Chapter 18
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Chapter 18. The Rise of Russia. 1450-1480: Mongols (Tatars) were driven out of Russia Followed by Russian expansion (much of the land Asian). 1450-1750: Russia’s great land empire formed Limited commercial exchange 17 th century – gained leading role in Eastern Europe

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Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

The Rise of Russia


  • 1450-1480: Mongols (Tatars) were driven out of Russia

    • Followed by Russian expansion (much of the land Asian)


  • 1450-1750: Russia’s great land empire formed

    • Limited commercial exchange

  • 17th century – gained leading role in Eastern Europe

  • Regional kingdoms remained in Eastern Europe (differed from Russia)

    • 17th century – Poland and Lithuania rival Russia


  • Culture of Russia influenced by Byzantine Empire

    • Orthodox Christianity

    • Vibrant cultural traditions

    • Rich art

  • Two centuries of Mongol rule had reduced Russia’s cities and trade and lowered its cultural and educational levels

    • Blocked Russia from Renaissance

    • Peasants reduced to serfdom

  • Controversy of Western influence developed

    • Embrace it or reject it?

      Eurasian Russian Empire would dominate region


Russia’s Expansionist Politics under the Tsar

  • First… Russia needed to defeat Mongols

    • 14th century – Duchy of Moscow was center for liberation effort

    • Local princes established more autonomy

    • Effectiveness of Mongol control began to diminish

  • Moscow princes had gained political experience through the collection of taxes for the Mongols

    • Moved toward regional independence


  • 1462-1505: Ivan III (Ivan the Great)

    • Styled himself “tsar” (“autocrat of all Russians”)

    • 1462 – freed large part of Russia

    • 1470s – incorporated trading city of Novgorad

    • Organized a strong army

      • Government had a military emphasis

    • Used loyalties to the Orthodox Christian faith and to Russia (blend of nationalism and religion) to win support

      • Head of the Orthodox Church

    • 1480 – Declared Russian independence from Mongol rule

      • Moscow freed from all payments to Mongols

  • Russia gained a vast territory running from the borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom to Ural Mountains


The Need for Revival

  • Mongol control never reshaped basic Russian values

    • Rulers were only interested in tribute

    • Most Russians remained Christians

  • Most local administrative issues remained in hands of regional princes, landlords, or peasant villages

  • Mongol period reduced the vigor of Russian cultural life

    • Lower levels of literacy among priesthood

    • Economic life deteriorated

      • Trade down

      • Manufacturing limited

  • Russia had become a purely agricultural economy dependent on peasant labor


  • 1533-1584: Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible)

    • Continued policy of Russian expansion

    • Greater emphasis on controlling the tsarist autocracy

    • Confiscated large estates, redistributed to supporters

    • Used terror to subdue civilian population

      • Earned nickname by killing many Russian nobles (boyars)

        • Increase power of tsar, decrease power of boyars

  • Killed his own son in a fit of rage


Patterns of Expansion

  • Territorial expansion focused on Central Asia

    • Pushed southward toward Caspian Sea

    • Moved East into Ural mountains

    • Motivated by desire to push back former Mongol overlords

  • Ivan III and Ivan IV recruited Cossacks

    • Free peasants that settled on newly conquered land

    • Recruited to settle on the steppe and join cavalry

    • Combined agriculture with daring military feats on horseback

    • Conquered Caspian Sea area

    • Moved into western Siberia (across the Urals)


  • Expansion also offered tsars:

    • A way to reward loyal nobles and bureaucrats by giving them estates in new territories

    • Provided new agricultural areas

    • Sources of labor

  • Russia used slaves for certain kinds of production work into the 18th century

  • Expansion added diversity of people (multicultural empire)


Western Contact and Romanov Policy

  • Early tsars – carefully managed contacts with western Europe

    • Realized Western Europe was superior culturally and economically

  • Ivan III – eager to launch diplomatic missions to leading Western states

  • Ivan IV – British merchants established trading contacts with Russia

    • Manufactured products in exchange for furs and other raw materials (from Russia)


  • Foreign architects modified Renaissance styles to take Russian building traditions into account

    • Elaborate, onion-shaped domes

    • Distinctive form of classicism


  • 1598 - Ivan IV died without a heir, led to The Time of Troubles

    • New power claims by boyars

    • Fifteen years of turmoil

    • Numerous tsars, imposters, and peasant revolts

    • 1610 - Invasions from Sweden and Poland repelled by volunteer armies

Volunteer army fighting the Poles


  • 1613 – assembly of boyars chose a member of the Romanov family as tsar

    • Romanov dynasty was to rule Russia until great revolution of 1917

      • Autocratic monarchy

Election of 16 year old Michael Romanov, the first Tsar of the Romanov dynasty


  • Michael Romanov

    • Reestablished internal order

    • Drove out foreign invaders

    • Resumed expansionist policy of predecessors

      • A successful war against Poland brought Russia part of Ukraine (including kiev); Russian territory to south also expanded

