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1. Science in Russian Culture, 1861-1917
2. The Cambridge Companion to Modern
3. National Identity in Russian Culture:
4. The Icon and the Axe : An Interpretive
5. The Occult in Russian and Soviet
6. Magical Chorus: A History of Russian
7. Russian Popular Culture: Entertainment
8. Report from Hokkaido: The Remains
9. Entertaining Tsarist Russia: Tales,
10. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Russian
11. Russian Traditional Culture: Religion,
12. Constructing Russian Culture in
13. Exemplary Bodies: Constructing
14. Medieval Russian Culture: California
15. Drawing and Watercolours in Russian
16. Sexuality and the Body in Russian
17. Russian Culture in Uzbekistan
18. Russian Culture At The Crossroads:
19. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth
20. Moscow and Petersburg: The City

1. Science in Russian Culture, 1861-1917
by Alexander Vucinich
 Hardcover: 592 Pages (1971-06-01)
list price: US$90.00 -- used & new: US$89.97
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Asin: 0804707383
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2. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Russian Culture (Cambridge Companions to Culture)
Hardcover: 404 Pages (1999-02-28)
list price: US$115.00 -- used & new: US$97.58
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Asin: 0521472180
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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This volume offers an introduction to Russian culture in all its rich diversity, including the historical conditions that helped shape it and the arts that express its highest achievements. Newly commissioned essays by leading scholars explore language, religion, geography, ideological structures, folk ethos and popular culture, literature, music, theater, art, and film. A chronology and guides to further reading are also provided. Overall, the volume reveals, for students, scholars and all those interested in Russia, the dilemmas, strengths, and complexities of the Russian cultural experience. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars ROOTS AND FLOWERS
This book is comprised of 12 brief, well-written essays by distinguished researchers, put together by the SUNY Stony Brook professor Nicolas Rzhevsky. The volume is divided into two parts: Cultural Identity and Literature and the Arts. If the first part of the book deals with Russian roots, the second is devoted to the flowers of this civilization.

On the crossroads of these narratives we see a vast land, stretching from East to West emerging from the union of Slavs and Vikings somewhere around the middle of the eighth century as a number of relatively small cities and tribes. Locked in the never-ending war with nomads prince Vladimir tries to unite them around Kiev. In his first attempt he tried to use paganism. He builds up a gallery of local pagan gods, trying to achieve some kind of union and establish certain hierarchy on the symbolic level. Seeing the futility of these attempts, however, he drops pagan faith altogether and adopts Byzantine (`Orthodox') Christianity, which is not dependent on local gods.

As we learn from the essay on Religion by the leading Russian Academician Dmitry Lihachev, having a choice among Islam and other versions of Christianity Vladimir chooses Christianity for the beauty of Byzantine rites and rituals. It is by the beauty of religious acts that God was introduced to the Russian land and the remaining ancient churches testify that because of the beauty God stayed. Church became the place where artists could realize themselves as architects and painters. Christianity also brings a new alphabet. It to this epoch that the first known texts date back.

The ensuing unity enables Kiev to achieve a number of important victories in the wars with nomads. However, Kievan Russia was not strong enough to withstand the Mongol invasion from 1237 to 1240, when Kiev was burned. It became a part of the Golden Horde on a par with Greeks, Poles, Georgians, Armenians, Mordvinians and other peoples. In fact, churches were among the few institutions that withstood the invasion and secured the identity of the Russian land, because pagan Mongols respected all kinds of gods `just in case'.

It is by the boundaries with the West and the East (which included all the Southern people, pagans and Christians alike). While West equated civilization, East was considered a territory for conquest and expansion. It is tempting to see eastward Russian expansion as a mirror of the westward colonization of the North American continent. Indeed in California and Alaska American and Russian settlers meet. It is also important to note that some of the colonizers were fuelled by religious passions over the conflict of starovery (old-believers) with the official reform of the Church by Peter the Emperor. Starovery did not accept the reform of religious rites and were prosecuted heavily by the state and church alike. They found their freedom on the frontier of Russian colonization. By the conquest of`East' Russia eventually established itself as a Western power, and in the East it was the cultural baggage of the West. The unavoidable mix of East and West inside Russia explains well enough the repercussions of identity crisis that Russia slips into from time to time. These boundaries thus limit both the territories of the Russian state and, to a large extent mark the field of intellectual debate.

It is not these grand narratives, however, that make this book so exciting, but the amount of details and `small stories' packed into the 372 pages of this volume. It is impossible to do them justice in the newspaper article. We still need books for that.

There is a wonderful essay on Russian popular culture by Catriona Kelly of Oxford University. In the Soviet-era textbooks, the lower classes were roughly defined by their dvoeverie ("double-faith"), the prominent retention of pagan beliefs alongside their commitment to Christian faith. Instead of dvoeverie, argues Kelly, we should use the term mnogoverie because pagan beliefs do not form a coherent system and thus, combined with Christianity, they produce plural belief systems. Going to the roots of the local obychai (customs), she uncovers an underworld of traditions, habits and superstitions that somehow influence the attitudes of Russian people up to this day. They may be charming and unique like domovoj (house spirit) or leshij (forest spirit), or frightening and commonplace like the fear of the `Other' and criminal counter-culture.Some of the genres and themes of the oral culture prospered during the Soviet era like chastushka - a four-line ditty of humorous or scabrous nature, but its triumph was short-lived compared to anecdote that conquered the Internet. Actually anecdote is the strongest genre of the Russian oral culture that helped to communicate the most important means of resistance against the enormous power of the Soviet state: laugh. The anecdotes are not limited to political topics, though - they actually deal with every field of human existence.

