Pre-Revolutionary Russian Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to pre-revolutionary Russian history and culture. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“When in 1854–55 France and England confronted Russia, the social and technological advancement of the former and backwardness of the latter was one of the reasons for Russia’s humiliating defeat in the Crimean War, thus sparking an abolition of serfdom and a new round of Russia’s modernization.” —Globalization, Nationalism, and Imperialism.
“While Russian ambitions and power were tempered, in retrospect, the 1878 Treaty of Berlin was a failure: war, not peace, followed.”
“In 1913 Eastern Europe and Russia achieved their region’s historically highest proportion of the global GDP, at 13.1 percent, as compared, for instance, to Western Europe’s 33.5 percent for the same period.”
“The 1897 Russian census estimated the literacy rates as 33 percent for men and 14 percent for women, but in 1913 68 percent of military conscripts in Russia were reported literate.”

“The tsar, Paul I, signed a decree banning all timber exports. Timber trade was put on hold when about 150 British merchant ships had been waiting to be loaded in St. Petersburg.”— Imperial Designs, Postimperial Extremes.
“The spread of the British ‘timber frontier’ to the east prompted the Russian imperial administration to reform its practices in order to begin transforming the vast wooded spaces of Eastern Europe into visible, managed, and policed places.”
“General Ivan Vitt, commander of the Settled Cavalry in the south emphasized the foreign origins of the Bug Cossacks. For Vitt, these Moldavians and Bulgarians were extremely individualistic, to the degree that even two brothers could never get along living in one house.”
“The Statute of 1835 centralized procedures for equipping Cossacks for service. Ammunition was to be made in the host workshops or purchased by the host. As a precautionary note, rifles were stored in state-owned warehouses and were handed out to Cossacks only for the time of active service.”

Volumes from the backlist with a Russian focus:

Greeted by some as belonging to the "bourgeois-democratic" phase of the socialist revolution, abhorred by others for the gratuitous violence committed by the "dark" and "savage" mass, the 1905 peasant revolts fit into the process that began in 1902 (Poltava, Kharkov) and was ultimately put down by the Red Army during 1920-1922.

“Led by the priests of the Pochaev Monastery in Volhynia, the Union of Russian People (SRN) vigorously campaigned against the ‘conspiracy’ of Ukrainian nationalists, Polish landowners, and Jewish merchants, presenting all of them as the main reasons for local social and economic troubles.”—The Tsar, the Empire, and the Nation.
“Vysotskii and the Riga chief of police Nikolai Balabin predicted that the ‘artificially bred’ Estonian and Latvian cultures are ‘doomed to die slowly’; these cultures had to be replaced with Russian culture, a process that might be accelerated with state interference.”
“In the 1840s approximately 100,000 Estonians and Latvians converted to Orthodoxy (which was, on the whole, a development in the countryside, where few Russians lived). In the long run, not even Russian religion turned these Baltic peasants into Russians, although many Russian (and, with a growing sense of fear, German) observers expected this to happen.”

Ethnographers helped to perceive, to understand and also to shape imagined communities also in imperial Russia and later in the USSR. The imperial framework in which Russian anthropology emancipated itself as a science favored tendencies of Russian nationalism and 'mission civilisatrice', and indeed subsequently the adaptation to Stalinism. Essays discuss the evaluation of concepts, the main research methods and dominant narratives, early maps and reports on Siberia, the ethnography of children, the dilemmas of research on Ukrainian folklore, the identification of the Chechen and the Ingush, the changing attitude of Karaites to Jewishness, and more.

“At mid-19th-century Russia had a patchwork of separate police systems that differed greatly from the imperial capitals to the lesser cities and the countryside. St. Petersburg had the most elaborate system.”—Policemen of the Tsar.
“Unlike the English and American police, their counterparts in Russian cities did not walk beats. Rather, Russian municipal guards were stationary and depended on citizens to report crimes to them.”
“An 1879 decree ordered both the rural and urban police, who had been armed only with swords, to carry revolvers. This was a momentous step, enough so that to reassure society, the authorities quickly issued detailed instructions on the permissible use of armed force.”
“Even in Odessa and Kiev, where police salaries were higher than elsewhere, policemen were poorly paid. At a time when it required about 225 rubles a year to support a peasant family of three, policemen’s yearly salaries in these cities were 120–190 rubles.”

