Konstantin Bolenko’s article explores the intricate relationship between Europeanness, Russianness, and Tatar genealogy in the life experience and identity of Nikolai Yusupov (1751–1831). Yusupov was a descendent of an aristocratic family, whose origins are traced to the elite of the Grand Nogay Horde. The Yusupovs were baptized in the end of the seventeenth century, having served for almost a century in the elite service of the Muscovite Tsardom. In the course of the eighteenth century, as the article shows, the Tatar origin of the family was not mentioned either by the Yusupovs themselves or by outside observers. However, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, a persistent image emerges of Nikolai Yusupov’s Oriental (i.e. Tatar) origin. Since then, his identity as a Russian aristocrat becomes particularly intriguing as a subject of inquiry. The article analyzes the role of Yusupov’s image in the forging of a new perception of the Russian elite by Europeans and Russians, and the reinvention of his Oriental roots by Nikolai Yusupov. The article situates this case of reinvented tradition in the intellectual climate of the late Enlightenment and early Romanticism; analyzes the representations of the Orient in visual arts, heraldic items, and architecture; and draws conclusions about the culture and languages of self-description of the Russian noble elite. The author discusses the Tatarization and self-Tatarization of Yusupov in the context of the emergence of a new understanding of the division of civilization between Europe and the Orient. The tendency to distance the Orient as the Other took interesting twists in the Russian cultural context. The article traces in details the changes in the outside perception of Yusupov’s home in Moscow as an expression of his Tatarness; the interpretations of Yusupov’s sexual behavior as “oriental”; the foreigners’ projections of “Tatarness” as a synonym of barbaric civilization onto Russian nobility in general; and the evolution of the semantics of “Tatarness” visa-vis the developing Russian national ideal. A major portion of the article deconstructs cultural tropes of Yusupov’s self-Tatarization and tries to find explanations for his active engagement in the creative rediscovering of his “true” identity. Here the author discusses the symbolism of Yusupov’s coat-of-arms; his artistic imagining of the oriental family genealogy as reflected in the design of his home and the objects of art displayed there; and finally, the symbolic meaning for Yusupov commissioning the portrait of his son in an oriental costume by a Paris painter. Finally, the author proposes his vision of the Yusupov’s estate Arkhangel’skoe as a cultural text of his synthetic “European, Russian and partly Tatar” identity.


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pp. 161-216
Launched on MUSE
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