The Russian imperial court, with its extravagant ceremonies and celebrations, was perhaps the most impressive theater in the world. The show, however, was no mere diversion, as Richard Wortman demonstrates in this first scholarly study of the principal myths, symbols, and rituals of Russian monarchy. Focusing on the period from the reign of Peter the Great to the death of Nicholas I, Wortman shows how the presentations and representations of the Russian ruler played a central role in the exercise of monarchical power. These presentations--from ceremonies and staged events to architectural and literary monuments--sustained an image of a supreme and transcendent ruler that helps us to understand the character and persistence of absolute monarchy in Russia.
Wortman draws on the insights of social science and literary scholarship to reveal the underlying myth of foreign conquest that animated the ceremonies of the Russian court. Marshaling a variety of sources, among them poetry, engravings, and newspaper accounts, he traces the evolution of this myth through the scenarios that expressed it in the cultural idiom of each reign. He shows us how monarchical presentations served to consolidate the loyalty of the ruling elite and to establish the distance of the elite from the rest of the population.
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Co-Winner of the 2006 Etkind Prize, Best Book by a Western Scholar on Russian Literature/Culture, European University at St. Petersburg
"Scenarios of Power . . . represents the culmination of Richard Wortman's pioneering work. It is not just a history of regal rhetoric and rituals but a rich and vivid panorama of the manners and sensibilities, of the educational theories and systems of belief, of the art and literature, the music and architecture by which the Russian monarchy shaped a cultural language to evoke loyalty, reverence and awe from its servitors and subjects."--Orlando Figes, Times Literary Supplement
"Wortman's interpretation constitutes an attractive argument for the historic importance of monarchy, and the wealth of supporting detail and documentation is a treasure-trove of information."--Choice
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