LA REVUE RUSSE N° 37
L’AUTOCONSTRUCTION DE L’IMAGE DE LA RUSSIE ET DE LA FRANCE AU FIL DU TEMPS
RÉSUMÉS EN ANGLAIS (ABSTRACTS)
The Decembrist Affair : The First Political Trial and Russia’s Self Image (p.11)
As a contribution to this symposium devoted to Russia’s own imagery of itself through the centuries, this article analyzes the trial of the Decembrists, convicted of rebelling against the Tsar’s authority in December 1825 and January 1826. Contrary to a widely held belief that theirs was a show trial, our research suggests that this event—the first political trial in Russia—needs to be reassessed. This is all the more desirable as the trial created the opportunity to produce a favourable image of autocratic Russia.
This article devotes special attention to the six-month-long inquiry and the specific arrangements of the court trying the Decembrists. The latter will be examined within the context of judicial practices at the same time in European countries. This will confirm that the trial of the Decembrists appears to correspond to the contemporaneous European norms of justice. Nicholas I presumably aimed to prove to European allies that Russia too was part of Europe. This trial though compelled the Russian Emperor to give up exercising autocratic justice and take into account both European and Russian public opinion. The political trial came to reﬂect the need for a positive image of autocratic Empire for Europe as well as for Russia itself.
The French Legitimists in the Service of Russia : From Dismal Images of the July Monarchy, to the Panegyric of Autocratic Russia (p. 21)
The French legitimists who remained loyal to the elder branch of the House of Bourbon —overthrown in 1830—became « the internal émigrés » (in the words of Delphine de Girardin) within their own country. They refused to collaborate with the new Establishment and they were seeking their political ideals outside France. As opposed to France’s constitutional monarchy, they idealised Russia’s absolutist monarchy for its order and political harmony. The worse they considered matters in France under Louis-Philippe, the more they cherished the situation in Russia under Nicholas I. While some legitimists limited themselves to praising the patriarchal Russian state in theoretical terms, others opted to put their enthusiasm to the test and joined Russia’s military or civil service. They found the practices of autocratic monarchy in reality, however, less desirable than they had envisaged these earlier in their dreams. This article will assess some of the experiences of French legitimists in Tsarist Russia.
The creation of heroes in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930’s (p. 33)
This article will focus on the “external ingredients” that informed the creation of Soviet heroes in the 1920s and 30s. This will challenge the tendency to see these individuals comprised of a single, Russian-made, feature. Our study will concern the case of Pavlik Morozov – the “pioneer number one”. Among the external components within the make-up of this figure we shall consider the impact of Nietzsche whose presence is thanks to the mediation of Maxim Gorki. Gorki was one of the founders of the pioneer organisation within which the worship of the young Pavlik was based. We shall then have a look at the TYPE of the classical hero before moving on to the “children martyrs” of the French Revolution. This will paradoxically take us to assessing the impact of the Scout Movement on Soviet pioneers, at least at the beginning of the 1920s. Depending on who and when assesses them throughout various historical periods, heroes attract or repel. Their conduct and the values they embody signify the very cultural markers to whose creation they contributed.
The Release of the Transcripts of the Moscow Trials in France :
An Example of “Stalinist glasnost” ? (p.43)
In the thirties, the Soviet authorities released in Europe the transcripts of court proceedings taken in the course of four prominent trials : the trial of the Industrial Party in 1931, the trial of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre in 1936, the trial of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyite Centre in 1937 and the trial of the Anti-Soviet “Bloc of Right-wingers and Trotskyites” in 1938. Instruments of propaganda and counter-propaganda, these documents were intended by the leadership of the Central Committee of the CPSU to generate an image of their regime in Europe that would serve their interests. The recent declassification of some archival materials has facilitated the analysis of this image that the Soviet authorities designed for Western consumption on the eve of the Second World War.
Nikita Mikhalkov’s Perestroika (1986-1991) :
Chekhov, Gypsies and Mongols or Building an image of Russia for the West (p.53)
The famous Russian ﬁlmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov has been constructing different images of Russia, depending on the year of production and the nature of the implied audience. He made a definite turn during the years of perestroika : in Dark Eyes in 1986 he freely adapted several short stories by Chekhov and he shot his film Urga (Close to Eden) in 1991 mainly in China. Whereas up to this time he had addressed essentially Soviet audiences, he made these two pictures mainly for Western viewer who “fell in love” both with film and director. The two films in Russia, however, elicited highly unfavourable criticism. The articles that were published in the Russian press help to understand the gap between, on the one hand, the perceptions that Russian intellectuals have of their country and its culture, and, on the other hand, the images that the director has produced for the West.
Televised Adaptations of Soviet Novels : An Attempt to Revise History ? (p.65)
Some famous novels treating the first half of the twentieth century such as Doctor Zhivago, The Master and Margarita, The Moscow Saga or The First Circle have been recently adapted for television. This article will analyse differences regarding the image of the USSR between the adaptations and the original texts. Firstly, we shall consider some flagrant modifications in the plot that mock or, on the contrary, improve the image of certain social groups. Secondly, we shall note the episodes omitted in adaptations : some embarrassing issues of Soviet history described in the novels seem to be systematically “forgotten” in the televised versions. Lastly, we shall see how even literary protagonists can be subjected to important modifications that elicit radically different interpretations of Soviet history. The images of the country conveyed in the adaptations differ markedly from those in the novels : everything becomes simple and flat. Moreover, contrary to the novels, their televised versions leave no room for ambiguity and, thus, regrettably, they invite no participation in making sense on the part of the viewers.
