By: Ivy Helena Torres and Simon Kean


Economic Backdrop

In 1649, when peasants were bound to serfdom, many of them fled to Siberia. This damaged the economy greatly due to the fact that they brought their skills and trades with them. Peter the Great established a new poll tax, which created funding for an active foreign policy, increasing national manufacturing and trade. The Russian Empire traded mainly internally and with independent tribes around unconquered areas of Siberia. Peter the Great's conquest of areas in Siberia added immense territory to the Russian Empire, along with wealth in furs.

Political Backdrop

Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a group of court nobles, known as the Romanovs, introduced a new absolutist system of government. This new system stated that only the tsar, the ruler of Russia, had the power to declare war, judge, tax, and coin money. Peter the Great established that the state officials were to be the nobles, and that the Senate was to be the highest government institution. As the absolute monarch, Peter the Great had the power to rule his land freely, with no laws or legally organized direct opposition in force. During this long period, the peasant class of Russia had to maintain the wealth of the monarchy. In 1649, Peter the great legally bound the peasants to serfdom, as slaves to the nobles and the Tsar.


Social Backdrop

During Peter the Great’s rule; he began to westernize the whole empire by making perfunctory changes. He began by forcing all the nobles to shave off their beards, learn to drink coffee, wear Western clothes, and attend parties and dances. Peter wanted the Russians to act, think, and look like the Europeans. By doing this he prepared them to become members of European polite societies. He did not only attempt to westernize the nobles but also the peasants and created serfism. Serfs were the equivalent of slaves in the New World except they were still members of society. For all in the empire he taxed every man for just living in Russia.


Attemping to modernize Russia, Peter tried improving Russian education. An elementary school system was started in 1714 but it did not last for long. Peter founded the Russian Academy of Sciences offered to upper class students, but it did not gain respectability until the 19th century.

Artistic Innovation

Czar Peter the Great
This portrait of Peter the Great is very Italian renaissance. It has many shadows and it life-like like all renaissance paintings. The painting does not only show renaissance painting style but also a European style of dressing. Peter's armor looks like he got it while he was touring Europe. It was painted in 1725 by Pierre Gaubert.
Council of Bishops with Chosen Saints, around Deesis
This painting shows that although Russia was being westernized the renaissance had not reached them yet. The painting is very flat with no life or emotion, in the renaissance many religious paintings showed a very human aspect of these religious characters. The painting puts Jesus front and center in a way to demonstrate that he's the important one in the painting and not the other saints around him. It was painted in 17th century but its creator is unknown.

Sample (Noboyka)
The pattern in this textile was not very European. In the European culture they had lots of colors and more elaborate designs. Also Europeans had actual patterns and not a pattern that looks like animals, such as this textile that the pattern seems to be peacocks and leaves. Textiles like this were made around 1600-1799.

Russia was not a Catholic or Protestant country, when Peter the Great came into rule he created a more stable version the Russian Orthodox Church in which he picked the heads of the church. In 1666, the Old Believers broke from the official church because of the changes made to the church by the Council. During Peter the Great’s rule he was interested in the church’s wealth and so whenever he need money to support military campaigns he would tax the church. The Holy Synod was created in February of 1721, it was made up of a president, two vice presidents, four councilors, four assessors, and a 12th man, who was honest and not easily corrupted, of simple stature. The church was supposed to be used a support system for the tsar but during rebellions the church gave no aid to the state.


The Great Palace at Tsarskoe Selo created by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli (ArtStor)
The Great Palace at Tsarskoe Selo created by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli (ArtStor)

These pictures of Catherine the Great's palace, the Catherine Palace, or the Great Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, a town roughly 20 kilometers south-east of St. Petersburg, Russia. It was originally built in 1717 and is known for its outrageously lavish facade. Over 100 kilograms of gold were used to build the front of the palace and the many statues constructed on the roof. In front of the palace is an extensive ornate garden distinguished by its elaborate designs.

