A Series of Links Developed
by the Students of RU102
In January 2003 the students of Russian 102 researched several cultural and historical topics, including with their very abbreviated reports a set of web links. These reports are presented below, without editing, except for the rearrangement into some chronological and thematic order. The result is a mini-virtual encyclopedia or cultural reader of many things most educated Russians know. Several factors have prevented a complete or comprehensive overview of Russian history and culture, but for the curious this is a beginning.
St. George the Victor, the patron saint of Russia and Boy Scouts, was the son of noble Christian parents. At the death of his father, he moved to Palestine, where he became a Roman tribune under emperor Diocletian in the early 4th century. Diocletian outlawed Christianity and in return, George, a devout Christian, went to the Emperor and protested his actions. It is also said that he tore down the decrees of the Emperor that were posted throughout the city. For this, he was dragged through the streets, tortured, and beheaded. He died in approximately 304 AD in Lydda, Palestine. However, St. George is best known as a medieval English knight who heard that a maiden was to be eaten by a dragon and went out and slew it. The townspeople tried to give him a monetary reward but he simply gave it to the poor. Today his name graces an order of medal given in Russia.
When Rurik arrived in Novgorod in the late ninth century, Russia did not exist as a country yet. It was merely a collection of many cities. According to the chronicles, the people of Novgorod asked the Varangian Rurik to rule over the city in 854. At his death in 879, Rurik passes rule over Novgorod to Oleg, a relative. Rurik's son Igor was indeed to young at that time.
The new prince of Novgorod then decides to extend the Varangian's power toward the South. In 880, Oleg begins to march on a Slavic city named Kiev. Kiev was taken in 882, and Oleg proclaimed it the "mother of Russian cities". He then founded a powerful state called the Kievskaia Rus.
But Oleg did not stop himself in Kiev. In 904, he started to march on Constantinople with warriors from various tribes. He halted his troupes only before Constantinople, after the Greeks implored him not to destroy the city. Oleg concluded peace with the Greeks in 907 and received a tribute from them. Oleg died in 913 A.D.
Picture and small biography of Oleg. In Russian.
Oleg's biography. (Many Russian rulers' biographies may be found on this site) :
Chronicle of medieval Russia
chronology of Russian history
history of Novgorod (In Russian).
history of Russia
Yaroslav the Wise
Yaroslav the Wise ruled from 1015- 1054. He was dubbed "The Wise" because of affinity towards diplomacy instead of war. He won several land battles although he failed in his attempted campaign against Constantinople in 1043. He rose to power after the death of his father, Vladimir I. He first had to defeat the claims of his twelve brothers, including the powerful and cruel Svyatopolk, who had murdered two of his other brothers. During his reign, he greatly expanded the city of Kiev by building the Golden Gate of the Kievan fortress in addition to great cathedral of St. Sophia, founded numerous other churches and monasteries, expanded literacy by having Greek texts translated into Slavic languages and laid the basis for the political system of Russkaya Pravda ("Russian Justice"). After his death, his legacy was split between his five sons who, in being unfaithful to their father's wishes, quarreled amongst themselves and brought about political instability.
A brief, encyclopedia-esque summary of Yaroslav's life that includes several key dates
Poorly translated from Russian to English but still helpful because it offers glimpse of a Russian perspective to a non-Russian speaker. Also focuses more on strife within the dynasty and other non-essential facts.
The most helpful English site. Goes into detail on most points made by other websites in a clear and concise manner and gives background on the era as a whole.
Another brief biography with key dates, in Russian.
Another Russian biography that goes into slightly more depth, with a picture!
St. Sophia's Cathedral, Novgorod
Built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, between the years of 1045 and 1050, the five-domed St. Sophia's Cathedral in Novgorod is smaller and slightly less grandiose than its archetype, the thirteen-domed St. Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev. Originally multi-colored, the walls of the 38 meter high structure are now a stark white. The cathedral housed debates over appointments of archbishops and received grand dukes from territories throughout Russia. The interior of the building mirrored the exterior: peasants and townspeople worshiped in the darkened ground section while the nobility was seated in brightly-lit sections accessible only by staircase. In Novgorod, the Cathedral's beautiful architecture was harshly contrasted by the simple wooden huts surrounding it in which the people of Novgorod made their lives.
A site maintained by the city of Novgorod that is mostly concerned with the cathedral's architecture and construction
Again, speaks about the cathedral architecturally, but also discusses its use before becoming a museum in 1930
Discusses in depth both the history of the cathedral and the city in which it was built
In Russian, includes key dates in the cathedral's history
The journal of a trip through Russia that briefly mentions the cathedral and the surrounding area
Lived to be 43 years old. He is remembered as a national hero and saint. He was the son of Yaraslov the second. In 1240 he won the battle against the Swedes near the Neva River. This is where he received his Surname, "Nevsky = of the Neva". Saved Russia from "Western Domination" by defeating Teutonic Knights. Acted as a mediator when the Mongols invaded Russia. Mongols made him prince in 1246. As Prince he tried to unify his territory of northern Russia.
The Russian Orthodox Church as a Saint recognizes him and the major center of St. Petersburg has the same name as his surname.
In the early portions of the 13th century, Russia was an extremely weak region, rendering it susceptible to foreign military powers. This became evident when the Mongols began to invade Russia beginning in the year 1236. These forces were accompanied by families and livestock, which became apart of the new order in Russia. By 1240, Russia was completely conquered by the Mongols led by Genghis Khan's grandson, Batu. The Mongols burned towns and cities in Russia destroying much of what we would know of the period, and despite the fact that the Mongols allowed freedom of religion, the period of the Tartar Invasion be came an extremely dark time in Russian history due to lack of written material or information from the period. In the end of the fifteenth century, the Mongol empire weakened as the Russian princes began to unite and regain control of Russia bringing an end to the Mongol era.
Vladimir, part of the Golden Ring of cities, was founded in 990. It expanded because of the support of Andrey Bogolyubsky, whose father founded Moscow. In 1238, the Mongols ruined Vladimir. However, by 1364, it was once again a beautiful city, and soon after, Russian princes chose to have themselves crowned there. Currently Vladimir's population is 357,400, and it's largest markets are glass manufacturing and poultry. Many of the glass making companies are found in the Vladimir Oblast. The tourist industry in Vladimir is also important to its economy. Its famous landmarks are the Uspensky Cathedral, the Dmitrievsky Cathedral, and the Golden Gate.
The settlement of Suzdal first appears in Russian history in the year 1024. It was a small agricultural community along a major trade route. Its size probably saved it from destruction by the Tatars and the Poles. Therefore, Suzdal stands today as a wonderful representation of Russian history and architecture.
