Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths (Hardback)
  • Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths (Hardback)
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Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths (Hardback)

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£38.00
Hardback 330 Pages / Published: 28/04/2011
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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.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801448133
Number of pages: 330
Weight: 652 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 28 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"Terror and Greatness integrates Kevin M. F. Platt's interest in memory and trauma with sharp, detailed analysis of classical images and texts in all their fragile materiality, which does not always survive the daggers of theory. This is a rare combination, but it should be definitive for the newest wave of cultural history."-Times Literary Supplement


"This meticulously researched, highly original book . . . enhances our understanding of Ivan and Peter as Russian cultural myths and instruments of state control. . . . This is an outstanding work of scholarship that will benefit all specialists of modern Russia and, more broadly, readers with previous knowledge of the historiography and cultural artifacts covered in this book. They will better appreciate why Russia's leaders, in eschewing more liberal democratic directions, will continue to emphasize the cultural myths of Peter and Ivan to validate Russia' need for strong central rule."-Thomas S. Pearson, The Historian (Winter 2012)


"This book is much more than a historiographical study of Ivan IV and Peter I as related Russian myths, although it succeeds on that level. Terror and Greatness raises the stakes to consider the larger parameters of their cultural images in a variety of media. . . . The book works extremely well on its own terms, and is very tightly written. The illustrative material is excellent. . . . Platt has given us much to consider in this ground-breaking analysis of modern Russian collective identity."-Marcus C. Levitt, Slavic and East European Journal (Fall 2012)


"Platt examines how the evolving historical myths of Ivan and Peter illustrate and illuminate the unresolved and unresolvable tension in Russian culture created by the use of terror to achieve greatness. Platt shows that neither ruler had a monopoly on the quality usually attributed to him: Ivan the Terrible was also seen as great, Peter the Great was also seen as employing terror. Studying Ivan and Peter in tandem sheds unexpected light on the perception of Ivan and Peter in modern Russia. This superbly written book is ambitious, challenging, imaginative, original, erudite, and multidisciplinary. . . . It is an outstanding contribution to the study of Russian culture with implications for all disciplines of Russian studies."- Charles J. Halperin, H-Russia, H-Net Reviews (December 2011)


"All countries spin their national myths around heroes. Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, however, echo in Russian society less as heroes than as avatars, reflecting the outer limits of Russia's traumas. Platt treats the way Russian historians, writers, and artists since the early nineteenth century have tried to come to terms with the
legacy of these overpowering figures-sometimes merging Peter's 'greatness' and Ivan's 'terror' into a single, reinforcing unity and sometimes treating those qualities as polar opposites. Their struggle, as Platt traces it-from Nikolai Karamzin's seminal early-nineteenth-century history of Russia, through Ilya Repin's portrait of a horror-stricken Ivan holding the son he just murdered, to Stalin's remaking of the two tsars into founders of Russian great power, to the use of Peter's image to sell chocolates, cigarettes, and vodka in the 1990s-reflects the ambivalent, at times tortured, standing Ivan and Peter have in the country's collective identity."--Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs


"In this engaging book, Kevin M. F. Platt analyzes the enduring cultural and political importance of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great in a deftly comparative, rigorously theorized argument. The interplay between greatness and terror, trauma and collective identity, memory and prognostication frames his discussion. Platt's richly nuanced readings cover historical studies, the fine arts, imaginative literature, and the very latest films. As engaging a story as the histories of its two protagonists, Terror and Greatness deserves to be read by anyone interested in Russia, past or present."-William Mills Todd III, Harvard College Professor and Harry Tuchman Levin Professor of Literature, Harvard University


"This cultural historiography-truly original, genuinely interdisciplinary, and extraordinarily erudite-examines representations of Ivan and Peter as despotic yet heroic rulers, and the role these myths have played in the development of Russian political culture and national identity."-Gregory Freeze, Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of History, Brandeis University


"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

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