Imperial Russia from the Beginning to the End

Explore the fascinating history of the Russia of the Tsars.


Find out about the powerful personalities of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander l and Alexander ll. Discuss significant themes such as the relative importance of personalities and historical forces; the tension between East and West in Russian culture, and the role of the Orthodox religion. The course ends with the downfall of the Romanov Tsars in 1917.

Course outline

This course will explore the following themes: the identity of the Russian people; the ‘East/West’ dichotomy in Russian culture; the role of the Orthodox religion in imperial Russia; Russia’s relations with Europe and the efforts of the Tsars to shape their society and strengthen their empires.

Topics covered:

  • The Romanovs: The ‘gathering of the Russian lands’ and the nature of the Russian state before 1698.
  • Peter the Great and St Petersburg, 1698 – 1725. A dramatic acceleration of interest in Europe and the building of a new capital to express Russia’s identity as a European empire
  • Imagery of Power: Catherine the Great 1761 – 1799 Social structures and contradictions in 18th century Russia
  • Alexander 1: ‘the Saviour of Europe’ 1801 – 1825
  • Russia against Europe: Nicholas l, 1825 – 1855
  • Nineteenth century Perestroika: Alexander ll, 1855 – 1881
  • Russia’s ‘silver age’ cultural flowering and economic expansion under the last Tsars, 1881 – 1917
  • The end of imperial Russia, Reflections on the main themes

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course students will be able to: identify key personalities and major themes in Russian history from the 17th to the 20th centuries critically read and discuss recent historical writing demonstrate an understanding of major economic, social and religious movements in imperial Russia and their interaction with political developments.

Who should attend?

This course is designed for those want to increase their knowledge of European/Russian history and culture; people with an interest in art and architecture as well as history and those who may be intending to travel in Europe/Russia. Potential students who wish to have a ‘taste’ of university experience before embarking on a degree in Arts may also find this a useful course.


  • 4 x Thursdays, 10am-12pm, 5 – 26 April
  • $185.00 incl. GST
  • The University of Auckland, City Campus
  • Presented by Judith Bassett

Seminar presenter

Judith Bassett

Judith Bassett

Judith taught Early Modern European History at The University of Auckland for many years. She is a graduate of the University of Auckland in History and Law. Her interest in European History includes Russia and France as well as a deep appreciation of the court culture of England in the 16th and 17th centuries and the popular culture of England in that time.

Related seminars