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Although Russia in the 1840s was ruled by the strictly authoritarian tsar Nicholas I, and although Russian intellectual life had sharp boundaries to it as a result of the tsarist censorship and secret police, there still existed within Russia in the 1840s a lively debate carried out about the nature of Russian society and the its future. That debate took place in private drawing rooms, in coffee houses, in lecture halls at the University of Moscow and even in the published press. There was such a variety of terms in that discussion and such a diversity of areas explored that later historians, and indeed some of the participants themselves, called it a golden age, a marvelous decade. It was a time during which many of the foundations were set for future intellectual and cultural developments in Russia (Need we only mention the names of Belinskii, Dostoevskii, Tolstoi, Herzen...) One caveat to remember is that although this was truly a ferment, it only involved a very small portion of the country's population as Russia remained, in the 1840s, overwhelmingly rural, overwhelmingly peasant and overwhelmingly illiterate.

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Q: How was Russia like during the 1840s?
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