After Catherine: The Russian Imperial Court, 1797

Role A-1 (Tsar Paul I, Emperor of All the Russias)

The year is 1797. Catherine the Great died last year, leaving Russia in the midst of both imperial expansion and significant social and political reforms. The new Tsar, Paul I, has called together a group of learned and renowned advisors from across the spectrum of society to advise him on specific directions for the “New Russia.” Your specific role and goals are listed below.

Your arguments will be looked on favorably if you embarrass one of your competition by pointing out errors or by calling him/her names that are eloquent but not foul. You may not smite your competition physically, nor may you use profane language. Vociferous arguing is good but cutting people off repeatedly is rudeness. Overall, you should look for your chance to embarrass your opponents, but not by personal attacks. Stick to the subject and be accurate.

You are Paul, Tsar of all the Russias. Under Catherine, your domain has expanded significantly, incorporating large amounts of territory in the West and South. You bear a great deal of resentment personally toward Catherine (your mother), since she excluded you from any role in government while she was alive. You are frankly uncomfortable with the complexities of modern government, feeling much more at home with military units who obey your every order without question. You are not a particularly religious man, but you have no desire to burn in hell. You admire the Prussian model of government, mostly for its militarism and strong autocratic government. You have great worries about the French Revolution, but are happy with what you’re seeing from Napoleon, who’s now ruling the Directory.

You have summoned this session of the Court for the purpose of deciding how to govern your new domain. Four famous thinkers of the Enlightenment have accepted your invitation, as well as local power brokers who are concerned about the legacy (both positive and negative) of Catherine’s reforms. In addition, other members of your domain are viewing the proceedings, trying to decide what these ideas mean for them.

You must consider the merits of differing points of view in making your decision. You must give every participant at least one opportunity to speak, either through their own voluntary actions or answering a question from you. You want to be satisfied that you will maintain order while keeping Russia among the ranks of the European “Great Powers.” You have absolute power within the court; if you choose to execute, torture, or expel a member of the council, it will be done immediately. As in real life, flippant or unserious use of absolute power may have unintended consequences.


  • The main issues you need to address are:
  • Do you give greater freedom of movement to serfs and townsmen? If so, how much?
  • Do you reconstitute the Legislative Assembly? If so, which social classes get to be on it, and what powers does it bestow?
  • Will you ally with any foreign powers? If so, who and why?
  • What role will the Church play in your governance?