The Russian Empire in the Age of Reform and Revolution 1856-1917
Value: one unit
Dr Daniel Beer
Teaching:Taught through weekly two-hour seminars
Assessment:3-hour exam (70%), best two of three coursework essays (20%), oral presentation (10%)
The course will examine the intellectual and cultural history of Russia in the turbulent years from the Great Reforms of the 1850s and 1860s to the 1917 Revolution. During this period, the Russian society experienced industrialisation, urbanisation, secularisation and the erosion of traditional values and social distinctions. The spread of literacy, the rise of popular culture, and mass politics all contrived to change the nature and the values of Russian society. In the absence of any established system of political freedom until the 1905 Revolution, Russian literature was a barometer of popular sentiment and a forum in which the great moral and political issues of the day were debated. The tension between reformism and revolution dominated the period. For many, the obduracy of the autocracy precluded the possibility of seeking a gradual reform of the state. Others struggled to reform the Empire whilst staving off violent revolution. The 1905 Revolution was a seminal moment in Russian history in this period. It heralded the explosion of mass movements onto the political stage confirmed for many observers their worst fears of the anarchy and violence that would accompany social revolution. The emphasis throughout will be on the dynamism of Russia in this period as all sections of society struggled to cope with change on an enormous scale at dizzying speeds.