  • Alexis Romanov

    • Michael’s successor

    • Limits powers of nobles and Orthodox Church

    • Policies resumed the Orthodox tradition of state control over the church


Russia’s First Westernization (1690-1790)

  • End of 17th century – Russia had become one of the great land empires

    • Unusually agricultural

  • Peter I (son of Alexis; aka Peter the Great) ruled from 1689 to 1725

    • Extended his predecessors’ policies

    • Built up tsarist control

    • Expanded Russian territory

    • Added a more definite interest in changing selected aspects of Russian economy and culture by imitating Western forms


Tsarist Autocracy of Peter the Great

  • Peter was an autocrat (absolute ruler, dictator)

    • Put down revolts against his rule with great cruelty

    • Had no interest in parliamentary features of West


  • Peter's reforms: progressive but autocratic

    • Military reform: to build powerful , modern army (largest European army)

      • Imitates the West

      • Offered better pay and modern weapons to peasants

      • Aristocratic officers ordered to study mathematics and geometry

      • 1700-1722: Defeated Sweden in Great Northern War

      • Set up a secret police (would survive until 1990s)

        • Prevent dissent

        • Monitor the bureaucracy

    • Bureaucratic reform: to facilitate collection of taxes

      • Only nobles educated to serve as government officials

      • Table of Ranks allowed social mobility for civil servants by merit and service

      • Created new nobles based on service, loyalty, success in army

      • Freed the states from exclusive dependence on aristocratic officials

    • Social reform: challenged established customs

      • Abolished the seclusion of women; encouraged social mixing of the sexes

      • Ordered subjects to wear western clothing; ordered men to shave beards


  • Peter attacked the Ottoman Empire (won no great victories)

  • Warred with Sweden and gained territory on eastern coast of the Baltic Sea

  • Russia became a major factor in European diplomatic and military alignments

  • The tsar commemorated Russia’s shift of interests westward by moving his capital from Moscow to a new Baltic city that he named St. Petersburg

Peter the Great Meditating the Idea of Building St Petersburg at the Shore of theBaltic Sea by AlexandreBenois, 1916


What Westernization Meant

  • Peter concentrated on:

    • Westernization from top down which hurt Russian traditions

    • Improvements in political organization

    • Selected economic development

    • Cultural change

    • Provide culture and education for nobles (boyars)

  • Modernized Russia’s small bureaucracy and altered the military structure by using Western organizational principles

    • Well-defined military hierarchy

    • Specialized bureaucratic departments

    • Improved army’s weapons

    • First Russian navy

  • Provincial governors were appointed from St. Petersburg

  • Systemized law codes

  • Revised tax systems

  • Taxes on ordinary Russian peasants increased steadily

  • Economic efforts focused on building up metallurgical and mining industries

    • Benefited from extensive iron holdings

      • Financed state-run weapons and shipbuilding facilities


  • Peter was eager to make Russia culturally respectable in Western eyes

    • Required nobles to wear Western clothes and shave off beards

  • Many of the Western-oriented changes impacted only the upper class

  • Provide more education in mathematics

  • Founded scientific institutes and academics along Western lines

  • Western fads and fashions came into new capital

    • Ballet (France)

    • Christmas tree (Germany)


  • Peter also pressed for improvements in the condition of upper class women

    • Could now attend public events (like women in Western Europe)

  • Peter did not try to involve ordinary people of Russia in the technological and intellectual aspects of Westernization

  • There was no interest in building the kind of worldwide export economy characteristic of the West

    • Peter wanted economic development to support military strength rather than to achieve wider commercial goals

  • Westernization that did occur brought hostile responses

    • Many peasants resented this Westernization and expenses of their landlords (some of whom no longer even knew Russian but spoke only French)


Consolidation Under Catherine the Great

  • 1724 - Death of Peter the Great was followed by several decades of weak rule

    • Ineffective emperors and empresses

    • Russian territorial expansion continued

      • Several clashes with Ottoman Empire and further exploration and settlement in Siberia


  • 1762 – 1795 :Catherine the Great

    • Resumed Peter the Great’s interests in many respects

    • Defended the powers of the central monarch

    • Made a deal with nobles – back me up, keep serfs

      • Put down a vigorous peasant uprising

    • Selective Westernizer

    • Summoned various reform commissions to discuss new law codes and other Western style measures

      • Reduction of traditionally severe punishments

  • Combined genuine Enlightenment interests with her need to consolidate power as a truly Russian ruler

    • Introduced western literature; promoted Russian literature

    • Great friend of Voltaire

    • Promoted immunization against smallpox


  • Catherine was a centralizer (advocate of a strong tsarist hand)

