Final Examination — Medieval Russian History, 1998


Describe eight out of ten of the following. Consider their historical context and their significance in Russian history. (24 points total)

  1. Kazan and Astrakhan
  2. Riurik
  3. Hanseatic League
  4. Vasily Shuisky
  5. Forbidden Year
  6. Soul Tax
  7. Fall of Constantinople
  8. Schism
  9. Dmitri Donskoi
  10. Great Horde

Essay Questions

Answer three of the following. (25 points each)

  1. The Primary Chronicle entry for the year 862 reads: “The Slavs, the tributaries, of the Varangians drove them back beyond the sea and, refusing them further tribute, set out to govern themselves. There was no law among them, but tribe rose against tribe. Discord thus ensued among them, and they began to war one against another. They said to themselves: ‘Let us seek a prince who may rule over us, and judge us according to the law. ’ They accordingly went overseas to the Varangian Rus: these particular Varangians were known as Rus, just as some are called Swedes, and others Normans.”
    Russians in later centuries have come back to this passage again and again as emblematic of their history. Consider two or three moments in the course of Russian history when discord has threatened to overwhelm the state structure. What were the problems of the moment? How did state institutions respond or fail to respond? How did the system eventually “right” itself and move forward?
  2. In 1589 tsarist authorities, headed by Boris Godunov, succeeded in naming their own patriarch as head of the Russian Orthodox Church for the first time in Russian history. Comment on the significance of this event.
  3. Boris Yeltsin and his advisers have been struggling with the issue of tax collection for many years now. How did prerevolutionary rulers in Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg cope with this same issue of tax collection?
  4. Recently Yeltsin abruptly changed his almost his entire Cabinet of ministers in what Western journalists referred to as a “political crisis.” A number of the demoted ministers have ended up with plum positions in newly privatized industries where they are able to build up immense personal fortunes. After this semester in medieval Russian history, this development may not be surprising to you. How might this seem reminiscent of earlier developments in Russian history?
  5. In 1698 Tsar Peter I is reported to have said, “If I were not tsar, I would wish to be an admiral [of the navy in] Great Britain.” In what ways do you think Peter was and was not like an admiral in the substance and style of his rule?
  6. In 1931 Stalin wrote: “To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind. And those who fall behind get beaten. But we do not want to be beaten. No, we refuse to be beaten! One feature of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered because of her backwardnes. She was beaten by the Mongol khans. She was beaten by the Turkish beys. She was beaten by the Swedish feudal lords. She was beaten by the Polish and Lithuanian gentry.[…] All beat her - because of her backwardness, military backwardness, cultural backwardness, political backwardness, industrial backwardness, agricultural backwardness.” Stalin obviously had an acute and particular sense of history. Comment on this quote. You may disagree or disagree with him, but please formulate an argument and use evidence to support it.