Some Youtube materials on Ivan the Terrible and the Russian Empire family tree

So I came across a few interesting videos that give a brief review of some of the reigns of the czars that we have discussed. The first link involves Ivan the Terrible and goes into the entomology of the Russian word for “terrible”. I found it to be a nice overview of all of the many things that happened during that crazy time consolidated into 3 minutes. That can be found here:

The second video is a general overview of the Russian monarchs from the beginning of the Tsar-style reigns. It begins with Ivan the terrible and the house of Ruirik and ends with the fall of the Romanov Dynasty. It obviously goes past what we have discussed this far but it is a good overview of the Russian Empire as we see it forming. It goes into who married whom and the crossover throughout the European leaders and how this was all crossed over. It is really fascinating to find out just how connected all the European leaders were and how many of them are related. It also goes into details about how the Ruirik lines and the Byzantine lines may be connected, which legitimizes Ivan’s rule. It also goes through the change of name in the Romanov house and all the drama that follows. I found this really helpful and interesting in the study of European history in general and just seeing how everything connects. It can be found here:


The Code of Law of 1649

At the end of the time of troubles the state was left with one primary goal and that was to enforce and protect the legitimacy of the Tsar. After the immense amount of chaos and strife that had occurred during the Time of Troubles the Russian state wanted to do everything in it’s power to prevent another political or physical attack against the Tsar. This desire led to the centralization of state power which would than enforce stricter state control over the Russian people to prevent further conflicts. This led to bureaucratic developments such as the Voevoda who grew in power and had roles that were similar to those in a modern bureaucracy. As well as the Zemskii Sober who function almost as a legislative branch, however, it is worth noting that the Zemskii was not written into law and had no cultural tradition within the state. The centralization of state power came to its peak with the codification of 1649. The Code of Law of 1649 otherwise known as the Ulozhenie was the most significant piece of law codes developed in Russia up to this point as it was the most formal as well as the fact that it was intended to apply to everyone within the state. It was developed by the Zemskii and was a clear representation of the authority that they had if only for a brief time within the Russian state. The Ulozhenie did several things to further establish legitimacy to the Tsar as well as further assert state control. The most notable being the severe punishment of traitors and those that threaten the state, the legalization of enserfment, and the seizing of church lands. The development of the Ulozhenie was greatly significant due to the power it gave to the state and how it seized what little control that those residing in the state had left.


-Why assist the church by punishing blasphemers and heretics and yet prohibit the expansion of church land? Chapter 1 pg 294

-Why is it significant that the Ulozhenie established stricter laws preventing people from harming or stealing each other? Should the Ulozhenie only focus on punishing those who harm the state?

-The establishment of a travel documentation is mentioned in Chapter 6, why is the state concerned with travel documentation?

-Was the development of the Voevoda and the Zemskii Sober significant and if so why?

The Domostroi

Don’t be deceived by the title’s simplicity, the “Domostroi” literally translated to “domestic order” is an extensive manual used to guide a Russian household to the author’s conveyed full potential. Whether or not households actually followed these exact rules is not certain, however, it displays the important aspects of Russian culture. 
The Domostroi is an excellent insight into not only the guidelines of 16th Century Rus society, but it also displays what grew to be important to the Rus in the centuries we have covered in class. While loyalty to the nobility and the Tsar were of utmost importance, the Domostroi makes clear in the beginning of the preface what absolutely matters most in this society, Orthodox Christianity. The text opens “This is an admonition and instruction of father-confessors to all Orthodox Christians. It tells you how you must believe in the Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Mother of God, Christ’s Cross, and all other heavenly powers…”  The Domostroi gives guidelines on how to properly be an Orthodox Christian, including how to commune with Bishops as well as day-to-day practices such as hosting gatherings. 
The Boyars and Tsars also have immense influence in this state. The Domostroi reinforces loyalty to the Tsar above all other people.  This is particularly important because the Domostroi, which is heavenly focused on Orthodox Christianity also reinforces the Tsar and nobility as authorities that orchestrate God’s Will. 
The authorship of the Domostroi is one that is debated. Although we lack a defined individual, it is clear the author was heavily involved with the Boyars. However, the importance of Orthodox Christianity, which looms over the text, would lead one to believe that this piece was possibly authored by a clergyman. As for the audience of the Domostroi, this seems like a guide that would necessarily apply more to the middle class or nobility, as it stresses loyalty to the Tsar and Boyars, but the literacy rates of the peasantry would indicate that few of them could read this guide. 
Overall the Domostroi is an excellent insight into what the Rus themselves thought was important  in their lives and society.


  • Since the Domostroi was written during Ivan the Terrible’s reign what does this reflect about the society under his rule?
  • According to the Domostroi, did women at this time period hold greater power in society or were they simply pawns in a male dominated culture? What powers did women possess and also what were their restrictions?
  • What ideal of a man does this text present.
  • How does the Domostroi show the relationship between the master and his servants? Refer to 35 and 36 of the Domostroi. 
  • When the master was absent, he would appoint his most trusted servant to take on specifically his duty of running the household. Since this was regarded to be such an important role in the Domostroi, does this imply that in Moscow all people were viewed to be inherently equal in theory. 
  • How does the Domostroi show the relationship between the tsar and the church? Refer to number 7 of the Domostroi. 
  • What were the Russians’ beliefs about God and his involvement in their lives and society? 
  • Why do you think abstinence (in all aspects of life) was so greatly emphasized in this text? There are countless passages illustrating the importance of abstinence, such as 13,26,27, and 28. However, look particularly at this section retrieved from towards the end of number 24, “If the master or any member of his household commit any of these improper deeds – lechery, unchastity, foul speech, oath-breaking, irrational fury, bearing grudges- and those in charge neither prevent the deeds nor punish them strictly , all will go to Hell together and will be damned in this world as well”.  What does this quote add to the significance of abstinence?
  • The topic of identifying the original writer is highly debated, who do you think he was; or at least what kind of life do you think he lived? And do you think because it was edited multiple times it made the text more persuasive to the public based on your perception of the original text?
  • What was the true purpose of the Domostroi. It is not actually certain whether Russian families actually followed these rules. Was the Domostroi’s purpose more to display to the rest of Europe that Russia was a westernized nation, an actually guide used by the boyars, or perhaps it could’ve been a wealthier writer caught up in some of his fanciful ideas visualizing a perfect Russian society?

Welcome, Muscovites!

Welcome to HIST 239: Kiev, Muscovy, and Russia! We will use this website to create our course blog and share our thoughts, ideas, and questions as we explore Russian history from the 9th century to 1917. You can also find the syllabus and all assignments. Your assigned readings are available on Sakai.