Sergei Akopov

Professor, PhD Political science



Fall 2007
Meredith Madden

Pogroms During The Reign of Alexander III
Alexander III was an unusual emperor for the reason that he fought no wars of expansion during his rule, leading some to call him a peaceful tsar. But the domestic record of pogroms against Jews during his rule overshadows any international restraint he showed and left a dark blot on his reign.
When Alexander III came to the throne in 1881, there was growing discontent in the populace. The emancipation of the serfs enacted under his father, Alexander II, was having causing more dissatisfaction than he had planned. Alexander II had granted a small amount of land to the freed serfs, but they were upset about the amount of the land and the terms they had to pay for it. These terms also effectively tied the serfs to the land once more. Furthermore, harsh noble masters were often simply replaced by harsh village commune masters, who had the same responsibilities and powers as the former.
Unfortunately, the government under Alexander III directed the focus of the people’s discontent away from the government and on to Jews. Instead of embracing and furthering his father’s democratic ideals, Alexander III sought to strengthen his hereditary autocracy. One of Alexander II’s assassins was a Jewish girl, a fact that prompted an outbreak of premeditated anti-Semitic violence in over one hundred and sixty places in Russia. Soldiers who were sent in to quell the riots often simply took part in them, thus intensifying and legitimizing them. The riots were further legitimized when the tsar’s advisor, General Ignatiev, published a circular to the local governors that blamed the riots on the Jews themselves, who were “exploiting the Slav inhabitants of the empire.” The attorney general in Kiev followed this trend at a trial of the rioters when he again blamed the Jews, rather than the rioters, for the riots.
It is in this light that Alexander III decided to issue the so-called May Laws in May 1882. Official discrimination against Jews was not new under Alexander III. Previous legislation had confined Jews to an area of land referred to as the Pale of Civilization, prohibiting them from settling outside of what is roughly modern-day Belarus and Ukraine. The May Laws further intensified this discrimination, repealing many of the pro-Jewish reforms Alexander II had made and instituting more restrictions. The laws forced Jews to live in towns, forbade them to do business on Christian holidays and prevented them from owning any more property. The laws also limited how many Jews could attend high schools and universities and severely curtailed other rights as well.
The pogroms were curtailed slightly after General Ignatiev was forced out of office, officially because he "had not taken the necessary steps to prevent the riots,” and unofficially because he exempted his own property from the May Laws while that of the royal family suffered. Ignatiev was replaced by Count Tolstoy, who urged local governors to “do their duty in preserving order and putting a stop to the riots.” However, pogroms continued throughout Alexander III’s reign, and even into that of Nicholas II. In 1895, shortly after Alexander III’s death, a pamphlet was forged by the tsarist secret police, called the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The pamphlet was purported to be the minutes of a centennial meeting of Jewish leaders who met once every one hundred years to plot how they were going to manipulate and control the world for the next one hundred years. This document was seen as “proof” that Jews controlled the world, and thus all misfortunes of the world could be blamed on the Jews. This played on the fears of the populace and spurred still more pogroms.
During the pogroms of Alexander III, several hundreds of Jews were injured or killed and millions of dollars worth of property was stolen or damaged. Also during this period, about one third of the Jewish population in Russia emigrated. Some went to Palestine, which would become Israel, but most ended up in America, Europe and Africa. The pogroms also radicalized many Jewish people, who then joined causes such as anarchists, nihilists, socialists and communists. Many sought to change, uproot or destroy the government that had supported and perpetrated such institutionalized discrimination and terror. Thus, many Jews would later take part in the revolutions of the early 1900’s.
The pogroms that were begun under Alexander III’s rule devastated the Jewish population in Russia. Many emigrated and those that stayed faced an increasingly limited and harsh lifestyle in the face of autocratic rule. While Alexander III had sought to shore up the institution of Russian monarchy and autocracy, he may have even hastened its fall by radicalizing much of Russia’s Jewish population.

1. Ronald Hingley. Russia: A Concise History. (Thames and Hudson: London, 1991),124.
2. Alexander III. Manifesto of April 29, 1881, trans. Daniel Field. http://artsci.shu.edu/reesp/documents/alexIII--april%20manifesto.htm. (accessed 21 October 2007).
3. Herman Rosenthal. Alexander III, Alexandrovich, Emperor of Russia. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1132&letter=A. (accessed 21 October 2007).
4.Russia under Alexander III: Ethnic discrimination and ‘Russification.’
http://www.blacks.veriovps.co.uk/content/3707.html. (accessed 21 October 2007).
5.Hingley. Russia: A Concise History. 132.
6.Russia under Alexander III: Ethnic discrimination and ‘Russification.
7.Rosenthal. Alexander III, Alexandrovich, Emperor of Russia.
8.Ken Spiro. Crash Course in Jewish History Part 57 - The Czars and the Jews. http://www.aish.com/literacy/jewishhistory/Crash_Course_in_Jewish_History_Part_57_-_The_Czars_and_the_Jews.asp. (accessed 21 October 2007.)
9.The May Laws of 1882. http://avaslan.net/The-May-Laws-of-1882. (accessed 21 October 2007).
10.Spiro. Crash Course in Jewish History Part 57 - The Czars and the Jews.


