This is a collection of essays on the semiotics of history, a product of the 30 years collaboration of the two co-authors. All the articles are devoted to the history of the Russian culture, treating it not as an isolated phenomenon, but as an integral part of the world culture. Semiotic analysis of various fonts allows to define both universal and pecular characteristics in the history of Rusian culture.
The emancipation of the nobility in 1762 was, arguably, the central event in the social and cultural history of the Russian imperial elite and, indeed, a watershed in the relationship between the elite and the state in Russia, marking official recognition by the monarchy of the nobles’ autonomous subjecthood. The road toward this recognition, it is argued here, was paved with a thorough reconceptualization of human nature in Russian governance practices in the first half of the eighteenth century, and reconstructing the trajectory of this reconceptualization is the goal in this chapter. Indeed, attempts to understand human nature were central for political thinking of the age, from Locke, Puffendorf, and Montesquieu to Smith and the Founding Fathers of the United States. Scholars of government and practicing politicians in the West debated the limitations and opportunities inherent in human nature for organizing better governance of their societies. So, I argue, did their counterparts in Russia. Whereas in Petrine administrative thinking and legislation nobles appear as subjects swayed by their pernicious passions and thus requiring to be restrained, in subsequent decades the members of the elite were increasingly viewed in a more positive light: as entitled, by their praiseworthy ambitions and love of honor, to make decisions regarding their own lives and the public good in general.
The book includes different documents on the history of Novgorod in the age of Peter the Great taken from the Historical Archive of Saint-Petersburg Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
This article is devoted to the evaluation of the first Russian Emperor, Peter I. According to the author, Russia became a European power thanks largely to his efforts. But, at the same time, we cannot reject other points of view about Peter I. Therefore, the author appears both as a "Westerner" who justifies and defends Peter and as a conservative patriot who condemns Peter and his politics. Both views have their place because they reflect the complex and ambiguous role of Peter the Great in Russian history.
The europeanization of Russia under Peter I had a conspicuously carnival form. Characteristically, the reforms of Peter I, which were intended to turn Russia into a European country, in many cases began with carnival sport. Carnavalization, re-naming—all this manifested a general cultural program, which reveals the artificial character of the modernization of Russia. Russian official life turned out to be extremely carnivalesque. Carnival became an element of Russian court life; participation in carnivals was obligatory. Together with new clothing, new language and new habits, new aristoricratic titles were adopted, such as count or baron. In the context of carnival ceremonies such titles had an ambiguous character. The author attempts to demonstrate that the title of count could be understood as buffonesque in the Petrine epoch.