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SL3: Early Modern Russia: literature, history and visual culture from 1300 to 1725

This paper is suspended until further notice.

This paper charts the historical and cultural development of Russia during the period when it grew into the largest country in the world.

By the end of the 13th century the de-facto capital of Rus' had moved from Kiev to Vladimir. In 1325, in the reign of Ivan I Kalita, the head of the Russian Church moved from Vladimir to Moscow, thus confirmingthe importance of that city. But while Ivan Kalita had inherited a territory no more than 200 miles in radius, Ivan Groznyi, his sixteenth century successor, controlled so many territories that Russian envoys to foreign courts took half an hour to read his full title. He created the Tsardom of Muscovy, whose continuous land mass was greater than that of any other contemporary state.

In the seventeenth-early eighteenth century this empire was further expanded by the Romanovs, until it coincided - more-or-less - with territory held by the present-day Russian Federation. Peter the Great, the eighteenth century Romanov Emperor, moved the capital of Russia from Moscow to Petersburg and started the transformation of his country into a world superpower.

The paper studies a number of events in the history and culture of the period with the help of set texts as varied as saints' lives, the Tale of Dracula, and the racy autobiography of the Archpriest Avvakum. The paper also provides an introduction to Russian art and architecture in a period when Russia began, for the first time, to turn to the West, and when secular culture began to coexist with the culture of the Church.


This paper is suspended until further notice.

The topics below were offered in 2013-14

  • The Mongols, Тhe Church and the Grand Principality of Moscow
  • The Formation of the Tsardom of Russia: Ivan Kalita to Ivan the Terrible
  • The Time of Troubles and the first Romanovs: Boris Godunov to Peter I
  • Visual Texts: Muscovite iconography and architecture, early popular prints, the architecture, art and sculpture of St. Petersburg​
Preparatory reading: 

Introductory Reading

  • R.O. Crummey, The Formation of Muscovy 1304 - 1613 (London, 1987)
  • Paul Dukes, The Making of Russian Absolutism, 1613-1801,, 2nd ed. (London, 1991)
  • Daniel H. Kaiser and G. Marker (eds.), Reinterpreting Russian History. Readings 860-1860 9Oxford, 1994)
  • Janet Martin, Medieval Russia 980-1584 (Cambridge, 1995)
  • Geoffrey Hosking, Russia: People and Empire, 1552-1917 (London, 1998)
Teaching and learning: 

This paper is suspended until further notice.


All candidates answer three questions.

Candidates for Part IB answer at least one question from each section. The commentary is not compulsory.

Candidates for Part II write the commentary and answer two other questions, of which at least one must be from section B.

The scheduled papers and the dissertation(s) may all relate to one language area or may be spread over different language areas. It is *always* advisable to take at least one scheduled paper with components in the same language as your language papers because the books that you read will feed into your language work, helping your fluency in reading and writing, and extending your vocabulary.

Course Contacts: 
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