Russia to 1917 Syllabus

42.356 Fall 2003

Study Questions, Week 12

Group Assignments



Counter Reform?

Cracraft, Ch. 9

Introduction:   All groups

When and why did the Tsar's support for reform begin to waver?

Why did Alexander II dismiss Count Tolstoi in 1878?

What were the general policies of Loris-Melikov?

What events brought an end to Loris-Melikov's "reform" efforts?

How does the editor characterize the political views of Alexander III?


Pipes, Towards a Police State:   Group 1

What is Pipe's thesis?

What evidence does he present to support this thesis?

According to Pipes, what were the "unintended" results of creating a police state?

What weaknesses do you see in Pipe's argument? Explain.


Pearson, The Failure of Reform:   Group 2

What is Pearson's thesis?

What evidence does he present to support this thesis?

How does he interpret Tolstoi's policies (eg., the Land Captains law)?

Explain the rift between centralists and decentralists.

What "fatal weaknesses" does P. say the regime suffered from circa 1900? Explain.

What does P. mean by "undergovernment"? "Underinstitutionalization"?

Does Pearson's argument support or challenge Pipes? Explain.

How does Pearson's thesis suggest continuity in state policy from Peter I to Alexander III?


Introduction to documents:  All Groups

What were the basic ideas of the populist movement (narodniki)?

What ideas did the Zemlia i Volia (Land and Liberty) party stand for?

What was the "movement to the people"?

Into what groups did Zemlia i Volia split in 1879, and over what issues?

What ideas did Chernyi Peredel represent? Narodnaia Volia (People's Will)?

What became of these groups after the assassination of Alexander II?

Who was Vera Figner?

Who was Konstantin Pobedonostsev?


Figner defends Assassination/ letter of the executive....:   Group 3

Based on Figner's description, why and how did People's Will plan to kill Alexander II?

How was Alexander II actually killed? How did Figner and friends respond?

What argument did People's Will make to Alexander III in their 10 March 1881 letter?

What strikes you about the tone and form of argumentation in this letter?


Manifesto of Alexander III:   Group 4

How did Alexander III describe his right to rule? Did this mark a continuity or a discontinuity in the Romanov dynasty's claim to legitimacy?

How did Alexander III describe the rule of his father? The murder of his father?

Does this manifesto suggest support or rejection of "reform"? Explain.


Pobedonostsev Attacks Democracy:   Group 4

How does P. define freedom and democracy?

What arguments does P. make against participatory democracy (voting)?

What is P.'s argument against parliamentarism?

According to P., what would be the results of parliamentary democracy in Russia?

[Think of how these arguments relate to other classic statements of conservativism, eg., by

de Maistre, Burke, and Karamzin]


Late Imperial Russia as an Empire

Cracraft, Ch. 10

Introduction:   All Groups

By 1900, were most subjects of the Russian Empire "Russian"? Explain.

According to C., what do we need to remember about 19th century Imperial elites?

Was Russian nationalism the only nationalistic sentiment felt in the Empire?


Kappeler, Multi-Ethnic Empire:   Group 3

How did Russia's 19th century expansion differ from its 18th century expansion?

How did this effect state policy and elite views of Russia's nature?

Explain what K. means when he says that homogenization and diversification were

contradictory trends that increased political and social tensions. Give examples.

Explain what K. means when he says that modernization sharpened the Empire's colonial

character. But does he really think that regions in the Empire had a "colonial" character? Explain.

Who benefited from the Empire's expansion? Explain.


Thaden, Russification:   Group 4

What is Thaden's criticism of the historiography on state russification policies?

What does T. mean by russification?

Does T. think that state nationality policy succeeded? Explain, and give examples.

Outline the trends in state policy towards russification in the western borderlands between 1825 and 1914.

What is T.'s main point about the effect of Tsarist nationality policy in 1881-1914?

Does T. think that russification was simply brutal repression? Explain.

In what ways did russification harm and help the Baltic minorities?

What is Thaden's thesis?


Introduction to documents:   All Groups

Who was Alexander Gorchakov?

Who was James Bryce?

Who as Prince S. D. Urasov?


Gorchakov Circular:   Group 2

What does G. see as the role of Russia in Central Asia?

In what ways is G.'s position reminiscent of arguments in favor of imperialism made in the US and in Europe? Does it sound like the "White Man's Burden"? Explain.


Bryce Describes Tiflis:   Group 2

In what ways was Tiflis a "Russian" city? "European"? "Georgian"? "Asian"?

What do you find most striking about these descriptions?


Urusov Explains Antisemitism:  Group 1

On whom does Urusov blame the violent Pogrom in Kishinev in 1903? Explain.

What was the Pale of Settlement? What were the Temporary Regulations of 1882?

What were the aims of Tsarist Jewish policy in the 1880s?

Where is Bessarabia? How does U. describe the Jews of Bessarabia and their economic status?

What kinds of disabilities were imposed on Jews (eg, in military duty, civil rights, etc.)?

According to U., what were the effects of these disabilities?

What sort of charges were leveled against Russia's Jews?

Does U. agree with these claims? Does he think that they justified violence? Explain.

Does U. agree with Duhring's argument about Jews?

What is U.'s conclusion about Russia's "Jewish problem"?

Russia to 1917 Syllabus