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.
Introduction: Toward a Cultural Historiography of Russia Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great Materials and Methods Terror and Greatness 1. Liminality Liminal Heroes History and Identity: Nikolai Karamzin and Nikolai G. Ustrialov The Historical Novel as Ritual: Ivan Lazhechnikov's The Last Novice and Aleksei K. Tolstoi's Prince Serebrianyi 2. Trauma Terror as Greatness Aleksandr Pushkin's Petrine Project Slavophiles and Westernizers 3. Filicide Page versus Stage Bloody Fathers and Dead Children: Tsarevich Aleksei and Tsarevich Ivan . . . and Canvas: The Murdered Tsareviches in Historical Painting 4. Prognostication History as Myth Divination: Dmitrii Merezhkovskii's Antichrist (Peter and Aleksei) Dialectic: Pavel Miliukov's The Outlines of Russian Cultural History Irony's Reprise: Ilia Repin's Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan 5. Rehabilitation Stalinist Revisionism The 1920s: History without Actors, Historiography without the State Last Words: Andrei Shestakov's Short Course in the History of the USSR 5. Repetition Analogy and Allegory Afterimages: Aleksei N. Tolstoi's Many Returns to Peter the Great Allegory of Historiography: Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible Conclusion: Redux Selected Bibliography Index