Jeffrey Garber
20 November, 2007

The Russian Revolution and Bolshevik Rise to Power

History textbooks tend to gloss over the February Revolution, often giving the impression that Russia was a Bolshevik controlled country chaffing under the ineffectual leadership of the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government may only get a page or two, if it gets any mention at all, and then no more mention is made of Bolsheviks struggling for ideological dominance. In fact, this is not the case. The Bolshevik Party was only one among many competing factions in the pre- and post-Revolution period. Even after the Bolshevik coup in October 1917 the country was by no means loyal to the Bolsheviks, they had to compete against the Constitutional Democrats, reconcile with the Orthodox Church, and deal with unruly trade unions. However, the Bolsheviks were the only faction capable of waging effective psychological warfare, branding all these groups as backward counter revolutionaries. Their rapid rise to ideological preeminence causes contemporary historians to underplay the political turmoil of the time and the personal agency of the people.
The standard textbook recounting of the Russian Revolution is as follows. A bread shortage caused a riot in St. Petersburg in February 1917. The city''''s garrison supported the rioters and called for Nicholas II''''s resignation. He acquiesced and the provisional government quickly took over. Liberals from the now defunct State Duma headed up the Provisional Government but were ineffective rulers. The Menshevik controlled Petrograd Soviet held the real political and military power but refused to take power because the Mensheviks believed in a transition period before a true proletariat revolution. On April 3 Lenin returned to Russia and immediately demanded the Soviets take power and make peace with Germany. In early July there was a riot in Petrograd which was rumored to be a Bolshevik coup but this was successfully put down by the Provisional Government which then arrested many Bolshevik leaders. Shortly afterward Alexander Kerensky became Prime Minister. In August General Kornilov attempted a military coup but this was halted by railway workers. As a reaction to the coup the Bolsheviks received a majority in the Petrograd Soviet and seized power on October 25, the so called October Revolution (Hingley, 2003).
This interpretation of events makes it seem as if Lenin''''s arrival immediately gathered the country''''s support to the Bolshevik party. On the contrary, after the Bolshevik coup their first task was to legitimize themselves by casting the Provisional Government leaders as enemies of the people and themselves as its savior. Unfortunately for the Bolsheviks, their first experiment in this failed. Countess Sophia Panina, Assistant Minister of Education in the Provisional Government was arrested after the Bolsheviks seized power. She was the wrong woman to make an example of, most of her life was spent improving the standard of living of the poor of St. Petersburg. Worker sentiment immediately turned against the Bolsheviks and during her trial the public expressed support for Panina. She was found guilty anyway but the Bolsheviks had made laughing stocks of themselves. To counter this, repression of the Social Democrats, the party of the ex-Provisional Government, increased (Rosenberg, 1968).
By no means did Bolsheviks control the hearts and minds of the workers at the time of their political ascendancy. If workers believed in Bolshevik ideology they were quickly disillusioned by Bolshevik policies. The workers of Petrograd demanded the private import of food into the city, free movement in and out of the city, new elections to the trade union boards and new elections for the Petrograd soviet. The Bolsheviks knew their popularity was dwindling and so continuously postponed elections in order to maintain complete control of the ideology of the politicians. May 1918 was a month full of protests, demonstrations, and strikes. In June and July, Petrograd workers, along with armed sailors, marched on the soviet demanding the release of imprisoned Social Revolutionaries. On June 13, in response to consistent disbanding of opposition led soviets, an intercity Conference of Factory Representatives was held. All members were arrested and charged as counter-revolutionaries. Of course, this did not stop years of anti-Bolshevik protests, it is merely an example of the constant struggle required of the Bolsheviks to maintain their supreme ideological position (Brovkin, 1985).
The last institution in a position to threaten Bolshevik power of the people was the Orthodox Church. In 1918, the Bolsheviks issued a decree declaring the Church separate from the state. They did not interfere with the Church since it was assumed that it was an obsolete institution in the Soviet world and so would vanish on its own. In 1921 the Commissar of Enlightenment, A.V. Lunacharskii came up with the idea to use the Church to spread Bolshevik propaganda to the more reactionary laymen who still went to church. In 1922 the Patriarch Tikhon was convinced to abdicate and to turn church affairs over to a Bolshevik led Supreme Church Administration. The Bolshevik run church advanced many reforms designed to desanctify the Church and undermine the people''''s belief in anything other than Bolshevism. However, this plan worked too well and the new “Living Church” appeared to be taking a permanent position in Soviet life, something the anti religious Bolsheviks did not approve of. They could not allow any authority other than Bolshevism so they dropped support of the Living Church and began practices designed to play the reformed and unreformed churches off each other. This infighting succeeded in driving many away from both churches, which is exactly what the Bolsheviks needed in order to assure their own preeminence. The two churches were kept busy fighting each other until they both were purged by force under Stalin (Roslof, 1996).
The Bolshevik rise to power was not as smooth as most textbooks portray it. Before the Revolution and during and after the civil war the Bolsheviks had to be constantly on guard against ideological opposition. If the majority of people agreed with Bolshevik thought, as their propaganda says and the silence of textbooks implies they would not have had to do so. The Bolsheviks were under threat from all sides: the Provisional Government, the Orthodox Church, even the workers they claimed to represent. Some of these threats were real, while some may have merely been the imaginings of a dictator with a God complex. Either way, they caused the Bolshevik party to fight for the minds of every Russian citizen.

Works Cited
Hingley, Ronald. (2003) Russia: A Concise History. Thames & Hudson: New York.
Rosenberg, William. Russian Liberals and the Bolshevik Coup. The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 40, No. 3. (Sep., 1968), pp. 328-347.
Brovkin, Vladimir. Politics, Not Economics Was the Key. Slavic Review, Vol. 44, No. 2. (Summer, 1985), pp. 244-250.
Roslof, Edward. The Heresy of "Bolshevik" Christianity: Orthodox Rejection of Religious Reform during NEP. Slavic Review, Vol. 55, No. 3. (Autumn, 1996), pp. 614-635.


Soviet Authors Under Khrushchev
Lindsay Upton

First look at the cultural situation in the Soviet Union prior to the 1950s in order to understand and appreciate the atmosphere and importance of these writers:
· In 1934, at the Congress of the Union of Writers, Socialist Realism was set as the standard for art and literature.
· The portrayal of the lives and purpose of farmers and industrial workers in Soviet Union.
· Only the positive aspects of socialism acceptable in portraying of society.
o All negative aspects of socialism were considered to be impermanent.
§ As they would eventually disappear, they did not need to be represented.
o The one-sided portrayal of society was merely the state’s attempt to procure propaganda
§ Intended to encourage enthusiasm for socialism.
· Any works that did now follow this recipe were simply not allowed to be published, and under Stalin, theirs authors vehemently pursued.

