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This Meager Nature: Landscape and National Identity in Imperial Russia [Hardcover]

Christopher Ely

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Book Description

19 Sep 2002
* Boundless Russia, humble and strong - such visions of the "motherland" became crucial markers of Russian national identity. This Meager Nature is the first full-length study to trace the construction of Russia's cultural landscape, showing how nineteenth-century representations of nature reflected and shaped Russians' ideas about themselves and their nation. Important as the appreciation of landscape would become, in the early 1800s Russians commonly accepted the European judgment that their land lacked aesthetic value. That view changed dramatically with the outpouring of literary and artistic creativity that accompanied the century's political upheavals. Discovering a new landscape aesthetic in the writings and paintings of the day, Russians embraced their land's modest beauty, which had come to represent strength, authenticity, and hidden grandeur. The historical creation of Russia's sense of place resulted not so much from its citizens' encounters with their environment, Ely argues, as from their long-term struggle to distinguish Russia from Europe. The appeal of the modest beauty of the Russian land served to assert the genuineness of Russia against the inauthenticity of western Europe. For those who embraced it, the "meager" beauty of the Russian landscape provided a powerful means for experiencing and expressing Russian identity. Interdisciplinary in scope and enriched with illustrations of Russian landscape painting, This Meager Nature will appeal to all who are interested in landscape history and in Russian art and culture.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press (19 Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875803032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875803036
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,771,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Elegant, fine writing.... A significant contribution to Imperial Russian history." - Cathy Frierson, author of Peasant Icons

About the Author

CHRISTOPHER ELY is Assistant Professor of History at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Special Sense of Place 14 Oct 2002
By Joan Goody - Published on Amazon.com
Ely's elegant prose drew this reader, who knows little of Russia, into a new landscape and illuminated the ways it was seen (and not seen) by its nineteenth century inhabitants. Although I was familiar with references to the Russian landscape in literature, I knew nothing of the Russian landscape painters of the nineteenth century. Ely introduces this fascinating subject and guides one through the work of such painters as Shishkin and Vasil'ev (with fine illustrations) to an appreciation of the way they saw and painted their native land. He then links this to a developing sense of national identity in the Russia of this period.
I was particularly interested in what this suggests about the role of a nation's landscape in its national myth, in the role it plays as a source of common pride in one's country and the ways we choose to portray specific features of our landscape to ourselves.
A good read from start to finish.
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