Natasha’s Dance

May 24, 2016 21:56


Thematically organised, the book encompasses the cultural history of Russia from around 17th to 20th century, with heavy emphasis on the earlier period, especially the 18th and 19th century. Central to all these themes are the questions of quintessential “Russian culture” and national identities: the European and Asian identities, the bourgeois and peasant differences occur as pervasive leitmotif throughout (sometimes to the point where its dichotomisation begs a question of validity). The title comes from the scene in Tolstoy’s War and Peace where Natasha Rostova instinctively twirls and dances like a peasant girl in a wooden hut at the end of a day’s hunting.

The focus in this book is cultural interpretation; there is noticeably a lack of analysis on political climate and figures — readers looking for the details on, say, October revolution or major leaders will be better off reading contemporary works by Robert Service or Geoffrey Hosking as general familiarity with Soviet history is assumed.

Peppered with wide range of major Russian cultural figures (the Sheremetevs, the Volkonskys and the Decembrist, Andrei Rublev, Stasov, literary giants (from the earlier period e.g. Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev, Dostoevsky etc. to Soviet-era Akhmatova, Nabokov, Gorky, Mandelstam, Pasternak, Bulgakov, etc.), major composers (Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Profokiev, Sostakovich, Stravinsky), directors (Vertov, Kozintsev, Eisenstein, Tarkovsky), Chagall, Kandinsky, and many more), there are times the book feels too lax in its anecdotal palaver, especially with its (rather too) liberal application of quotations in relation to the relevant European romanticism. Nevertheless it’s a good starting point for those dipping their toes into Russian popular culture; it also comes with some illustration and photos and a generous further reading section.

Categories: Book reviews

: Founding director, c2o library & collabtive. Currently also working in Singapore as a Research Associate at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS). Opinions are hers, and do not represent/reflect her employer(s), institution(s), or anyone else with whom she may be remotely affiliated.
Email this author | Visit author's website | All posts by

Leave a Reply


Daftarkan email untuk menerima berita
Subscribe to receive email updates


Book reviews »
Rumah Kertas
Carlos María Domínguez
by Ivana Kurniawati
Meski tipis dan mampu dilahap sekali duduk, kisah ini (dan bagaimana penulis menceritakannya) mampu ...
Film reviews »
Affan Hakim, 2011
by Iman Kurniadi
Sebuah movie screening patut saya ikuti karena biasanya saya bertemu dengan para movie mak...
Music reviews »
Deugalih. Foto: Denan Bagus (
Guyonan Intim dan Syahdunya Tur ‘Monster of Folk’ di Surabaya

by Debby Utomo
Project yang dibawakan oleh Rayhan Sudrajat, Deugalih, dan Ledakan Urbanisasi ini menyadarkan saya b...
Download »
by c2o library & collabtive
Ronascent, salah satu media musik online yang berbasis di Surabaya, kembali menerbitkan kumpulan ...
Event »
Pasar Djenggot vol. 1

by c2o library & collabtive
Pasar Djenggot ☞ Minggu, 11 Desember 2016, pk. 15.00 – 18.00 di c2o library & collabti...


Latest stories curated by Ayorek!, connecting the people & the city of Surabaya