· After, and even before Stalin’s death, there was an ongoing dispute about who was to be his successor.
o After the sudden (convenient) death of several other competitors, Malenkov and Khrushchëv struggled over control of the Presidium.
o It was under Khrushchëv that the cultural “Thaw” occurred.
· It wasn’t until Stalin’s death in March 1953 that the atmosphere for artists was eased. Within the same year, writers were already pushing for change.
· Among the first was Olga Berggoltz who published an essay in 1953.
o A lyrical poet, she found that that the art of writing had lost its soul. Writing was about passion, emotions, and humanity, things that had been lost to socialist realism.
§ Writing had become mechanical.
· Vladimir Pomerantsev wrote the essay "On Sincerity in Literature" in Dec 1953 in the magazine Novy Mir
o Soviet literature little more than emotionless, repetitive dictation.
o Describes the ways in which authors disguise their novels
§ Points out the selective use of sources
§ Emphasis on sensory elements (the fresh air in the fields, the sound of the tractors, the thump of iron under hammer)
§ The deliberately exclusion negative aspects of everyday life
o Sacrifice their (the writers) integrity, and the integrity of their work because they have no personal investment in that which they write
· Among the earliest and most straightforward criticisms of Soviet society was Leonid Zorin’s 1954 play The Guests
o Through characters who are all related to the different levels of the Bolshevik Party a discussion of the Party’s plays out in which Zorin criticizes the Party:
§ Flagrant disregard for honesty and human rights
§ Overt corruption
§ Lays the blame on the post-Lenin generation as well as the corrupt Party officials.
· On February 25, 1956, before a closed session of the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchëv gave his infamous secret speech, “On the Cult of the Individual and its Consequences”
o Beginning of De-Stalinization: Idealization of Lenin and attack on Stalin
o Condemned Stalin, his repression, and his purges but made a clear point that these were the actions of STALIN and not the PARTY.
§ Party had no knowledge: relieved party of guilt.
· Khrushchëv’s era of more relaxed censorship following Stalin’s death received the name “The Thaw” from Ilya Ehrenburg’s 1956 novel.
o Ehrenburg represents through his characters both the positive ideals and negative products of Soviet society
§ Juravliov, a factory owners, begins as the ideal social realist putting positive expectations over cruel reality (not concerned about the living conditions of the workers), and ends as a denouncer, greedy, and ready to protect only himself
§ Puhkov, a retired soldier, revives the importance of individual responsibility. Every man could and should try to make a difference
§ For Ehrenburg, the role of the writers
§ Two other characters, Volodya and Saburov, contrast as the artist who has conformed to the state norm and the artist who still composes “real art” for himself
o Overall, it is the setting of the book that is most essential, as the ice melts from Stalin’s cultural freeze to the warmer more hospitable atmosphere of Khrushchëv’s thaw.

· After 1956, tensions increased again, at home and abroad.
o Censorship was reinstated to prevent the publication of anti-Stalinist works.
o Not until 1958 that Khrushchëv relaxed the rules for socialist realism
§ allowed for negative aspect of society as long as it was clear that socialism could overcome those aspects
o 1959 censorship relaxes again (back to moderate)
· Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1962 novel One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich addressed the bleak reality of the Soviet prison camp system
o Solzhenitsyn, who had himself spent time in the labour camps, paints a brutally honest picture of a prisoners life:
§ Little food, forced to steal
§ Thin clothing, restrictions on what you were allowed to own
§ Long hours of work in down to -40 degrees
o Standard sentence of 25 years, essentially a lifetime of exile. Crimes varied but no one deserved the imprisonment or the sentence. Reasons for arrest:
§ Family origins, being related to “kulaks”
· Main character imprisoned for “spying” for the Germans. In actuality, he had escaped a POW camp.
· Solzhenitsyn’s was one of the last books of questionable nature to be published in the “Thaw” before censorship was reinstated.
· Beginning of the end when, in 1958, Pasternak had been forced to reject the Novel Prize for Literature thanks to the government’s unhappy reception of his book Doctor Zhivago.
· Khrushchev was removed from power in October 1964 and Brezhnev became General Secretary. The period of reform was followed by a period of stagnation.

Notably, Khrushchev never extended his reforms to allow for any criticism of the current government. He would leave that act to Gorbachev.




Edward Crankshaw, Khrushchev''''s Russia (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1959) Questia

Max Hayward, and Leopold Labedz, eds., Literature and Revolution in Soviet Russia, 1917-62, a Symposium (London: Oxford University Press, 1963) Questia

Ilya Erenburg, A Change of Season 1st ed., (New York: Knopf, 1962) Questia http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5652287.


