This course will examine Russia's history as a vast, multi-ethnic, autocratic Empire. It spans the period from the crowning of Peter the Great (1682) to the abdication of Nicholas II (1917)
It will consider Russia from political, social, and cultural perspectives. Along the way, it will examine what life was like, at various periods, for Russia's nobles, merchants, priests, and peasants. It will explore some of the stories of the empire's many ethnic and religious minorities. And, it will engage with some of the major historical questions and debates surrounding this period in Russian history, including:
- Did Peter the Great really redirect the course of Russian history?
- What did autocracy mean for Russia, and how did it work?
- Why was the eighteenth century a great time to be a female monarch in Russia?
- Was Catherine the Great a paragon of Enlightenment values or the ultimate despot? Or both?
- Why have Russians so often argued over whether their country is "European" or "Eurasian?"
- How did Russia manage to stand up to Napoleon in 1812 and become a European superpower?
- What did it mean to "free the serfs?" What effects did it have?
- How did the Russian Empire hold together for so long, despite vast differences of religion, ethnicity, and class?
- Why did the Russian Empire collapse in 1917?
- And, what set it on the course to becoming the first Communist nation on Earth?