“The means employed by Russian rulers to pursue their traditional, not to say banal, goals, could have serious transformative effects on particular peoples and territories.”—Russia on the Danube.
“Kiselev’s defense of the principle of territorial sovereignty in the principalities found its limits in Nicholas I’s and Nesselrode’s Eastern policy which aimed to preserve the Ottoman Empire as a convenient weak neighbor rather than break it up into a collection of small nation-states.”
“In the cultural domain, the period of Russian administration of the principalities gave an important impetus to the Westernization of the Moldavian and Wallachian elites.”
"It took the Bolshevik takeover in 1917, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, and the forced imposition of the Communist regime after 1945 to make Romanian elites persistently Russophobic; yet the origins of this anti-Russian sentiment are found in the repressive attitude adopted by the Russian government after 1834.”

Other CEU Press books with relevance to pre-revolutionary Russian history and culture:

“The Kunstkamera, this first museum of the Russian Empire and the freak exhibition are visited by most Russian citizens at least once, even today, because it is a living artifact of the distant history of the Russian state and its modern rebirth is associated with Peter the Great.”—Staged Otherness.
“In Arkadija, in the periphery of Saint Petersburg, besides the Tasmanian cannibal show, in 1884 ‘Indians’ from North America performed tableaux of military actions, such as ‘to be enslaved’ or ‘our hero-winners.’”
“Most of the creators of the Museum of the History of Religion had gained their fieldwork experience when they were sentenced to exile to the Russian Far East by the tsarist regime for revolutionary activity. They were autodidacts, not professional anthropologists.”
“In 2009 in Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic, during the Altargana festival a ‘mini zoo’ was created in which representatives of the local Evenki people publicly demonstrated their traditions and (lost) culture.

“Just as the image of the secretive, fatalistic, irrational East contributed to the West’s ideological hegemony, reversing these traits as positive indicators when invoking an idealized Byzantine Orthodoxy, were decisive in allowing Russia to do the same.”—Byzantium after the Nation.
“Russia experienced a dramatic end to the 19th century, with internal rifts over the question of whether it belonged to Europe or was a crossroads between East and West. All the arguments sprang from the West, whether from the armory of the positivists or of the neo-Romantics.”
“Europe viewed Russia more as a new Macedonia than as a new (Third) Rome: an aggressive and slightly primitive power that was ready to embrace and unite under its scepter the Slavic populations of Eastern Europe, just as the Macedonians had once done with the city-states of Southern Greece.”

“The Russian and Romanian serfdom of the 16th and 17th centuries approaches much more the ‘tying to the glebe’ of the late imperial and early Byzantine period than the agrarian regime of the Middle Ages in Western Europe.”—The Rise of Comparative History.
“In 16th and 17th-century Russia there were no towns at all in the Western sense. This, too, is one of the reasons for the weakness of the system of Estates in Russia.”
“The Russian clergy lacked that imposing exclusiveness and discipline displayed by the celibate clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. The higher clergy, monastic in origin, stood in sharp contrast to the married, and generally uneducated, lay clergy who formed a kind of hereditary caste and enjoyed little prestige. Even the bishops and abbots, who owed their positions largely to the Tsar’s favor, were scarcely fit to be an important factor in representing the people or region.”

“The Bessarabian question was among the most sensitive issues in Russian-Romanian relations. Mutual interest in a future anti-Ottoman alliance precluded any open discussion of the matter and left ample space for all kinds of interpretations.“
“Bessarabia was initially perceived as a showcase province meant to attract the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire. In this sense, Bessarabia was one of multiple ‘orients’ that the Russian Empire acquired.”
Bishop Lebedev, in his 1878 sermon presented Southern Bessarabia as a living member of the body of the Russian people, and construed the Danube as a “river of our native songs, just like the Volga and the Don.”
“Russian and Romanian intellectuals and elites engaged in symbolic competition over Bessarabia without eliciting any significant responses from the region itself. The Bessarabian intellectual stratum was negligible before the early twentieth century.”
“The local population was traditionally regarded as staunchly loyal to the Russian throne, and its closeness to the Great Russians was the result of its adherence to the Orthodox Church and its sharing in the economic benefits of the all-Russian market.”

