First Advisor

ChiaYin Hsu

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors




Russia -- History -- 1689-1801, Catherine II (Empress of Russia) 1729-1796, Social structure, Public interest, Russia -- Social life and customs




Historians of the Russian Empire often question the extent to which a public sphere existed in Tsarist Russia. This thesis explores Russian literary works from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, such as memoirs and travelogues, in order to better understand the ways in which Jürgen Habermas’s theory of the public sphere can be useful for understanding publicity in the Russian Empire. It traces changes in two interconnected areas of public discussion, one regarding discourses of monarchical legitimacy, and the other, gender and domesticity. By focusing on gender, this thesis argues that historians’ focus on the economic factors described by Habermas as the basis of the formation of the public sphere is insufficient for understanding the structure of public debate during this period. It also argues that evolving notions of sex and gender in the Russian Empire paralleled those in western Europe, and testified to the presence of a public sphere that addressed issues specific to the concerns of eighteenth-century Russian elite society.


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