter in 1714.
Tula - Town in central European Russia, and site of an arms factory built by Peter in 1712 and always a center of the Russian metallurgical industry. Small arms were being produced in Tula before Peter declared war on Sweden.
Holy Synod - The administrative organ of the Russian Orthodox Church, founded by Peter on the Lutheran model in 1720. The establishment of the Synod placed church affairs firmly under the state, and meant that they were often administered by lay officials.
The Twelve Colleges - Administrative structure established by Peter, meant to replace the characteristically chaotic and corrupt prikazy system with one based on order and reason. The colleges were also corrupt, but they did somewhat rationalize the arrangment of administrative departments within the central government.
Senate - Administrative body composed of officials chosen by virtue of service rather than birth (at least in theory), as opposed to the old boiar duma.
Procurator General - highest (and very powerful) administrative office, established by Peter the Great.
Shliaketstvo (based on the Polish Szłachta) - Petrine term for gentry, or aristocracy, later replaced by the Russian "dvorianstvo."
Treaty of Nystad / Nyshtadt - Treaty between Russia and Sweden of September 10, 1721 concluding the Great Northern War. Sweden ceded to Russia several Baltic territories, while Russia retained Vyborg but returned the rest of Finland to Sweden. Peter the Great formally assumed the title of emperor (imperator) after the ratification of the treaty. Russia replaces Sweden as the great power in the Baltic.
Blagorodnyi(noble) versus podlyi (base) - class distinction with ethical connotations.
Terem - Term for the part of a noble Muscovite household where women were sequestered. Peter forced Muscovite noble women to appear in public and to wear (much more revealing) western dress, and generally gave them a much more prominent and positive role in society.
Assemble (French term, used in Russian) - Social gatherings Peter imposed on the nobility by state decree, in which rank order was not observed and women participated fully. Nobles were to dress and behave with western manners.
Ex nihilo - Latin for "out of nothing," often applied by pro-Petrine historians to describe the sweeping quality of Peter's reforms, which created a modern, European Russia "out of nothing," as opposed to historians who believe Peter's reforms either (a) were merely a progression in the series of changes already taking place throughout the 17th century, or (b) represent a break from and denial of a previous Russia whose unique qualities were (tragically) subsumed by the westernization and modernization processes Peter began.
repartitional commune - distribution of land depending on tax-paying ability. I.e., those households (each containing an extended family) who can / must pay more taxes, are given more land. The commune redistributes land accordingly each year.
dvor - lit. "court," "yard," and of course "courtyard." Also refers to a household, as in the peasant household, an extremely important unit in the commune system.
starosta - "elder," an elected office, putting the holder in charge of the commune (with the help of a small group of other villagers, similarly elected) for a term of a few years. A very desirable office, as it put the holder in the way of a lot of bribes.
nakaz - "instruction," the Nakaz was Catherine's "Instruction to the Nobility," a document stating her principles of law and government, according to which a committee was to formulate and codify Russian laws. The committee came to naught, but the Nakaz was published widely at home and abroad (in several languages), and made a big impression on contemporaries. Catherine's views were largely borrowed - sometimes word for word - from Western Enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu, Baccariat, etc.
zakonnost' - the principle of "legality," from the Russian root "zakon," meaning legislative measure or fundemental law. Russian law had not been codified since the law code of 1649 (and wouldn't be until the reign of Nicholas I), and courts functioned more according to custom, corruption, or whim than according to state law. The principle of zakonnost' put forward by Catherine in her Nakaz and supported by intellectuals like those of the Panin circle was the notion that the "Enlightened monarchy" they envisioned for Russia (as opposed to the "absolute monarchy" of Peter the Great) would rest on an organized, rational code of laws, not so much restraining the monarchy but imposing order and reason on the bureacracy, which in turn was presupposed to be toward the "general good" of the people.

(see also John Paxton, Companion to Russian History, NY: Facts on File, 1983, from which many definitions are adapted.)

A Very Short Course on the Russian Language:

Graded Assignments


1.-A mid-term in-class examination (October 26)  (20 % of grade)

2.- Two essays of 5-8 pages, each on a historical memoir, analyzing the ways the texts combine a personal narrative, with historical events, trends, and figures. Further instructions will be provided later in the semester.  Students should discuss the paper with the instructor or assistant before beginning work. (40 % of Grade)

The first essay is due October 16.   Suggested works:

Catherine II- Memoirs
Sergei Aksakov- A Family Chronicle (pb)
Nadezhda Durova-The Cavalry Maiden: Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars (pb)
Alexander Herzen, My Past and Thoughts, Volume 1

The second essay is due November 27.  Suggested Works:

Peter Kropotkin- Memoirs of a Revolutionist (pb)
Vera Figner-Memoirs (pb)
Barbara Engel and Clifford Rosenthal- Five Sisters; Women Against the Tsar (memoirs of women revolutionaries) (pb)
Leon Trotsky-My Life (pb) (Chapters 1-28)
Victoria E.Bonnell. (ed.) -The Russian Worker: Life and labor Under the Tsarist Regime  (worker memoirs)
S. Kanatchikov- A Radical Worker in Tsarist Russia (pb)
M. Gorky-Childhood  (First Section of Autobiography) (pb)
N. Berdiaev- Dream and Reality (Chapters 1-9)

 3.- A final examination (30% of Grade)

 4.-Students are expected to participate in discussions, raise questions, objections, etc. during lectures.  (10%)

Graduate Students:

1.-Two essays of 5-8 pages analyzing and comparing interpretations presented in two or three works of history on the issues raised in the course.  A supplemental list of works will be distributed in the next week or two.  Papers will be due October 23 and December 11.

2.-A Final Examination.  (With the agreement of the instructor, graduate students may write a second longer paper involving a survey of the historical literature on a particular issue.)

Links for more information

Office Hours and Contact Info

Professor Richard Wortman                     rsw3@columbia.edu
1231 IAB                                                   854-8488 (office)
Office Hours: Tues, Thurs, 4:30-5:30

TA: Kate Pickering                                 kmp30@columbia.edu
                                                                 749-5338 (home number)
Office Hours: Tues, Thurs, 1:30-2:30
or by appointment, in the GSAS Lounge, 301 Philosophy
(on the left when entering from campus, yes undergrads are allowed in!)

NB: will be out of town Tuesday, September 26


Please send problems with or suggestions for this page to Kate Pickering, kmp30@columbia.edu