The part of the book devoted to art is as thorough, interesting and profound as the part dealing with the roots of Russian cultural identity. For example, in Russian society the written word was carefully scrutinized by the church and state, Bethea asserts that the writer in general and the poet in particular became secular saints and, very often, a martyr or suffering "holy fool". Other essays of the second part of "Modern Russian Culture" deal with Russian art, music, theater, and film.

If culture and arts provide the antidote to the shallow political language, then "Modern Russian Culture" is certainly one of the best means to overcome stereotypes and misconceptions constructed by the modern political spectacle. ... Read more

3. National Identity in Russian Culture: An Introduction (Volume 0)
Paperback: 260 Pages (2006-02-02)
list price: US$35.99 -- used & new: US$32.39
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Asin: 0521024293
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The question of national identity has long been a vexing one in Russia, and is particularly pertinent in the post-Soviet period. Designed for students of Russian literature, culture and history, this collection of essays explores aspects of national identity in Russian culture from medieval times to the present. ... Read more

4. The Icon and the Axe : An Interpretive History of Russian Culture
by James Billington
Paperback: 880 Pages (1970-12-12)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$14.75
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Asin: 0394708466
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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"A rich and readable introduction to the whole sweep of Russian cultural and intellectual history from Kievan times to the post-Khruschev era." - Library Journal. Illustrations, references, index. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

3-0 out of 5 stars Well-Written, but Flawed
There should be a number of apologies made for this book simply on account of its age. There is one recent competitor to it in English, Figes's "Natasha's Dance", but I have not read it, and cannot compare the two.

There is a sort of symbol of the book's flaws in its frequent use of the term "organic religious civilization". The term is never defined, never showed: It is simply used as a short hand to remove medieval and early modern Rus from the reader's sphere of reference and retain its alien nature. Certainly, the Orthodox religion is key to understanding the differences between West European and Russian culture, but Billington seems to have little understanding of it, which leads to deep misunderstandings in the work. Hesychasm is interpreted as an analogue to Protestantism; the basic issues over which the Old Belief schism happened are confused or misstated; Orthodoxy is, in short, throughout displayed as a shadow of Western Chrisitanity. It is not a mistake of his age, either. Billington had access to the great theologians and religious historians of the Russian emigres, but except for a couple of citations from Lossky regarding iconography, he seems to have ignored it.

The other issue with the work is a very mid-20th century whitewashing of the Soviet state and the Communist Revolution. Billington primarily portrays it as the triumph of westward-looking St. Petersburg over Moscow, and in the context of the book's narrative, that sounds like an endorsement. Stalin is simply seen as being on a continuum with Ivan the Terrible, and is interpreted for the book's West European readers as just another example of Russian strangeness.

This review is in no way exhaustive, and I would certainly note that the book deserves the three stars which I gave it. However, I worry that when the book showed stark weaknesses in areas that I am very familiar with, that it may have shown weaknesses in others I am more ignorant of. I can forgive mischaracterizations in Billington's brief asides into military history (after all, such is not the focus of the work), but shortcomings in its core need to be taken seriously.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant and Beautiful Russian Cultural History.
_The Icon and the Axe:An Interpretive History of Russian Culture_, first published in 1966 and made available here by Vintage Books, by renowned Russian scholar James H. Billington is a fascinating and highly detailed account of Russia's unique cultural history.James H. Billington (1929 - ) is a renowned Russian scholar who was a professor at Harvard and Princeton and is currently serving as the Librarian of Congress.His work has chiefly focused on Russian history and culture and also revolutionary movements including his excellent book _Fire in the Minds of Men_ (1980).Billington's scholarship is of the highest caliber, but his books may prove difficult for some given the fact that they are heavily footnoted and extremely scholarly.Billington defines this book as an "interpretive history of modern Russian thought and culture" and explains that resulting from his own reflections it offers a selective account of the rise and development of Russian culture and thought in the last 600 years.Russian culture offers a unique heritage and this book explores that heritage as it has existed in Russia's history.In his Preface, Billington explains that two artifacts have been chosen to serve as the title for this book - the icon and the axe - and that each has a unique and important meaning.The icon or holy picture represents Russia's spiritual heritage; while the axe is an unholy weapon.Both of these artifacts may be found "hung together on the wall of the peasant hut in the wooded Russian north" and "suggest both the visionary and earthy aspects of Russian culture".However, as the author notes ironically, the icon has been wielded by charlatans and demagogues while the axe has been wielded by saints and artists.Several important components play into Russia's cultural heritage including the history of the tsars, the lives of the peasants represented strongly in the traditions of their religion Eastern Christianity, and later the arrival of the Marxists who took over Russia in the form of Bolshevism.Billington identifies three supra-personal forces at work in Russian culture - nature itself, Eastern Christendom, and the impact of the West.This book explores all such important components in detail.The book is expertly footnoted and includes several detailed maps and various images and pictures.

