Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths by Kevin M. F. PlattTerror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths by Kevin M. F. Platt

Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths

byKevin M. F. Platt

Hardcover | April 28, 2011

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In this ambitious book, Kevin M. F. Platt focuses on a cruel paradox central to Russian history: that the price of progress has so often been the traumatic suffering of society at the hands of the state. The reigns of Ivan IV (the Terrible) and Peter the Great are the most vivid exemplars of this phenomenon in the pre-Soviet period. Both rulers have been alternately lionized for great achievements and despised for the extraordinary violence of their reigns. In many accounts, the balance of praise and condemnation remains unresolved; often the violence is simply repressed.

Platt explores historical and cultural representations of the two rulers from the early nineteenth century to the present, as they shaped and served the changing dictates of Russian political life. Throughout, he shows how past representations exerted pressure on subsequent attempts to evaluate these liminal figures. In ever-changing and often counterposed treatments of the two, Russians have debated the relationship between greatness and terror in Russian political practice, while wrestling with the fact that the nation's collective selfhood has seemingly been forged only through shared, often self-inflicted trauma. Platt investigates the work of all the major historians, from Karamzin to the present, who wrote on Ivan and Peter. Yet he casts his net widely, and "historians" of the two tsars include poets, novelists, composers, and painters, giants of the opera stage, Party hacks, filmmakers, and Stalin himself. To this day the contradictory legacies of Ivan and Peter burden any attempt to come to terms with the nature of political power—past, present, future—in Russia.

Title:Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian MythsFormat:HardcoverDimensions:330 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.39 inPublished:April 28, 2011Publisher:CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801448131

ISBN - 13:9780801448133

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Toward a Cultural Historiography of Russia
Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great
Materials and Methods
Terror and Greatness

1. Liminality
Liminal Heroes
History and Identity: Nikolai Karamzin and Nikolai G. Ustrialov
The Historical Novel as Ritual: Ivan Lazhechnikov's The Last Novice and Aleksei K. Tolstoi's Prince Serebrianyi

2. Trauma
Terror as Greatness
Aleksandr Pushkin’s Petrine Project
Slavophiles and Westernizers

3. Filicide
Page versus Stage
Bloody Fathers and Dead Children: Tsarevich Aleksei and Tsarevich Ivan
. . . and Canvas: The Murdered Tsareviches in Historical Painting

4. Prognostication
History as Myth
Divination: Dmitrii Merezhkovskii’s Antichrist (Peter and Aleksei)
Dialectic: Pavel Miliukov’s The Outlines of Russian Cultural History
Irony’s Reprise: Ilia Repin’s Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan

5. Rehabilitation
Stalinist Revisionism
The 1920s: History without Actors, Historiography without the State
Last Words: Andrei Shestakov’s Short Course in the History of the USSR

5. Repetition
Analogy and Allegory
Afterimages: Aleksei N. Tolstoi’s Many Returns to Peter the Great
Allegory of Historiography: Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible

Conclusion: Redux

Selected Bibliography

Editorial Reviews

"Kevin M. F. Platt regards both Ivan and Peter as liminal figures of national history who in many ways defined its collective unconscious. They both—for different reasons and with different degrees of historical accuracy—embodied for the significant part of the nation its glorious past. Ivan's rule started Russian expansion eastward, and Peter, by his victories and reforms, brought it into the concert of European powers. At the same time, these two rulers who taken together governed Russia for three-quarters of a century brought an incredible amount of suffering to many of their subjects, and both were guilty of murdering their elder sons and official heirs to the throne. For centuries Russian thinkers, writers, artists, and the general public were engaged in an ardent debate about their legacy. Platt traces the fascinating history of this debate dealing with intellectual history, literature, iconography, and film. His ability to analyze so many media as common pools of myths and ideological metaphors is very impressive."—Andrei Zorin, Professor and Chair of Russian and Fellow of New College, University of Oxford