In Suzdal's Kremlin stands the five domed Cathedral of the Nativity, built in the 13th century. The main belfry and the now white Archiepiscopal Palace are located in the Kremlin as well. However, Suzdal's architectural beauty is not limited to its Kremlin. The center of the town also contains many monuments, such as churches very different from one another. The monasteries of Suzdal are also famous. Among them the Monastery of the Lament of Christ (16th century) has a 180 foot high belfry. Not far from Moscow, the village of Suzdal has a unique medieval atmosphere.
http://www.suzdal.ru/ the city's official website (in Russian)
http://www.towns.ru/towns/suzdal.html history of the city (in Russian)
http://www.vpti.vladimir.ru/rus/news/konf_2000/rgls/karta.htm map of Suzdal, gives an idea of the size of the city center and of the number of monuments.
http://www.travel-russia.com/cities/suzdal/suzdal.html brief information about the city, with pictures
http://www.inr.ac.ru/~q98/suzdal.html many pictures of the city's best-looking monuments
http://bennyhills.fortunecity.com/mrbean/768/suzdal.html information about the city, with pictures
For more than hundred years the internal strife and rivalries had weakened the Mongols' previously invincible strength that kept the southern Russian people under Tatar yoke for more than 100 years. With Saint Sergius of Radonezhs spiritual guidance and blessing, The Grand Prince of Moscow, Saint Dimitri Donskoi (1359-1389), united the fragmented Russian principalities under Moscow leadership. He then defeated the Mongols in the great battle of Kulikovo in 1380. The decisive confrontation took place on the banks of the Don River. Dimitri's surname, literally "of the Don" originated from this victory. This was the first major setback for the Mongols and it gave the Russian people hope for future liberation. Concurrent with weakening Mongol rule, Russian trade and commodity manufacture revived and the population shifts due to the Mongol invasions slowed. Local economies were strengthened and a convenient medium of exchange was necessary. As a result Moscow became the center of Russian life and Saint Sergius and his Holy Trinity Monastery have bee looked to for guidance and support ever since.
The Moscow Kremlin became an important center for the Orthodox, as the "third Rome," in the 15th century at the fall of Constantine. Italian architects rebuilt churches in the Kremlin between 1475 and 1510. Largely resembling the churches of Vladimir, the first churches-the Assumption (Uspensky) Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel- had basic features of Byzantine planning and design, except a few Italian decorative motifs. Byzantine craftsmen from 988, when Kievan Rus converted to Christianity, had influenced Russian architecture. Pskov architects, in 1484, designed Annunciation Cathedral, and Byzantine heritage began to disappear. In the 16th century Russia's carpenters developed tiered tower and the tent-shaped roof. Since then the general design has became dynamic but suited Russian national characteristics. The Cathedral of St. Basil was uniquely medieval Russian characterizing wood churches of northern Russia, translated into masonry. And finally, the "column of fame," reflects the rising Russian state.
http://www.caroun.com/Countries/Europe/Russia/Kremlin/15-Kremlin-DomesticChurches.html a brief history of the domestic churches of the Moscow Kremlin.
http://russia-in-us.com/Religion/Christianity/architec.htm a brief history of the Russian churches. However, the layout of the page makes the authenticity questionable.
A Russian site on the Kremlin cathedrals and churches.
English site that gives architectural information on the Kremlin, thus the churches there as well.
History and structures on the Kremlin from the reign of Ivan the Great. It is helpful in giving the origins of the architecture and importance of Moscow as a center for the Orthodox Church.
Ivan IV, known as Ivan the Terrible, was born in Moscow in 1530 as the son of the Grand Duke of Moscow. After the death of his parents while he was still a young child, the country was ruled by chaos until 1547, the year in which Ivan was crowned as the first Tsar of Russia. He married Anastasia Romanov in the same year. The Romanov dynasty went on to rule Russia until the end of the Tsarist Empire in 1917. Ivan the Terrible died in 1584.
Ivan IV is known for centralizing the administration of Russia and for conquering Siberia and independent principalities which gave Russia access to the Caspian Sea, thereby greatly increasing the size and importance of the Russian Empire. His policies were very progressive; he sought to promote trade with Western European countries, such as England and France. Ivan the Terrible is also known for being a very brutal tsar. In 1581 he even killed his own son.
The Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed, or the Cathedral of the Intercession, was built in the 1550s to commemorate the defeat of the Kazan Khanate. One new wooden church was built around the original Trinity Church for each major victory. Under Ivan the Terrible, these churches were rebuilt from brick and stone. This church is made up of 9 individual churches, each topped by the famous onion-shaped domes that make Russian churches so distinctive. Each dome is has a different size, pattern, and color scheme. The remaking of the cathedral was led by two men named Posnik and Barma, who had their eyes put out by Ivan IV so they would not be able to create such a building again. It is meant to be an architectural representation of the New Jerusalem as described in the Book of Revelations. To most Westerners, it is the quintessential piece of Russian architecture. Today it is a museum.
There are many historical monuments to be seen in Moscow. To start, there is the Kremlin, the Russian center of government, which is an impressive blend of classic and modern architecture. The clock on the Kremlin in front of the red square is an important monument for Russians every new year. The statue of St George slaying the Dragon is the "mascot" of Moscow, appearing several times throughout the city. There are also many cathedrals including Saint Basil's Cathedral with its onion topped domes. The outdoor Architectural Museum and the Pushkin Museum for the Fine Arts both attract thousands of visitors every year. One may visit Victory Park, which contains many memorials from the war of 1812 and World War II. Finally, other fascinating visits include Lenin's tomb and Moscow state University
Lake Baikal, known as the "Pearl of Siberia," is the largest freshwater lake in the world. It is located on the edge of Siberia just before the Barguzin Mountains of Mongolia. Lake Baikal is 636km long, 80km wide and at points 1.620km deep. The lake basically a rock bowl and contains one-fourth of the worlds freshwater. In fact, it is so large that it would take all the rivers on earth a year to fill it! In the summer the lake is so blue that it is transparent up to forty meters. In the winter it freezes over and the ice is so thick that the Trans-Siberian Railway has been run over it on occasion. There are several species of creatures unique to Baikal found nowhere else on earth, such as the nerpas, a freshwater seal and the omul salmon. The Russian Government recognizes the importance of Lake Baikal and in 1992 created Lake Baikal National Park. There is now much tourism located based around Lake Baikal, the planets largest freshwater lake. At 25 million years old, it is also the oldest freshwater lake in the world.
Before dying, Ivan IV set up a five-man council to rule for his son Feodor. Boris Godunov was one of the members, and became sole regent as the others died. When Feodor expired, heirless, in 1598, Boris was elected czar. It was suspected that Boris had manipulated the election and had the rightful heir, Dmitri, murdered in 1591. While responsible for many improvements, such as the recognition of the Russian Church, peace with Poland and Sweden, and colonization of the frontiers, famine and suspicion interfered with Boris leadership. A false Dmitri invaded in 1604, and, once Boris died, his son Feodor II could not defend the throne.
http://www.alexdolls.com/godunov2.htm This site provides an interesting but brief description of Godunov's reign and the events that accompanied it.
http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/G/Godunov.asp This site, in the encyclopediac tradition, provides a dry but thorough description; it is good for a quick reference to dates and facts.
http://www.russia.net/>oldrn/history/empire.html This site devotes relatively little space to Godunov himself, but provides much helpful background information about the Time of Troubles.
http://peoples.ru/state/king/russia/godunov/ A site in Russian with a short article about Godunov (can be veiwed in English as well).
http://www.rvb.ru/pushkin/01text/05theatre/01theatre/0837.htm References Pushkin's drama...
