10.2a.7b The moment of reflection or a tale for future times
Cartoon shows Catherine II horrified at the visions that beset her at the moment of death; a cloud entering at left depicts the many victims of her wrath; a skeleton, Death, stands behind her ready to plunge his spear and send her cloven-hoofed spirit into the hands of two grinning demons waiting in the flames of hell; a frightened Charles Fox witnesses the visions from a portrait on the wall behind her.
In Russia (and in most of the world), the majority of people were poor farmers, often called peasants. Many Russian peasants were serfs, meaning that they were bound to the land and could not move, and they owed their landlords a large portion of their crops. Catherine the Great was empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. Although she read Enlightenment ideas and patronized Enlightenment philosophers, she was an autocratic ruler who maintained the traditional social order in Russia. In this decree (law), Catherine favored landlords, who were nobles and wealthy commoners, over peasants and serfs. Notice that the only specific peasant action identified in the edict is making petitions to the empress. What punishment did the decree order for those who incited (encouraged) serfs and peasants to disobey their landlords? What punishment did the decree order for serfs and peasants who disobeyed their landlords? Visual caption for The Moment of Reflection or a Tale for Future Times A British artist, Isaac Cruikshank, drew this political cartoon in 1796. It shows Empress Catherine II of Russia seeing visions of the people she hurt, a skeleton as a symbol of death, and demons.
Although serfdom had been abolished in most of Europe by the 1700s, it was still in force in Russia until 1861. This situation was extreme, but many peasants elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world had few rights, particularly when they did not own their own land. No peasant anywhere could vote or hold power above the local level. The traditional social order reinforced the power of wealthy landowners, nobles, military officers, and other elite groups and placed peasants at or near the bottom of the social hierarchy.
The moment of reflection or a tale for future times!!