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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.208) Chapter Six Repetition
Terror and Greatness

Kevin M. F. Platt

Cornell University Press

This chapter analyzes representations of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great in the cultural life of the 1930s and 1940s. It turns first to the case of Aleksei N. Tolstoi and his many works on Peter the Great. This body of work exemplifies the extent to which even of some of the most orthodox contributions to Stalinist historical mythmaking depended on sensitivity to the ironic undertow of history's own history of use and reuse. It then examines Sergei Eisenstein's second film in his uncompleted trilogy of works on Ivan the Terrible. It reads this film not as an exercise in “Aesopean” critique via historical allegory, as it is most commonly seen, but rather as a stunning achievement in metahistorical analysis. It argues that Eisenstein's film should ultimately be seen not as a willful “send up” of Stalin in the guise of Ivan but as a higher order of subversion—a meditation on and critique of Stalinist historical practices as such.

Keywords:   Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Russian cultural life, Aleksei N. Tolstoi, Sergei Eisenstein, Stalinist revisionist historiography, Russian history

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