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HISTORY 3RU3 Early Modern Russia

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Tracy McDonald

Email: tmcdon@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 627

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24148


Office Hours: Wednesdays 5:30-6:30 (or by appointment)

Course Objectives:

This course is designed to provide students with a working knowledge of Russian history from Kievan Rus to the reign of Peter the Great. Students will be asked to follow a series of themes through time, including: religion, the ties and tensions between political rule and religion; economic development, identity and societal layers, food supply, and culture. By the end of the course, students should be familiar with these themes, an array of primary sources, and relevant historiographical debates.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Zenkovsky. Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales (Revised and Enlarged Edition). Plume: 1974. (primary sources)

Kivelson. Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia. Cornell, 2006.

Kivelson. Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia. Cornell, 2013.


Method of Assessment:

Task                                                                            Value              Due

Participation                                                                10%                 ongoing

Book Test 1                                                                 20%                 23 Oct. 2017

Short Essay (1000 words)                                           20%                 8 Nov. 2017

Book Test 2                                                                 20%                 20 Nov. 2017

Final Exam                                                                  30%                 tba

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Penalty

A late penalty of 3% per day applies to all late assignments.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Schedule of Topics and Readings:

Week 1 – Wednesday 6 September - Why study early Russian history?



Why are there few recent articles?






Week 2 – (11 and 13 September) – Origins


Readings for Wednesday Discussion:


We will discuss the readings from Week 1 above and:


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 1-40, 43-51.


David B. Miller, “The Many Frontiers of Pre-Mongol Rus',” Russian History, Vol. 19, No. 1 / 4 Russian History (1992)


Week 3 – (18 and 20 September) – Christian Kiev


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 51-84, 92-112.


Week 4 – (25 September and 27 September) – Decline of Kiev


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 167-190.


Week 5 – (2 and 4 October) – Mongol Invasion


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 193-211.


Alexander V. Maiorov, “The Mongol Invasion of South Rus’ in 1239–1240s: Controversial and Unresolved Questions,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol. 29 Issue 3 (2016): 473-499.


Week 6 - Mid-Term Recess – No Classes


Week 7 – (16 and 18 October) – Mongol Rule


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 211-248


Lawrence N. Langer, “Muscovite Taxation and the Problem of Mongol Rule in Rus',” Russian History, Vol. 34, No. 1 4 (2007): 101-129


Seymour Becker, “How Nineteenth-Century Russian Historians Interpreted the Period of Mongol Rule as a Largely Positive Experience in Nation-Building,” Ab Imperio 1 (2006): 155-176


Week 8 - (23 and 25 October) – Book Test and Discussion # 1


Monday 23 October: In class written test on Kivelson, Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia


Wednesday 25 October: Discussion of Kivelson, Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia











Week 9 – (30 October and 1 November) – Rise of Moscow


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 315-332.


Marshall Poe, “The Military Revolution, Administrative Development, and Cultural Change in Early Modern Russia,” Journal of Early Modern History  Vol. 2 Issue 3 (1998): 247-273.


Cherie Woodworth, “The Birth of the Captive Autocracy: Moscow, 1432,” Journal of Early Modern History 13 (2009): 49-69.



Week 10 (6 and 8 November) – Ivan IV




Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 366-376


Zenkovsky, “Prince Kurbsky - Tsar Ivan IV Correspondence. Reflections on Edward

Keenan's The Kurbskii-Groznyi Apocrypha,” The Russian Review, Vol. 32 No. 3 (July  1973): 299-311


R. G. Skrynnikov, “On the Authenticity of the Kurbskii-Groznyi Correspondence: A Summary of the Discussion,” Slavic Review, Vol. 37, No. 1 (March 1978): 107-115.


8 November: Short essay (1000 words) on the Ivan-Kurbskii correspondence due today.


10 November: Discussion of Ivan IV


Week 11 – (13 and 15 November) – Time of Troubles (1598-1613)


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 379-390


Chester S. L. Dunning, “Crisis, Conjuncture, and the Causes of the Time of Troubles,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 19 (1995): 97-119.


Chester S. L. Dunning, “Cossacks and the Southern Frontier in the Time of Troubles,” I, Vol. 19, No. ¼ (1992): 57-74.








Week 12 (20 and 22 November) – Book Test and Discussion # 2


Monday 20 November: In class written test on Kivelson. Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia.


Wednesday 22 November: Discussion of Kivelson, Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia


Week 13 – (27 and 29 November) – Schism and Avvakum


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 399-348


Georg Michels, “The Violent Old Belief: An Examination of Religious Dissent on the Karelian frontier,” Russian History, Vol. 19, No. 1 / 4 (1992): 203-229.


Week 14 – (4 and 6 December) – Early Romanovs, Frontiers, and Governance


Zenkovsky, Epics Chronicles and Tales, pp. 521-522


Daneil H. Kaiser, “Law, Gender, and Kin in Seventeenth-Century Muscovy,” Russian History/Histoire Russe, 34, Nos. 1-4 (Spring-Summer-Fall-Winter 2007): 315-330.


Marshall Poe, “Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich and the Demise of the Romanov Political Settlement,” Russian Review, Vol. 62, No. 4 (Oct., 2003): 537-564.


Michael Khodarkovsky, “From Frontier to Empire: The Concept of the Frontier in Russia, Sixteenth-Eighteenth Centuries,” Russian History, Vol. 19, No. 1/4, (1992): 115-128