This is a blog for use in both of my HIS 241 and HIS 242 Russian history survey courses at Northern Virginia Community College.

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30 March 2008

Marvelous Decade; the Russian 1840s

Although Russia in the 1840s was ruled by the strictly authoritarian tsar Nicholas I, and although Russian intellectual life had sharp boundaries to it as a result of the tsarist censorship and secret police, there still existed within Russia in the 1840s a lively debate carried out about the nature of Russian society and the its future. That debate took place in private drawing rooms, in coffee houses, in lecture halls at the University of Moscow and even in the published press. There was such a variety of terms in that discussion and such a diversity of areas explored that later historians, and indeed some of the participants themselves, called it a golden age, a marvelous decade. It was a time during which many of the foundations were set for future intellectual and cultural developments in Russia (Need we only mention the names of Belinskii, Dostoevskii, Tolstoi, Herzen...) One caveat to remember is that although this was truly a ferment, it only involved a very small portion of the country's population as Russia remained, in the 1840s, overwhelmingly rural, overwhelmingly peasant and overwhelmingly illiterate.

24 March 2008

Sparrows Point

Not sure how many of you saw the short notice in the Washington Post's business section the other day about the imminent sale of the Sparrows Point steel plant in Baltimore to the Russian steel company OAO Severstal, which is controlled by the super wealthy Alexei Mordashov (top 100 of Forbe's richest people in the world). The Sparrows plant was once the pride of Bethlehem steel, one of the great American steel firms that went bankrupt in 2001--though it had long before that ceased to be a force in the steel industry. For someone who grew up near the main plant of the "steel," as it was always known, in Bethlehem, PA, and as someone who knew a lot of older men who worked there to support their families through the twentieth century, it has always felt a little unsettling that the management of the company could end up letting that company come to nothing. Strangely, this purchase of the Sparrows Point plant could benefit a lot of people in Baltimore and also turn out to be a very good deal for the US steel-making industry

09 March 2008

Russian Winter

Well, winter is just about over here in Northern Virginia, and while it may have been a snwoy winter in much of the Midwest, we had a mild winter (about 3 degrees above normal) with little snowfall (about 5 inches total!). My impression was that much of European Russia also had a relatively mild winter with little snow through mid-February, but I am not sure of the end.

Russian Current Events Sources Available Online

Just found a very useful list of online Russian newspapers and news sources available in English (and Russian) at

02 March 2008

Russian Presidential Elections

The 2008 Russian presidential elections are underway now, as voters are expected to choose Vladimir Putin's choice of Dmitrii Medvedev to take over as president. It is expected that Putin will move from the presidential office in May when his term is over, to the office of prime minister. Experts expect that he will continue to dominate Russian politics from that post, but no one knows quite what to make of Medvedev who has never held elective office before.

Midterm, Alexander I and Napoleon

You should be taking your midterm exam now, with the essay question dealing with Alexander I and the creation of the Holy Alliance. (Remember that you must take the exam by 26 March to avoid being automatically removed from the course).