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Russia's Rome

Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940

Judith E. Kalb

Publication Year: 2008

A wide-ranging study of empire, religious prophecy, and nationalism in literature, Russia’s Rome: Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940 provides the first examination of Russia’s self-identification with Rome during a period that encompassed the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the rise of the Soviet state. Analyzing Rome-related texts by six writers—Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, Valerii Briusov, Aleksandr Blok, Viacheslav Ivanov, Mikhail Kuzmin, and Mikhail Bulgakov—Judith E. Kalb argues that the myth of Russia as the “Third Rome” was resurrected to create a Rome-based discourse of Russian national identity that endured even as the empire of the tsars declined and fell and a new state replaced it.
            Russia generally finds itself beyond the purview of studies concerned with the ongoing potency of the classical world in modern society. Slavists, for their part, have only recently begun to note the influence of classical civilization not only during Russia’s neo-classical eighteenth century but also during its modernist period. With its interdisciplinary scope, Russia’s Rome fills a gap in both Russian studies and scholarship on the classical tradition, providing valuable material for scholars of Russian culture and history, classicists, and readers interested in the classical heritage.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

As I consider the genesis and evolution of Russia’s Rome, I am reminded of the 24 April 2006 New Yorker cartoon that features one distraught, toga-clad Roman telling another, “My contractor told me Rome would only take a day.” The foundations for my version of the city were laid in a Stanford University dissertation (1996), which benefited from the support of the Stanford University Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, a grant from the Phi Beta Kappa Society...

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Note on Transliteration and Translations

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pp. xiii-xiv

I use the Library of Congress transliteration system, simplified to omitligatures and diacritics. I do, however, use accepted anglicizations ofcertain well-known Russian and Latin names: Peter I, Nicholas II, LeonTrotsky, Catiline, Sallust, etc. Material quoted from English-language sources preserves the spelling and transliteration of the original....

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Introduction: Rome Envy

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pp. 3-33

Not far from the Coliseum, in the heart of Rome, stands the Basilica of San Clemente, named after the Roman Pope Clement, who died in approximately 100 CE. The basilica, which dates back to the twelfth century, is located on the remains of a fourth-century Christian church, which in turn rests upon a first-century Mithraeum, sacred to the pagan god Mithras. The Mithraeum is found above yet another level, consisting of pre-Christian walls dating to Rome’s Republican period...

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1. The Blueprint: Dmitrii Merezhkovskii’s Christ and Antichrist

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pp. 34-75

Dmitrii Merezhkovskii’s trilogy Khristos i Antikhrist (Christ and Antichrist), comprising the novels Smert’ bogov: Iulian otstupnik (The Death of the Gods: Julian the Apostate, 1895); Voskresshie bogi: Leonardo da Vinchi (The Resurrected Gods: Leonardo da Vinci, 1900); and Antikhrist: Petr i Aleksei (The Antichrist: Peter and Alexis, 1904–5), represents a milestone in Russian letters.1 As the philosopher Nikolai Berdiaev would later write, Merezhkovskii...

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2. Relinquishing Empire? Valerii Briusov’s Roman Novels

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pp. 76-105

Reading Merezhkovskii’s Julian the Apostate as it was serialized in thespring of 1895, Valerii Briusov was delighted. “With every issue of the journal, [the novel] gets better and deeper,” he wrote to his friend Petr Pertsov.1 Having produced such a work, Briusov maintained in a notebook entry the same year, Merezhkovskii ought to assume “one of the...

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3. A “Roman Bolshevik”: Aleksandr Blok’s “Catiline” and the Russian Revolution

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pp. 106-128

In his 1918 article “Katilina” (Catiline), written only months after theBolsheviks’ November 1917 takeover,1 Aleksandr Blok explicitly and repeatedly asserted the relevance of Rome’s past to Russia’s presentand future. The ostensible subject of his article, the Roman rebel Catiline, was a notorious figure known for his abortive and much maligned...

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4. The Third Rome in Exile: Refitting the Pieces in Viacheslav Ivanov’s “Roman Sonnets”

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pp. 129-161

In a 1964 article, the Russian émigré writer and priest Kirill Fotievwrote that following the appearance of Viacheslav Ivanov’s “Rimskiesonety” (Roman Sonnets), “no one can doubt any longer that we, the‘barbarians,’ have been invited to the feast of the Western Europeanspirit that Rome both was and continues to be.” Ivanov, Fotiev...

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5. Emperors in Red: The Poet and the Courtin Mikhail Kuzmin’s Death of Nero

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pp. 162-184

“We, the humanists, the freethinking philosophers who decry and lament violence, are the most refined oppressors, executioners and tyrants. The state monopoly of thought is the reflection of ourselves: we are the ‘gate keepers,’ and, oh yes, we are the Bolsheviks,” proclaimed Andrei Belyi in 1921.1 In a subsequent review article, Mikhail Kuzmin rejected Belyi’s lamentations,2 but the professedly apolitical Kuzmin would in the following years create a drama...

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Conclusion: Bulgakov and Beyond

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pp. 185-201

Each of the writers discussed in this book turned his attention to the relationship between pagans and Christians in ancient Rome and applied the lessons he took from it to his own nation’s turbulent present.In the process, he showed that for Russia, “opposites” in fact could beco-participants in a complex creation of national identity. And yet...


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pp. 203-279


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pp. 281-299

E-ISBN-13: 9780299229238
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299229245

Publication Year: 2008