Friday, June 21, 2019

R is for Romanov (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

map of Russia

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One of the most influential families to rule a large empire (in my opinion) was the Romanov family. Of course there have been other influential ruling families throughout history, including the Tudors, Queen Victoria and her descendants, the Hapsburgs, and the Medici family, to name a few. There are also influential families from America—some of which may be debated.

In 1613, Mikhail Romanov, at the age of 16, was chosen to be the new czar of Russia. He was the first member of Romanov family to rule. The Romanov dynasty ruled from 1613 until the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917. During the time that the Romanov dynasty ruled Russia, the nation went from an isolated and weak country to one that was industrialized, connected, and became a major European power. Although (truth be told) Russia was still the home of many problems, the Romanov dynasty also witnessed revolts, reforms, revolutions, and repressions.

Foreign Affairs 

During the Romanov Dynasty, Russia clashed with many different nations and territories:

  • China
  • Poland
  • Ukraine 
  • Sweden 
  • Ottoman Empire (Turkey) 
  • Persia
  • France
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • Austria-Hungary 
Some of the major conflicts included: 
Nicholas I
Nicholas I

Just Who Were the Well-Remembered Czars? 

There were many famous czars and czarinas who ruled Russia during the Romanov dynasty: 
Peter the Great expanded the physical size of Russia and modernized her both technologically and culturally. During his rule, he strengthened the power of the czar by taking away power from the zemskii sobor (Assembly of the Land), which had advised the czar in previous decades. Off and on during the Romanov dynasty, the government councils (at national and local levels) would gain and lose power. For example, during the rule of Alexander II, there were a series of Great Reforms that led to new authorities being created locally, known as zemstvos, to help provide limited self-government. However, these Great Reforms also led to diverse opposition from different groups. This led to extreme reaction from Alexander III who overturned many of the reforms of his predecessors.

Both Peter the Great and Catherine the Great changed the face of Russia culturally and intellectually. In a previous Blogging Through the Alphabet post, I wrote about Peter the Great and the changes he brought. Catherine the Great brought even more changes to the nobility and those closest to the czar. Her wishes to change Russia more like the West didn't really have a lot to do with practical matters like Peter the Great. She wished to change Russia to be more like France and combined the enlightenment with Russian absolutism.  Catherine saw herself as a great teacher for her subjects.

Catherine sponsored the arts—theater, poetry, and painting. Books and periodical publication increased during her rule. The nobility learned French and German and read the latest European books but most of the changes were superficial. And no one could criticize Catherine. She did not want to be schooled by her subjects.

One of the wars that led to great changes occurring in the way wounded soldiers were treated was the Crimean War. This war took place during the reign of Nicholas I. It would help crush Russia in terms of its military and diplomatic abilities. Reform would need to take place after the death of Nicholas I in order for Russia to maintain its role in European politics.

During the reign of Alexander II, 52 million Russian serfs gained their freedom in 1861. The changes were not as great as the peasants would have wanted. They were still tied to land – their mobility was restricted by the village authorities – and they had to pay the state back for the reparations paid to the nobility when the serfs were freed.

The last czar of the Romanov Dynasty – Nicholas II – was a weak and unprepared man when he came to power in 1894. During this reign he faced two revolutions and eventually abdicated his throne. He and his family would later be executed during the Russian Civil War.

Cultural and Societal Changes 

Along with many political changes, the Romanov Dynasty also saw great additions to literature, music, and painting. Ivan Turgenev (the first Russian novelist to be read by many in the West) wrote books that some consider easier to read than those of Fyodor Dostoevsky or Leo Tolstoy. Dostoevesky wrote works that blended religious, political, and social themes while Tolstoy gave a great historical novel – War and Peace.

After the Napoleonic Wars, Peter Tchaikovsky wrote a stirring patriotic song to celebrate Napoleon's defeat – the 1812 Overture. He also wrote the Nutcracker Suite, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and Sleeping Beauty. These masterpieces have become part of many ballet companies' regular yearly performances.


Final Thoughts 

Russia is one of many nations that could provide a multitude of history-themed posts. From examining individual czars to an overview of an entire dynasty, there are many interesting aspects to study and share with others. Studying Russia's history could bolster one's appreciation for all of history by comparing Russia's highs and lows with those of America and other nations of the world.

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  1. history is always a fascinating subject isn't it?!?!?

  2. So many fascinating things to learn about the world! Even in that brief overview of such an in-depth subject I learned a lot! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you - I love studying about Russia - such a fascinating place and history.

  3. What a great post!!! Thanks for so much info!!

  4. I have always had an interest in the Romanov dynasty. So fascinating!