Catalogue


Natasha's dance : a cultural history of Russia /
Orlando Figes.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Metropolitan Books, 2002.
description
xxxiii, 728 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), facsims., maps, ports. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0805057838
format(s)
Book
Subjects
geographic term
More Details
imprint
New York : Metropolitan Books, 2002.
isbn
0805057838
catalogue key
6959662
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 661-689) and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Mark Lynton History Prize, USA, 2003 : Nominated
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
From Natasha's Dance: "With the shift of political power to St. Petersburg, Moscow became the capital of the good life for the nobility. Its grandees gave themselves to sensual amusement. Count Rakhmanov, for example, spent his whole inheritance in eight years of gastronomy. He fed his poultry with truffles. He kept his crayfish in cream and parmesan instead of water. And he had his favorite fish, found only in the Sosna River a thousand miles away, delivered live to Moscow every day. Count Stroganov gave 'Roman dinners'his guests lay on couches and were served by naked boys. Caviar and herring cheeks were typical hors d'oeuvres. Next came salmon lips, bear paws, and roast lynx. Then they had cuckoos roasted in honey, halibut liver, and burbot roe; oysters, poultry, and fresh figs; salted peaches and pineapples. Afterward, they would go into the banya and drink, eating caviar to build up a real thirst . . . Petersburgers despised Moscow for its sinful idleness, yet no one could deny its Russian character."
First Chapter
From Natasha's Dance:

"With the shift of political power to St. Petersburg, Moscow became the capital of the good life for the nobility. Its grandees gave themselves to sensual amusement. Count Rakhmanov, for example, spent his whole inheritance in eight years of gastronomy. He fed his poultry with truffles. He kept his crayfish in cream and parmesan instead of water. And he had his favorite fish, found only in the Sosna River a thousand miles away, delivered live to Moscow every day. Count Stroganov gave 'Roman dinners'—his guests lay on couches and were served by naked boys. Caviar and herring cheeks were typical hors d'oeuvres. Next came salmon lips, bear paws, and roast lynx. Then they had cuckoos roasted in honey, halibut liver, and burbot roe; oysters, poultry, and fresh figs; salted peaches and pineapples. Afterward, they would go into the banya and drink, eating caviar to build up a real thirst . . . Petersburgers despised Moscow for its sinful idleness, yet no one could deny its Russian character."
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2002-07-29:
Even if one takes nothing else away from this elegant, tightly focused survey of Russian culture, it's impossible to forget the telling little anecdotes that University of London history professor Figes (A People's Tragedy) relates about Russia's artists, writers, musicians, intellectuals and courtiers as he traces the cultural movements of the last three centuries. He shares Ilya Repin's recollection of how peasants reacted to his friend Leo Tolstoy's fumbling attempts to join them in manual labor ("Never in my life have I seen a clearer expression of irony on a simple peasant's face"), as well as the three sentences Shostakovich shyly exchanged with his idol, Stravinsky, when the latter returned to the Soviet Union after 50 years of exile (" `What do you think of Puccini?' `I can't stand him,' Stravinsky replied. `Oh, and neither can I, neither can I' "). Full of resounding moments like these, Figes's book focuses on the ideas that have preoccupied Russian artists in the modern era: Just what is "Russianness," and does the quality come from its peasants or its nobility, from Europe or from Asia? He examines canonical works of art and literature as well as the lives of their creators: Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, Chagall, Stanislavsky, Eisenstein and many others. Figes also shows how the fine arts have been influenced by the Orthodox liturgy, peasant songs and crafts, and myriad social and economic factors from Russian noblemen's unusual attachments to their peasant nannies to the 19th-century growth of vodka production. The book's thematically organized chapters are devoted to subjects like the cultural influence of Moscow or the legacy of the Mongol invasion, and with each chapter Figes moves toward the 1917 revolution and the Soviet era, deftly integrating strands of political and social history into his narrative. This is a treat for Russophiles and a unique introduction to Russian history. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2002-10-01:
Figes (history, Univ. of London; A People's Tragedy) describes the twists and turns of Russian history through cultural and artistic events from the founding of Rus in the 12th century through the Soviet era. He uses Tolstoy's War and Peace as a centerpiece of art imitating life. The title of Figes's book comes from the scene in which Natasha Rostov and her brother Nikolai are invited by their "uncle" to a rustic cabin to listen to him play Russian folk music on his guitar. Natasha instinctively begins a folk dance that is prompted by "unknown feelings in her heart." Tolstoy would have us believe that "Russia may be held together by unseen threads of native sensibilities," writes Figes. Nowhere is the clash between the European culture of the upper class and the Russian culture of the peasantry more evident. "The complex interactions between these two worlds had a crucial influence on the national consciousness and on all the arts of the 19th century." This interaction is a major feature of this book, which traces the formation of a culture. The writing style is distinctly nonacademic, making for a very enjoyable read. Recommended for academic and public libraries. Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, June 2002
Kirkus Reviews, July 2002
Publishers Weekly, July 2002
Booklist, September 2002
Library Journal, October 2002
Los Angeles Times, October 2002
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Renowned historian Figes summons the myriad elements that formed Russian culture and held it together. Beginning in the 18th century with the building of St. Petersburg and culminating with the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself. Illustrations.
