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Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths 1st Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 000-0801448131
ISBN-10: 0801448131
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Editorial Reviews


"Terror and Greatness integrates Kevin M. F. Platt's interest in memory and trauma with sharp, detailed analysis of classical images and texts in all their fragile materiality, which does not always survive the daggers of theory. This is a rare combination, but it should be definitive for the newest wave of cultural history."―Times Literary Supplement

"This meticulously researched, highly original book . . . enhances our understanding of Ivan and Peter as Russian cultural myths and instruments of state control. . . . This is an outstanding work of scholarship that will benefit all specialists of modern Russia and, more broadly, readers with previous knowledge of the historiography and cultural artifacts covered in this book. They will better appreciate why Russia's leaders, in eschewing more liberal democratic directions, will continue to emphasize the cultural myths of Peter and Ivan to validate Russia’ need for strong central rule."―Thomas S. Pearson, The Historian (Winter 2012)

"This book is much more than a historiographical study of Ivan IV and Peter I as related Russian myths, although it succeeds on that level. Terror and Greatness raises the stakes to consider the larger parameters of their cultural images in a variety of media. . . . The book works extremely well on its own terms, and is very tightly written. The illustrative material is excellent. . . . Platt has given us much to consider in this ground-breaking analysis of modern Russian collective identity."―Marcus C. Levitt, Slavic and East European Journal (Fall 2012)

"Platt examines how the evolving historical myths of Ivan and Peter illustrate and illuminate the unresolved and unresolvable tension in Russian culture created by the use of terror to achieve greatness. Platt shows that neither ruler had a monopoly on the quality usually attributed to him: Ivan the Terrible was also seen as great, Peter the Great was also seen as employing terror. Studying Ivan and Peter in tandem sheds unexpected light on the perception of Ivan and Peter in modern Russia. This superbly written book is ambitious, challenging, imaginative, original, erudite, and multidisciplinary. . . . It is an outstanding contribution to the study of Russian culture with implications for all disciplines of Russian studies."― Charles J. Halperin, H-Russia, H-Net Reviews (December 2011)

"All countries spin their national myths around heroes. Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, however, echo in Russian society less as heroes than as avatars, reflecting the outer limits of Russia's traumas. Platt treats the way Russian historians, writers, and artists since the early nineteenth century have tried to come to terms with the
legacy of these overpowering figures―sometimes merging Peter's 'greatness' and Ivan’s 'terror' into a single, reinforcing unity and sometimes treating those qualities as polar opposites. Their struggle, as Platt traces it―from Nikolai Karamzin’s seminal early-nineteenth-century history of Russia, through Ilya Repin’s portrait of a horror-stricken Ivan holding the son he just murdered, to Stalin’s remaking of the two tsars into founders of Russian great power, to the use of Peter’s image to sell chocolates, cigarettes, and vodka in the 1990s―reflects the ambivalent, at times tortured, standing Ivan and Peter have in the country’s collective identity."--Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

"In this engaging book, Kevin M. F. Platt analyzes the enduring cultural and political importance of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great in a deftly comparative, rigorously theorized argument. The interplay between greatness and terror, trauma and collective identity, memory and prognostication frames his discussion. Platt's richly nuanced readings cover historical studies, the fine arts, imaginative literature, and the very latest films. As engaging a story as the histories of its two protagonists, Terror and Greatness deserves to be read by anyone interested in Russia, past or present."―William Mills Todd III, Harvard College Professor and Harry Tuchman Levin Professor of Literature, Harvard University

"This cultural historiography―truly original, genuinely interdisciplinary, and extraordinarily erudite―examines representations of Ivan and Peter as despotic yet heroic rulers, and the role these myths have played in the development of Russian political culture and national identity."―Gregory Freeze, Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of History, Brandeis University

"Kevin M. F. Platt regards both Ivan and Peter as liminal figures of national history who in many ways defined its collective unconscious. They both―for different reasons and with different degrees of historical accuracy―embodied for the significant part of the nation its glorious past. Ivan's rule started Russian expansion eastward, and Peter, by his victories and reforms, brought it into the concert of European powers. At the same time, these two rulers who taken together governed Russia for three-quarters of a century brought an incredible amount of suffering to many of their subjects, and both were guilty of murdering their elder sons and official heirs to the throne. For centuries Russian thinkers, writers, artists, and the general public were engaged in an ardent debate about their legacy. Platt traces the fascinating history of this debate dealing with intellectual history, literature, iconography, and film. His ability to analyze so many media as common pools of myths and ideological metaphors is very impressive."―Andrei Zorin, Professor and Chair of Russian and Fellow of New College, University of Oxford


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (April 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801448131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801448133
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,971,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Ryan J. Ortega on August 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book was long in the making, but one can easily see why - Dr. Platt's work is not only a piece of important, significant, and original scholarship, but it is also a work of art. It is one of those rare occasions where the style of the author is as impressive as the subject of which he has written. Danto, in his The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, was accused by some of placing the style of his work over the subject of which that very work was about - Dr. Platt is so subtle a writer that one never feels as though he has written a work with the intent of calling more attention to himself than to his subject, but by being able to weave together such a beautiful narrative, he has truly placed himself amongst the top ranks of not only Slavic Scholars, but Scholars of all fields.
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