08 December 2008

Sports & Entertainment: 1700s Russia

By Christine Koehler

Leisure time in tsarist Russia was practically nonexistent. The nobility had some time, but with freezing winters there wasn't much to do but drink and carouse. Which they were so very good at. The peasants had no time to do anything but work the fields. (And, ah, procreate.)

During Peter the Great's time, everything was in flux. He was bound and determined to bring the country into the 17th century and wasn't going to let anything stand in his way. Not drunken nobles or stubborn peasants.

Reading exploded as a popular pastime. While the Russia novel wasn't what it would become, nobles read in the language, French. Later in the century, during the Age of Enlightenment, even Catherine the Great would admire Voltaire to the point of trying to implement some of the Enlightenment's ideals.

Charity work also expanded, though most nobles ignored the plight of the poor, some tried to help. With limited structures ad ideas, but nearly unlimited funds, corruption was ripe and charities were reduced to social gatherings for the rich.

Cards are always popular. Eralash is very similar to contract bridge in its nature. The word eralash means "muddle, mess, or jumble".

Plays were popular, too, but sadly it's nearly impossible to find titles of them. All in all, Peter the Great's reign was more on building than on fun. Elizabeth's reign was war and holding onto her crown, and Catherine the Great's reign was fraught with opposition to her reforms. Very little time for playing.