Main Description
History on a grand scale-an enchanting masterpiece that explores the making of one of the world's most vibrant civilizations A People's Tragedy, wrote Eric Hobsbawm, did "more to help us understand the Russian Revolution than any other book I know." Now, in Natasha's Dance, internationally renowned historian Orlando Figes does the same for Russian culture, summoning the myriad elements that formed a nation and held it together. Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg-a "window on the West"-and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself-its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. He skillfully interweaves the great works-by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall-with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, from food and drink to bathing habits to beliefs about the spirit world. Figes's characters range high and low: the revered Tolstoy, who left his deathbed to search for the Kingdom of God, as well as the serf girl Praskovya, who became Russian opera's first superstar and shocked society by becoming her owner's wife. Like the European-schooled countess Natasha performing an impromptu folk dance in Tolstoy's War and Peace, the spirit of "Russianness" is revealed by Figes as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory-a powerful force that unified a vast country and proved more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.
Main Description
History on a grand scale-an enchanting masterpiece that explores the making of one of the world's most vibrant civilizations A People's Tragedy, wrote Eric Hobsbawm, did "more to help us understand the Russian Revolution than any other book I know." Now, in Natasha's Dance, internationally renowned historian Orlando Figes does the same for Russian culture, summoning the myriad elements that formed a nation and held it together. Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg-a "window on the West"-and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself-its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. He skillfully interweaves the great works-by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall-with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, from foodand drink to bathing habits to beliefs about the spirit world. Figes's characters range high and low: the revered Tolstoy, who left his deathbed to search for the Kingdom of God, as well as the serf girl Praskovya, who became Russian opera's first superstar and shocked society by becoming her owner's wife. Like the European-schooled countess Natasha performing an impromptu folk dance in Tolstoy's War and Peace, the spirit of "Russianness" is revealed by Figes as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory-a powerful force that unified a vast country and proved more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.
Main Description
History on a grand scale-an enchanting masterpiece that explores the making of one of the world's most vibrant civilizations A People's Tragedy, wrote Eric Hobsbawm, did "more to help us understand the Russian Revolution than any other book I know." Now, inNatasha's Dance, internationally renowned historian Orlando Figes does the same for Russian culture, summoning the myriad elements that formed a nation and held it together. Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg-a "window on the West"-and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself-its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. He skillfully interweaves the great works-by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall-with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, from food and drink to bathing habits to beliefs about the spirit world. Figes's characters range high and low: the revered Tolstoy, who left his deathbed to search for the Kingdom of God, as well as the serf girl Praskovya, who became Russian opera's first superstar and shocked society by becoming her owner's wife. Like the European-schooled countess Natasha performing an impromptu folk dance in Tolstoy'sWar and Peace, the spirit of "Russianness" is revealed by Figes as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory-a powerful force that unified a vast country and proved more lasting than any Russian ruler or state. Orlando Figesis the author ofPeasant Russia, Civil War,andA People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924,which received the Wolfson Prize for History and theLos Angeles TimesBook Prize, among other distinctions. A regular contributor toThe New York Times, The Washington Post,The Times Literary Supplement, andTheLondon Review of Books, Figes is professor of history at Birbeck College, University of London. He lives in Cambridge, England, with his wife and two daughters. ANew York TimesNotable Book Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize Orlando Figes'sA People's Tragedy, Eric Hobsbawm wrote, did "more to help us understand the Russian Revolution than any other book I know." Now, inNatasha's Dance, he does the same for Russian culture, summoning the myriad elements that formed a nation and held it together. Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburga "window on the West"and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself: its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. What did it mean to be Russianan illiterate serf or an imperial courtier? Figes interweaves the great works, by Dostoevsky and Chekhov, Stravinsky and Chagall, with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, from food and drink to bathing habits to beliefs about the spirit world. His characters range high and low: Tolstoy, who left his deathbed to search for the Kingdom of God; the serf girl Praskovya, who became the Russian opera's first superstar and shocked society by becoming her owner's wife; Stravinsky, who returned to Russia after fifty years in the West and discovered that the homeland he had left had never left his heart. Like the European-schooled countess Natasha performing an impromptu folk dance inWar and Peace, the spirit of "Russianess" is revealed by Figes as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictorya powerful force that unified a vast, riven country and proved more lasting than any Russian ruler or state. "Absolutely brimming with ideas, full of unforgettable stories
Main Description
Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg-a 'window on the west'-and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet Regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself-its character, spiritual essence, history, and destiny. What did it mean to be Russian-an illiterte serf or an imperial courtier? And where was the true Russia-in Europe or in Asia? Figes skillfully interweaves the great works-by Dostoevsky and Chekhov, Stravinsky and Chagall-with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, from eating, drinking, and bathing habits to beliefs about death and the spirit world. His fascinating characters range high and low: the revered Tolstoy, who left his deathbed to search the wilderness for the Kingdom of God; the serf girl Praskovya, who became Russian opera's first superstar, won the heart of her owner, and shocked society by becoming his wife; the composer Stravinsky, who returned to Russia after fifty years in the West and discovered that the homeland he had left had never left his heart. Like the European-schooled countess Natasha performing an impromptu folk dance in Tolstoy's War and Peace, the spirit of 'Russianness' is revealed by Figes as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory-a powerful force that unified a vast and riven country and proved more lasting than any Russian ruler or state
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations and Photographic Acknowledgements
Notes on the Maps and Text
Maps
Introduction
European Russiap. 1
Children of 1812p. 69
Moscow! Moscow!p. 114
The Peasant Marriagep. 217
In Search of the Russian Soulp. 289
Descendants of Genghiz Khanp. 355
Russia Through the Soviet Lensp. 431
Russia Abroadp. 523
Notesp. 587
Glossaryp. 643
Table of Chronologyp. 646
Acknowledgementsp. 657
A Guide to Further Readingp. 661
Indexp. 691
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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