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.

5 comments :

Heather Fahrenwald said...

During the reign of Tsar Nicholas I, people like Belinskii believed in 'westernizer intelligentsia'. They believed in the individual rights of human and their individual freedoms. They wanted to government to stay out of personal matters and wanted privacy

Anonymous said...

The dramatic gap between so called "intelligentsia" and the rest of the population of Russian society was one of the main factors that doomed the originally sensible idea of "socialism" into complete corrupted failure later on.

Dana said...

I believe I read (maybe in the text?) that the intelligentsia would often frame their arguments/beliefs in the form of fables or symbolic stories to fly under the radar of Nicholas' censors. Has anyone seen an example of this translated in English that still makes sense? I think that is really interesting and would love to read some of it.

Randa Mumaw said...

I found that the Russian word fable is synomous with gossip. Krylov fables often dealt with the corruption of government officials and the shortcomings of tsars.

Captholly said...

The golden age in russia seemed incredible. To be one of those brilliant thinkers of the age would be incredible. New ideas and the buzz of enlightenment would be simply thrilling.