Billington begins his book with a Preface in which he explains his understanding of an interpretive cultural history, explores the notions behind the artifacts of the icon and the axe, and traces out his cultural history of Russia.This is followed by a section detailing his Acknowledgements.The first part of the book is entitled "Background".Here, Billington begins by detailing the earliest history of modern Russia as it existed in "Kiev", the role of the Slavs and Mongols, and the arrival of Christianity in the form of Eastern Orthodoxy.Billington explores ancient Russia literature and various sagas and lays.Following this, Billington turns to "The Forest" where he traces out Russia's earliest history, noting the relationship between the ancient tribes, how Eastern Christianity came to dominate, and the history of earliest Russia.Billington details this through sections exploring "Axe and Icon" and "Bell and Cannon".The second part of this book is entitled "The Confrontation" and explores the early Fourteenth to the early Seventeenth centuries.Billington traces out "The Muscuvite Ideology", noting the rise of Moscow as the "third Rome", tracing the heritage of the Russian rulers from the time of the semi-legendary Riurik, and exploring the mystical traditions of the Eastern Church and the Hesychasts.Billington next examines "The Coming of the West", noting the problematic role of Russia's relationship with the West.Billington discusses such things as "Novgorod", ""The Latins"", ""The Germans"", and "The Religious Wars".In particular, Billington notes the importance of Spain on Russia, the relationship between the Eastern churches and the Roman Catholics, the role of the tsars and the tsar seen as an Old Testament king, the notion of "Holy Rus", and various other relationships between Russia and the West.The third part of this book is entitled "The Century of Schism" and discusses history between the periods of the Mid-Seventeenth to the Mid-Eighteenth centuries.Billington discusses such things as "The Split Within" mentioning the schism of 1667 and considering such responses as "The Theocratic Answer", "The Fundamentalist Answer", and "The Great Change".Billington also discusses "The Westward Turn" mentioning such things as "New Religious Answers", "The Sectarian Tradition", "The New World of St. Petersburg", and "The Defense of Muscovy".The fourth part of this book is entitled "The Century of Aristocratic Culture" and discusses the Mid-Eighteenth to the Mid-Nineteenth centuries.Billington first discusses "The Troubled Enlightenment".Here, Billington examines such topics as "The Dilemma of the Reforming Despot", "The Fruits of the Enlightenment", "The Alienation of the Intellectuals", "Novikov and Masonry", and "The Frustration of Political Reform".Following this, Billington examines "The Anti-Enlightenment".Billington examines the forces operating against the Enlightenment in the form of the "Catholics", the "Pietists", the "Orthodox", and "The Legacy".Next, Billington considers ""The Cursed Questions"", examining the problems taken up by aristocratic intellectuals.Billington examines such topics as "The Flight to Philosophy", "The Meaning of History", "The Prophetic Role of Art", "The Missing Madonna", and "The "Hamlet Question"".The fifth part of this book is entitled "On to New Shores" and examines thought as it developed in the second half of the Nineteenth Century.Billington examines such issues as "The Turn to Social Thought", "The Agony of Populist Art", and "New Perspectives of the Waning Century" (including discussion of "Constitutional Liberalism", "Dialectical Materialism", and "Mystical Idealism").The sixth part of this book is entitled "The Uncertain Collosus" and examines the period of the Twentieth century including the rise of the Soviets.Billington first devotes a section entitled "Crescendo" in which he examines periods following the revolution of 1917 and discussing such things as "Prometheanism", "Sensualism", and "Apocalypticism".Following this, Billington discusses "The Soviet Era" mentioning such topics as "The Leninist Legacy" and "The Revenge of Muscovy".Next, Billington discusses "Fresh Ferment", mentioning some of the accomplishments in Russian culture under Bolshevism.Here, Billington discusses such things as "The Reprise of Pasternak" and "New Voices".This part ends with a discussion of "The Irony of Russian History".Here, Billington discusses the concept of irony and absurdity, traces the role of Russian history from the time of the tsars to the post-Stalinist era, and discusses Russia in a post-Stalinist world.The book ends with an extremely detailed Bibliography, References, and an Index.

This book offers an extremely rich source of valuable material on Russia's unique and lasting cultural contributions.Many themes play out throughout the book including the natural spirituality of the Russian people and the role of the Eastern churches, the history of the Russian tsars and the courtly culture, the role of aristocrats and intellectuals, the role of artists, writers, and poets, the problematic of Russia's relationship with the West, and finally the rise of the Soviet state and Russia under the Soviets.If one seeks to understand these contributions of Russian culture, one can surely look in no better source than here.While the book is difficult, it remains an essential study meandering through the threads of Russian cultural history and bringing forth much detailed and rich information.It is highly recommended to all those who seek to understand in depth Russian culture.

5-0 out of 5 stars A foundation to understanding Russia
When I began my business career in Russia, I asked a Finnish banker "What makes a Russian tick?" The immediate response was read "The Icon and the Axe." I did that and have recommended to many others and the indispensible basic work to begin understanding Russia and the Russians. We each have to have our own experience in that world, but Dr. Billington's book is the best first step. Much of what I learned was put to use and reflected in my own account. Walking on Ice: An American Businessman in Russia

4-0 out of 5 stars Details
This book was at times, so very detailed as to be ponderous.
However,these details also provided a wealth of information and a great source for future reference.

