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Terror and GreatnessIvan and Peter as Russian Myths$
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Kevin M. F. Platt

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801448133

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448133.001.0001

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(p.79) Chapter Three Filicide
Terror and Greatness

Kevin M. F. Platt

Cornell University Press

This chapter turns to middle and late nineteenth-century traditions in representations of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. It focuses on stories of intergenerational conflict and violence that served as allegories for contemporary politics and social life in this era, obsessed as it was with problems of “fathers and children.” It shows that late nineteenth-century Russians debated the achievements and costs of coerced modernization by contemplating the deaths of Ivan's son Ivan and Peter's son Aleksei at the hands of their respective fathers. Interestingly, while the death of the Tsarevich Aleksei was largely a topic of historical analysis by the leading historians of the day—including Mikhail Pogodin, Sergei Solovev, and Nikolai Kostomarov—Ivan's inadvertent killing of the Tsarevich Ivan (or of fictional children), was most prominently the subject of plays and operas—by Aleksei K. Tolstoi, Lev Mei, and Nikolai Rimskii-Korsakov, among others. The chapter concludes by investigating how the portrayals of these father-son confrontations in two historical paintings by Nikolai Ge and Ilia Repin offer not only an additional treatment of violence and power in Russian history but also a metahistorical reflection on the tension between the divergent approaches of historiography and cultural life to the Russian past.

Keywords:   Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, intergenerational conflict, coerced modernization, Nikolai Ge, Ilia Repin, Mikhail Pogodin, Sergei Solovev, Nikolai Kostomarov

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