The Icon in the Life and History of the Russian People (Russia!)

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Hosking also offers a decent account of the policies pursued by Stolypin, but plays down the repressive elements in post policies. I was also surprised that Hosking did not take the opportunity to explore the cultural meanings of different Russian cities there is a brief discussion of the construction of St. Petersburg, but no sustained reflection on the comparative meanings that Moscow and St.

Petersburg assumed , the attempts to russify other cities e. Warsaw and the construction in both a physical and cultural sense of newer Siberian towns.

Modernism and the Spiritual in Russian Art

Surprisingly little attention is given to foreign policy and the idea of Russia's abortive "mission" in the Far East, which would have strengthened the argument about the meaning of "Russia". Hosking maintains that the imperial regime never overcame the profound rift between rulers and ruled.

Russia failed the test of war in nation-states, not empires, win modern wars pp. It is worth pointing out, however, that nation-states did not "go it alone" in ; Britain relied upon the mobilization of its empire, as Avner Offer has shown The First World War: An Agrarian Interpretation, , and what counted in wartime was economic and military cooperation between nation-states.

The Animated History of Russia - Part 1

In the end, peasant conscripts did begin to articulate a kind of national consciousness in wartime Hosking, pp. There is much more that needs to be said on this score.

Hosking shows that workers and peasants were impatient to settle old scores with the propertied elite, as well as aiming to secure material benefits; this generated institutional collapse and bitter social conflict. Like Moshe Lewin, Hosking argues that the peasantry was the class that survived best the upheaval of revolution and civil war. I wondered how fair it was to describe the participants in the soviets such as Kronstadt as loyal to "the age-old vision of an egalitarian democracy" p.

And the suggestion that suppression of the Kronstadt revolt ushered in something called totalitarianism should not go unchallenged. Some concluding observations are prompted by Hosking's enterprise. Following Anthony Smith, National Identity, , we know that even "western" nations were to some extent designed, the outcome of deliberate attempts to pattern a new nation state.

But what economic and social basis allowed these projects to succeed? England and France boasted relatively advanced economies, with a reasonably high degree of urbanization and literacy. It took a lengthy communications revolution schooling plus railways to effect a transformation in national identity. A more dynamic Russian economy - with corresponding changes in population migration, urbanization and division of labour - might have had a much more positive outcome in terms of national consciousness.

It is not clear from Hosking's account that imperial expansion and administration hampered Russian economic growth; in any case, he does not pursue this line of enquiry.

The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture

Put another way, the Russian state did not crush the peasantry, and this failure confirmed the peasantry as the bearers of a communal tradition. Hosking himself sees this as one version of "Russia", so in that sense a kind of national identity survived decades of economic, social and political change.

Peasants defied the imperial state; they "peasantized" the army and the town, and they preserved customary law. What matters for Hosking is that they did not constitute themselves a nation state. But this was a protracted process throughout much of Europe. For many states the process was barely complete by - one thinks of Italy and the powerful countervailing forces at work to dent the national project; or of France, where peasants "became Frenchmen" later in the century.