Continuing the Romanov dynasty, Peter I (1672-1725) was crowned co-tsar with his brother Ivan in 1682. Whereas his predecessors had isolated Russia from advancements in other European countries, Peter's goal was to westernize Russia and improve trade with other European countries. After two years traveling through Europe working and observing their technology, industry, and political structures, Peter returned to transform Russia. He instituted mandatory military service and built a large army and navy through substantial federal funding attained through tripling taxes. Attempting to bring Russia in alignment with the rest of Europe, Peter banned the traditional garb and commanded all men to dress identically to the Germans. He also changed their calendar to the common European system, simplified the alphabet, and opened many technical and science-intensive schools. Seeking to take advantage of waterways for trade, he moved the capital of Russia from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Exceptionally aggressive, Peter engaged Russia in several battles. Conquering Sweden through the 21 year-long Great Northern War was his most significant feat, as it then made Russia the most powerful Northern European country. By the end of his reign Peter declared Russia an empire and changed his title from Tsar to Emperor. Although Peter did make Russia a much stronger country politically, he is considered one of the most controversial Russian leaders, as his decisions left the peasants with no choice but to become serfs, and in general made Russians on an individual level dependent on others to survive.
(Sources in Russian)
- This site provides a good overview of the most noteworthy of Peter's accomplishments and also includes negative aspects.
- This site focuses on his accomplishments and family relations. http://www.academic.ru/misc/enc3p.nsf/ByID/NT00038BB2
- - This page lists the dates of the many battles and wars Peter I led, along with a brief biography.
(Sources in English)
- This page is chock-full of information, particularly about his relations with his subjects and family members.
- Here you will find a more factual encyclopedia-esque summary of Peter the Great's life. It does not detail the controversy over his actions.
This site gives more specific examples of changes he made culturally and politically.
As Dostoyevsky wrote in Notes From The Underground St. Petersburg was, "the most intentional town in the whole terrestrial globe". At the time of its founding, in 1703, this was probably true. Peter the Great founded the city after gaining control of the region during the Northern War with Sweden. Here the Tsar decided to build his new capital in western and grandiose style that is still a marvel today. The streets were planned to be parallel and perpendicular, and western architects were brought to design major buildings. These architects included Domenico Trezzini, Giacomo Quarenghi, and Bartholomeo Rastrelli who designed the Peter and Paul fortress, the Academy of Sciences, and the Winter Palace respectively. All of these designers brought the latest styles from Europe, and thus laid the physical framework for Peters window to the west that remained cultural and intellectual center of Russia for the next two hundred years.
Official government site about St. Petersburg, history, politics, economy and tourism; in Russian and English
A very compete guide to news, tourism, shopping, history, maps, etc.
Site dedicated to the 300 years of history in St. Petersburg, including historical documents and lots of pictures.
Saint-Petersburg, one of the most beautiful cities not only in Russia, but world-wide, is filled up with monuments witnessing its rich and interesting history. One of the main sights there is the Winter Palace. It was a former residence of the Russian tsars (1754-1762). Catherine the Great, was the first one to collect unique pieces of art in it so the palace became a part of the State Hermitage Museum where more than 3 000 000 exhibits are stored. The treasures of the museum attract millions of people every year. The Savior On The Blood Cathedral is the next thing that definitely deserves to be seen. It was erected on the place where the Russian Tsar Alexander 2 was killed in 1881. The other cathedrals that reflect the magnificent architecture of the city are The Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan, built to commemorate Russian victory over Napoleon, and Smolny Cathedral . The city has a number of beautiful embankments made of marble. The most famous being the Neva embankment.
Petrodvorts is a unique place famous as the capital of fountains. Former Peter residence, 40 kilometers away from Saint-Petersburg,it is considered a not-to-miss sight for tourists.
The suburb of Pavlovsk, 27 km away from the city, was built at the end of the 18th century and contains a number of sculptures, bridges and pavilions. It is also an outstanding example of garden-making art.
The small city of Kronstadt, 30 km away from Saint Petersburg, holds the Grandiose Marine Cathedral built in 1913 as a symbol of Russias marine pride.
The palace in Petershof is absolutely stunning. Peter the Great
must have been totally bowled over by Europe, as he tried to create
even more beauty here. The construction of the palace and the park
complex started in the 1710s and was opened in August 1723.
Several generations of architects, sculptors, fountain engineers,
gardeners and hydraulic engineers contributed to the creation of
Peterhofs splendour. After World War II it took another half
century to raise it again from its ruins, exactly as it was
The focus of the majestic display is the Great Palace and near the middle of the palace begins the Great Cascade, apparently one of the most spectacular fountain structures in the world. None of the fountains work with pumps, as they all operate on pressure. The water for the fountains comes with canals from the mountains 20 kilometres away. The fountains operate from eleven to five, May until September every year. Approximately 10 000 cubic litres of water per hour are used and run into the sea at the end of the main canal.
Pavlovsk Palace was a retreat built in 1777 by Catherine I for her son, Paul I upon the birth of his first child. It contains a classical Russian palace, pavilions, mansions, English gardens, and the Mausoleum of Paul I. It was originally designed by Catherines favorite architect, and Paul later had some of his preferred architects do work on the building and landscape the incredible park. In 1796 it became the official summer residence of the royalty. Pavlovsk was revered as a cultural monument; concerts and operas were held in the great Vauxhall until it was destroyed during World War II, the palace was also damaged, but was able to be restored.
A brief but thorough site with plenty of dates.
A more detailed site, with more specific historical information about the people involved.
A site with great pictures.
A travel guide to Pavlovsk.
A wonderful site with great pictures and information about all aspects of Pavlovsk.
A fairly large site in Russian
In Russian- might have something to do with Pavlovsk.
Tsarskoe Selo is a town located 25 km south of St. Petersburg that appeared at first as a summer residence for Russian tsars. It was renamed Detskoe Selo and the Pushkin in 1937 to commemorate the famous Russian writer. It is famous for its extravagant palaces, pavilions and gardens. It is often referred to as the "town of muses" because it attracted poets, artists and musicians and inspired them to create what we now see as their masterpieces. In 1724, the first palace was built for Catherine I and parks were built to surround it. In 1752-1756 the Bolshoy Catherine Palace and Alexanders Palace were examples of the beautiful baroque architecture that began to arise. They were built by foreign architects including Rastrelli. The town became the place where nobility and foreign ambassadors gathered. There have been several changes in the architecture of the town from English gardens to baroque interiors to the building of Roman bathhouses. The town is also associated with the poet Alexander Pushkin because he studied in Lyceum from 1811-1817. Much of his works have to do with the splendor of the town and the inspiration that he has drawn from it. World War II brought about much destruction to the palaces and was later restored once the Nazis left. Puskino is currently open to the public.
