The Decembrist Myth in Russian Culture

The Decembrist Myth in Russian Culture

Ludmilla A. Trigos

Language: English

Pages: 268

ISBN: B012YSK0VY

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Decembrist Myth in Russian Culture

Ludmilla A. Trigos

Language: English

Pages: 268

ISBN: B012YSK0VY

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book is the first interdisciplinary treatment of the mythic image of the Decembrists, a group of Russian noble officers who attempted, but failed, to overthrow the tsarist government in 1825. By exploring Russian literature, history, film and opera this book shows how the Decembrist myth evolved over time depending on political agendas. Though originally it functioned as a myth of opposition to authority and espoused self-sacrifice, it later became a legitimating myth for the Soviet regime. Ludmilla Trigos reveals how the Decembrist myth inspired generations of Russian revolutionaries and writers and still retains its hold on the Russian cultural imagination.

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justification. First, Nicholas died after the devastating loss of the Crimean War. The defeat caused many people to question the regime’s earlier policies. Korf allays those doubts by depicting Nicholas’ crowning moment. Second, Nicholas’s justification provided legitimization of his son and heir, the new tsar, Alexander II. Alexander showed mercy by granting the Decembrists amnesty in honor of his coronation. Thus Alexander’s noble act follows ironically in his father’s footsteps. Nicholas

admiration.”41 Foucault argues that the negative association between crime and punisher provided strong impetus for the nineteenth century’s “age of sobriety in punishment”: “The great spectacle of physical punishment disappeared; the tortured body was avoided; the theatrical representation of pain was excluded from punishment.”42 Since in monarchical law punishment is a “ceremonial of power;” as Foucault asserts, once the edificatory aspect of the punishment has been withdrawn or undermined, the

freedom. ”26 Zinoviev mentions the Decembrists for two reasons: to provide the Bolsheviks a valid revolutionary genealogy and to sanctify and preserve Petrograd as a literal museum-city of the revolution: “Many of the buildings, squares and streets of Petrograd and other cities are the most valuable historical revolutionary monuments.”27 Stites notes that museums established during the Civil War period played an important part in preserving prerevolutionary culture and art during a time of

would legitimating myths necessarily change according to circumstances faced by a non-monarchical power. The Bolsheviks thus faced a new challenge. Von Geldern sums up the situation: “The revolutions of 1917 shook Russian political culture to the foundation and discredited the alternative that appeared. A hoary tradition of discourse on political power and legitimacy, revolving around religion, bloodlines and fealty was effaced; the democratic language spawned by the February Revolution was

Dissidence is thus an intellectual movement first, a process of independent 142 The Decembrist Myth in Russian Culture and courageous ref lection on the mysteries of the history and system of the Soviet State.2 Though many people did not openly speak about the camps and their horrifying experiences, information seeped out, either through Western publications of former prisoners’ memoirs which then made their way back to Russia (tamizdat), or through the circulation of unpublished manuscripts

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