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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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Toward a Cultural Historiography of Russia

Toward a Cultural Historiography of Russia

(p.1) Introduction: Toward a Cultural Historiography of Russia
Terror and Greatness

Kevin M. F. Platt

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, namely to explore representations of Ivan the Terrible (1530–84) and Peter the Great 1672–1725). The book asks: Why did Imperial Russian and then Soviet political culture adopt despotic rulers, responsible for extraordinary violence, as heroic figures and avatars of social identity? What has been the consequence of this fixation on traumatic periods of history as scenes of collective becoming? What does it mean to live the present as a reiteration of the deep past? How may we understand the strange interrelationship of the historical myths of these two figures, and the corresponding intertwining of stories of heroic redemption and traumatic suffering, of greatness and terror, in the Russian historical mind? It is hoped that by tracing over the long term the representations of these specific figures, we can see the currents that carry visions of the past from one re-vision to the next and that contribute to the development over time of historical discourse. The remainder of the chapter describes the materials and methods used in the present study followed by an overview of the subsequent chapters.

Keywords:   Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Russian history, Russian rulers, Russia, despots

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