Russia’s Imperial history is full of contradictions. It’s one of forced expansions and peaceful colonisation, of ferocious conquests and non-violent territorial gains, tolerant coexistence and merciless repressions. As the empire expanded, a huge variety of people of different faiths and races found themselves in Russian territory and had to find ways to live together. The history of the empire begins in 1721, when Tsar Peter I was proclaimed Russian Emperor, and ends with the overthrow of the monarchy and the October revolution in 1917
Both before and after it, the Russian Empire was a military and ambitious power which played more often than not a significant role on the world stage. Strict centralism has, since the beginning of the 17th century, been the latest unswerving tendency in Russian history. All the threads of power without exception were concentrated at the centre - the metropolis - in the hands of the leaders. Centralised government, clearly, was considered essential to oppose both the centrifugal tendencies of a polyethnic society and threats from the outside world. This form of government seemed to be the only way forward. Any decentralisation, even federalism was understood to be a weakening and in itself a threat to the integrity of the state.
In these circumstances the capital took on a huge significance. All roads lead here, and all decisions were issued from here. All institutions and establishments of the law and executive branches of power were here, politically and physically. Between 1712 and 1918 Saint Petersburg was a city of tsarist palaces, ministries, government bodies, the higher organs of the Russian Orthodox Church, army barracks, and the residences of the most powerful aristocratic families.
Their lives were closely entangled. Political actors met and discussed things with one another. Couriers rushed to deliver despatches, decisions were taken in political salons and from the second half of the 19th century officials and politicians in government institutions were connected by telegraph and telephone lines. All possible communication threads created a fraught political space in which events in the empire were reflected as in a prism. The topography of that political space is the subject of study at the summer school.
The Summer School is designed for students of social sciences and humanities. The curriculum will include Russian language courses for foreign students, presentations, workshops, partially held in Saint Peterburg’s public space, and master classes, as well as a special cultural program in the city. The summer school welcomes students from all foreign universities. Admission to the school is also open to students of the Saint Petersburg campus on a competitive basis.
The Summer School 2020 is organized by the Department of History in St.Petersburg (https://spb.hse.ru/en/humart/history/) in cooperation with the Department of the History of Eastern Europe at the Georg-August University of Göttingen (https://www.uni-goettingen.de/de/408576.html).
Students who wish to attend the summer school should send a motivation letter and a completed form to Professor Pavel Vasilyev email@example.com.
Further information is available on the programme website Go East, German Academic Exchange Service (https://www.daad.de/ausland/prg/goeast/de/).
Requirements: knowledge of Russian is not essential as all the lectures, seminars and excursions will be conducted in English. A basic knowledge of the history of the country and of contemporary Russia are desirable, but not essential.