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Haunted EmpireGothic and the Russian Imperial Uncanny$
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Valeria Sobol

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501750571

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501750571.001.0001

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In Search of the Russian Middle Ages

In Search of the Russian Middle Ages

The Livonian Tales of the 1820s

Chapter:
(p.36) Chapter 2 In Search of the Russian Middle Ages
Source:
Haunted Empire
Author(s):

Valeria Sobol

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501750571.003.0003

This chapter analyzes the Livonian tales of the 1820s penned by future Decembrists and set in medieval times in what would later become the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire. This setting provided the Russian Romantics of a liberal political leaning with “access” to the European Middle Ages. It also allowed them to explore the bloody legacy of feudalism, which they were intent on fighting at home. Despite their subtle critique of contemporary Russia in these tales, the Decembrists' imperial imagination fully justifies the Russian expansion in the region by contrasting the Baltics' “dark” and “savage” medieval past to their benign present in the Russian Empire, by emphasizing historical ties between the then German-dominated Livonia and its East Slavic neighbors, and, in some cases, by reclaiming the Baltics as an originally “Russian” domain.

Keywords:   Livonian tales, Decembrists, medieval times, Baltic, Russian Empire, Russian Romantics, liberal politics, European Middles Ages, feudalism, East Slavic

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