Forrest Young-Taft
Gulags were the prison work camps that were run by a brach of the Soviet gevernment called Главное Управление Исправительно Трудовых Лагерей и колоний, which means the Chief Directorate of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies. The word gulag came from this title, and was originaly an acronym only for the administration but then later became one for the entire system particularly the labour camps that we often associate with the name. The camps were originaly reinstayted labor camps from Imperial Russia. They were used for anybody from common criminals to wealthy land owners and political sabatuers, but were not called gulags until the nineteen thirties.
Over the course of time the camps would change not only by name but in size and number as well. Between 1930 and 1931 there were only approximately two hundred thousand prisoners in the entire gulag system. Just four years later there was a growth to over eight hundred thousand this trend, for the most part continued through era of Stalin. The growth of the number and size of the camps match that of the peak of the Soviet industrialization campaign. The camps growth was due to the drastic increase of incoming prisoners during the period of success of the industrialization campaign. When this growth peaked there were over 470 gulag camp complexes which contained many small camps in each one. During this time all of the gulag camp system held between 5-7 million prisoners. It is hard to give an exact number, but records show that between eighteen and twenty million people passed through the gulag system just in the period of Stalinism. During the purges of Stalin and after World War II, were the highest rates of both convictions leading to the gulags and deaths in the gulags themselves, which was approximately ten percent of the entire population in the camps every year.
During World War II the population of the camps decreased drastically. This was because many of the inmates were released and conscripted then sent to the front lines. This also corresponds with a great increase in the mortality rate during the years of 1942 and 1943, because the new troops had no to little training, were in poor health, and did not have enough arms and munitions. After the war the population again swelled to around two and a half million. Most of these convicts were from towns and areas of the country that had come under enemy control as well as from the army. During the war the Nazi’s captured about five and a half million Russian soldiers. Three and a half died in German captivity while the survivors were treated as traitors and over one and a half million were sent to the gulags. Along with the new flood of civilians and soldiers there was a significant minority of foreigners from countries that had recently been incorporated into the USSR. Some of these countries were Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and the Ukraine.
In March 1953 Stalin died and this lead to the dissolving of the camps. First some people were released mostly just people who had less than five years of their sentence left and people who had only committed petty crimes. Then in 1954 saw the beginning of the release of political prisoners and mass rehabilitations then in February 1956 following Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech which denunciated Stalin there was increasing numbers of prisoners let out and by the late 50’s the gulag camps were practically gone, but the colonies still existed.
Along with the labor that the camps created, there was a plan to try and colonize the far reaches of the USSR, which was primarily focused on Siberia. This was being orchestrated though a few programs that allowed well behaved prisoners who had served most of their sentence were offered to be released, but they had to settle near the camp that they were imprisoned at. They were called “free settlers”. Also many prisoners who had served their full sentence did not have the right to settle where ever they pleased, particularly in large cities. It was suggested to them that they could be given land if they settled in the vicinity of their place of confinement. Also prisoners who tried to re-assimilate them selves into the normal workings of the society were often confronted with bias and were unable to find a job or a place to live.
The camp’s conditions differed greatly, but most of them constantly suffered from inadequate housing, not enough clothing, little to eat, poor hygiene, and little to no health care. Many times X they were forced to work everyday under awful unsafe conditions with enormous amounts of brutality from the guards. The one thing that saved the prisoners was the need for the local camp administration to fulfill a certain quota of work. Therefore they needed a sustainable workforce that was healthy and willing enough to work. Also due to the high demand on the quotas if a guard had a prisoner escape under their supervision the guard would often become a prisoner himself. To help the workers be more productive and eager to work there were many incentive programs instated. These would grant the workers more rations, shorter work days, or even in the later year’s monetary reimbursement for quotas either fulfilled or over fulfilled. In almost all camps there was a scale of how much food the prisoners would get depending on how much of the quota they fulfilled. This ended up being the end of many workers because rather then working hard enough to get more than enough food they would have to work themselves practically to exhaustion just to get enough rations to survive. After World War II the mortality rate rose drastically because of higher quotas, less food, and practically no medical supplies.
A great number of gulags were built in the far north reaches of Siberia. These gulags were often only marked by posts because if a prisoner would try to escape it would be almost impossible for them to live in the harsh climate. These camps were known as the Sevvastlag. The worst of the gulags were the three located above the artic circle these are Kolyma, Norilsk, and Vorkuta. These three were known for their cruel punishment, hard labor and and worse conditions. Although these were especialy bad there were others that could be just as horrible such as some camps, under Lavrenty Beria, were used to mine uranium for the Soviet Atom Bomb project. Some names of these camps are Novaya Zemlya, Vaygach Island, and Semipalatinsk. There also were many other specialized types of gulags such as ones for women and others were psychiatric and medical research was done on the prisoners.
"Gulag." Wikipedia. 30 11 2007. Wikipedia Foundation INC.. 3 Dec 2007

"THE GULAG." Revelations from the Russian Archives. 01/04/96. Library of Congress. <http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/gula.html>.

"Gulag: Soviet Forced Labor Camps and the Strugle for Freedom." 2006. Center for
History and New Media, George Mason University. 3 Dec 2007


