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Discuss the changes and continuities of Russia from the 9th to the 18th century.

By Dylonium Feb 16, 2007 982 Words
In 855, the civilization of Kievan Rus' developed, encompassing a small portion of modern day Russia. Around 1220, the Mongols arrived in Russia where they significantly influenced the Russian culture. In 1762, Catherine the Great became empress where she patronized Western culture. From the civilization of Kievan Rus' to the Russian Empire of Catherine the Great, Russia's contacts with the west, political structure, and territorial boundaries had significantly changed.

Contact with the with the west was cut off with the Mongol arrival, yet by the rule of Catherine the Great, contacts with the west had been reestablished. With the religious schism occurring in the Byzantine Empire, Roman Catholic and Orthodox missionaries attempted to convert the Russian population. Cyril and Methodius, two important Orthodox missionaries, successfully converted many Russians around 864 and developed the Cryllic alphabet which was incorporated into Russian literature. With the arrival of the Mongols or Tatars, Russia contacts with the west were cut off, causing Russia to miss numerous key transformations in Europe, such as the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. Therefore, Russia's politics, economy, and intellectual developments began to lag behind that of Europe. With the installment of Catherine the Great as empress in 1762, a process of "westernization" had already begun. Throughout this process, Catherine took great interest in western art and architecture, constructing the city of St. Petersburg using popular western styles. The Russian nobility also sent their children to Europe to be educated. The contacts with the west throughout the civilization of Kievan Rus' were significant and most likely due to the religious evangelism of the Christian missionaries. Competing with the Roman Catholic missionaries to gain converts, the Orthodox missionaries increased their activity as well. With the Mongol arrival, contacts with the west diminished partially because the Mongols tribute payments placed a burden on peasants, creating a new social structure similar to that of manorialism. With self-sufficient manors, the Russian economy no longer had to rely on trade with Europe. Lagging behind the Europeans politically, economically and intellectually, the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great attempted to catch up to the west, taking great interest in western styles and culture and reestablishing their contacts with Europe.

The political structure of Russia changed drastically over the centuries from the civilization of Kievan Rus' to the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great, as the boyars gained an increasing influence in politics. Borrowing heavily from the Byzantine Empire, Kievan Rus' developed a principality incorporating loosely organized alliances with regional landed aristocrats, or boyars. The major princes were attracted to the concept of a central ruler who possessed wide powers, and therefore the boyars did not have a significant role in politics. When the Mongols arrived in 1220, Russia had been divided into numerous small kingdoms. The Russian princes, such as Vladimir, possessed most of the power, yet the boyars influence in politics began to increase as they gained more power over the peasantry. As a vassal to the Golden Horde, Russia payed tribute to the Mongols in order to retain their original political structure. The tribute payment required placed a heavy burden on the peasants, causing a system of manorialism to develop, increasing the power of the boyars over the peasantry. With the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great, the common structure of the government was autocratic. Catherine the Great further increased the power of the boyars over the peasantry, allowing them greater control in politics. Gradually transforming from a monarchy to an autocracy, the boyars political influence slowly increased as well. Since Russia was based heavily on its exportation of agricultural products and Russia was rapidly growing as a world power, it was necessary to control the farming or peasant class. Therefore, the power of the boyars was increased to control the peasantry, making them wealthier and further increasing their power in politics.

From the 9th to the 18th century, Russia's boundaries were increased significantly. In 855, Kievan Rus' boundaries stretched southwards to the Carpathian Mountains, and northwards to Lake Onega. Reaching as far east as the Volga River, and as far west as the city of Minsk, Kievan Rus' controlled a minute portion of land compared to the later Russian Empire. With the Mongol arrival, Russia still remained within the same boundaries as the previous Kievan Rus'. Under Catherine the Great, the Russian boundaries greatly expanded because Catherine was able win agreements with Austria and Prussia for the partition of Poland. By 1801, after Peter the Great's expansion of Russia, Catherine the Great was able to further push the borders to what is almost modern day Russian territory. From Kievan Rus' in 855 until the Mongol arrival in 1220, little expansion occurred, for the region of Russia was divided into kingdoms which were disunited. With few motives for conquest, nomadic pressures, and divided kingdoms, Russia rarely expanded its territories. With the emergence of the Russian Empire, Russia was now becoming a world power focused on military skills. With a growing military and economy to back territorial conquest, Russia was constantly at battle with the Ottoman Empire over territorial boundary claims. From the 9th to the 18th century, Russia began to emerge as a world power as it acquired new territories.

Russian contact with the west, political structure, and territorial boundaries changed between the civilization of Kievan Rus' and the Russian Empire of Catherine the Great. Contacts with the west began in the civilization of Kievan Rus' with Orthodox missionaries, yet the Mongols cut off these contacts until the Russian Empire was able to reestablish these contacts. Kievan Rus' was governed by a monarchy, yet an autocracy was developed by the rule of Catherine the Great. As well, Russian territorial boundaries expanded with the military power and political unity of the Russian Empire. Russia has developed significantly over time, and has gradually become a large and powerful part of the modern world.


Stearns, Peter N, et al. World Civilizations. N.p.: Addison-Wesley Educational,


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