“Russian images of Ottoman enemies were predominantly negative, of course, and according to the Tsar’s plans, Constantinople should be Christian, even Russian.”—Imagined Empires.
“The image of Russia as the protector and liberator: Russia appeared in Bulgarian history only and unvaryingly in this role.”
“The Serbian myth regarding Russia was significantly influenced by the Kosovo myth, the cult of self-sacrifice and death. The Serbian self-stereotype and the Serbian stereotype of Russia were similar, both containing messianic motifs.”
“According to the Slavophiles—Russia was destined to revitalize the West by replacing European rationalism, materialism, and individualism with spiritual values.”  
“The Ukrainian capital Kyiv as the New Jerusalem as juxtaposed to the Russian Moscow as the Third Rome is a currently recurring idea, within the post-Soviet reconceptualization of the Russian and Ukrainian past.”

"There is a blue sea, a stone is in the sea, a church is on the stone; in the church lies a dead man, who does not have a toothache. So let the teeth of Masha not cause pain." This spell takes us to an entirely different world, that of traditional Russian charms. Scholars have engaged into creating an international comparative charm index, based on the typology of magical texts and prayers. The endeavor implies a number of methodological challenges which are discussed in connection with setting up an index of the East Slavic charms. One more example is a charm for stopping bleeding: "Christ is baptised in the Jordan, the Jordan stops; as the River Jordan stops, so let the blood stop in Sergey's wound."

“White smoke ascended from the edges of the fields. This was the city of Dzaug, which had been changed by the Russians into Vladikavkaz.”
The expansion of the empire as perceived and depicted by the late 19th c. Georgian writer.
“It is instructive to compare Cossack stinginess with the generosity of the Chechens, whose faces were luminous with joy when they saw a guest approaching. There were no drunkards among them. By contrast, there was never any shortage of Russian women hovering drunk by the tavern doors.”
“Anzor remembered how they used to drive the livestock of their enemies to their own territories, and how they plundered the Russians, bringing joy to their wives when they returned home… With trembling hands and a pale face, Anzor set his house on fire, to keep it from being plundered by the Russians.”

“For Peter and his successors, the state was always represented as the Russian, not the Romanov Empire, in contrast to the dynastic terms used to characterize the Habsburg (not German) and Ottoman (not Turkish) Empires.”
“At the end of the 18th century, nation and empire largely coincided: East Slavs constituted about 84% of the empire’s population. As a result of subsequent annexations of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Finland, Bessarabia and the Kingdom of Poland, the share of East Slavs decreased to 68%, and that of Great Russians to 46%.”
“With Alexander III, instead of the ethnically inclusive liberal nationalism of 1860–70, an exclusive nationalism with clear racial motives moved to the forefront of Russian politics. He was the first Romanov after Peter I’s father Alexey Mikhailovich to wear a beard, and its shape was similar to that of Russian peasants.”
“Russia was unique in nationalizing enormous territories in the imperial borderlands. This success was mostly achieved by the Great Russian and Little Russian peasant and Cossack colonization. Cossacks, who performed the role of the armed vanguard of the settlement movement, were targeted with brutal repressions as the foes of the Soviet power.”

“The Sich is a town, or rather encampment, of Zaporozhian Cossacks in land belonging to Moscow, consisting of wide open uninhabited plains stretching for dozens of miles in every direction.”—as broadcast from the 18th century.
“During my lifetime Moscow never used the Cossacks for any war, including even when doing battle with the Prussian king or the Turks. This was because the people were so unreliable that they would vanish as soon as you needed them. They had over them a hetman, or commander-in-chief, elevated to this office from their number by the Muscovite empress, and he was called by the Cossack term koshevoi.”
“The camp commander was not able to forbid them from going out to plunder if they liked, for after all it was virtually the policy of the Muscovite court to keep these brigands under their protection for that very reason, for them to oppress the Poles and Tatars, while they themselves perished in various battles and executions so that they never grew to excessive numbers.”