Map of city:
History and description of Pushkino
site in Russian about the famous town
Description of various emperors and their palaces
verse dedicated to the old city in Russian
Built in 1754-1762 on the banks of the Neva River in Saint Petersburg, the Winter Palace was the main residence for the czars from Catherine the Great to the last of the Romanovs. Although it was originally built for Empress Elizabeth, she died before its completion and so was unable to live there. The Winter Palace has 1786 doors, 1945 windows, and 1057 rooms, and was styled in the Baroque fashion. It was designed by architect Francesco Bartholomeo Rastrelli. In 1837, a huge fire destroyed most of the palace, and so it had to be remodeled. The palace was the official royal home from the time of its completion to 1917, with the overthrow of the dynasty. Now the Winter Palace is the main part of the Hermitage Museum, which is the largest art collection in all of Russia and one of the main attractions in Saint Petersburg.
Catherine the Great was Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. She was heavily influenced by the French Enlightenment and used it to rationalize her reform of the administration, although after the French Revolution she became hostile toward liberal ideas and apparently tried to join a European coalition against France before she died.
Some successful accomplishments of her reign include the introduction of western culture and the resulting flourishing of scholarship, book-publishing, journalism, architecture and theatre. She began education for females and developed an elementary school system. Catherines two Turkish Wars (1768-1774; 1787-1792) gave Russia control of part of the Black Sea coast, the Crimean peninsula, and the Turkish waters. Under her leadership, Russia also gained some partitions of Poland. Hence, Russian territory was greatly expanded. She started the Hermitage Museum, today a great museum, with her art collections from all over Europe. Catherine oversaw the creation of the Magistrat which became the city Duma in 1786.
Catherine the Great also brought Russia into a war with Lithuania in 1763 and with Sweden in 1790. A treaty of friendship was signed under her with England.
Catherine commissioned a legal reform with no success. Because she had to appease the gentry, she was never able to free the serfs and in fact greatly increased the power that the gentry over the serfs.
On May 2, 1729, Catherine the Great was born Princess Sophie Auguste Friederike of AnhaltZerbst at Stettin in the Pomeranian province in Prussia. She was married to Grand Duke Peter, heir to Russian throne, in 1744. Her first child, Tsar Paul I, was born in 1754, and her second, Alexei, was born in 1762. Her daughter Anne died in 1758. Catherine became Empress after she and the army arrested Peter in 1762.
Catherine the Great
Contains a more detailed but still basic chronology of Catherine life. Includes interesting additions like the Romanov family tree, a list of Catherines lovers, information about the Romanov Jewels and photos of Russia.
Contains detailed, information about the most important elements in Catherines reign, including her ideology, expansion of Russian territory, serfdom, wars.
Aleksandr the Second was the czar of Russia succeeding Nicholas I, his father. Aleksandr ruled Russia from 1855, on the death of his father, to 1881, on his own assassination. His rule is most well marked by the emancipation of the serfs, carried out on his orders, which involved their freedom of slavery, but not much more. The serfs were given no land upon being freed, and remained nearly as bad off as they were when they were slaves. This created a lot of unhappiness among the former serfs, who wanted more reform. Aleksandr answered this call with several reforms, including improvements on education, the building of railways, a lower level of censorship, better health care, banking improvements, and a reform on the jury system. The peasants and serfs, however, were still unhappy with these reforms and began to plot rebellion against the czar. Revolutionary groups sprung up, and eventually Aleksandr was assassinated on March 13, 1881, by a terrorist. He was succeeded by Aleksandr III.
A short but pithy overview of Aleksandr IIs life and rule.
A chronology of events during the rules of many Russian leaders.
A website detailing Russian history through several "lectures." (Russian)
A list of several sites concerning aspects of Russian history (Russian)
A site with an extensive description of life in the time of Aleksandr the Second
Napoleon incredible success came to an end in 1812, the year in which he began his catastrophic Russian campaign. Napoleon, who controlled almost all of Europe, invaded Russia with an army of over half a million, which at the time was the biggest invasion in history. Marshal Kutuzov, the head of the Russian forces, knew he was greatly outnumbered and therefore tried not to confront Napoleons forces in an open battle. Instead he called for a strategic retreat and destroyed the land as the Russian army drew back. This tactic was incredibly efficient: Over 300,000 Napoleonic soldiers died within a mere 3 months, because of a lack of supplies.
In order to prevent Napoleon from conquering Moscow, the Russians cut off the enemys army on September 7th at Borodino Field, only 110km from the city. The battle cost the lives of over 100,000 soldiers but Napoleon was eventually able to reach Moscow, which he to his bitter surprise found deserted. Napoleon was defeated. The French army was forced to retreat back to Western Europe during a terribly cold winter. Only 10,000 of the original 500,000 men survived. As a consequence, Russia gained international recognition and became one of the leading powers in the 19th century.
Nicholas I became the czar of Russia in 1825 and remained czar until his death in 1855. He was born on May 25, 1796 as third heir to the throne. He was trained in military engineering. After his father, Emperor Paul Is death, his oldest brother Alexander I became emperor. When he died without any heirs, Nicholas was able to take over because his older brother Constantine had "renounced the throne." His first course of action was to crush an "initial uprising" and execute these conspirators who thought Constantine should be czar. Nicholas was "harsh and despotic by nature." He tried in his reign to subdue liberalistic thought and expression. He fought the Ottoman Empire and won in the Russo-Turkish Wars and then later lost to the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War. He married Alexandra Feodorovna who produced seven children for him. He died on February 18, 1855.
Nikolai Alexandrovich was born in 1868 and became the last tsar of Russia in 1896. His coronation ceremony was a dark foreboding for his reign&emdash;more than1,000 spectators were crushed to death.
Nikolai married Alix (Alexandra Feodorovna), a German princess. They proceeded to have five children&emdash;four daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia; and a son Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia.
Nikolai felt he was chosen by God to rule and did not hold himself accountable to anyone but God. During his reign, Russia was involved in two wars&emdash;with Japan and in World War I. They suffered heavy losses in both, which lost popularity for Nikolai. Also tainting his reign was the peasant "healer" Rasputin, who was called upon to help Alexei.
Nikolai abdicated on March 2, 1917. He was killed (along with his family) on July 17, 1918 by the Bolsheviks.
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was born in Tobolsk, Siberia on February 7, 1834 to Maria Dmitrievna Korniliev and Ivan Pavlovitvh Mendeleev, the youngest of fourteen children. His earliest influences were his mother, a glassblower with whom he had the opportunity of working, and his sister's husband, Bessayin who was a Decembrist. As a student, Mendeleev did not like the humanities at all but showed a real penchant for the natural sciences. Then family moved to Moscow but Dmitri was rejected at the University. They then moved to Saint Petersburg where Mendeleev was enrolled and where his mother and sister died a short time after. Following a period of time working in France and Germany, he returned to Petersburg to teach at the Institute of Technology. He was greatly loved by the Russian people. He was forced, though, to leave the University because of the political situation of the time.