5-0 out of 5 stars Russian Culture Viewed Through A Prism
This is an impressive chronicle on Russian culture, emphasising its `intellectual and artistic' qualities over the past six centuries and bringing many unknown facets to light.Billington speaks of three `forces' in particular that dominate the main narrative; `The natural surroundings, the Christian heritage, and the Western contacts of Russia'.Each of these themes reveals a wealth of insight and understanding; `the natural surroundings' become an elemental power where a...`Telluric sense of communion with the earth' alternates `with a restless impulse to be `skitaltsy' or wanderers over the Russian land'.`The Christian heritage,' looks at Russian Orthodoxy in the broader context of an all encompassing `spiritual culture' that `permeates' through all of life; and `the Western contacts of Russia' relates the growing inevitability of Russia impinging upon Europe and itself being altered through European currents of action and thought.We read how... `Catherine substituted the city for the monastery as the main centre of Russian culture.She, and not Peter, closed down monasteries on a massive scale'...and so on for page after page, as though mining a rich seam.This is a hugely ambitious book that succeeds triumphantly and is truly worth the immersion!

... Read more

5. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture
Paperback: 480 Pages (1997-06)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$28.60
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Asin: 080148331X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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A pioneering, richly interdisciplinary volume, this is the first work in any language on a subject that has long attracted interest in the West and is now of consuming interest in Russia itself. The cultural ferment unleashed by the collapse of the Soviet Union reawakened interest in the study of Russian religion and spirituality. This book provides a comprehensive account of the influence of occult beliefs and doctrines on intellectual and cultural life in twentieth-century Russia. Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal's introduction delineates the characteristics of occult cosmology which distinguish it from mysticism and theology, and situates Russian occultism in historical and pan-European contexts. Contributors explore the varieties of occult thinking characteristic of prerevolutionary Russia, including Kabbala, theosophy, anthroposophy, and the fascination with Satanism. Other contributors document occultism in the cultural life of the early Soviet period, examine the surprising traces of the occult in the culture of the high Stalin era, and describe the occult revival in contemporary Russia. The volume includes bibliographical essays on Russian occult materials available outside Russia. ContributorsMIKHAIL AGURSKY, Hebrew University

VALENTINA BROUGHER, Georgetown University

MARIA CARLSON, University of Kansas

ROBERT DAVIS, New York Public Library

MIKHAIL EPSTEIN, Emory University

KRISTI GROBERG, North Dakota State University

IRINA GUTKIN, University of California, Los Angeles

MICHAEL HAGEMEISTER, Ruhr University, Bochum

LINDA IVANITS, Pennsylvania State University

EDWARD KASINEC, New York Public Library

JUDITH DEUTSCH KORNBLATT, University of Wisconsin

HKAN LVGREN, independent scholar


WILLIAM F. RYAN, Warburg Institute, London

HOLLY DENIO STEPHENS, University of Kansas

ANTHONY VANCHU, University of Texas, Austin

RENATA VON MAYDELL, Munich University

GEORGE YOUNG, independent scholar ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Russian and Soviet Occultism and Esoterica.
_The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture_ is a compilation of essays written by various scholars on the various underground and occult aspects of Russian culture and later of the culture of the Soviet Union.The Bolsheviks who created the Soviet Union did much to portray Russian culture under the Tsars as backward and the Russian peasant as illiterate and prone to superstition; however, as one sees by reading this book many individuals within the Soviet Union themselves had elaborate occult and esoteric beliefs.While the Soviet Union tried to ban writers and intellectuals and suppress all religion or "irrational" developments of the human spirit, this effort largely failed due to the very creative nature of man (so misunderstood by Marxists).Russian culture has always been influenced by surviving pagan beliefs and through the Christian tradition preserved in the Russian Orthodox Church; however, influences from freemasonry, Swedenborgianism and spiritism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Eastern religions, and other occultists such as Gurdjieff and his interpreter Ouspensky have also played an important role in shaping the occult underground culture in Russia.In addition, various German philosophical idealists such as Kant, Schelling, and Hegel came to play an important part in the development of Russian thought along with iconoclasts such as Nietzsche and romantics and anarchists.This book includes a brief introduction to the occult culture in Russian and Soviet thought and various essays, followed by a conclusion dealing with modern developments in Russian culture.Essays included are an essay on folk magic and divination among the Russian peasantry with emphasis on the survival of paganism and the role of the Russian Orthodox Church; an essay on the role of the peasant and the occult in Russian literature with reference to the authors Ivan Turgenev, Andrei Bely, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; an essay on the role of the Jewish Kabbalah in Russian occultism including reference to Christian Sophiologists including the theologians Vladimir Solovyov, Pavel Florensky, and Sergei Bulgakov; an essay on the role of Satanism with emphasis on the role of Satan in the Orthodox Churches and Russian tradition as well as mention of the novels of Andrei Bely; an essay on "fashionable occultism" including reference to the Theosophical and Anthroposophical societies, spiritualism, and freemasonry; an essay on the thought of Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov; an essay on Russian cosmism which included ideas on space exploration and immortality with reference to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Biocosmist and panpsychist; an essay on technology and the role of the Soviet engineer; an essay on occult socialist realism (interestingly occult ideas based upon the Christian veneration of saints were behind the Soviet action taken in preserving Lenin's body); an essay on the filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein and the role of the occult and gnosticism in his thinking; an essay on Vsevolod Ivanov; an essay on Daniil Andreev famous mystic and writer who combined world religions in what he termed "The Rose of the World"; and a concluding essay on the role of occultism in politics which mentions various Russian Rightist groups including the Traditionalist thought of Aleksandr Dugin and the role of the infamous antisemitic tract, _Protocols of the Elders of Zion_.In sum, this book constitutes an enormous compendium of material on various occultists, writers and groups, as well as a useful bibliography including details about various obscure journals and rare books, and will prove invaluable to the researcher in esoteric thought.Many in America are largely ignorant of the alternative belief systems which exist among the Russians and which existed under the Soviet tyranny, and hopefully this book will prove a useful tool to alleviating that ignorance.For all those interested in alternative modes of perceiving reality and in discarded belief systems, the ideas presented in this book will prove to be a fascinating look at the deep recesses of the Russian (and Soviet) psyche. ... Read more

6. Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn (Vintage)
by Solomon Volkov
Paperback: 368 Pages (2009-03-10)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$9.91
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Asin: 1400077869
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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From the reign of Tsar Nicholas II to the brutal cult of Stalin to the ebullient, uncertain days of perestroika, nowhere has the inextricable relationship between politics and culture been more starkly illustrated than in twentieth-century Russia.

In the first book to fully examine the intricate and often deadly interconnection between Russian rulers and Russian artists, cultural historian Solomon Volkov brings to life the experiences that inspired artists like Tolstoy, Stravinsky, Akhmatova, Nijinsky, Nabokov, and Eisenstein to create some of the greatest masterpieces of our time.

Epic in scope and intimate in detail, The Magical Chorus is the definitive account of a remarkable era in Russia's complex cultural life. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Chudno!
If only something like this book had been available when I studied Russian literature forty years ago, the twentieth century wouldn't have been the great slog that much of it was then. I especially appreciate that art, music and ballet are part of the picture painted of Russian politics and culture. If there still are departments of Slavic Languages that teach 20th century Russian literature, I hope this will be among their textbooks. If not, a blessing on the student who finds this book.

I congratulate the author and thank him profoundly. It's a wonderful book.

4-0 out of 5 stars A song that continues
Surveys of Russian culture date back really to James Billington's "The Icon and the Axe."These books tended to fixate on the glories of the 19th century which include Pushkin, Repin, Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy before moving on to the Silver Age and then running out of steam around World War II.This was more a fault of the authorities who presented the world with a mummified high culture (designed to raise hard currency), a suppressed underground culture of dissidents, and a banal popular culture.To complicate matters, there was an interesting, but also bizarre emigre culture (think of Nabokov for the first and the movie Liquid Sky for the latter).

One of the outgrowths of the fall of the Soviet Union and the passage of time is insight into the rest of the story and what a complex story it is.From the vantage point of the 21st century, 30th century Russian culture is a complex organism indeed.Be it the role of the intellectuals that Lenin exiled in the 1920s, attempts to re-imagine Russian culture in the aftermath of World War II, the comings and goings of the intellectual firmament during the sixties and seventies are all interesting topics.Even more fascinating is what happened to the cultural life of the Soviet Union when the country whose impulses it was meant to reflect ceased to exist.

Solomon Volkov is well equipped to chronicle the comings and goings of this world.He was part of it in some respects and as a leading musicologist, biographers of Shostakovich, and author of half a dozen books on Russian topics.He even knew most of the figures depicted in the last third of the book.In many respects the book provides a great deal of commentary tracing the evolution of Russian culture under a variety of circumstances including decline, revolution, civil war, tyranny, foreign invasion, destruction, political comings and goings, stagnation, repression, and finally the greatest challenge, freedom.

I did like the book's attempt to show continuity within Russian culture through the 20th century, literally from the death of Tolstoy to the return and death of Solzhenitsyn.In this respect the book is an improvement over numerous books which speculate with very little understanding on the internal dynamics of Russia.

If I were to identify a flaw it is almost that the story Volkov is attempting to tell is too big for a book of under 300 pages.Really I think some of the issues Volkov raises really need more space for greater development. The controversy between "the town" and the village (think "blue state Russia" and "red state Russia") really deserves more space than Volkov is able to provide it. Is there a relationship between these two schools and the old westernizer and slavophile dichotomy? The career of Eduard Liminov who can be said to have had a foot in both camps is an example. Starting life as the son of a KGB official, living in exile as a dissident in New York in the 1970s (and the author of a book that was almost like the "Fear of Flying" of the emigre community) and then the leader of a crazy Neo-Bolshevik fascist organization and arrested on fire arms charges.Since this is only one of the stories chronicled in the book I can only add that reading it was at times it is almost like drinking from a fire hose.

Another flaw with the book is in its illustrations. Yes it was nice to see pictures of all the artists, writers, and composers, but pictures of the paintings Volkov choses to discuss would have been even better.

Despite the flaws inherent in attempting to tackle such a broad topic in such a very little space, I encourage anyone interested in Russian culture to read Volkov's latest effort.Despite its shortcomings this book represents an important contribution to the understanding of 20th century Russia's difficult story.

5-0 out of 5 stars A magical chorus is a magical book...
This book was a wonderful read, not just about the major artistic figures--and they are all here, Tolstoy, Akmatova, Shostikovich, Gorky, Chekhov--but also the views that Lenin, Stalin and other leaders took toward the arts.This is especially so of Stalin: and the author does not hesitate to discuss Stalin's interest in the arts, his intelligence, and his love for the Russian classics.I also enjoyed reading about Pasternak's own fascination with Stalin.In the end, I gained a better understanding of the "soul" of Russian artistic genius, and an appreciation for its survival during difficult, disastrous years.