Sora Beck
Russian History Project
Russian Theater

Russian theater has always remained just outside the grasp of royal or religious control. While they have, at times, benefited from the support of tsars or churches, actors and directors have often suffered from performing what “ought not to be performed.” From origins in religious dialogues1 to the execution of Meyerhold (and beyond) Russian theater has felt the strong hand of power, all while entertaining the dictator attached to it.
The origins of Russian theater lie in “mysteries” and “Vertep”. Mysteries had been imported from Poland as a didactic tool for the masses in the 12th century. Performances were done in Polish and Latin and by the early 17th century, students in seminaries were performing them. One Polish dialogue, The Life of the Savior from his Entry into Jerusalem, was so long it required four days to perform. Vertep were more unique to Russia, appeared later, and allowed for more creativity. The name “Vertep” was for the booth where the marionettes and card-like puppets performed at major festivals (especially Christmas). These performances were introduced in a religious context as well, but by the mid 17th century, they were quickly turning en masse to rude satires and the church banned performances. Regardless of the ban, Vertep remained popular and began introducing contemporary politics in with myths and religious stories. Some plays contained modern tsars or generals alongside fictional characters and often contained a character named “Rascolnik” who represented religious separatists. One of these plays discussed the relevance of beard possession (related to godliness) and caused such an eruption and confusion in the populace that a priest wrote a tract essentially assuring those who had cut their beards that they could still achieve salvation. 1
In 1721, an order was given for all seminaries to have biannual student performances, predominantly using the works of foreign authors, like Moliere.1 Theater in this newer, more “human” form reached such a height by the reign of tsar Alexei, that he became a patron of the theater. The Russian court had experienced some of the earliest Russian theatrical entertainers, “skomoroki” (jesters) as early as the 10th century, but Alexei banned them during his reign because the populace began to fear the performers possessed magical powers. In 1672, he invited a German Lutheran, Pastor Johann Gottfried, to bring a ten-hour production to celebrate the birth of his son Peter. Despite the emergent writing abilities of Princess Sophia, who wrote the first Russian tragedy, the theater was closed after Alexei’s death and remained so until Peter the Great gained power and created the first secular public theater in Russia. Audiences were brought to Peter’s theater by free admission and royal decrees, and the German Troupe Peter invited gained enough popularity to build a commedia theater in Red Square in 1702. Unfortunately, no formal tradition had been established yet, and it was this theater closed in 1704 after Peter’s death. 2
During the interim before theater was officially established again, audiences enjoyed the plays of Princess Natalie (Peter’s sister), and in 1738, a new form of ballet was brought to Russia. The empress Anna hired Jean Baptiste Lande, beginning on January first, and his salary was paid through the salt tax. He created a dancing school with 12 girls and 12 boys he had hand-selected, and instructed them so rigorously that after three years they were considered full-trained. This first class of dancers all retired in 1748, as it was standard at the time for all artists to have a career of ten years, followed by a pension. They were likely all free persons, but probably illiterate—they often had to have others sign for their paychecks. This first Russian ballet company formed an “Italian Company,” which still included some Russian dancers. As a result of the mixture, many Russian-Italian marriages came from this company. 6
The first permanent Russian theater actually appeared in Yaroslavl in 1750, not in the new or old capital. It remained a private enterprise for several years until Empress Elizabeth invited them to open a theater on Vasilevsky Island in 1756. 2 They were proclaimed “artists of the imperial theater” and as a result, an institution of the government. 4
Catherine was an greater patron of the theater, and even contributed some of her own plays (it is believed her plays were the first to contain peasant characters). She viewed theater as a terrific medium to transmit her enlightenment values and patriotic wishes and created the Imperial Theater Administration which held theater in a monopoly for a century. Her 1762 charter allowed for greater freedom for nobles to create “serf theaters”, and in 1777 she opened the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Theatrical tradition under Catherine was neo-classical, and it remained this way until the reign of Tsar Alexander I. 2
Under Alexander I and Nicholas I, “realism” became the primary form, and numbers of actors and theaters both increased. During the Napoleonic wars, many patriotic plays were instituted, and in 1827, Nicholas degreed all Moscow and St. Petersburg theaters were under imperial control under the Theater Monopoly. Marginal theaters gained power during this time, as the censorship law was first enacted in 1804 and expanded in 1847. These smaller theaters were less closely watched and began to sow the seeds of Meyerhold’s avant-garde theater of the early 20th century. Despite the heavy censorship, some of the greatest Russian plays were written during this era, including Turgenev’s A Month in the Country(1849-50), Gogol’s The Inspector General(1836), and Pushkin’s Boris Godunov(1830). New theaters included the Maly Theater in Moscow (1824), Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg (1832), and a theater circus building (1847-49). 2
Mikhail Shchepkin first performed in the Maly Theater in 1832, and is considered the father of the realistic acting school. His works are considered one of the main influences for Konstantine Stanislavski, who was born the same year that Shchepkin died. The realistic movement which gained popularity during the reigns of Alexander I and Nicholas I took a firmer hold in the 1850s and the playwright Alexander Ostrovsky dominated. 2 Herbert Smith writes that, “Theatre was Ostrovsky''s life and to many Ostrovsky was the theatrical life of Russia.” Ostrovsky was popular for his apparent “realism,” and had the luxury of choosing actors to write perfect roles for—a rare privilege for playwrights in any age or country. This may have contributed to his perceived realism, but his didactic plays were easy to recognize, all describing the lifestyle of the merchant class and the current roles of women in society. His characters evoked sympathy and impelled a need for social change, more than they engendered realism. For this reason, many modern critics look down upon Ostrovsky for being overly simplistic. Others believe simplicity was exactly his intention.5 Ostrovsky also fought for the rights of playwrights to receive royalties and to create a Russian National Theater. 2
Following in the footsteps of his father’s abolishment of serfdom, Alexander III abolished the theater monopoly instituted by Catherine in 1882, which led to the establishment of commercial theaters and further theatrical freedoms. This allowed Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko to form the theater which would become the Moscow Art Theater in 1897.2 They were intent on creating a new kind of theater, and Stanislavski founded a new acting method which aimed to created psychological sincerity onstage. Stanislavski had grown up in one of the wealthiest families in Moscow and was fond of theater from a young age. In 1886 his cousin became mayor of Moscow and Stanislavski was given the title Chairman of the Russian Music Society and Conservatoire. Once he shed this title, in 1888, he formed the Society of Art and Literature with Alexander Fedotov, who introduced him to the ideas of Vissarion Belinski. Belinksi had coined the term “intelligentsia” and believed art should not be the political support of any party, but enlightening the masses to realities of life they might not be fully aware of. This became Stanislavski’s central theme and the rallying point around which he wanted to create the Moscow Art Theater, which was called the Moscow Art Open Theater for a single year. The “Open” was with the intention that it would be a theater for the masses, but it proved too revolutionary for critics and was quickly removed. 3
Stanislavski’s fellow revolutionary, Vsevolod Meyerhold, was a student of Nemirovich-Danchenko’s, and one of the first members of the MAT, although he left the company in 1903. Meyerhold had grown up quite differently that Stanislavski, in a small town where many dissident writers lived who had been expelled from the larger cities. He studies law before turning to the theater, although his mother had raised him around it. After leaving the MAT, he turned to some of the non-realist styles he was more interested in—symbolism, constructivism and the avant-garde. Meyerhold, by contrast with Stanislavski, preferred political theater and it was obvious in all of his works. 3
At the time of the revolution, both were having struggles with censors and staged reactions to many of the suppressions that were witnessed following Bloody Sunday. In the final months of extreme repression, Meyerhold found that non-realist styles were the safest means of presentation because censors could not as easily spot forms of political dissent. Stanislavski was less successful and had taken to studying himself and perfecting his acting style since 1909. In 1917 and 1918, it was decided that a new soviet theater was needed. Meyerhold embraced the ideas of the revolutionaries (to some extent) and Stanislavski simply adapted (but saw the revolution as a perfect opportunity for new theater to reach the masses). 3
In the decade after the revolution, Meyerhold held a unique position. Although his plays raised many concerns, they were quite popular among students and theater sophisticates and as a result, he was well respected—and an early party member. He even held some high administrative government posts until 1921 when he focused on his studio and did his greatest work. By 1926, however, his productions became more and more controversial and he was accused of destroying Russian Art. His satires of NEPmen were particularly scathing and led to his eventual downfall as he did not support Lenin’s New Economic Policy. 3
Stanislavski began the soviet era losing all his wealth and prestige and was suspected to be a member of the propertied class. He did not loose hope, and worked again towards his goal of an open theater. The MAT struggled at that time, relying on pre-revolutionary work, but Lenin frequented the theater and complimented Stanislavski’s artistry. In an effort to save the theater, the company even went on a foreign tour of Europe and America. 3
The rise of Stalin became the turning point for both artists, as art was subordinated to ideological ends. The avant-garde was suddenly seen as “leftist” theater and highly criticized. Meyerhold was arrested in 1939 under the accusation of being a foreign spy, and social realism was instituted. As Stanislavski had never supported political theater, he no longer contributed to the movement, but became the quintessential soviet actor—the “people’s artist”. Meyerhold was executed on February 1st 1940. Although claimed to be a “communist to the end” in his final words, he died an official “non-person”. Throughout the Soviet Era, Stanislavski was accepted and praised, and Meyerhold has only been “rediscovered” since 1991.3
Thusly, the governing bodies of Russia never had a strong hold on theater, even when it appeared such was the case. The minds and hearts of individuals found ways around censorship and imperial control to reach greater audiences than any other medium. This is only an account of some of the actors and playwrights who took part in Russian theater, and it can be assumed that many more influential individuals existed in the smaller communities, or simply on a smaller scale. Contemporary Russian theater owes a great deal to the history of cunning artists who took advantage of opportunities wherever they existed. The work of Stanislavski was brought to America and led to the next generation of training schools for actors. Meyerhold is also world renowned for his work in the avant-garde, and many of the men he worked with (Appia, Craig, etc.) carried on his ideas in other countries following his execution. Theater had always held an exceptional role in the world of art, because of the ability to hide true intentions or opinions behind an aesthetic screen. Russian artists in many eras embraced this ability and fought oppression under the very noses of leaders.