Mendeleev worked on a great number of projects to further Russia, science, and the world, but he is perhaps best known for his work on the order of elements. After a life's dedication to research and extensive communication with other professors around the world, Mendeleev discovered an "order" of the elements and devised the primitive stages of what we have today as the "Periodic Table of Elements." On January 20, 1907, Mendeleev died at the age of 73.
The Imperial Duma was first established in 1905. The council was formed of two houses; the lower house, the Duma, was made up of elected representatives. The idea was that no law could be passed without consent from them. This did not work well under a monarchy. After opposition candidates were elected, Tsar Nicholas II dissolved the legislative body. Before the Russian Revolution of 1917, there were three more Dumas. The second, formed in 1907, was also dissolved. The third, 1912-1917, had some effect on labor laws. The fourth, and last, was formed in 1912 and dissolved in 1917 when Tsar Nicholas II abdicated.
The State Duma was established, or reestablished, in 1993 when a new Consitution was adopted. The body is elected every four years, can pass of federal laws and constitutional amendments, and has impeachment and confirmation capabilities. The president still has the ability to dissolve the Duma.
Rasputin was a Russian peasant who grew to great fame in Russia when he convinced the Tsar and Tsarina that only he had the power to heal their son. He claimed to be a mystic who could cure their sons bleeding ailment (hemophilia). He also reportedly saved one of the Tsarinas closest friends from certain death following a train wreck. It is uncertain how much power he had in the royal family though many claim that he pulled all the strings himself. His death is his most well-known legacy. The story has it that he was lured to a friends house where they attempted to kill him. He supposedly was shot two or three times, fed enough cyanide to kill several people, and stabbed without dying. It was not until he was beaten and thrown in a river that the murder was complete.
The October Revolution, which marked the shift in Russia from the Romanov Dynasty to Socialism, began in the spring of 1917 when Nikolas formally abdicated his familys right to rule and Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries returned to Russia. The Germans, who allowed their return into the country, hoped that their presence might weaken the Russian war effort. After the Romanov abdication, a provisional government was formed and Kerensky was eventually named prime minister. His reign was overruled, however, when the Bolsheviks gained the majority and, during the November 6th coup and seizing the Winter Palace in Petrograd, named Trotsky as foreign commissar, Lenin as chairman and Stalin as commissar of nationalities. Those members of the provisional government who had not fled the country were arrested and the country underwent huge economic reforms, such as the institution of a supreme economic council, which nationalized and oversaw all banks.
Includes a comprehensive timeline which is useful for quick referencing
A collection of links to sites concerning the Russian Revolution with a FAQ section which is very helpful once one has progressed past the basic facts of the revolution
An encyclopedia styled outline of the revolution with explanations of key names and places
A brief Russian summary of the revolution which does not focus on exact dates
A more detailed Russian account of the revolution which is divided into sections concerning different aspects of the revolution
Aleksandr Feodorovich Kerensky was born in 1881, and he was elected to the fourth duma in 1912 as a delegate of the moderate Labor party. After the Russian February Revolution of 1917, Kerensky joined the Socialist party that overthrew Nicholas II and held posts as the minister of justice and the minister of war, before becoming premier of the new government in July 1917. The Bolsheviks soon overthrew Kerensky because of his relatively moderate policies, his failure to enact real land reform, and his insistence on remaining in the costly war. In 1919, Kerensky wrote The Prelude to Bolshevism. Kerensky fled to Paris and then in 1940 to the United States, where as an exile, he was an outspoken critic of the Soviet regime until his death in New York in 1970.
- In English. This site provides a detailed biography of Kerensky, including links to the texts of some of his most important speeches.
- In English. This site provides a more concise biography of Kerensky, with a photograph.
- In English. This site is part of an in depth timeline of events in Russia, and 1917 was a busy year for Aleksandr Feodorovich.
- In Russian. This site gives a lengthy biography of Kerensky including a number of photographs.
- In Russian. This site is another involved biography of the Russian revolutionary, Kerensky.
In the early 1900s Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was the leader of the world proletariat. He became the chairman of the Council of Peoples Commissars. Along with Trotsky, Stalin, and Rykov, the communist party was formulated. He clung to the notion that the October Revolution had established a proletarian government. He abolished private land ownership and consequently divided land and gave it to the peasants of the Soviet. Everything became nationalized. Yet civil war broke out and it wasnt until 1922 that there was peace. In 1922 Lenin had a stroke, and then again in 1923, he lost his speech to another stroke. After his death Stalin took over. Lenin was buried in a mausoleum on Red Square, and there he still remains today.
A comparison and contrast of these two leaders political views.
An outline of Lenins life and reign.
A site about Lenin written in Russian.
History of Lenin written in Russian.
Vladimir Ilich Lenin Home Page. A great site for bibliographic info. Also has a lot of useful links.
Joseph Stalin, also known as Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, was born in a region of Georgia known as Gori in 1879. Between 1888 and 1899, Stalin was schooled very heavily in theology. However, after forming contacts with Marxist revolutionaries beginning in 1895, "J. V. Stalin was expelled from the Tiflis Theological Seminary for propagating Marxism" ("Joseph Stalin: Biography of the Great Russian Leader"). Stalin became an adamant member of the Bolsheviks, leading to his participation in the October Revolution of 1917. Stalin took advantage of Lenins death in 1934, using this timer to advance his political career and push his ideas about collectivism to the forefront of Russian politics. As much as his name now lives in infamy, however, Stalin holds a place in the hearts of many Russian peasants who currently suffer under the corrupt capitalism Russia has instituted. Still, Stalins atrocities as a dictator simply cannot be overlooked. His insistence in purging Russia of "enemies of the people" led to the imprisonment and/or execution of thousands, and an increase in these activities during World War II led to the deaths of millions (search.biography.com). He died in 1953, continuing to enact foreign policy until that time.
This site provides a biography of Joseph Stalin. It focuses mostly on Stalins political career: his rise from a poor upbringing, his belief in Marxist fundamentals, and his eventual position as dictator of the Soviet Union under the guise of Communism. According to this source, the term "Stalinism" was denounced by many Soviets soon after Stalins fall from power.
"Joseph Stalin: Biographical Chronology" provides a very through chronological account of Stalins younger years, as well as his adult life. The site focuses on his schooling at and eventual expulsion from the Tiflis Theological Seminary, which led to his immersion in the Marxist revolution and the Bolshevik revolutionaries.
This website seems to be a combination of opinion and fact about the infamous Joseph Stalin written originally in Russian and then translated into English. However, the essay presents an interesting look at the two viewpoints held about Stalin, one being his godlike similarities and the other, more common after his death, being his likeness to Satan. The author soon sways his or her opinion to be one of sympathy towards Stalin, since the meat of the article examines how the peasants of Russia would much prefer the Russia of Stalin to the corrupt capitalism that has emerged under leaders such as Yeltsin and Putin.
