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Russia to 1917 Fall 2003

Study Questions on Kanatchikov, A Radical Worker in Tsarist Russia.

Be sure to read the "Editor's Note" before starting the rest of the book.  You may find it very helpful to read Zelnik's introductory essay before you read the book, but it is also ok if you wait to read the intro essay until after you complete the memoir.

To facilitate our discussion of Kanatchikov's memoirs, please consider these questions as you read the book.  (We can discuss other issues as well, but I want to begin with these...)

What does this memoir tell us about the following:

In regards to village life in the late 1800s

    What kinds of generational conflicts existed in the village?

    Would you describe village life as depicted by Kanatchikov as "unchanging" or as in the process of slow "transition"? 

    In what ways was the experience of urban labor migration effecting village culture?

    How did returning migrants seem to fit into village life?

    How did the attitudes of people with close ties to the village seem to differ from those of people who had "broken" with village life?

In regards to the experiences of labor migrants,

    How did peasant migrants make contacts in the cities (how did they find work and places to live), and how did they organize their daily lives (arrange for meals, etc.)?

    How did most peasant migrants seem to adapt to cultural life in Moscow and St. Petersburg?

    What kinds of tensions existed between new migrants and "established" workers?

    Did families back in the villages have much influence over the behavior of the migrants?  Explain.

    What kinds of "rhythms" seemed to shape the work cycle for migrant factory workers?

In regards to life at the factories,

   How did workers obtain skills?

   What role did differences in skill levels play in "shop-floor" culture?

   What kinds of differences existed between skilled and less-skilled workers, and how did they get along?

   How was discipline maintained in factories?

   What role did the state play in maintaining discipline in the factories?

   What seems to have been the main difference between factories and industry in Moscow and in Petrograd?

   What were the main differences between different kinds of enterprises (e.g., large factories vs small shops and subcontractors, textile factories vs metalworking factories)?

   Was Russia's working class entirely "Russian"?  What about its capitalists?

   What were strikes such an important weapon in the Russian workers' movement?

In regards to workers' culture, and especially the culture of "conscious" skilled workers, 

   What did most workers do with their free time? 

   Were there differences between the leisure activities of skilled and unskilled workers?  Explain.

   How important was religion to different "types" of workers?

    What do we learn about gender relations among workers?

   What do we learn about skilled workers' attitudes towards education?

   How did skilled workers react to "big" political news stories--were they interested?

   What kinds of attitudes did different "types" of workers express towards Tsarism and towards capitalism?

   How did workers come into contact with the revolutionary movement?

In regard to the revolutionary movement,

   What impact did workers' night classes have on workers' political views?

   How did worker-radicals and student radicals relate to each other?

    How did worker-radicals get along with the radical intelligentsia, in particular, with liberals and with the "old" populists?  

   How did radical "underground circles" form and function?

   How did the state deal with worker radicals?

   What were conditions like in various tsarist "political" prisons, and how did the prisoners "keep busy"?

   Explain what was involved in being sent into "internal exile," and how revolutionaries adapted to these experiences.

   Why was Kanatchikov a Marxist?

   What seems to have been the relationship between the "old" Social Democratic (intelligentsia) leadership and "young" worker SD's like Kanatchikov?

   What does Kanatchikov have to say about the split of the SDs into "Bolsheviks" and "Mensheviks" in 1903?

   How did underground SD and SR cells function?

   How did the SDs and SRs seem to get along in the provinces and was this different from relations between the party leaderships?

   What kinds of means did the revolutionary parties use to agitate and organize among workers, and which seem to have been most effective?

Final questions: 

    Zelnik says that this memoir demonstrates how complicated late Imperial Russian society was, and how complicated the worlds of the Russian workers were.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?

   All in all, what factors seem to have been drawing people like Kanatchikov into the revolutionary movement, and what does this tell us about late Imperial Russian society?

    How effective was the tsarist police state's efforts to disable or destroy the revolutionary movement?

   How would you describe the "mood" in Russia on the eve of the 1905 revolution?

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