Friday, August 17, 2012

Russian resonances

In reading (sadly, the late) Lindsay Hughes's biography of the Tsarevna Sophia Alexeyevna, the regent of Russia from 1682 to 1609, I am struck by how many names of political figures in this era turn up as named of Russian writers in the nineteenth century--in two chapters I have already encountered Tolstoi, Griboyedov, Saltykov. In all cases, I assume these are actual families of the writers; one also encounters a name like Medvedev that occurs in later history but, after all, it cannot be uncommon in Russia to be named after a bear. One would not see this in England: names such as, to do a rough comparison, Dickens, Shelley, and Meredith do not occur in political accounts of the Restoration period (and yes I deliberately threw in the aristocratic Shelley to make the comparison reasonable). This tells us, I guess, what we already knew, that Russia was a far more hierarchical, class-stratified society than England, but in a way it also tells us that there was more crossover between the political and literary spheres which may explain a lot about Russia.

As long as we are discussing things Russian, my mother is going to be part of a group art exhibition in Moscow later this year. Details to come.

Finally---is the Pussy Riot verdict the new Khovanshchina?