This site provides a brief summary of notable Russian history from the year 1907. Stalin gets a nod through his participation in the Bolsheviks seemingly working-class revolution, which Lenin predicted would pave the way for democracy within Russia. The world would soon come to see Stalin not as an advocate of democracy but as a ruthless dictator and institutor of genocide.
The gulag, first used by the British during the Boer War, is a camp that is used to punish, terrorize, exploit and sometimes eliminate civilians. It was developed in the USSR as early as 1922 and became much more terrible and encompassing under Stalin. Religious and political dissenters were all sent to these camps, along with common criminals. The gulags actually significantly contributed to the Soviet economy, for the laborers were often forced to construct industrial centers and machinery. However, the gulags, located mostly in Siberia, were infamous for their inhumane treatment of the prisoners. Thousands were slaughtered and others died as a result of no food or warmth.
The German Army commenced Operation Barbarossa on the June the 22nd, 1941. They penetrated as deep as Leningrad on the Northern front, Moscow on the Central Front, and Stalingrad in the South. However, by the winter of 1942, the Wehrmacht had failed to capture these vital Russian cities. It was at this point that Soviet war machine began to produce more modern military equipment in massive numbers. At the Battle of Kursk in 1943, the German army was defeated and their strategic initiative was lost forever. Shortly thereafter, the German Army Group South surrendered at Stalingrad. These defeats resulted in an eventual German retreat from Russia which was closely pursued by the Red Army. The Red Army moved into Germany and captured Berlin on May 9, 1945. The Russian Military suffered an estimated 13,600,000 in expelling the German invaders.
Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) was born in Kalinkova and said to be
illiterate until the age of 25. He joined the Bolshevik forces in the
Civil War and became a full hearted communist at the age of 18. After
working for Stalin, Khrushchev became a full member of the Politburo
and of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1939.He was one of the
head leaders in 1941 when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. With
the death of Stalin in 1953, Khrushchev took to leading role,
transforming the Soviet Union from its earlier days. He condemned
several violations that had been committed and exposed Stalin in his
famous 1956 speech to the 20th Party Congress. As he was appointed
first secretary, he began dealing with several critical political
issues. In 1958, he was appointed prime minister. In the West,
Khrushchev became involved in the U2 situation, the Cuban Missile
Crisis in 1963, and the building of the Berlin Wall. He acknowledged
the idea of peace and he attempted to settle the Cold War tensions
with the West. He also signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on August
This is an excellent site that summarizes Khrushchevs life and accomplishments from birth to death. It is brief and goes into little detail, however it captures the essence of his achievements.
This site is extremely interesting as it gives the speech given to the 20th Party Congress. It is interesting to note that as he condemns Stalins actions, he tries to cover up the fact that he had been involved as well. He appears confident of the victories of the Leninist party. It is an extremely informative site.
This is a very detailed timeline of his life that provides interesting information such as his early life and his late life dilemmas. It ends with a description of the party coupe and later his death. It gives the reader a feel for the ups and downs of his life.
Letters between Kennedy and Khrushchev during Cold War
This is excellent site to read letters between Kennedy and Khrushchev. It is extremely informative and gives insight into the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Khrushchevs life story described in Russian (major events, dates etc)
Sputnik: The Battle for Space
Sputnik was launched into space by the Soviets on October 4, 1957 from Kazakhstan. Before this time, no country had successfully launched a satellite into space. The satellite was 500 miles above the ground, and it circled the earth in approximately 98 minutes. This landmark event also put the Soviet Union in first place in the great space-race that would develop between the Soviets and the Americans for years to come. More importantly, the U.S. feared, due to Cold War tensions, that the USSR could use their launching capabilities in an effort to fire ballistic missiles at other nations, namely the United States. Another satellite, Sputnik II, was launched on November 3 of the same year. Many people, including politicians and journalists, magnified the significance of Sputnik with outcries of possible nukes and chastisement of Americas current space programs. The success of the Soviets spurred US researchers to develop and launch Explorer I by 1958. Most significant, however, might be the creation of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), a program that continues to be on the forefront of aeronautical developments.
This site, operated by NASA, describes the origination of Sputnik, the first satellite launched from Earth. Information is provided on Sputniks role in the great space-race between the USSR and the United States.
A Russian site "dedicated to 40th anniversary of the first artificial Earth satellite launch." Although at first glance, I thought I would find information about the original Sputnik, I soon discovered that the website dealt with Russian weather satellites. It is sponsored by IKI RAN, Russias Space Research Institute.
Contains the original headlines during Sputniks launch and the days that followed after. This also is a site dedicated to the 40th anniversary of Sputniks launch, but it is much more informative on the event than the above site. Interestingly, the editor has included some of the reactions to the event, such as the rush to arm and many critiqued the U.S.s failure to foresee the event.
Another brief overview of Sputniks flight is presented. There is a clip of the incessant beeping which accompanied the satellites movements, kind of cool. This report by the New York Times delves into the politics and awe involved in the event, gaining perspective from NASA personnel.
Here is another Russian website dealing with Sputnik Labs. However, in this case Sputnik Labs is a telecommunications provider. Although the company was created by European and American executives, it is based in Moscow.
Leonid Brehzhnev was born in 1906 to Russian parents in the Ukraine. Brezhnev joined the Communist Party in 1931 where he held a series of local party posts. He served with distinction against the German Wehrmacht in World War II and aligned himself with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev following Stalins Death. Named to the Politburo, Brezhnev appeared to be Krushchevs most likely successor by the early 60s. He helped to oust Krushchev in 1965 and quickly ascended to the rank of Party General Secretary. Brezhnev reign is notable for a number of reasons. He was responsible for undoing a series of liberal reforms that had been instituted by Krushchev. Most notably, he allowed the KGB more freedom in their operations amongst individual Soviet citizens. In addition, his crushing of the 1968 Prague Spring Rebellion in the Czech Republic officially instated the "Brezhnev Doctrine" which stated that Warsaw Pact nations would not be allowed to withdraw peacefully from the Soviet Sphere of influence. He died in 1982.
The foundation of the KGB was formed in Russia in 1954 when the
police force needed reorganization. It was originally intended to
serve as part of the Council of Ministers that would control it,
according to the 1977 Soviet constitution. In reality, however, the
KGB worked independently from the Council. The KGB was a
union-republic state committee, which controlled state committees in
the fourteen non-Russian republics. The KGB is composed of
administrators in the kraia as well oblast administrators. There was
the okruga at the lowest level. They observe security regulations and
monitor political sentiments. There is an extensive network of
defense and armed forces. When run by the Soviet government, the KGB
was directed by a chairman and important decisions were made by the
Collegium, a collective body of KGB officials. The KGBs duties
included targeting spies, punishing crimes committed by its citizens,
protecting the borders and protecting state secrets. They were to
eliminate those against the government and eradicate the political
ideas that challenged them. They also investigated military crimes
that were defined under Article 259 of the Russian Republics
Code of Criminal Procedure. In 1989, these provisions became
The KGB had several domestic security functions. It arrested and investigated individuals for political and economic crimes. They were involved in censorship and propaganda. The KGB ended in 1991 and was replaced by the FSB (Federal Security Service).
