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

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


‘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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  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
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    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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