Archive | November, 2012

Catherine the Great Passes Away

Catherine II

Catherine posing for the painter Rokotov.

On this day in 1796, Catherine the Great (aka Catherine II) passed away in her commode (Episode 51) at the age of 67. She was considered, along with Peter the Great, as one of the greatest leaders of the Russian Empire. Her son Paul I was to take over and reign for a little over four years. Paul despised his mother and did much to reverse many of her policies. He put into law that only male heirs to the throne were eligible setting up the way for the decline of the Romanov dynasty.

She was the wife of Peter III and upon his murder during a coup d’etat on July 16, 1762, she took control of the government. Born, Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, she was hand-picked by Empress Elizabeth (Episodes 40 and 41) the daughter of Peter the Great. The marriage was a disaster and likely was never consummated. Fearing that she would be sent to a nunnery and divorced, she decided along with her friends the Orlov brothers, to stage the overthrow. What helped her was the fact that Peter III was generally disliked and had sided with the Prussians during the wars going on at the time.

The era of Catherine’s reign is generally considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire although the vast majority of the people living in Russia at the time were incredibly impoverished. It was also the time of one of the greatest revolts in Russian history, the Pugachev Rebellion (Episode 47).

Her time as Empress of all of Russia was a time of great expansion and a instilling more European style into Russian society. Catherine was one of the few Russian leaders (post Peter the Great) to have no direct heritage to previous rulers (Catherine I was the other). She was also a great patron of the arts and commissioned the building of the Smolny Institute the only school of higher learning for women in Russia.

Comments { 4 }

Primary Chronicle

Page from the Primary Chronicle

Tale of Bygone Years in Radzivill Chronicle

The Primary Chronicle also known as the Tales of Bygone Years is the history of Kievan Russia  from the year 850 to about 1110. It is the best guide to the history of Russia during this time. Without it, we would have little knowledge of how Russia came to being as well as how the Varangians (Episode 1) came to the land of the Rus.

The monk Nestor is believed to have put together the original compilation in 1113. He worked at the court of Grand Prince Sviatapolk II of Kiev. Sviatapolk’s reign was marked by his battles with his cousin, Vladimir Monomakh. While he was unchallenged as Grand Prince (Veliki Knaiz), he was deeply disliked.

In 1116, the head of the Vydubetsky Monastery in Kiev, hegumen Sylvester of Kiev is said to have updated the Primary Chronicle while some believe he may have compiled it instead of Nestor. Grand Prince Monomakh was a patron of Sylvester’s and helped him to create the works. This version is the first one that we have access to although very little of it has passed on to us in the present day.

While we don’t have the original manuscripts, we do have two versions that were written a few centuries afterwards. This first one, written in the 1300’s, is called the Laurentian codex and was compiled by the Nizhni Novgorod monk Laurentius for Mikhail of Tver. The years 898–922, 1263–83 and 1288–94 are missing for unknown reasons.

The third version is known as the Hypatian codex and it was compiled in the 1500’s and is the most complete one we have. It was written in Old Church Slavonic and provides us much of the missing information that was not included in the older Laurentian codex.

There are many versions of the Primary Chronicle, each with corrections and revisions. What is so unique about the Primary Chronicle is that it is the only information we have about life in Kievan Rus. Throughout Europe, we have numerous tales about Medieval times from multiple sources.

Comments { 0 }

Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanova’s Birthday

On this day in 1895, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanova was born to Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorova and Tsar Nicholas II. She would be murdered with the rest of her family on July 17, 1918 when she was just 22 years of age. Because of her murder, she, along with the rest of her family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a passion bearer.

As an aside, you might notice that her last name is Romanova and not Romanov. In Russia, females have different last names from the males, so in her case, an “a” is added to the end. If the ends in a “y” like Rimashevsky, the feminine would be Rimashevskaya.


Comments { 0 }