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Lecture 6

HIST 245 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Ataman, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Anti-Clericalism

Course Code
HIST 245
Ana Siljak

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Lecture 6: The Plight of the People
I. Introduction: The Russian Conscience
a. Case – whether she gave Russia a soul (how enlightened was she), gave it
a social conscious. Her enlightened reforms were performances, but still
served educational purpose. For first time, especially with explosion (elite)
a print culture, journals, news papers and cultural events (plays of
Voltaire) people reconceived their relationship to society.
b. Plenty Russians that wanted to preserve status quo and even some before
Peter and Catherine’s reforms. Had to justify themselves. Things were
now up for debate. People are going to think about what does it mean to be
enslaved and why a modern society cannot have such a thing within its
c. Catherine had no interest in freeing the serfs, confirm nobilities right to
own serfs (charter to nobility), but also gave serfs as gifts to loyal
followers. But did think of Serfdoms of great evil – 1768, early in reign
and senators came upon a case of appeal in which a noblemen was
murdered, and Serf stood by and did nothing. Serfs then charged and
sentenced with standing passively by when duty to protect, senators
proposed severe punishment to entire village of Serfs to deter. She told
them to reconsider.
i. “I ask you to be extremely cautious in similar cases, so as not to
speed up the calamity that already threatens us...For if we do not
agree to the diminution of cruelty and the amelioration of the
intolerable position of the human species, then, even against our
will they will seize it for themselves sooner or later.
1. Statement was if you don’t do something about Serfdom
soon, they will do something about it one day. Had a time
limit and eventually serfs would have to be freed or they
were free themselves.
II. Radishchev’s Journey
a. Early absolishoners to call to attention plights of serfs – Alexander
Radishchev is direct product of Catherine’s encouragement of
enlightenment thought. People began to see society in new light when
reading enlightenment and idea of human beings and need for freedom.
Spread of enlightenment through Russian high society led to validity of
Russian serfdom
b. Born into noble family, father was a land owner and he grew up personally
knowing Serfdom. Educated abroad (peterian legacy) and served under
Catherine as military and government official. After reading enlightenment

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authors, began to see serfdom as one of worst evils, sought task to raise
awareness of plight of peasants.
c. Wrote book – Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Set of reflections
on plight of peasant he encounters on this journey. His appeal for freeing
for serfs – similar philosophical elements, question of sentiment –
important in Russia at time. Enlightenment theories of freedom –
interested in coming up with new basis for morality and ethics in society.
Sentiment unlike basis for traditional morality did not need to be taught
(According to Rousseau) part of natural make up of human beings, see
good and evil as part of natural beings, especially in people with refined
moral characters. Thus sentimental approach to morality leads people to
demonstrate high moral character by being super emotional. Proper
emotional response to evils of world evidence of high moral character.
When he writes about plight of peasants, he appeals to sentimental side as
a way of getting to them and trying to have them respond to evil of
d. To critique it: no philosophical value of individual, but avoids all this, gets
to sentiments of audience. Telling reader only reaction someone could
have to accounts is shock and horror. What he does first is bring reader to
understand comparative evils of American slavery and Serfdom, pulling at
heartstrings. (15mins)
i. “The unfortunate victims from the torrid banks of the Niger and
Senegal, torn from their homes and families, transported to foreign
lands, groaning under the heavy yoke of authority, tear up the
fertile fields of the America that scorns their labors. We call that
country happy, where one hundred haughty citizens wallow in
luxury, while thousands have no secure subsistence nor proper
protection against heat and cold. Oh that these prosperous lands
might become wilderness again! Tremble, my beloved ones, lest
they say of you: Change the name and the story may be told of
1. those who despise Americans who hold slaves need to look
into Russia to see how the same thing is going on.
ii. “…ships that bring us the surplus of America and its precious
products, such as sugar, coffee, dyes, and other things, not yet dry
from the sweat, tears, and blood that bathed them in their
production. ‘Remember, my friend once said, ‘that the coffee in
your cup, and the sugar dissolved in it, have deprived a man like
yourself of his rest, that they have been the cause of tears, groans,
blows and abuse.’ The sight of his disgust shook me to the depths
of my soul. My hand trembled and I spilled the coffee.
But you, o inhabitants of Petersburg, who feed on the abundance
of the fertile districts of your country, whether at magnificent
banquets or at a friendly feast, stop and think. Might I not say the
same things to you about it that my friend said to me about the
products of America?”

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1. You also eat the food produced by serfs, should you not
think about where food comes from and suffering used to
produce it. Reaction isn’t reasonable or see logic, oh my
goodness what are we doing and how horrible of a nation
weare to be engaging in such abuse.
iii. “My lord, although you look upon your peasants as your property,
often less regarded than cattle, yet, unfortunately, they are not
without feeling. You appear to be surprised to hear such words
from the lips of a peasant; but why, when you hear them, are you
not surprised at the cruelty of your brothers, the noblemen?”
1. peasant speaking. Give sense of dignity and humanity by
giving them language that is more elite, humanize them. To
bring them up to noble level who deserve dignity and
respect you give to fellow brothers.
e. Had he published this in hay day of Catherine, would of applauded it for
high social consciousness, but published 1 year after French Revolution
broke up. Catherine enraged and called his work “infective and full of
French madness” – arrested, banished for 10 years.
III. Peasant Life
A. Serfdom vs. Slavery
1) Self-government vs. paternalism
a. Climate and soil not hospitality to agriculture. Are rules and
regulations to serfdom which mediate worst aspects and make
it not quite slavery of American context.
b. Russia and US had same number of slaves and serfs in regard
to population percentage (1/3rd US, ½ Russia). Difference is in
percentages. American slave holders on average owned fewer
slaves than Russian land owners owned Serfs. (US – 2 slaves
per slave owners, Russia – average owned about 24 serfs), rare
for land owner to own more than 20 slaves, common in Russia
and usually around 40 and by 1851 – Daschova family owned
37k male serfs. (15 years before abolition). Most prominent
owned in hundreds of thousands. Nobility tied to ownership of
serfs, one could be poor and own other people. Not necessarily
about wealth vs. poverty but status. Noblemen worked on land
side by side with serfs and lived with them (Noble men living
in a two room house in which one was noblemen’s and other
was for one Serf). Overall the ratios make a big difference in
comparing life of Serfs vs. Slaves. Russia owned too many
Serfs to intervene in daily life’s, majority lived entire life’s
without seeing owners at all. (Mediators), some Russian land
owners lived in big cities all life and did not go to farms, entire
bureaucracies created to manage serfs from afar (rare in US).
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