Please note! In this video, I will refer to a slide show of Petrine architecture and visual art. You can find it under Reading & Viewing Week 9 and here.
Hello, Revolutionaries! Welcome to Week 9. Today our teaching assistant is Maggie. I have a few quick announcements for you.
Congratulations on your Midterm Media Projects! I’m recording this on Friday, March 27. As of today, four groups have posted their videos on the blog, and they have received some great comments. Different groups have chosen different methods for sharing their videos, all of which seem to be working. In order to watch Owen and Max’s video about Tolstoy, you just need to click through and ask permission. As for myself, I think your videos are fantastic! I will send each group comments soon. For the two groups who have not been able to post your videos yet: keep plugging away and get them up as soon as you can. As you know, you don’t have to worry about a late penalty, but it will be good to get this project off your plate.
Similarly, some of you have not yet written anything on the blog. That’s okay; whenever you get your comments posted, you will get full credit. But I recommend that you try to keep up with our regular schedule, so things don’t pile up on you. If you have a particular situation that is making it hard for you to post on the blog, please let me know by email. I also want to clarify that if you decide to respond to my questions, you do not need to answer all of them. You can just pick one question to focus on.
Speaking of projects, we are coming up on the final paper assignment. Keep an eye out for that. I will email it to you and post it on the blog this week. It’s a good idea to start thinking about what you might like to write about. Keep in mind that you will only be using sources on our syllabus. We are not doing a research paper anymore.
Last but not least, it is my pleasure to announce that we are now starting UNIT III: Cultural Revolution! We have already examined political revolution and social revolution, and now we are going to look at the revolutionary waves that swept through Imperial Russian culture and Soviet culture from Peter the Great’s time through the end of the Soviet era. I encourage you to take stock of what we learned in Unit II, just like we did together in class at the end of Unit I. How do you now understand the concept of “social revolution” in Russian and Soviet history? What similarities and differences do you find between political revolution and social revolution? What do you hypothesize that what our study of cultural revolution will bring to the table? I also encourage you to question the boundaries that I’ve set on this syllabus. How do political and social revolutions interact in the material that we’ve studied? How separate or intertwined are they? Do you agree with the way I have classified the events we have studied? If not, how would you do it differently? This is also a good time to get in touch with your Timeline Group and decide who is going to post what to the Revolutions Timeline.
Okay, let’s get started on thinking about Peter’s Cultural Revolution. Since we’ve talked about the Petrine Era before, there isn’t really any need for me to give you more historical context. You basically know the lay of the land. With that in mind, I’ll jump into my discussion questions. I also want to remind you that Erik and John will be posting discussion questions for this material, too. You are welcome to respond to their questions instead of (or in addition to) mine.
A quick note on my questions: Normally, in class, we would discuss these questions while looking at a slide show. We can’t exactly do that in this video. I’ve put the slide show online for you and included slides with some questions. Please spend some time with it on your own and share your thoughts on the blog!
Leah’s Discussion Questions
1. In chapter 4, Cracraft first discusses Peter’s architectural revolution. Peter decided to change the dominant architectural style in Russia to match what he saw during his Grand Embassy. Traditional Russian architecture was quite different, and European visitors reacted to it negatively. (See Slides 2-8.) On page 84, Cracraft quotes one European visitor sounding pretty disgusted by Moscow. But why does it matter what these visitors thought? Why did it matter to Peter? Why is it worth still studying their accounts today?
Relatedly, did the European visitors, and Peter himself, see Muscovite architecture as “backwards” and “primitive” because this was actually the case? Is it an inherently inferior, less sophisticated architectural style? How can we explain their view through historical context?
2. Compare John Perry’s description of Moscow on p.84 with the various description of St. Petersburg that Cracraft quotes on pages 147-154. In building St. Petersburg, did Peter succeed in revising how Western Europeans viewed Russia? What were the costs and benefits to Russia of making this drastic stylistic change?
3. In 1703, Peter founded St. Petersburg, a new capital city built on land newly conquered from the Swedish, while the Great Northern War was still going on. Look at Slides 9-11. This is a terrible place to build a major city. It’s cold and dark and marshy, and it floods a lot. What are the pros and cons of building a city in this spot? Why was it worth it to Peter to build a whole new capital city instead of reconstructing Moscow? How does the project of creating St. Petersburg fit into what we know about Peter as a ruler?
4. Now look through Slides 12-21, which show images of St. Petersburg’s layout and most famous buildings from Peter’s time. Consider the questions posed in the slide show.
5. Look at Slides 22-25. Consider these domestic spaces and the questions on Slide 22. Compare Peter’s two houses (the Domik and the first Winter Palace with the vides of the Grand Palace at Peterhof. Analyze Peter’s trajectory as a ruler, as expressed through his housing?
6. Cracraft tells us that Peter also created a revolution in artistic style. Look at Slides 28-37 and consider the questions posed in the slide show. Use Hughes’ essay “From Tsar to Emperor: Portraits of Aleksei and Peter I” to help you think through these issues.
7. The third strand of Peter’s cultural revolution, as identified by Cracraft, was his revolution in language. For each of his endeavors—bureaucratic restructuring, new scientific and technical knowledge, new artistic knowledge, new social practices—Peter sponsored the publication of a huge number of translated textbooks and guides. This introducing a huge number of loan words into Russian. Let’s consider this carefully, because it would have been possible to use Russian roots to construct new words to fit the new concepts Peter was introducing. In your analysis, why did he choose to go with loan words? What does this choice signal about Peter’s priorities?
8. In order to make this huge increase in printing possible, Peter reformed and simplified the Russian alphabet, establishing a new civil alphabet for secular publications while allowing the Church to continue to use the old alphabet for religious publications. Compare the two alphabets, which are images 27 and 28 in Cracraft’s book. What similarities and differences do you notice? What are the implications of having two different alphabets in use for these two types of texts? Why did he make this choice? What are the long term effects?