Review on: The Europeanized Elite in Russia, 1762–1825: Public Role and Subjective Self. Edited by Andreas Schönle, Andrei Zorin, and Alexei Evstratov. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016.
The article explores the Russian empress Catherine II’s attempt to fashion her individual and monarchical “self” in historical plays and articles written and published in the late 18th century (“Chesmenskiy dvorets (Chesma Palace)” in particular). The author interprets how Catherine II as an enlightened European monarch used theatrical stage and literature to communicate her political and ideological views as well as to position herself as a dynastic figure among the Rurikids, the Romanovs and members of the European monarchical houses.
The article discusses the late 18th century Russian outdoor performances and demonstrates that “theatrical” techniques of staging power in eighteenth-century Russia were used for political purposes. The victory over the Ottoman Empire was celebrated by a grand open-air performance festival in Moscow in 1775 whose intention was to demonstrate not only the monarch’s power over her enemies, external as well as internal, but also the claim that the Russian empress Catherine II is able to transform nature as if it were nothing but a theater coulisse.