Washington Post Article about Putin and the KGB
Structure and Policies of the KGB
Article from 1999 on the KGB- includes stories of the KGB
KGB yesterday, today and tomorrow- extremely interesting article about the KGB
Russian: The FSB- replaces the KGB
Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ) Last leader of the USSR 1985-1991. When Mikhail Gorbachev took the reigns of the Soviet Union in 1985 the world couldnt imagine the change that was in store. He succeeded more than a half century of rule by violence and fear, and brought it all to an end in just six years. Through his radical reforms (Perestroika) and policy of openness (glastnost), Gorbachev changed the face of the USSR and consequently the whole world.
Gorbachev thought previous reforms had not worked because they didnt encourage the "involvement of the people in modernizing and restructuring the economy."(1) Thus Perestroika included allowing the lease of government land for agriculture and granting people the right to own small businesses. In 1989 Gorbachev cleared the way the USSR to do business with western companies, and the first McDonalds opened in Moscow in 1990 (2).
Gorbachevs policy of openness was just as radical as the economic change he implemented. In a country where many people feared and distrusted the government Gorbachev released political prisoners, and allowed exiles to participate in the democratization of government. Censorship was lifted from the Media and freedom of religion granted to the Russian people. In the first visit to the Vatican, of any Soviet leader, Gorbachev said, "We need spiritual values; we need a revolution of the mind No one should interfere in matters of the individual's conscience." (1)
In many ways Gorbachev set the stage for the fall of the USSR. His policies loosened the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe; his administration saw the fall of the Berlin wall. It is both ironic and fitting that Mikhail Gorbachev lost the first democratic election for a Russian leader in 1991. Just as ironic is the fact that Gorbachev is criticized more openly and bitterly by Russians than any other leader, as he is the one to thank for this freedom. He made difficult compromises between the Communist party he was part of and liberal reformers who thought his policies didnt go far enough. Regardless Gorbachev has continued to act as an important international humanitarian and proponent of democracy.
Good overview of Gorbachevs reforms.
Detailed timeline of Soviet history.
Gorbachevs official website, included only for completeness. High tech but not greatly informative.
Good information on Gorbachevs political career in Russian and English.
Glasnost is the Russian word that Gorbachev applied to reformist policies he implemented during the late 1980s. Initially, the Soviet leader intended for glasnost to be controlled, and to historical and current problems facing the Soviet Union. The idea behind the glasnost was that if the media was allowed to honestly criticize the Soviet Union's power structure and bureaucracy, than appropriate changes would be made. The media took their new freedom farther than had previously been anticipated: the result was a de facto free press in the USSR. One particular example was the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The incompetence of those responsible was exposed for all to see in a way that was unanticipated. Critical coverage of the government increased as more and more media called for open, democratic elections.
Perestroika is a term used to describe Mikhail Gorbachevs attempts, from about 1985 to 1991, to revamp the stagnant, Soviet economy. The program was intended to transform the strongly centralized, command economy into a freer market economy. A part of an overall trend toward democratization of the Communist system, encouraging initiative and autonomy in business and commerce, perestroika received mixed reactions within the Soviet Union. The general motion toward a freer society tended to undermine the power structure; the changing economy did not produce amazing results. The changes and reforms that occurred under Gorbachev actually contributed to the fall of the Soviet regime.
This sight is thorough but brief, discussing perestroika as it relates to the other changes and events of the late eighties and early nineties.
Gives the Party Plenum of January 1987 describing perestroika.
This site gives a basic definition of perestroika; it helped to clarify the other sources/ give basic background information.
This site contains a copy of a Soviet document regarding perestroika.
Boris Yeltsin was born on February 1, 1931, in Sverdlovsk, USSR. He joined the communist party in 1961 during Krushchev's time as party's secretary general. Throughout his life, Yeltsin was a reformer, dedicated to eliminating the bureaucratic problems that plagued many facets of the Soviet state. In 1987, Yeltsin was stripped of his post as Moscow City Party First Secretary, a position similar to that of mayor, for criticizing Gorbachev's perestroika as too slow. Yeltsin was elected the first president of the Russian Federation in 1991. He was reelected despite serious health problems in 1996, and after a eliminating 4 prime ministers in under two years, he selects Vladimir Putin as the successor to the presidency. Yeltsin resigns in Dec, 1999.
Vladimir V. Putin is the President of the Russian Federation. Born on October 7, 1952 Putin went on to graduate from the law department of the Leningrad State University in 1975. He then served in the Foreign Intelligence Services and worked in Germany. He returned to Leningrad State University and was in charge of the International issues. He later worked in external affairs for the Leningrad city authorities before moving on to federal security. He held several presidential appointments including Main Audit Directorate and presidential deputy chief of staff and was appointed Prime Minister in 1999. He became president in March 2000. His important visits include destinations like United States and Greece. Respectively, each is evidence of his work in setting good relations and sound economic policies for the Russian federation. His hobbies include wrestling and reading Russian classical literature. He is married to Lyudmila. They have two daughters.
This Russian site gives the general contact information for President Putin as well as his biography from 1975 to the time he became president in March 2000.
This site is useful Russian site that provides day-to-day activities by President Putin. It details speeches that he reads, visits he makes and discussions of policies he makes.
This is an English site for the Russian Embassy in the US. It has a link to the biography of President Putin.
This is an English site that details the efforts the Russian President is putting into erasing the past that marked the US and Russia as enemies. As President Bush said, when he went to high school Russia was an enemy, but now the two countries are working together.
This English site, in addition to giving the general biography, it states Putins hobbies.
VLADIMIR PUTIN TELLS U.S. LISTENERS ABOUT HIS HOBBIES Vladimir Putin, speaking in a call-in show at National Public Radio, told U.S. listeners that he likes Russian classical literature very much, yet he reads modern books, too
The current Russian flag, known as the Imperial Flag, was originally created and instituted by Peter the Great in 1705. Its original purpose was the serve as the flag for the Russian Navy, but Peter decided to use it as the symbol for the entire nation. Its appearance is characterized by three horizontal stripes of white, blue, and red. The white symbolizes nobleness and freedom, the blue represents honor and respect to the Mother of God, and the Red courage and magnanimity. The flag was re-instituted as the national flag after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Soviet flag became the official flag of the Soviet Union in 1923. Its major and most well known characteristic is the fusion of the sickle and hammer, which represents the union of farmers and workers in the socialist state. The flag also has an outline of a yellow star, which depicts life, and the immense energy of the sun. The inside of the star and the entire background of the sun are colored red to symbolize the blood of the Russian workers.
Russia's national anthem has changed at each change of power. In 1833, at the rise of the Tsar monarchy, a national anthem in praise of Tsar was adopted. This was replaced by the workers' anthem after the October revolution in 1917, and at the rise of communism and the Soviet Union, the soviet anthem was adopted in 1944. This anthem praised Lenin and Stalin. Then at the fall of soviet era, Boris Yeltsin dropped the anthem. Russia had music without lyrics from 1991-2000, which because of the spirituality and pride associated with the anthem; made people to demand a proper anthem from Putin's government. President Putin approved the new anthem in December 2000, but the same music and authors from 1944 were used, modifying where there were people's names. While most people still associate it with the Soviet era, this national anthem at least praises the country than people.
