When researching and discussing Grigori Rasputin, it quickly becomes clear that his presence in the Russian court took the Russian monarchy down a path for destruction. It is incredibly intriguing that a Siberian peasent was able to hold the ear of Russia’s most powerful family.
However, it is important to note that by the time Nicholas II came to the throne absolute monarchy was not the way it had been before. The monarchy was weak, especially once the Duma was put in place- which is essentially a constitution. Moreover, the question of a male heir was a huge conflict within the Romanov household, as Alexandra, the tsarina, did give birth to a boy but he was ill for his whole life. With the weak foundation of the monarchy, a desperate mother let a suspicious man in to the court in order to save her son.
In Tolstoy’s novella he writes about the rebel Hadji Murat, who becomes distrusted by both his Chechens and the Russians he used to fight against. Murat’s journey is written very much as a tragic one by Tolstoy. After being cast out by his commander, Shamil, he seeks refuge with close friends. Murat is taken in by Prince Semyon Vorontsov and sided with the Russians. However, soon after a series of unfortunate events occur for Murat, such as, a rival prince, the Tsar’s ordered attack on the mountaineers, and Murat’s family being held captive. Moreover, than just being about a historical figure, this novella is a commentary on man and their desires and flaws.
Why does Tolstoy spend so much time discussing the field and the thistle? What connections does this moment share with the main plot?
Tolstoy has a lot of descriptions about the figures, especially their eyes. Why do you think he focuses so much on eyes, and what do some of the descriptions of eyes say about the figures?
Why is Tolstoy so drawn to the figure of Hadji Murat?
On the bottom of page 26 and following on page 27 Poltoratsky meets Murat, what is significant about this moment? What stands out to you?
Is Murat a tragic hero or just a tragic figure? Why?
Tolstoy used the memoir of Vladimir Alexeevich Poltoratsky when writing this novella, with this in mind how does Tolstoy write the commander?
Although based on true figures and events, the amount of suspense makes the novella seem completely fantastical. How does Tolstoy build suspense and what parts of the story stand out as particularly suspenseful?
In chapter 8 of the reading, Madariaga discusses the mystery behind satirical journals, such as All Sorts of Things, which is believed to involve Catherine on some proverbial level. The journal takes its inspiration from contemporary English journals, and lampoons areas of “Russian society” (Madariaga 92). Because of the dichotomy of Catherine being an absolute ruler and being involved with media that openly attacks parts of Russian society, it really is confusing why she would take part in it at all. Is it because she is so “enlightened” that she can poke fun at a society she helped mold? The author states, “What induced Catherine to promote this kind of public criticism of the defeats of Russian society […] at this particular moment, when she had just been thrust into war, had never been satisfactorily explained” (Madariaga 92). Moreover, to this argument the author remarks that she feels Catherine would not have involved herself in this type of media. Do you agree with Madariaga that Catherine would outright not be involved with these journals? Or, do you think she would take part in the journals in some aspect. For whatever stance you take, why?
From our reading on Monday we discussed Peter I’s Twelve Colleges; Peter’s new way to form the Russian government, among other things. From which, we decided that his priorities centered around: law, religion, economics, war, and international relations. In reading Catherine the Great: A Short History, it quickly becomes apparent that she is focused on a different set of priorities for Russia. As such, her considerations are delt with in The Instruction, a document she wrote about how the government and other areas of Russia will function under her rule. Isabel de Madariaga, the author of the book, states, “The Instruction thus deals with political, judicial, social, and economic issues” (28). While some matters are similar, a decent difference comes with the additive of social issues and the negation of the issue of war. As Peter I seemed to ignore social issues altogether, besides maybe the priority of religion. As both monarchs are staunchly absolutist in thought, it seems that they would prioritize in a similar way; especially within the context of two very important factors that very well shape nations. Why do you think Catherine’s The Instruction and considerations are more so focused on social issues as opposed to the issue of war? Do you feel that Catherine’s priorities were “better” than Peter’s, or were they both correct in context for which they respectively ruled? Why?