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Peter I (The Great)
Peter I, was born to Alexis Romanov and his second wife Natalia Naryshkina. Peter grew up in a turbulent period of Russian history. His fathers early death at the age of thirty-one left a bitter struggle for power between the family of Alexiss first wifes family, the Miloslavskaias, and Peters family. A brief period of reign by Peters half brother Fedor (1676-1682) was followed by his half sister Sofia assuming control of Russia as regent from 1682-1689. During this time Peter and his half brother, Ivan V, waited as co-Czars until they came of age.
Meanwhile Peter spent many of his formative years in the country estate of Preobrazhenskoe, just outside of Moscow. It was here that Peter fostered his love of warfare, and had his first contact with Westerners. Rather than being educated in the traditional manner, Peter was allowed to play war games. From an assortment of commoners, courtiers, and foreigners Peter formed two regiments, the Preobrazhenskii and Semenovskii, which he outfitted with real weaponry and drilled into what would later become his imperial guard. Also during this time, Peter developed two other passions. The first was sailing, which he first came in contact with by discovering an old English sailboat. The second was the love of all things Western, which came from his frequent visits to the nearby foreign quarter of Moscow.
By 1689 Peter had grown to the towering height of six feet seven inches, and was armed with a quick mind and boundless ambition. At this time Sofia attempted to murder Peter, but failed due to strong support for Peter from loyal Muscovites and foreigners. Shortly after assuming full power in 1695, Peter left on an unprecedented tour of Europe, in which he traveled undercover as a diplomat. Upon his return to Russia in 1698, Peter began his reign in earnest. Armed with much knowledge of the West, he started a series of military campaigns, enacted sweeping reforms, and nearly single handedly thrust Russia to the forefront of European power.
Peter is perhaps best known for his reforms that altered the face of Russia permanently. Peters hatred of traditional Muscovite custom prompted many of his reforms. Amongst reforms aimed at creating a Western culture were laws demanding men to be clean-shaven and all clothing and riding attire must be of German style. Peter also changed the calendar to the same style used in most of Europe.
Peters most influential reforms, though, dealt with the military. Peter essentially founded Russias military tradition. During his reign the Russian military increased from around 30,000 men in 1695, to nearly 300,000 men in 1725, and that included the newly formed navy. Peter was able to do this for a number of reasons. First he began mass conscriptions of both peasants and nobles. To logistically support the military, he completely restructured the government into a bureaucratic state with its capital in the newly built city of St. Petersburg. To pay for it he nearly tripled the taxes through various means. The most profitable tax was the head tax in which nearly every Russian male had to pay solely because they lived in Russia. To outfit the military, Peter created iron foundries and textile mills. To train it, he hired Western advisors to make up for the lack of Russian expertise. Nearly all of this was done to feed Peters imperial ambitions.
The most important part of Peters imperialism was the Great Northern War with Sweden, which lasted for nearly his entire reign. Through much difficulty Russia eventually won the war with the signing of the Treaty of Nystadt in 1721. Although Russia had really won the war in 1709 at the battle of Poltava, Sweden continued to fight because of support from France and Britain. The results of the war made Russia the most powerful country in Northern Europe, and the undisputed master of the Baltic Sea. The Great Northern War also, and more importantly, made Peter revered throughout Europe as a powerful, successful, and ultimately Western style leader of a respected nation.
Mackenzie, David, and Curran, Michael W., A History of Russia, the Soviet Union, and Beyond, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California, 1993
Dukes, Paul, The Making of Russian Absolutism, 1613-1801, Longman ... more
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A Time To Kill And To Kill A Mockingbird
The movie based on John Grishams A Time to Kill is a Hollywoodized, modern-day version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Both movies employ many of the same themes and plot elements; but the former movie is one-dimensional and predictable while the latter is innovative and purposeful. The movie version of Harper Lees novel To Kill a Mockingbird is considered a classic film, whereas John Grishams adapted novel is merely another example of the money making efforts of Hollywood.
Some of the movies more prominent themes are the same. Both focus on the family, particularly the role of the father. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Attacus, who is based on the father of author Harper Lee, is an upstanding parent. Not only is he an excellent role model for his children, but he takes time to talk to his children. He respects them as growing individuals, allowing them to call him Attacus, and explains important issues rather than discounting them. Jake cherishes his daughter more than ever when he compares her hypothetically to his clients victimized daughter Tonya. The power of the family institution is reiterated when Carl takes revenge upon the offenders who raped Tonya. These ties drive an otherwise socially conforming man into violating the sanctity of human life in cold blood without regret.
Another motivation that inspires his action is the personal degradation he must have experienced as a black man in a racist community that includes backwoods deviants, who look down upon the blacks in the community. Hate crimes appear in both movies, including hate-fueled riots, attempted lynchings, and the reappearance of the Ku Klux Klan. Other manifestations of racism were realized as well, such as injustice in the court system and the school system, where, in both movies, the protagonists children are continually taunted for being the progeny of a nigger lover.
The classic figure of the hero is at the forefront of the plot in each movie. Both lawyers put their lives on the line for the liberty of a client without expecting compensation. Attacus does so because he believes in justice and knows its the right thing to do, whereas Jake simply empathizes with his client, especially by projecting his daughter into Tonyas experience. Either way, these men sacrifice themselves for the sake of others, a defining characteristic of heroes. Attacus especially is elevated in the mind of the narrator to a state of untouchable selflessness and courage. A few other characters with very heroic traits emerge. Boo Radley saves the children by fighting their attacker to the death at great personal risk even though these same children had feared him. He is a very mysterious character until this incident, which unexpectedly defines him as a hero. In one of the most striking scenes in A Time to Kill, a soldier jumps in the path of a bullet to protect Jake. When Jake learns this total stranger is permanently paralyzed, he is dumbfounded.
The basic plots of the two movies are identical: a white man commits rape but a black man ends up being prosecuted in a racially charged trial. The focus is on the defense lawyers struggle, and the movies climax during the closing statement. The essential difference of plot is a juxtaposition: in To Kill a Mockingbird, an innocent man is convicted, while in the other, a guilty man walks. This reflects that more was at stake than simply one mans life in both cases. The formers result is much more powerful. This unrevenged injustice has potential to hold audiences in indignant shock and open their eyes to the harsh reality of racism. This is the first of several discrepancies I will point out that favor To Kill a Mockingbird as the better film.
These juxtaposed outcomes of the trials can be attributed to two factors unrelated to the plot. First, it reflects our nations growing sensitivity toward stamping out racism. A black man prosecuted for a crime against a white person had terrible odds in the in the first half of the twentieth century. I understand Lees novel was accurately portrayed, but A Time to Kill, the movie, strays from John Grishams original at least with respect to the ... more
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