4-0 out of 5 stars The twining of politics and art
In Russia, it has been said, "a poet is much more than a poet" (Pushkin), and "a great writer is like a second government" (Solzhenitsyn). Indeed, in few countries is culture so intertwined with politics. Particularly during the last century, when art (be it film, literature, music or painting) was unceremoniously dragooned into the service of the State.

How Russian politics and culture battled during the 20th century is the subject of Solomon Volkov's fine new book, a volume that is part memoir, part history, part rumination on the Russian worldview. Sprinkled liberally with first-hand accounts (many of the author himself), it brings to light fascinating episodes, from the various Nobel Prize scandals, to the real roots of the Thaw (American films, perhaps?), to bards like Vysotsky and Okudzhava, made popular by official scorn.

Through it, there is a sense of continuity, of politicians hopelessly trying to reign in culture, to dictate what shall be proper and sanctioned, of artists giving a nod to the Powers That Be, then quietly writing "for the drawer" or singing subversive songs for friends.

In one episode, Volkov tells of the buses full of riot police, hunkered down outside the Taganka Theater during Vysotsky's wake there in 1980. It brought to mind more recent deployments of excessive OMON legions against a miserly collection of liberals and oppositionists. In Russia, after all, a demonstrator is much more than a demonstrator. (Reviewed in Russian Life)

5-0 out of 5 stars Volkov magic!
The Magical Chorus is not only a fierce and fearsome look at a century and a half of Russian history, but a tantalizing journey behind the appearances of history, with insight only Solomon Volkov can forge. Volkov stalks his books stealthily page by page until capture; the hunt always excites and invigorates, and reveals essences. Magical Chorus is no exception to the wiles of an author who for whatever reason remains oddly controversial. For me, he's a master writer. Brilliance mesmerizes around the lightest details of Russian cultural life, as Volkov's passions become ours. Magical Chorus languored about too long for me until the middle 'A Rendevous With Stalin', where ignites the connection to the book's real and entrancing heart - the Russian mystery of mirrors between her rulers and artists. After that, Volkov takes off. Uncle Joe's moral tics, and Stalinism itself, are dissected like a surgeon; Akhmatova (noting she died thirteen years to the day after Stalin), Yevtushenko, sympathetic stories of Prokofiev and Mayakovsky. Volkov's empathy never impedes his duty as a writer. The best thing about reading him is he never gives you reason to tire. This is a first rate keeper that harbors a blistering study of tragedy. ... Read more

7. Russian Popular Culture: Entertainment and Society since 1900 (Cambridge Russian Paperbacks)
by Richard Stites
Paperback: 304 Pages (1992-09-28)
list price: US$47.00 -- used & new: US$43.29
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Asin: 052136986X
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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This book presents a side of Russian life that is largely unknown to the West--the world of popular culture.By surveying detective and science fiction, popular songs, jokes, box office movie hits, the stage, radio and television, Richard Stites introduces the people and cultural products that are household words to the Soviet people.He demonstrates how popular culture has over the past century had more impact on the lives of Russian people and reveals more about their lives than the works of giants of high culture. Richard Stites, Professor of History at Georgetown University, is the author of several books, including Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars Some key ambiguities
In an otherwise detailed account, questions remain about what wasn't included, and the extent to which this material lived in "popular culture."One thinks, for example, of the film "Repentance," which, when Gorbaschev allowed its release, had the whole country walking around in a daze for months.And where do underground classics like "Master and Marguerita" sit?We're left with some ambiguity.

4-0 out of 5 stars ends with the Soviet Union's end
The book's story ends around 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed. In that sense, even the last section reads as from another time. Largely, thus, the book is an account of Soviet propaganda. Describing the various media campaigns instituted by the Kremlin to mobilise public opinion. We see how in the desperate years of World War 2, that appeals to Rodina were used, as a traditional rallying point.

There is some account of independent cultural activities. Very little operating space was permitted for these by the authorities. Until the 80s and perestroika and glasnost arose.

Surprisingly, the index omits any mention of samizdat. Yet this was the hallmark of much dissident actions. ... Read more

8. Report from Hokkaido: The Remains of Russian Culture in Northern Japan
by George Alexander Lensen
Hardcover: 234 Pages (1974-01-14)
list price: US$81.95 -- used & new: US$81.68
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Asin: 083716818X
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9. Entertaining Tsarist Russia: Tales, Songs, Plays, Movies, Jokes, Ads, and Images from Russian Urban Life, 1779--1917 (Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies)
Paperback: 448 Pages (1998-09-01)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$62.95
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Asin: 0253211956
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This anthology introduces readers to Tsarist Russia's emerging popular and commercial urban culture and the individuals and groups that produced and consumed it. The selections translated here illustrate in colorful detail how the experiences and the composition of Russian society and culture evolved from the late eighteenth century through the 1917 revolution, in response to economic, technological, and political changes. Fortunetelling and etiquette manuals, thieves' tales, children's literature, popular songs, war stories, women's novels, satires of life in America, and vaudeville skits are just a few of the genres represented.

