The European Commission of the Danube, 1856-1948 Constantin Ardeleanu offers a history of the world’s second international organisation, an innovative techno-political institution established by Europe’s Concert of Powers to remove insecurity from the Lower Danube. Delegates of rival empires worked together to ‘correct’ a vital European transportation infrastructure, and to complete difficult hydraulic works they gradually transformed the Commission into an actor of regional and international politics. As an autonomous and independent organ, it employed a complex transnational bureaucracy and regulated shipping along the Danube through a comprehensive set of internationally accepted rules and procedures. The Commission is portrayed as an effective experimental organisation, taken as a model for further cooperation in the international system.
Folk art revivals were incubators for modernist movements in painting, sculpture, architecture, applied arts, and performing arts. The upsurge of national sentiment in late Imperial Russia and official economic support of handicraft industries (known as kustar’) promoted the marketing of wood crafts and textiles made at Abramtsevo, Talashkino, and other centers in western Russia and Ukraine. Parallel developments drew upon both folk traditions and patriotic ideals in the central and eastern European countries that had suffered territorial encroachments by Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Artists’ groups and art colonies showed special respect for regional landscapes, peasant communities, and local artistic traditions. Their activities reflected nationalist ideologies, as well as practical, economic, and philanthropic concerns. The variety of circumstances and motivations sheds light on the phenomena of art colonies, new valuations of applied art forms, and the enduring importance of education in traditional crafts.
The character of Snegurochka [Snow Maiden] has her origin in Russian folktales and is now part of an annual national tradition. The article considers her popularity as a result of different processes of inventing and reinventing national identity and the reflection on cultural heritage initiated through the Russian intelligentsia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since her breakthrough as the main character of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Snegurochka (1882), based on Alexander Ostrovsky’s play in verse of the same name (1873), the amalgamation of different artistic interpretations facilitated her transformation into a representation of national identity, perceived as a product of national community and therefore of the people.
This essay looks at art education in Russia in the nineteenth century, specifically at artist-training practices at institutions such as the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts and the Imperial Society for the Encouragements of the Arts in St. Petersburg. Particular emphasis is on the role and significance of Pavel Chistiakov and Jan Ciągliński, charismatic teachers who developed their distinct art-pedagogical systems as an alternative to the existing academic system and paved the way for the emergence of modern art and the avant-garde in Russia.
Vladimir Stasov, well-known as a champion of Russian art and music, proved equally forceful as an advocate for Russian needlework. Yet this key component of his scholarship has been relegated to secondary status; remedying this neglect is the aim of this article. Stasov’s well-known publication, Russkii narodnyi ornament (1872), has traditionally been discussed as a treatise on ornament, however its main emphasis was needlework and it needs to be analyzed as such. Further, Stasov influenced others to take up the cause of Russian national needle art, in particular Sofia Davydova whose tome on Russian lace, Russkoe kruzhevo i russkie kruzhevnitsy (1886), made a major contribution to Russian art and culture. Stasov’s scholarship and promotion of needlework needs to be thoroughly understood in order to have a more complete understanding of Russian material culture and this article is a starting point toward that goal.
This essay explores the circumstances which led the Russian painter Vasilii Maksimov to compose an unusual group portrait in the early months of 1864. The work was painted shortly after fourteen students withdrew from the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg and formed a cooperative association known as the St. Petersburg Artel of Artists, a commune spearheaded by the painter Ivan Kramskoi. Shortly after these events, Maksimov would join an Artel of artists established by the Academy graduate Pёtr Krestonostsev. Few scholars discuss this Artel but exploring the ways it mirrored collective ideals for artistic practice then prevalent in Paris sheds light on how homosocial networks of support rose to the fore in this historical moment. Maksimov’s 1864 group portrait records the productive conflict that resulted from artists’ desire to work with one another through discourse and collaboration in both eastern and western Europe in the period.
In Russia’s Crony Capitalism, Åslund focuses on Putin’s political and economic strategy in the 2000s. The book draws on Åslund’s deep expertise on Russian politics, detailing the role of Putin’s close associates and businesspeople in establishing the economic system we see in the 2000s in Russia. While making an important contribution to our understanding of Russian political economy, the book overlooks the important issue of economic inequality and variation across the regions of Russia. Åslund sometimes offers policy recommendations that, while perhaps admirable in principle, are unlikely to be politically feasible in the near term in Russia. Nonetheless, Åslund’s perspective is one of the best informed on Russian politics today and a vital part of the ongoing discussion about how, when, and why the Putin era of Russian politics will continue to work and how it will come to an end.