  • But Catherine also gave new powers to the nobility over their serfs

    • Nobles served a strong central government and staffed it as bureaucrats and officers

    • Nobles were a service aristocracy (not an independent force)

  • Most of the actual administration over local peasants (except for those on government run estates) was wielded by noble landlords

    • Landlords could demand peasant labor, levy taxes in money and goods, and even impose punishments for crime because landlord dominated courts administered local justice

  • Catherine increased the harshness of punishments nobles could decree for their serfs


St. Petersburg Cathedral; started by Peter III and finished by Catherine the Great

  • Catherine supported Western-style art and architecture

  • Continued to build St. Petersburg in classical styles

  • When the French Revolution broke out (1789), Catherine was quick to close Russia’s doors to the “seditious” writings of liberals and democrats

    • Censored a small but emerging band of Russian intellectuals who urged reforms along Western ideals

    • One Western-inspired radical (noble named Radishev) sought to abolish serfdom

      • Harassed by Catherine’s police (his writings were banned)


  • Catherine pursued Russian expansion

    • Resumed campaigns against the Ottoman Empire

      • Won territories in Central Asia

  • The Russian-Ottoman contest became a central diplomatic issue for both powers

    • Russia became increasingly ascendant

  • Claimed territory of Alaska in Russia’s name

  • Russia was able to win agreements with Austria and Prussia for partition of Poland

    • Eliminated Poland as an independent state, and Russia held the lion’s share of the spoils

    • Polish parliament ineffective and unstable; country poorly defended

  • Russia’s ultimate role in putting down the French armies of Napoleon after 1812


  • By the time of Catherine’s death in 1796, Russia had passed through three centuries of extraordinary development

    • Won independence

    • Constructed a strong central state

    • Brought new elements into Russia’s culture and economy

      • Much of this borrowed from the West


Themes in Early Modern Russian History

  • Because of its great estates, its local political power, and its service to the state, the Russian nobility maintained a vital position in Russian society


Serfdom: The Last of East Europe’s Masses

  • 17th and 18th centuries – power of the nobility over the serfs increased steadily

    • Before the Mongol conquest, Russian peasants had been largely free farmers

    • After the expulsion of the Tatars, increasing numbers of Russian peasants fell into debt and had to accept servile status to the noble land owners when they could not repay

      • Russian government actively encouraged this process from 16th century onward

        • Serfdom gave the government a way to satisfy the nobility and regulate peasants when the government itself lacked the bureaucratic means to extend direct controls over the common people

  • As new territories were added to the empire, the system of serfdom was extended accordingly


  • By 1800 – half of Russia’s peasantry was enserfed to landlords

    • Much of the other half owed comparable obligations to the state

  • 17th and 18th century – laws passed tied serfs to the land and increased the legal rights of the landlords

    • 1649 – law created hereditary status of serfs

  • Russia was setting up a system of serfdom very close to outright slavery

    • Bought and sold

    • Gambled away

    • Punished by their masters

  • Unusual case of slavery – people essentially enslaved many of its own members

Flogging a serf


  • Coerced labor was used to produce grain surpluses sold to Western merchants for the growing cities of western Europe

    • In return, Western merchants brought in manufactured goods, including the luxury furnishings and clothing essential to the aristocratic lifestyle

  • Serfs on the estates of eastern Europe were taxed and policed by their landlords

    • Paid high taxes or obligations in kind, and they owed extensive labor service to the landlords or government

    • 1785 – allowed landlords to punish harshly any serfs convicted of major crimes or rebellion

  • Most peasants were illiterate and poor


Trade and Economic Dependence

  • In between serfs and landlords, there were few layers of Russian society

    • Cites were small

    • 95% of population remained rural

    • Some nonnoble bureaucrats and professionals

    • Small merchant groups

  • Most of Russia’s European trade was handled by Westerners

  • Russia’s economic system produced enough revenue to support an expanding state and empire

  • Russia was able to trade in furs and other commodities with areas in central Asia

  • Russia’s expansion yielded significant population growth

  • There was little motivation among the peasantry for improvement because increased production usually was taken by the state or landlord

  • Manufacturing lagged behind Western standards


Social unrest

  • Russia’s economic and social system led to protest

  • By the end of 18th century, a small but growing number of Western-oriented aristocrats such as Radishev were criticizing the regime’s backwardness

    • Wanted to abolish serfdom

  • Recurrent peasant rebellions

  • Russian peasants for the most part were politically loyal to the tsar, but they harbored bitter resentments against their landlords

    • Accused them of taking lands that were rightfully theirs


  • 1770s – Pugachev uprising

    • Pugachev – Cossack chieftain who claimed to be the legitimate tsar

    • Promised an end to serfdom, taxation, military conscription, and abolition of landed aristocracy

    • Killed thousands of nobles, officials, and priests

    • He was brought to Moscow in a case and cut into quarters in a public square


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