1) Bates, Alfred. "The Origin of Russian Drama." Russian Theater. 2006. Theater History.com. 7 Dec 2007 <http://www.theatrehistory.com/russian/bates001.html>.
2) "Chronology of the Russian Theater." Russian Theater Website. Russian Theater Website. 7 Dec 2007 <http://rutheater.home.att.net/chronology2.htm>.
3)George, Gerald. "Meyerhold and Stanislavsky." Russian Theater Website. Russian Theater Website. 7 Dec 2007 <http://rutheater.home.att.net/2stana.htm>.
4) Kropotkin, Petr Alekseevic . "Early Russian Drama." Russian Theater. 2006. Theater History.com. 7 Dec 2007 <http://www.theatrehistory.com/russian/early_russian_drama.html>.
5) Smith, Herbert. "A.N. Ostrovsky." Russian Theater Website. 2003. Russian Theater Website. 7 Dec 2007 <http://rutheater.home.att.net/A.htm>.
6) Starikova, Ludmila. "From the Biography of the First Russian Ballet Company." History of Ballet in Russia. 1988. Ballet in Russia. 7 Dec 2007 <http://www.aha.ru/~vladmo/d_txt3.html>.

David Francois
Russian Area Studies

Siberia: Russia’s Goldmine, Prison and Final Frontier

Putting Siberia on the Map
A. Vast eastern and northern region of the Russian Federation
B. Extends from Urals in the west to Pacific in the East, Arctic Ocean in the north to the low-lying steppes of Kazakhstan and national borders with Mongolia and China in the south
C. 77% of Russia’s territory, holds only 27% of the population (39 million)

Siberia Before the Russians
A. Yeniseians and Ugro-Samoyedes; ancient Siberian people who were skilled in silver, bronze and gold, thrived from about 300 BCE to 500 AD
B. Driven out by Turkic tribes (Uighurs and Khakases); skilled in ironwork and pottery
C. 13th century: Genghis Khan invades, beginning of Siberian Khanate, unites various tribes of Siberia
D. Contact with Muscovite explorers in the Urals in 15th century
E. Yermak and the Cossack invasion
1. Cossack chief who was hired to protect settlements in Urals, eventually encouraged by Muscovy to conquer Siberian Khanate, promised arms and food, easily marauded through Siberia
F. Hunters and adventurers continued to penetrate Siberia, building fortresses and outposts, within 80 years of Yermaks’s conquest, Russians eventually reached Pacific by mid-17th century
G. Tatar and Turkic tribes could not offer serious resistance to Russian advance, because of their lack of guns and disorganization against the strength of combined Russian and Cossack soldiers

Imperial Russia and Siberia
A. Towns began to spring up in Siberian wilderness (Yakutsk, Irkutsk, Tomsk, Berdsk, Tobolsk), usually began as fortresses
B. Botanical, anthropological, and geological study of Russia’s eastern lands during time of Tsars, expeditions led by European scientists and adventurers
C. Beginning of Siberian industry: metallurgy plant created in city of Barnaul in 1730
D. Extremely sparsely populated, size of peasantry was a fraction of European Russia’s

Siberia as a Prison
A. Used for political exile, as it was so far from everything
B. The Decembrists
– 80 participants exiled to labor camps
– Settled in Siberia after sentence was completed
– Surviving Decembrists pardoned by Alexander II
C. Fyodor Dostoevsky
– Sentenced to labor camp outside Omsk following trial and mock execution in St. Petersburg
– Greatly influenced the author’s perceptions on life and literary style
D. Gulags and Stalin’s Great Terror
– Kulaks that resisted collectivization, German and Japanese POWs, political dissidents, “enemies of the people”, and subversive “anti-Soviet” activists

