Comparison of 19th Century Russia and Modern United States Societies

Topics: Us History

In 19th century Russia, 4 social classes applied to and were adhered to by everyone. These classes included the nobles, the middle class, the peasants, and the clergy. The nobles were at the pinnacle of the social pyramid; the richest, most influential, most powerful people that existed in society. This included the Tsar and his family, the princes and the princesses, counts, and barons, among others. The next social class was the middle class, which was generally educated and employed, and divided into upper and lower-middle classes.

The upper-middle class, also known as the bourgeoisie, was very wealthy and able to take part in social parties and entertainment. Conversely, the lower middle class was often not as well-off, wealthy enough to eat regularly and clothe themselves, but not wealthy to the point of relaxation. Peasants were the lowest and poorest class of citizens, often uneducated, working the leftover, unwanted jobs. The final social class, the clergy, was comprised of the religious leaders; the priests, deacons, and bishops of the church.

The primary religion in 19th century Russia was Orthodox Christianity.

I think social classes in 19th century Russia had a similar structure to the social classes throughout the history of the United States; there has always been a “1-percent”, as well as the middle and lower classes. Social classes in the modern United States are nowhere near as distinguished as they were in 19th century Russia; it is far more difficult now to tell what economic status someone has based solely on appearance, however, there are still well-defined areas of poverty, middle-class, and upper-class demographics.

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While the gaps and interactions between classes have differed throughout time, there has always been, and always will be, an inescapable social hierarchy.

Many entertainment methods popular in 19th-century Russian culture are still popular today both in the United States and all around the world. Both cultures’ upper classes frequented theaters and plays, as well as poetry and social parties. While these events may not be as exclusive now as they were in the 19th century, I believe there will always be a level of social sophistication associated with them.

Career paths have also stayed in the same fields for each class with doctors, lawyers, and other occupations requiring a higher education level than alternatives remaining in the upper-middle-class jobs, while shopworkers and tradesmen remain in the middle class, and service industry workers, consisting of restaurant staff, retail workers, et cetera have the smallest income. I think this system makes perfect sense, with careers requiring the most time and money to attain being paid more than jobs requiring only physical labor or minimal mental skills. In my opinion, the current system works well, motivating people to educate themselves and create a better future for themselves while also becoming more beneficial to society, which I believe are valued characteristics both in 19th century Russia and in the modern United States.

I believe that one of the biggest differences in the social structures between the 19th century and modern times is the difference in the prominence of religion. In 19th century Russia, the clergy held their social class and were extremely influential both in political and social matters. In the modern United States there has been a slow movement away from religion; a sharp contrast to the spiritual revival which took place in 19th century Russia. I believe possible reasons for this shift include the increasing modernization of every industry, as well as public and private services and entertainment, becoming more accessible for any social class, causing a decline in reliance on a higher power, because people have more personal power and greater ability, as well as far more activities to fill their free time with. Religion was most influential on the lower classes in 19th century Russia, while culture, politics, and entertainment were what influenced the elite. I believe this applies to modern society as well, based on my observations.

  1. Another big difference, or perhaps there is no difference, is the common theme of adultery and unfaithful marriages in the literature of 19th century Russia. A large portion of the stories written during this period seems to involve unfaithful husbands, unhappy wives, and a general sense of disappointment before the main characters meet their new lover. This can be observed in Dmitri Gurov’s womanizing behavior in Chekhov’s “Lady With the Dog”, Anna Karenina’s affair with Count Vronsky in “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy, and many others. Perhaps the cause of this literary theme was a lack of divorce laws, causing less difficulty and consequences stemming from a failed marriage? Or maybe a more positive social perception of adultery, an act of lust in the search for a sense of happiness, is what caused there to be so many stories of this nature. Another possibility, from the point of view of the modern United States culture, could be that it is just as acceptable today as it was then; there are just many more works of fiction within every genre that causes the stories regarding adultery and marriage to be buried among the vast sea of literature? Another interesting point to make is the increase of religion and philosophy during this period, and the possibility of these subjects influencing the literature of the time.

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Comparison of 19th Century Russia and Modern United States Societies. (2022, Jun 30). Retrieved from

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