... Read more

10. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Russian Culture (Encyclopedias of Contemporary Culture)
Hardcover: 800 Pages (2007-02-15)
list price: US$215.00 -- used & new: US$163.80
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Asin: 0415320941
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This addition to the highly successful Contemporary Cultures series covers the period from period 1953, with the death of Stalin, to the present day. Both ‘Russian’ and ‘Culture’ are defined broadly. ‘Russian’ refers to the Soviet Union until 1991 and the Russian Federation after 1991. Given the diversity of the Federation in its ethnic composition and regional characteristics, questions of national, regional, and ethnic identity are given special attention. There is also coverage of Russian-speaking immigrant communities. ‘Culture’ embraces all aspects of culture and lifestyle, high and popular, artistic and material: art, fashion, literature, music, cooking, transport, politics and economics, film, crime – all, and much else, are covered, in order to give a full picture of the Russian way of life and experience throughout the extraordinary changes undergone since the middle of the twentieth century.

The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Russian Culture is an unbeatable resource on recent and contemporary Russian culture and history for students, teachers and researchers across the disciplines. Apart from academic libraries, the book will also be a valuable acquisition for public libraries.

Entries include cross-references and the larger ones carry short bibliographies. There is a full index.

... Read more

11. Russian Traditional Culture: Religion, Gender, and Customary Law
 Paperback: 310 Pages (1992-07)
list price: US$32.95 -- used & new: US$32.95
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Asin: 1563240408
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12. Constructing Russian Culture in the Age of Revolution: 1881-1940
Paperback: 376 Pages (1998-09-03)
list price: US$65.00 -- used & new: US$65.00
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Asin: 0198742355
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This collection offers a pioneering new account of the relationship between literature and other cultural forms in Late Imperial Russia and Revolutionary Russia. The contributors here recontextualize Russian literature, and rethink the relations between literature and other cultural forms. The book examines a number of, in Bourdieu's term, "cultural fields" in late Imperial Russia: science and objectivity, national and personal identity, and consumerism and commercial culture. Including contributions from leading specialists in Russian literature, cultural history, and cultural theory, this stimulating, original, and controversial book will be a vital resource for all those interested in Russian culture during "the age of Revolution." ... Read more

13. Exemplary Bodies: Constructing the Jew in Russian Culture,1880s to the Present (Borderlines: Russian and East European-Jewish Studies)
by Henrietta Mondry
Hardcover: 300 Pages (2009-10-22)
list price: US$58.00 -- used & new: US$28.99
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Asin: 1934843393
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This book explores the construction of the Jew s physical and ontological body in Russian culture as represented in literature, film, and non-literary texts from the 1880s to the present. With the rise of the dominance of biological and racialist discourse in the 1880s, the depiction of Jewish characters in Russian literary and cultural productions underwent a significant change, as these cultural practices recast the Jew not only as an archetypal exotic and religious or class Other (as in Romanticism and realist writing), but as a biological Other whose acts, deeds, and thoughts were determined by racial differences. This Jew allegedly had physical and psychological characteristics that were genetically determined and that could not be changed by education, acculturation, conversion to Christianity, or change of social status. This stereotype has become a stable archetype that continues to operate in contemporary Russian society and culture. ... Read more

14. Medieval Russian Culture: California Slavic Studies XII
 Hardcover: 2 Pages (1984-02)
list price: US$50.00 -- used & new: US$200.00
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Asin: 0520049381
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15. Drawing and Watercolours in Russian Culture: First Half of the 19th Century
by Yevgenia Petrova
Hardcover: 288 Pages (2006-08-25)
list price: US$110.00 -- used & new: US$44.55
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Asin: 3938051329
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The publication is dedicated to the history of drawing and Watercolours of the first half of the 19th century. This is the most comprehensive book for the last 50 years.

The book aimed at combining various methods of studying this vast material: chronological, genre, stylistic, artistic, analytic, historical and everyday. Drawing is presented here as an independent creative sphere as well as collaborating with other forms of art.The catalogue introduces individual peculiarities of outstanding artists of that period and researches drawing of the first half of the 19th century and stylistic and genre peculiarities of that epoch.

For the first time, the book contains considerable archive information on the oeuvre and life of renowned as well as little-known artists, on the history of the creation and the current existence of works. New ascriptions are published in the catalogue.The structure of the publication enables the reader to trace the oeuvre of artists in various contexts.

The catalogue is accompanied by numerous illustrations, biographies of artists and detailed commentaries. Many works are published for the first time. This publication is tied to the exhibition in the St. Michael's (Engineers) Castle of the State Russian Museum. ... Read more

16. Sexuality and the Body in Russian Culture
Paperback: 372 Pages (1998-02-01)
list price: US$28.95 -- used & new: US$8.98
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Asin: 0804731551
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Twelve groundbreaking essays showthe varied and complex ways in which ideas about sexuality, gender, and the body have shaped and been influenced by Russian literature, history, art, and philosophy from the medieval period to the present day.
... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Book review
Europe-Asia Studies,March, 1996by Melanie Ilic

The chapters which constitute this book were first presented at a symposium on sexuality in Russian culture held at Amherst College Russian Department in 1989. They cover a broad historical time frame, from the mediaeval to the modern, and examine representations of female sexuality and women's bodies from the perspectives of historical interpretation, cultural analysis, literary investigation and critical theory. The analytical framework of the essays draws greatly on the work of recent French feminist and cultural theorists, such as Foucault, whose writings on the history of sexuality have influenced work in this area for over a decade. The book also examines the ways in which women and men view sexuality and representations of the body differently and the authors draw here on British and American writings on 'the female gaze'. As such, this book provides an interdisciplinary text which utilises prominent Western critical theories to highlight the specifics of Russian cultural thinking in the area of female sexuality.

