Final Exam

Your final exam assignment is to write Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich's "Testament" to his sons, a document we might imagine was composed sometime between the birth of Peter in 1672 and the Tsar's death in 1676. While you are not expected to imitate the Tsar's literary style (in the original of such a document we might expect a certain amount of florid prose) or necessarily to follow earlier models of "Testaments" such as that of Vladimir Monomakh, you should provide your heirs with advice on the range of the most important challenges which the Muscovite realm faced at this time, how his and previous governments had been attempting to deal with them, and how it might continue to do so in the face of the demands of changing times. It is up to you to decide, of course, what those challenges might be.

In composing your essay, you should bear in mind that Aleksei Mikhailovich was very interested in history and historical precedents (for example, we are told he eagerly studied about the life and times of Ivan IV, and for a time he had his Privy Chancery working, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to compile a continuation of the Stepennaia kniga). Indeed, it was common by late Muscovy to explain, often in extenso and with specific references, the historical background and reasons for a particular policy or decree. In other words, many of the qualities of a good analytical historical essay such as one would write for a final exam undoubtedly are qualities we would expect to find in such a piece.

At the same time though, the document may present something of a blinkered vision of reality--it is, after all, the tsar's perspective and may in part constitute a kind of apologia pro vita sua, and he presumably could not have had all of our sensitivities. Unlike most of us, he was, we are told, devoutly Orthodox and actively engaged in Church affairs. We also know he was very jealous of his autocratic privileges. You can assume he would have been aware of most of the basic developments and facts that you have learned (that is, he knows about law codes issued, church councils, popular piety, wars, a bit about foreign countries and culture and what they had to offer Muscovy...). But he would not, of course, have read Kliuchevskii, Max Weber (or some distillation of him) or have known about Perry Anderson's Lineages of the Absolutist State. The fact that you are expected to know such things going into this essay may give you some advantage in framing your essay, since, of course, what you gain thereby may help you in fact to understand things in ways that overlap with the Tsar's understanding as an insider and with Muscovite realities.

Your essay should be 6-8 pp. in length, double-spaced with normal margins. While the Tsar would not have been likely to use quotation marks, you should, as appropriate. Also, while he would not have listed his sources in a bibliography, you should, and should provide specific references for sources of quotations or close paraphrases.

I would recommend that you take advantage of the hitherto pretty much moribund EPost to exchange some ideas about the exam during the coming week. We will discuss the question in our section on Friday, Dec. 10, and you should come prepared with at least an outline of what you think you will write.

The essay is due in hard copy no later than Monday, December 13, at 5 PM. The exam (hard-copy only) should either be submitted to the instructor personally or placed in his mail box in Smith 315. (Do not slide under a door that is locked.) Be sure to keep a copy of the exam, since if the instructor discovers he does not have your exam by the deadline, it will be up to you to prove you have written it. Remember that the university's rules require that you take a scheduled final exam. The only acceptable excuse for lateness in turning it in is a documented medical one. Should you wish to receive the annotated, graded exam back (along with any other papers that have not been returned), be sure to attach to it a large, stamped, self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage. Exams will be kept into the winter quarter, should you wish instead to pick them up personally.