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Fundamental Transformations between the Reigns of Peter the Great and Alexander II

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  1. Introduction: Peter the great
  2. Peter's focus on architecture and arts
    1. The cultural life in Russia
  3. Catherine the great
    1. The seed of intellectualism
    2. The major theme of Catherine's reforms
    3. The change in the relationship between the state and the intelligentsia
    4. Russian society of the early 19th century
  4. Nicholas I
    1. The reign of Nicholas
    2. The repressive measures of the regime
  5. Alexander II
    1. Alexander's reign
  6. Conclusion

At the onset of Peter's reign Russian culture was in a dismal state. The vast majority of the Russian population was illiterate, even among the nobility. Since Peter wanted to westernize Russian society on virtually all levels, education and culture would have to be an integral part of such an extensive transition. The most obvious changes were physical, as Peter decreed that the nobility has to dress in the European style and shave their beards. Peter also began to make some strides toward integrating women into high society. He abolished the Mongolian style terem and women were to attend court functions on the same terms as men.

[...] Although Peter focused mostly on architecture and arts he deemed to be more practical, he still recognized the importance of fine arts and literature. He ordered the construction of the Kunstkamera, which became the world's first museum open to the public. Peter tried to encourage the Russian people to show enthusiasm for collecting artwork and decreed the following in 1718: anyone shall find in the earth, or in the water, any ancient objects, such as unusual stones, or the bones of a man or beast, or of fishes or of birds, unlike those which are with us now, or such as are larger or smaller than usual, or any old inscriptions on stones, iron, or copper, or any ancient weapons not now in use, or any vessel or such like thing that is very ancient or unusual, let him bring such things to us, and ample reward shall be given to him.? (George, 75). [...]

[...] Alexander I Alexander was a product of the new spirit of social awareness, as he was raised by Catherine the Great and prepared to become a liberal ruler. It was for this very reason that the intelligentsia eagerly awaited Alexander's ascension to the throne. After a period of reactionary repression under Alexander's father Russia needed a liberal tsar again. The intelligentsia underwent tremendous change during Alexander's reign, mostly due to the events of the time, rather than Alexander actions. Russian society of the early 19th century was deeply affected by the Napoleonic wars. [...]

[...] The Decembrist rebellion also marked a serious break in the relationship between the monarchy and the intelligentsia that would never again be reconciled. Ironically, one of the few members of the intelligentsia to have a positive relationship with the tsar was Pushkin. He met with Nicholas expecting to be punished for his knowledge of the rebellion, but instead established that Nicholas would be his personal censor. This catapulted Pushkin into the center of attention among the elites and made him the most popular man in Russia. [...]

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