Industry in Siberia
A. The Trans-Siberian Railway
– Began in 1891, opened up isolated Siberian cities to trade with Western Russia and Europe
– Many cities along the route grew exponentially in size
– Allowed agriculture (and later heavy industry) to thrive in far-off Siberian settlements
B. Stolypin’s Resettlement Program
– Nicholas II’s prime minister, offered monetary and propagandist incentives to Russia peasant to move out East
– Persuaded peasants to settle further east away from crowded Central Russia
– Siberian population grew 73% between 1897 and 1914
C. Collectivization and the Kulaks
-had huge effect on Siberian economy, still felt today, destroyed traditional agricultural and economical structure of the region
D. World War II
– Allowed ammunitions and weapons to be created in cities far from the front and then sent to the frontlines in the West
E. Post-war and Industrial Boom
– Mineral, timber, and hydroelectric resources, many large-scale factories built
– Continuing importance of the Trans-Siberian
– Gulag labor necessary for growth of industry because of the impossibility of attracting free laborers to such far-off places

Siberia Today and Tomorrow
• Decline of heavy industry since end of USSR, huge empty factories on shores of Lake Baikal, Russians moving back to western cities, cultural stagnation
• Ecological damage- rivers rerouted, pollution, dams that have altered micro-climates (humidity), Aral Sea dried-up, Magnitogorsk pollution
• Rise of technology sector (IT), Novosibirsk-“Silicon Taiga”
• Expansion of transportation (continuing trans-Siberian to Yakutsk, highway in Chita region, northern offshoot of railroad)
• Migration from China and Central Asia for cheap labor(both legal and illegal, fears of China’s annexation of SE Siberia bc of massive Chinese population there)
• Natural Resources: mineral, gas, timber and hydro energy


Kali Beth Erstein
Russian History

Emancipation Reform of 1861
The Emancipation Reform of 1861, regarded as the most important of liberal reforms implemented during the reign of Alexander II, attempted to lessen the dependence of peasants on landowners by abolishing serfdom. Criticized of being a ‘half-way’ reform, the edict did not hold true to its original purpose and proclamation. The law itself was a long and literarily confusing document of almost four hundred pages. The law began by stating that the peasants were hence forth free. It ordered them, however, to pay their former masters the same obedience and obligations as they had paid as serfs.
Many factors influenced the prospect of abolishing serfdom including the Crimean War, the notion of the “plight of the peasants,” influence of notable intellectuals, influence of merchants and industrialists who needed free labor force, and the landed aristocracy who came to realize that machines and money were more important than a slave labor force. The government, for security reasons, was also tired of peasant revolts and uprisings. The embarrassing display by Russian forces in the Crimean War opened up the government’s eyes to Russia’s backwardness, being that much of the Russian military was comprised of worn-down serfs. The war cost Russia 600,000 lives. Eager to grow and develop industrially, not to mention militarily and politically, a number of economic reforms were initiated. In March 1856, Alexander II spoke to representatives of the Moscow nobility: "...It is better to begin to destroy serfdom from above, than to wait until that time hen it begins to destroy itself from below.” Alexander II, along with the architects of the future Emancipation Manifesto, hoped that after the abolition of serfdom, the “mir” would dissolve into individual peasant land owners and lead Russia to the beginnings of a market economy.
A main issue faced by Alexander II was the question of whether the serfs should remain dependent on the landlords, or whether they should be transformed into a class of independent communal proprietors. Initially, land-owners contemplated granting peasants freedom but not any land. Giving the peasants freedom and land, however, seemed to leave the existing land-owners without the large and cheap labor-force they needed to maintain their estates. In response to this issue, the legislation contained three determinants to reduce the potential economic self-sufficiency of the peasants. First, a transition period of nine years was introduced, during which the peasant was still obligated to work for the old land-owner. Second, large parts of common land were passed to the major land-owners as otrezki, resulting in the creation of many forests, roads and rivers only accessible for a fee. The last determinant was that the serfs must pay the land-owner for their allocation of land in a series of redemption payments, which were then used to compensate the landowners with bonds. The total sum would be advanced by the government to the land-owner and then the peasants would repay the money to the government, including interest, over a period of forty-nine years. These burdensome redemption payments were finally cancelled in 1907.
The Secret Committee, appointed by Alexander II in 1857, became public in January 1858 as the Main Committee for Peasant Affairs. This committee supervised the work of the provincial committee and received and studied their proposals. The architects of the emancipation manifesto were the Tsar’s brother Constantine, Yakov Rostovtsev and Nikolay Milyutin. On March 3, 1861, the emancipation law was signed and published. Peasants had high hopes for this new legislation and yearned for a freedom they lived so long without. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.
Although supposedly well configured, the reform did not work smoothly. The conditions of the manifesto were regarded as unacceptable by many reform minded peasants. Being still obligated to work for the same land-owners, they were not granted the freedom from forced labor that they had imagined. Also, while the land-owners and nobility were paid in government bonds, their debts were being removed before the money was actually given to them. These bonds soon fell in value. The poor management skills of the land-owners under these new conditions also led to their downfalls.
In the end, the legislation neither freed the peasants from excessive external obligation nor greatly reordered their social and economic constraints. Uneven application of the legislation left many peasants in Poland and northern Russia both free and yet landless, while in other areas peasants became the majority of land owners in their provinces. A fundamental shift of power occurred in the Russian countryside from the landowner to the obshchina, or commune. A commune was composed of a series of villages, or mir, taking responsibility for the enforcement of law and order as well as the movement of peasants. It seemed that little had actually changed. A passport system was retained and serfs were still required permission to leave their villages. Landowners gained most from 1861 reform being that they received more than the current market value of land given to the peasantry. Also, the level of redemption payments often forced the newly “freed” peasants to work for land-owners as wage laborers. The Emancipation Reform of 1861, although not accomplishing its proclaimed goals, was still an important step and process in Russia’s history.
Peter Neville, A Traveler’s History of Russia, Interlink; 5th Edition, March 30, 2006.


History Presentation
Gorbachev, Glasnost, and Perestroika
Elaine Bacchus Magee

Introduction: This paper and presentation will focus on the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, and it will look at the successes and failures of glasnost and perestroika. Two main examples are used in this analysis. The first will show how perestroika helped provide a smooth transition when the Berlin Wall came down. The second example will show how Gorbachev did not remain true to his principles in his dealings with the Baltic States, particularly Lithuania and will provide a brief account of the events in Vilnius. The presentation will also briefly discuss how the American and West European press and leaders were concerned that the reforms would not continue, Gorbachev would not last, or Gorbachev was using the reforms as a ruse to revert back to a hard Communist line.