Coronation of Catherine the Great by Stefano Torelli (ArtStor)

This painting, the Coronation of Catherine the Great, was painted by Stefano Torelli in 1762. It takes place in the chapel of the Catherine Palace. The painting shows the grandeur of Catherine the Great by demonstrating the luxury of the palace. Murals, stone columns, and gold chandeliers were popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Observations about what we have learned.

Between 1600 and 1750, religious conflict, commercial expansion, and the consolidation of dynastic power transformed Europe. The state of Muscovy expanded dramatically to become the sprawling Russian Empire. They created an absolutist government system in which the tsar, who ruled all of Russia, had complete and unrestrained power. Conquests such as Siberia increased commerce and brought great riches in furs to the Russian Empire. Their lavish architecture demonstrated the grandeur of their power by using great amounts of gold and intricate architectural designs.

Russia, a world-state that was once in turmoil, became a very powerful European empire. The absolutist government soon became better for the Russian Empire. Although they did go through some rough times, especially during the rule of Peter the Great, the country was able to live off the somewhat stable country. The empire had no religious tolerance and the peasants were treated as slaves especially after being made serfs, this caused some instability in the empire. Peter the Great wanted a large, European looking country and although it forced many people to die because of over working or lack of resources such as food, the Russian Empire did become an imitation of the western civilization.

Resources to try:

Hayden Library Portal You can also find this link by going to Podium and finding the Hayden Library Link on the right side of the page.
ARTSTOR - a GIANT repository of examples of art: searchable by time, location, and type. Note that most of them have descriptions which are helpful for composing summaries. It is found in the DATABASES tab.

360 virtual tours This link takes you to the Ottoman Empire. By searching for 360 tour and the name of a specific site you can often find an online tour. Some can be embedded.

Saudi Aramco World a great source for cultural resources for the Islamic World and parts of Africa.

Internet Source Books At the top there is a directory that will move you to other regions. Helpful for finding primary source accounts.
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History at the Met Provides samples, essays that explain the periods and production techniques. Note the thematic categories in the bottom right of the introductory page.

British Museum World History Timeline Set to open in Asia, you can move about the globe.

British Museum Cultures Gives an overview. The top right of each page gives a selection of items from the museum.

British Library contains descriptions of and digitized images of cultural artifacts and texts.

Louvre - in English

Asia for Educators Great for East Asia resources

Search of will also yield a number of resources on Japan, India, etc.

You can also use Google Books, Google Scholar, Google WonderWheel and Google Timeline to get the specific information you need. DO NOT perform a general search....


F: Follows directions but steals material. Both footnotes (or endnotes) and a bibliography (in Chicago Manual of Style format) are expected. You can change text using the T button to create superscript numbers.1 In short, treat the project like writing a research paper. There should be a caption under each picture that gives the name, originator, date, and source. Paragraphs and descriptions should be your writing, not another author's work pasted in with a few key words changed using the thesaurus function in Word.
D: Follows directions, cites sources, doesn't complete the project, is riddled with errors. It is evident that the team failed to use its time well.
C: Follows directions. Pastes the correct items into the correct places but takes no care in explaining the choices made. Uses less than six sources. Text is SLOPPY - no proofing!
B: Follows directions. Describes the choices made using complete sentences and clear language. Labels items correctly. Cites sources. Organizes the visuals. The paragraphs are clearly written, but general in nature.
A: Does B - but, shows some extra care, thought and research. An A has a "Wow" factor. This does not mean more color or flying moneys. It means that the content selected does a great job TEACHING about the culture of the in that region in that time period.

World History: The Modern Era, s.v. "The Emergence of Russia (Overview)," accessed November 14, 2011.
World History: The Modern Era, s.v. "Peter I," accessed November 14, 2011.
World History: The Modern Era, s.v. "Russian Orthodox Church," accessed November 14, 2011.
Robert Tignor et. al., Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World Third Edition (London: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011),