The introduction to the book provides an extensive outline of a number of issues which influence our thinking on female sexuality: biology versus culture, the language of sex, the diverse range of sexualities, reproduction and sexual pleasure, bodily representations - '"women" dressed as "men"' (p. 22) and the changing and challenging perspectives on Russian sexuality which have emerged since the advent of glasnost'. Russian literary, political and cultural texts from the 19th and 20th centuries, now familiar to many Western readers, are used to illustrate the variety of debates on these issues. They clearly illustrate that Russia has never been a 'sexless' society or 'uninterested in the erotic' (p. 37). 'The papers in this volume demonstrate that the "erotic questions" have always been present in the history of Russian culture, even when they have been most vehemently denied' (pp. 37-38).

The introduction also poses the question 'how does "Russian" sexuality differ from that of the "West"?' (pp. 4-8) and signals the importance of the overall theme of the individual chapters for contemporary rewritings and redrawings of Russian sexuality. Eve Levin argues in the first chapter that 'an understanding of how mediaeval Russian high culture viewed sexuality becomes a necessary first step for the analysis of sexuality in modern Russia' (p. 52). Most of the chapters which follow adopt an overtly feminist perspective in their analysis of such topics as puppet theatre, vanguard art, the ideological battlegrounds of reproduction and maternity and lesbian sexuality.

The authors do well to note some of the problems to which their own analysis gives rise. The very framework of their debates may be meaningless to many potential Russian readers. Diana Burgin, for example, points out that 'whatever contributions Lesbians have made to Russian feminism have either not been noted by historians or, more likely, are impossible to determine because Russian cultural norms and community standards strongly discouraged and continue to discourage any politics of the personal' (p. 178). In a more general analysis of personal politics, Helena Goscilo explores Tolstaya's rejection of the feminist label despite the fact that she offers 'a classic feminist critique of repressive patriarchal practices' and Goscilo proceeds to note that 'the stumbling block is less feminist theory or praxis per se than the label "feminist". Discredited by class associations in earlier phases of Soviet history and still rendered suspect by disillusionment with any comprehensive political agenda, the term "feminism" as entertained by Russians is culturally overmarked and consequently stigmatized' (p. 219).

The chapters are all very well documented and offer ample scope for further reading and research. Most of the contributors to this volume have also published extensively elsewhere and their chapters here, therefore, provide a useful introduction to some of the more extensive and related readings on the selected topics. This is probably not a book to be read directly from cover to cover and readers would be best advised to be selective in their choice of essays. It would also be an advantage to be prepared in advance in the theoretical and analytical writings which inform the ongoing debates in many of the chapters as these are not given a full explication in the text. ... Read more

17. Russian Culture in Uzbekistan (One Language in the middle of Nowhere)
by David Macfadyen
Hardcover: 208 Pages (2006-07-07)
list price: US$160.00 -- used & new: US$148.26
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Asin: 0415341345
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Recent political changes in Central Asia, where the United States is replacing Russia as the dominant power, are having a profound effect on Russian speakers in the region. These people, formerly perceived as progressive and engaging with Europe, are now confronted by the erasure of their literary, musical, cinematic and journalistic culture, as local ethnic and American cultures become much stronger. 

This book examines the predicament of Russian culture in Central Asia, looking at literature, language, cinema, music, and religion. It argues that the Soviet past was much more complex than the simplified, polarised rhetoric of the Cold War period and also that the present situation, in which politicians from the former Soviet regime often continue in power, is equally complex.

... Read more

18. Russian Culture At The Crossroads: Paradoxes Of Postcommunist Consciousness
Paperback: 352 Pages (1996-03-16)
list price: US$42.00 -- used & new: US$26.00
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Asin: 0813327148
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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The reexamination of values that began during the USSR's last years continues today in the search for a new Russian culture, one rooted in the pre-Soviet past but dynamic and evolving. ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Solid piece of work
This work, which a collbararive project from many renouned authors, is a technical work about the history, ecomonics, and culture of Russia during the peristrioka and the early 1990's. This book was used in my Russian Culture class, and I could not think of a better piece to illustrate the philoshy and psychology of the Russian population during this time.This is a must for anyone wishing to understand the political and cultural backdrop of present Russia. ... Read more

19. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture
Hardcover: 288 Pages (1993-02-15)
list price: US$100.00 -- used & new: US$80.00
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Asin: 0312060726
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Siberia has no history of independent political existence, no claim to a separate ethnic identity, and no clear borders. And yet, in some very important sense, the elusive country "behind the Urals" is the most real and the most durable part of the Russian landscape. For centuries, Siberia has been represented as Russia's alter ego, as the heavenly or infernal antithesis to the perceived complexity or shallowness of Russian life. It has been both the frightening heart of darkness and a fabulous land of plenty; the "House of the Dead" and the realm of utter freedom; a frozen wasteland and a colorful frontier; a dumping ground for Russia's rejects and the last refuge of its lost innocence. The contributors to Between Heaven and Hell examine the origin, nature, and implications of these images from historical, literary, geographical, anthropological, and linguistic perspectives. They create a fascinating picture of this enormous and mysterious land. ... Read more

20. Moscow and Petersburg: The City in Russian Culture
Paperback: 128 Pages (2002-08-10)

Isbn: 0946134685
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