I. Background on Mikhail Gorbachev

A. Born March 2, 1931, in a small village, Privolnoie, near Stravopol
B. One third of his village starved to death during the famines of the 1930s due to the forced collectivization of the farms
C. Both of his grandfathers were arrested arbitrarily by Stalin’s secret police
D. However, he still joined Komsomol (which was the Communist Youth League) in 1946.
E. He became the youngest member elected to the Politiboro in 1980
F. In 1985, became leader of the Communist Party, when he introduced glasnost and perestroika.
G. Won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990
H. Despite his more liberal and open ideas, he was quite unpopular in Russia, though he was very popular on the world stage (outside of the Soviet Union). In some ways, he is the opposite of Putin—unpopular at home, popular internationally.
1. Has been said that he had a huge ego and need for praise
2. Might have straddled the fence too much between democratic ideals and trying to maintain control of the Communist party
3. By Russians, often seen as the man who crippled Russia, lessened its power, and created the economic crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union.

II. What were glasnost and perestroika?
A. The ideas of openness and reform—to move towards a society which allowed greater freedoms and transparency as well as move towards a market economy, while allowing the Communist Party to remain in power. It also implemented legislative reforms. One of Gorbachev’s main goals was to prevent the government and military from using force against Soviet people.

III. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.
A. This was an example of Gorbachev’s reforms seeing a successful end.
1. East German leader, Erich Honecker, refused to implement the reforms suggested by Gorbechev. Gorbachev said reforms should be made in Berlin, not Moscow.
a. Honecker felt that East Germany did not need these reforms because it already had the highest standard of living and the most successful economy in the Soviet bloc.
b. East German press also refused to implement more glasnost, but most East Germans were allowed to receive West German television signals.
c. Erich Honecker was deposed on October 18, 1989
d. Before he was deposed, he had appealed to Gorbachev for help (demonstrations were sweeping through East Germany,) but Gorbachev refused, telling aides he was disgusted with how Honecker had handled the problem.

2. The Berlin Wall was opened on November 9, 1989 by the East German government.
a. Many East Germans flooded across the border, and both East and West Germans had celebrations on the wall, as well as breaking bits off of it.
b. Turning point for Western leaders, because they saw that Gorbachev actually wanted his reforms to succeed. “If the Soviets are going to let the Communists fall in East Germany, they’ve got to be really serious—more serious than I realized.” George H.W. Bush
c. Gorbachev ordered the General Staff to ensure that the Soviet troops stationed in East Germany did not become involved in the strife that would ensue.
d. American and Western leaders also help by not celebrating too greatly on this occasion—President Bush criticized for his lack of emotion after the opening of the wall. West was concerned about hard-line backlash if they appeared joyous about the Soviet loss.

3. East and West Germany unite on October 3, 1990
a. Though Gorbachev is not pleased about German reunification, he says that self-determination should extend to Germany as well.

4. Accepting a unified Germany within NATO extremely difficult for Gorbachev.

a. The NATO issue raised huge dissent from the Communist hardliners in the Kremlin, as it appeared to be a display of Soviet weakness.
b. Gorbachev also worried that a unified Germany would become too strong too quickly, and Russians still have valid fears associated with the Germans.
c. However, the West capitalized on the fact that a Germany outside of a governing body such as NATO might not have the stability and system of checks and balances that NATO could provide.
d. He also privately says that it should be up to the German people whether or not they are in NATO.
e. Wanted assurances that the alliance would not try to expand eastward.

IV. Handling of situation in Vilnius, Lithuania
A. This was an example of how Gorbachev did not stand by his principles concerning perestroika.
1. The Lithuanian Parliament on August 22, 1989, proclaims that the Soviet annexation of the Baltics in 1940 was illegal.
2. The Lithuanian Parliament declares its independence from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990.
a. Gorbachev says this action is illegitimate and illegal
b. However, he had said earlier, “He had unconditional respect in international practice for the right of every people to choose the paths and forms of its developments.”
c. The United States does not publicly support Lithuanian’s claim of independence, as it feels there are too many other issues at stake in the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States.
3. Gorbachev’s Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, resigns because he feels the feels the Soviet leadership is returning to a hard-line dictatorship.
4. Soviet paratroopers are sent to Vilnius to round up Lithuanian draft dodgers,
a. The paratroopers occupied the main printing plant, two local police academies, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs on Jan 2, 1991
b. Lithuanian citizens form human chains around the television tower and the Parliament building, where many draft dodgers had been holed up. The TV tower had also been releasing hourly statements about the situation in Vilnius.
c. Gorbachev finally agreed to send a delegation to mediate the conflict, but he had waited too long.
d. On January 13, 1991, the Soviet forces began attacking the television tower, and killed fifteen Lithuanians and wounded several hundred. A thirteen-year-old girl was also killed.
e. Gorbachev denied responsibility for the attack—which made it appear that he was not in control of his own country or military.
f. Gorbachev also said that the Lithuanian nationals had caused the problem, and a peaceful resolution would be difficult when the republic is led by such people.
g. World reproach was swift. The widow of Andrei Sakharov asked that her husband’s name be removed from any list of Nobel laureates that also contained Gorbachev’s.
V. Gorbachev resigns December 25, 1991, and the Soviet Union no longer exists.


Arie, Sophie, “Out in the Cold.” Guardian. Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Beschloss, Michael and Talbott, Strobe, At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War. Little, Brown, and Company. Boston, MA. c 1993.

Hingley, Ronald, Russia: A Concise History. Thames and Hudson, London, 2003.

Mason, David, “Glasnost, Perestroika, and Eastern Europe,” International Affairs, Volume 64, No 3, Summer 1988. pgs 431-448

Yakovlev, Alexander, “The Future of Democracy in Russia: The Lessons of Perestroika and the Question of the Communist Party.” Sanford S. Elberg Lecture in International Studies. February 22, 1993


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