Jolly Drunkards on the Banks of the Neva: Duke De Liria and an Early Episode in the History of Fraternal Societies in Russia
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 uses the materials of the Drezdensha affair, a large-scale investigation of “indecency” in St. Petersburg in 1750, to explore unofficial sociability among the Imperial elite, and to map out the institutional, social, and economic dimensions of the post-Petrine “sexual underworld.” Sociability and, ultimately, the public sphere in eighteenth century Russia are usually associated with loftier practices, with joining the ranks of the reading public, reflecting on the public good, and generally, becoming more civil and polite. Yet, it is the privately-run, commercially-oriented, and sexually-charged “parties” at the focus of this article that arguably served as a “training ground” for developing the habits of sociability. The world of these “parties” provide a missing link between the debauchery and carousing of Peter I’s era and the more polite formats of associational life in the late eighteenth century, as well as the historical context for reflections on morality, sexual licentiousness, foppery, and the excesses of “westernization.”
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.