What role did the theatre—both institutionally and literally—play in Russia’s modernization? How did the comparatively harmonious relationship that developed among the state, the nobility, and the theatre in the eighteenth century transform into ideological warfare between the state and the intelligentsia in the nineteenth? How were the identities of the Russian people and the Russian soul configured and altered by actors in St. Petersburg and Moscow? Using the dramatic events of nineteenth-century Russian history as a backdrop, Catherine Schuler answers these questions by revealing the intricate links among national modernization, identity, and theatre.
Schuler draws upon contemporary journals written and published by the educated nobility and the intelligentsia—who represented the intellectual, aesthetic, and cultural groups of the day—as well as upon the laws of the Russian empire and upon theatrical memoirs. With fascinating detail, she spotlights the ideologically charged binaries ascribed to prominent actors—authentic/performed, primitive/civilized, Russian/Western—that mirrored the volatility of national identity from the Napoleonic Wars through the reign of Alexander II.
If the path traveled by Russian artists and audiences from the turn of the nineteenth century to the era of the Great Reforms reveals anything about Russian culture and society, it may be that there is nothing more difficult than being Russian in Russia. By exploring the ways in which theatrical administrators, playwrights, and actors responded to three tsars, two wars, and a major revolt, this carefully crafted book demonstrates the battle for the hearts and minds of the Russian people.
“This is an exciting book that will make an enormous contribution. It shows the Big Picture and supports its arguments well through a variety of primary and secondary sources. Successful in showing the connection between Russia’s political and cultural shifts in the era and changes in theatre, particularly in the art of acting, Schuler has a lively and witty style. A natural storyteller, she paints a vivid picture of the antagonisms and personalities that shaped this period. I very much appreciate her willingness to examine the complex and contradictory aspects of this history.”—Lurana Donnels O’Malley, professor of theatre, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
“Theatre and Identity in Imperial Russia expertly integrates Russian theatre—its players, playwrights, producers, and critics—into the political and social history of nineteenth-century imperial Russia, tracing how the fascinating problem of ‘being a Russian in Russia’ spread from the nation’s westernized gentry to critically acclaimed or decried representations of Russianness onstage. Spotlighting the biographies and public images of the nineteenth-century stage’s key performers, Schuler richly demonstrates how these stars were read and ‘made’ by very differently oriented intellectual communities.”—Beth Holmgren, Duke University
Theatre, Performance, and Identity in Imperial Russia:
Ambitious Emperors and Cultural Colonialism 1
1 : The Culture Wars
National Crises, National Consciousness, National Theatre 25
2 : Uncertain Boundaries
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Shakhovskoi and the Rise of the Teatral 65
3 : Friction in the Fatherland
Actors and the Intelligentsia in the Interwar Era 115
4 : A Suffering Nation
Performing Narodnost’ in the Era of the Great Reforms 177
Epilogue: Us and Them 243