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Unit 4: Nationalism, Industrialism, and Imperialism

Lesson G: Russian Desperation and the Ottoman Decline

Activity 3: Russian Despotism

peter the great

Peter the Great [1]

Despotism is a form of government in which the ruler has absolute power. As you have learned, the absolute monarchs of Europe had a lot of power. But, their power was limited to some extent because they had to stay within established laws. For example, France's Louis XIV was an absolutist monarch. He was powerful enough to get most laws changed to suit his needs, but he still had to follow them.

In Russia, the Czar was truly despotic. Russian czars were considered above the law and could change the laws however they chose. With this much power, Russian czars were able to expand Russian lands and build Russian military strength, but this came at a price. The serfs were subjugated and the people of Russia had few rights.


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Classroom Activity - Russian Despotism

jigsaw image Jigsaw

Directions: In this activity, you will complete a jigsaw activity in a group about the selected rulers of Russia. You will follow your teacher's directions about which online or text resources you will use in this activity. You will focus on the domestic policies and foreign policies of these rulers. After you have completed your research with your group, you will be responsible for teaching others and learning from others.

Download Icon Download the Student Resource: Russian Despotism Jigsaw Graphic Organizer (doc).


Discussion Icon Discussion

Directions: Prepare a response to the discussion questions below. Follow your teacher’s directions to participate in your class discussion.

  • How did Russian czars respond to liberal ideas and events from the West (such as the French Revolution and Enlightenment)? Why?
  • How did Russian czars deal with industrialization? Why?
  • In what ways was Russia an imperialist country? Explain?
  • Predict future problems that Russia might deal with by creating such a large empire that includes so many ethnic and religious groups. How do you think the various czars dealt with this diversity?
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Select the link to review the Discussion Scoring Tool (pdf).


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Page Notes:

[1] Source: This image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peter_der-Grosse_1838.jpg is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.