The Russian Imperial Court and Victory Celebrations during the Early Napoleonic Wars

  • Paul Keenan
Chapter
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series

Abstract

‘There is no place duller but more magnificent than the court of the Russian Emperor.’ While the precise source of this well-known quotation from the early nineteenth century remains vague, it encapsulates an established perception of the Russian court of this period, and subsequently, as glittering but uninteresting. This perception may help to explain the relative paucity of serious academic studies on the court in general, despite the central role of the ruler and the elite in the pre-modern state apparatus. Yet, despite this importance, it took until the late twentieth century for the royal court to become the focus of scholarly attention.1 In the Russian case, scholars of the late imperial period produced significant compilations and archival extracts on the rulers and their courts in the preceding century, but little meaningful analysis.2 However, on the basis of extensive work in Russian archives — now more accessible than ever before — modern scholars have a great deal of previously unused material and can examine the question of the Russian court’s evolution as an institution during its transitionary period in the eighteenth century. For example, Ol’ga Ageeva has produced two complementary monographs, dealing with the Russian court’s ‘Europeanization’ in its titles and regulations, often informed by courtly practices elsewhere, alongside an exhaustive examination of its administration, chief offices and financial affairs.3

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Notes

  1. 1.
    An excellent introduction is provided by John Adamson, ed., The Princely Courts of Europe: Ritual, Politics and Culture under the Ancien Régime, 1500–1750 (London, 1999), 7–41.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    One such work, Nikolai E. Volkov, Dvor russkikh imperatorov v ego proshlom i nas-toiashchem, v 4-kh chastiakh (St Petersburg, 1900), is a standard reference point for many modern studies. Similarly, major historical journals like Russkii arkhiv, Russkaia starina and Otechestvennaia istoriia frequently included documents and other notes on the court.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ol’ga G. Ageeva, Evropeizatsiia russkogo dvora, 1700–1796 gg. (Moscow, 2006);Google Scholar
  4. Ol’ga G. Ageeva, Imperatorskii dvor Rossii, 1700–1796 gody (Moscow, 2008).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See, for example, Paul Keenan, St Petersburg and the Russian Court, 1703–1761 (Basingstoke, 2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 5.
    Nikolai K. Shil’der, Imperator Aleksandr Pervyi, ego zhizn’ i tsarstvovanie (St Petersburg, 1897), 4 vols.;Google Scholar
  7. Modest I. Bogdanovich, Istoriia tsarstvovania Imperatora Aleksandra I i Rossii v ego vrem’ia (St Petersburg, 1869), 6 vols.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    See, for example, Allen McConnell, Tsar Alexander I: Paternalistic Reformer (Northbrook, IL, 1970);Google Scholar
  9. Janet M. Hartley, Alexander I (London and New York, 1994);Google Scholar
  10. Andrei N. Sakharov, Aleksandr I (Moscow, 1998).Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    Such individuals and institutions are explored in: Marc Raeff, Michael Speransky, Statesman of Imperial Russia, 1772–1839, 2nd edition (The Hague, 1969);Google Scholar
  12. Alexander M. Martin, Romantics, Reformers, Reactionaries: Russian Conservative Thought and Politics in the Reign of Alexander I (DeKalb, IL, 1997);Google Scholar
  13. Dominic Lieven, Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814 (London, 2009).Google Scholar
  14. 8.
    See, for example, Alan Palmer, Alexander I: Tsar of War and Peace (London, 1974);Google Scholar
  15. Marie-Pierre Rey, Alexander I: The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon (DeKalb, IL, 2012).Google Scholar
  16. 9.
    Richard S. Wortman, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy (Princeton, NJ, 1995), vol. 1, 193–243.Google Scholar
  17. 12.
    Hartley provides a useful overview on such cultural expressions of military success, albeit in a broader chronological period, in: Janet M. Hartley, Russia, 1762–1825: Military Power, the State, and the People (Westport, CN, 2008), 169–89.Google Scholar
  18. 13.
    For two such examinations in recent years, see Rey, Alexander I, 178–86 and Philip Dwyer, Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power (New Haven, CT, 2013), 246–51.Google Scholar
  19. 14.
    The best treatment of this aspect of the court calendar is Simon Dixon, ‘Religious Ritual at the Eighteenth-Century Russian Court’, in Michael Schiach, ed., Monarchy and Religion: The Transformation of Royal Culture in Eighteenth-Century Europe (Oxford, 2007), 217–48.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    For more detail on the eighteenth-century development of such aspects in official celebrations, see Stephen Baehr, ‘From History to National Myth: Translatio Imperii in Eighteenth-Century Russia’, Russian Review 37 (1978): 1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. and Dmitrii D. Zelov, Ofitsial’nye svetskie prazdniki kak iavlenie russkoi kul’tury kontsa XVII — pervoi poloviny XVIII veka (Moscow, 2002).Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    For detailed discussions of the battle of Austerlitz, see David Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (London, 1995), 381–441Google Scholar
  23. and Christopher Duffy, Austerlitz (London, 1977). The official Russian account, as included in official calendars, unsurprisingly praises the tsar and his brother, who fought bravely, took many prisoners and were only forced to withdraw by the onset of night: Mesiatsoslov na leto … 1807, 100.Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    On these battles and the 1806–1807 campaign in general, see F. Lorraine Petre, Napoleon’s Campaign in Poland, 1806–1807, 3rd edition (London, 1907) and Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon, 509–91.Google Scholar
  25. 69.
    Some priests refused to read the manifesto in church, prompting Golitsyn to take action to enforce it in 1807: Nikolai M. Dubrovin, ‘Russkaia zhizn’ v nachale XIX veka’, Russkaia starina, 96 (1898): 493.Google Scholar

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© Paul Keenan 2015

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  • Paul Keenan

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