Tsar and God: Semiotic Aspects of the Sacralization of the Monarch in Russia
The present study simultaneously belongs to literary studies and to social history, including the history of culture and of political ideas. Indeed it concerns attitudes about the tsar in Russia during various periods of Russian history, and the linguistic - and more generally speaking, semiotic - means in which these attitudes were manifested. Obviously, this is connected to the history of political views. It is demonstrated how differing attitides toward the tsar correlate with various stages of Russian political and cultural history; how diverse aspects of Russian cultural life converged around this question; and how in different periods the very same texts could be interpreted as having very different content, relating to the interests of the particular time.
The political preconditions for the sacralization of the monarch in Russia were twofold. On the one hand, this was the transference onto the tsar of Moscow the functions of the Byzantine basileius, that could be realized both in the conception of Moscow as the Third Rome, which was contrasted to Byzantium, and in the later Byzantanization of the Russian state and ecclesiastical life (beginning in the reign of Aleksei Mikhailovich). On the other hand, this was the tsar’s assimilation of the functions of head of the church (beginning with the reign of Peter I). The very combination of these two essentially contradictory tendencies only became possible in the conditions of Baroque culture, insofar as texts that were authoritative for cultural consciousness could be reconceptualized in any direction within a Baroque framework.