This is an article from the CNN talking about the football players
who demanded that the authorities consider a proper national anthem.
The article explains the reasons why the Soviet era national anthem
had to be dropped, by Boris Yeltsin. The words hailed Stalin and
Lenin and the communism. Putin prefer modifying the old anthem.
This site gives a brief description of the Russian Anthem from 1833-1917 when the Tsarist monarchy was overthrown. It gives the words to the anthem. Indeed, it was not a national anthem, but a personal praise to the Tsar!
This is a Russian site that provides the lyrics to the New Russian Anthe, adopted in 2000.
This is an English and Russian site that gives details of the Russian anthems before and after the Soviet Union.
(go to useful links)--This is the site for the consulate offices in San Francisco. They provide audio links to the new Russian Anthem as well as a brief description of the composer.
The samovar is like a big, medieval Hot Pot. It is a metal pot filled with water, which is heated by charcoal or wood burned in a cylinder through the middle. The hot water is added to a concentrated form of tea which is brewed in a little teapot on top of the samovar. The Russians usually drink this strong tea with sugar, honey, or jam for flavoring. Samovars were imported from the East in the 18th Century in a relatively functional form. Soon, Russians began to turn the samovar into a work of art itself. Tula was a center for samovar-making, given the rich deposits of ore in the area and the fact that they were already producing arms and other metal products. The popularity of the samovar grew to immense proportions, and the samovar is still used even today, though a certain element has been lost due to the invention of the electric samovar.
The creation of Russian masterpieces, lacquer boxes, began in the 14th century in small, secluded villages ~500 km north of Moscow. They were always made with the more intricate handiwork: many layers of papier-mâché covered with a dark base of egg-tempera (yolk, vinegar, and a pigment) and decorated with gilded pictures painted using a squirrel's tale and requiring a magnifying glass for detail. All artists make their own brushes, sometimes even with a single wolf's hair. The papier-mâché is a very strong material, so the boxes last for centuries yet are remarkably light. With the incredible detail and care needed, it can require as long as two months for a single artist to craft a perfect lacquer box. Before 1917 most of the boxes were adorned with religious icons. After the Russian Revolution, artists began to paint themes of love, folklore, and historical events. It was with this change that the boxes gained international fame; they are one of the most famous forms of Russian art of the 20th century. The most highly acclaimed are the boxes from Palekh, known for their distinctive black backgrounds, elongated figures, and vibrant colors. Other boxes come from villages in the same region of Russia: Fedoskino, Kholui, and Mstera. Training in any of these four villages is a great honor; each town has a special school devoted to teaching the craft of box making.
This has an even more extensive explanation of the mediums used to craft the boxes.
This site has a short blurb highlighting what makes Palekh boxes so unique.
This site tells in general about the lacquer boxes of Russia and where the Palekh boxes fit in.
This site tells more about how Palekh and other distinct Russian boxes are decorated.
This site explains the history of the Palekh box and its rise to international acclaim.
It is believed that the forerunners to vodka were introduced to Russia in the late 14th centuries, and quickly became popular with the nobility. Although Russia was not a home to many vineyards, it was discovered that distilling grain could produce a very fine alcohol, and thereafter vodka production became a big and often government-controlled business in Russia. Dmitri Mendeleev's greatest contribution to the sciences, aside from the periodic table, perhaps, was his doctoral dissertation On Combining Alcohol and Water. His studies on the best ratios of alcohol to water in vodka laid the groundwork for the acceptance of 80 proof liquors. Finally, it must be noted that Russians, as a rule, drink vodka neat and as cold as possible. The BBC article linked to below notes that the popularity of mixed drinks in the United States and Europe has led many to overlook Russia's own tradition.
In English. This site gives a brief history of Russian vodka
In English. This site gives a more in depth review of the history of Russian vodka, along with interesting cultural notes.
. This site and its subpages give a lot of useful information including a history of vodka and related information.
In English. Although this site is fairly poorly designed, it looks like it offers a pretty good review of the types of Russian vodka and how they vary.
In English. This site is another decent review of vodka's history in Russia and it includes a good deal of cultural notes about vodka's place in Russian society.
In Russian. This site gives a history of Russian vodka in Russian, but you may need to click around a little to get the text to display properly here.
In Russian. This site is actually a table of links to other sights/resources in Russian about Russian vodka.
The Russian Dolls or as they are famous throughout the world Matreshki, were created a long time ago as a means of making fun of people from the ruling classes (that was strictly forbidden almost all along Russian history) and to keep the genuine Russian tradition. That fact is today proved by the two major types of matreshki- those making fun of politicians (like Stalin, Breznev, Putin) or those representing the traditional Russian values like normal people, peasants etc.
Like other specific objects (the samovar for example) the matreshki are an integral part of Russian culture and history. Today they are used for expanding the idea of the national consciousness and for letting the world admire the beauty and the creation of the Russian mind. The dolls could be purchased anywhere, which further proves their popularity, ingenuity and success as representatives of traditional Russian culture.
It is hard to imagine now that only a hundred years ago matryoshka dolls did not exist. Todays symbol of Russian culture- the first Russian nested doll appeared at the end of the 19th century and was greatly acclaimed as a perfect example of Russian folk art.
Oriental and Japanese fine and applied art in particular were very fashionable at that time. Thus, a famous predecessor and prototype of Russian matryoshka was brought to Russia from the Island of Honshu. It was a figurine of a good-natured bold headed old man, Buddhist sage by the name of Fukuruma. The doll contained some other figurines nestled inside one another. There was a stamp on the figurine's butt-end: made in Japan. However, the Japanese, on their side, claimed that an unknown Russian monk made the first doll. Now the Fukuruma figurine is kept in the Artistic Pedagogical Museum of Toys (APMT) in Sergiev Posad. The craftsmen that produced the first Russian matryoshka were really talented and unique people. For example, S.V. Maliutin, the first painter of matryoshkas, was the best connoisseur of Russian folk art. Being an artist he used the colors and the style of ancient Russian folk art in his own work. Due to his talent and intuition he was the first one to unit folk and professional art. His matryoshka was a light, elegant, spontaneous figurine of a round-faced peasant young girl dressed in colorful scarf, and embroidered shirt, sarafan (Russian national costume) and apron. She was holding a black rooster in her hands.
The origin of the dolls name is also very interesting. In provincial Russia before the revolution the name Matryona or Matryosha was a very popular female name. It was derived from the Latin root 'mater' which means 'mother'. This name was associated with the image of the mother of a big family who was very healthy and had a portly figure. Even now matryoshka is considered to be a symbol of motherhood and fertility since a mother doll with numerous doll-children perfectly expresses the oldest symbol of human culture.