30 July 2009

Oriental Trends in the Fall '09 Fashion Season

AKA: How Russians Dress in My Wildest Fantasies.

Design: Karl Lagerfeld
Model: Hanna Rundlof
Ivan IV chic.
Design: Christian Dior
Model: Anja Rubik
Design: Christian Dior
Model: Sigrid Agren
Design: Christian Dior
Model: Heidi Mount

Design: Christian Dior
Model: Erin Heatherton
It's 1920s Moscow -WWI +economic prosperity!

Some comparisons:
Ivan IV & Vasilia Melentyevna
Ivan IV & Beloved Son
Ivan IV at his son's deathbed

21 July 2009

Review of Laurie Manchester's /Holy Fathers, Secular Sons: Clergy, Intelligentsia, and the Modern Self in Revolutionary Russia/ by Christopher Read

From the American Historical Review, Vol 114, No 3 (June 2009).

"At the heart of Manchester's book is an analysis of the small--maybe one percent of the population (p.12)--group of sons of priests (popovichi). Traditionally, scholars have dismissed them as raznochintsy (people of miscellaneous ranks). Instead, Manchester presents them as a relatively clearly defined class with its own ethos and with an influence extending well beyond the church and well beyond its numerical strength."
I've always thought of Raskolnikov as a pretty stereotypical raznochinets.
"In particular, she illustrates many places, including the early Bolshevik Party, where popovichi exerted an influence, despite their small numbers. ... Among such fascinating insights, Manchester notes the way the popovichi identified themselves against the earlier, noble-descended intelligentsia, and how the attempt by Dmitrii Tolstoi to corral popovichi within the clerical estate by refusing to recognize their qualifications as valid for university entrance in fact ensured the values of the seminary would spread to society."
Add this to the long, long list of reasons there's never been a strong libertarian movement in Russia: an influential portion of its intelligentsia were the sons of priests (Catholic liberal embrace of the welfare state, anyone?).
"There are also tantalizing glimpses of unusual attitudes among the popovichi toward sexuality. Aleksei Dmitrievskii failed to consummate his marriage because 'romantic passion' was satisfied by his work. 'Scholarship is the most charming of the women in the world...its embrace...takes care of all the afflictions and misfortunes of life,' he wrote. Note surprisingly, his wife did not agree and left him (p. 185)."
Guess who was the son of a priest? Nikolai Chernyshevsky, socialist-marxist-utilitarian extraordinaire, and author of What is to be done? (so good that Lenin stole the title!). There are some great footnotes in this edition that delve into Chernyshevsky's theories about romantic life; if you've somehow dragged yourself through the beast of a 'novel' you'll understand just as well. Manchester based her book on "a study of 207 identifiable popovichi." It's terrifying how accurate a portrait such a study painted.
"...in Manchester's words, 'popovichi did not repudiate the clerical traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church,' but 'they managed paradoxically to see themselves as leaving the clergy in order to preserve clerical traditions and impose them on secular society.' This, she argues, is 'the very opposite of traditional secularization theory and dechristianization' (p.155)."

Painting: Philosophers - Mikhail Nesterov

13 July 2009

Prague Tales - Jan Neruda

Picked up a copy of this at the DC Public Library for $2 a few weeks ago- more than worth it. All excerpts were published between 1867 and 1876.
"'But why didn't he write out his whole name? What's his first name, Viktor, Volfgang?'
'Well, it's Václav, but he doesn't like it. He says that every time he sees a church procession he wants to get re-baptized.'"
Typical Czech-German pandering.
"'...I don't think I've ever seen a decent, moderately long sentence from any of you. ... It's also quite obvious that you don't even know German properly, and I'll tell you why: because you jabber away in Czech all day! Therefore, with the power invested in my office as Director, I hereby forbid the speaking of Czech in the office, and as your friend and your superior I suggest that you speak only German outside the office as well.'"
Wait, they have the "notes of a neurotic 19th century bureaucrat" genre outside Russia, too?
"Conversations in Czech ceased. Only two very close friends would utter a word in Czech out in the corridor or in the archives. They almost seemed like surreptitious snuff-takers. I keep speaking Czech--and loudly at that. Everyone avoids me."
Tobacco stigma in 1860s Mala Strana? Jeez.
"It is a well-known historical fact that gods arise directly from their people. Jehovah was a gloomy, cruel, angry, vengeful, and bloodthirsty god, just like the entire Jewish nation. The Hellenic gods were elegant and witty, beautiful and joyful, just like the Greeks themselves. The Slavic gods--I'm sorry, but we Slavs lack a vivid enough imagination to create either great states or well-defined gods. Despite the best efforts of folklorists such as Erben and Kostomarov, our erstwhile gods are only an obscure, rag-tag group of divinities with no clear, well-defined characteristics."
Kinda true, actually.
"Of course the priest from St. Nicholas' and his assistants were late, as was the custom at the funeral of any important person so that no one would say Mr. Velš was being hurried on his way."
That's what we call a win-win cultural development.