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Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes

By Orlando Figes

Starting within the eighteenth century with the development of St. Petersburg and culminating with the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the belief of Russia itself--its personality, non secular essence, and future. Skillfully interweaving the nice works--by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall--with people embroidery, peasant songs, spiritual icons, and the entire customs of lifestyle, Figes finds the spirit of "Russianness" as wealthy and uplifting, advanced and contradictory--and extra lasting than any Russian ruler or state.

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Extra info for Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia

Sample text

In the Seven Years War (1756–63) Russia made an even bigger impact on European minds. Her armies occupied East Prussia, defeated Frederick II’s forces on many occasions, and even briefly captured Berlin. 1 There followed the reign of Catherine II (1762–96) during which Russia’s territory, power and international status grew enormously. Most of the Polish commonwealth as well as huge territories in what we now call southern and eastern Ukraine but which was then known as ‘New Russia’ were annexed.

Napoleon and his army have also retained their fascination for the English-as well as French-speaking public. In any case, most authors cannot be expected to read many languages or consult archives in a range of countries. They expect to draw their information from the research of specialists. As regards Russia’s role in the defeat of Napoleon, this research and these specialists do not exist. No Western professor has ever written a book on the Russian war effort against Napoleon. 2 In many areas of military history the gap left by the universities is filled by army staff colleges.

When I called him a partisan leader, which is exactly what he was for much of 1812–14, she stormed off in disgust. The young student was not at all pro-Communist but she was a product of the Moscow radical-liberal intelligentsia. For her, heroes of 1812 in general and partisans in particular were ‘friends of the people’ and therefore by definition honorary members of her radical political camp and tradition. When it took over the 1812 myth and made it an integral part of Soviet patriotism, the Communist regime to a great extent set such ideas in stone.

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