The Russian media for foreign people : new ambitions (p.75)
“I stopped being ashamed of the word propaganda”, the Russian Minister of media Mr. Lessin said in 2001. “We must promote of Russia internationally. Otherwise, we look like a bear”. In the years to follow, he took part in the setting up of the channel Russia Today, which, since, has developed substantially. The managers of the channel see it as their mission to “release the Russian perspective on world events” and to “show Russia from a different viewpoint than is customary abroad.” It is central for our analysis to consider questions as follows : How does Russia Today manage to complete this task while increasing its audience ? What devices are there at their disposal to get across to foreign viewers ? We shall also focus on the development of other types of media, which, following the example of RT, hope to make themselves influential abroad.
Russia and Europe : The Construction of Imagery within the Discourse of the Russian Media (p.87)
The aim of this article is to analyze the image of modern Russia as it emerges through its relations with Europe. The media in Russia relies on two different representations of Europe – one favourable and the other pejorative.
Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov’s The fall of An Empire, The Byzantine Lesson : Cinematic Imagery of Byzantium and Contemporary Russia (p.99)
In his 2008 documentary ﬁlm, The Fall of An Empire—The Byzantine Lesson, archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov provides a retrospective interpretation of Byzantine history from the vantage point of contemporary Russia. Drawing upon Byzantine history, he proposes an ideological and political programme for Russia today. Each nuance of propaganda used throughout the Putin years is present : the need to navigate along a special path between Orient and Occident, intimations about lines of hierarchy within the structure of power, the ﬁght against the oligarchs and so on. Produced by a monk believed to be close to Putin, the film provoked intense debate in Russia. A brilliant example of reconstructive national mythopoeia which furnishes Russia with a flattering self-image, the film proposes speciﬁc policies. The Orthodox Church is given an active role to play within this reconstruction.
“Presidential Commission of the Russian Federation for Countering Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interests” : “white elephant” or Censorship (p.113)
On 15 May 2009, President Medvedev issued decree number 459 creating “The Presidential Commission of the Russian Federation for Countering Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interests”. As the French state had done a few years earlier, the Russian state expressed its wish to write its definitive national history to serve as the point of reference in terms of accuracy both at home and abroad. In Russia itself, public opinion immediately cried out against such an unconstitutional initiative ; it was considered as an attempt to establish a new dogma. This seemed all the more to be the case as the senior civil servants making up the bulk of the Commission lacked appropriate training in historical scholarship.
In its own way, Russia joined the debate on national history initiated in France in July 1990 when the first so-called “memory law”, or Gayssot law, was passed. The debate ended in July 2009, when the President of the National Assembly gave a speech inviting the State to forego further attempts to write scholarly history, highlighting the tension between a national history or narrative on the one hand, and a scholarly history on the other.
Both the French and the Russian states have in their own way claimed their right to write national history and also to control others attempting to do so. They have also tried to interfere in the writing of scholarly history. Faced with the outcry triggered by their initiatives, both states have had to retreat. The French state tiptoed back and left all existing memory laws in place. The Russian state in the end decided against decreeing a memory law similar to the Gayssot law and, instead, set up the aforementioned Commission. The latter subsequently toned down attempts to monitor the writing of historical manuals. Nevertheless, Russia has not altogether ceased to keep an eye on the production of scholarly history. This is evident in the bizarre “Suprun” affair : recently a historian in Arkhangelsk was being interrogated by an (hopefully overzealous) FSB officer. Suffice it to say that both France and Russia have maintained an ambiguous position about the matter of national historiography.
Drawing on quotations from philosophers, pamphleteers and nineteenth and twentieth century historians with an interest in this issue, this article aims to analyse some specific, recent, examples in France and Russia. We shall ultimately assess contradictions with regard to the issues of legitimacy and “hostility” as universal problems that emerge in the production of national narratives and historical scholarship.
French-Russian and Russian-French Thematic Dictionaries.
Reflections About a Lexicographic genre (p. 131)
This article aims to present and critically analyse a range of bilingual thematic dictionaries with a combination of French and Russian and, in one noteworthy case, English and Russian. To introduce my argument, I shall briefly outline some theoretical considerations for the production of this type of dictionary. Then I shall apply an analytical grid, comprised of such criteria as the intended readership and its target language, layout and principles of organisation, to a large selection of dictionaries. Even though this article falls short of being a critical review, I will nevertheless highlight the main strengths and weaknesses of the selected dictionaries.
Invitation to a rediscovery : the catalog of a collection of works of art, edited in 1904 in St. Petersburg, and connected with the Russian presence on the Côte d’Azur in the nineteenth century (p. 143)
Virtually unknown but very interesting, the collection Von Derwies was dispersed before the Russian Revolution and was part of the decor including original Valrose castle, now seat of the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.