The University of Wisconsin Press

Russian & Slavic Studies / Literature & Criticism / Classical Studies


Russia's Rome
Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940
Judith E. Kalb

“Excellent and very substantive.” —Mikhail Leonovich Gasparov, Russian Academy of Sciences

A wide-ranging study of empire, religious prophecy, and nationalism in literature, Russia’s Rome provides the first examination of Russia’s self-identification with Rome during a period that encompassed the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the rise of the Soviet state. Analyzing Rome-related texts by six writers—Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, Valerii Briusov, Aleksandr Blok, Viacheslav Ivanov, Mikhail Kuzmin, and Mikhail Bulgakov—Judith E. Kalb argues that the myth of Russia as the “Third Rome” was resurrected to create a Rome-based discourse of Russian national identity that endured even as the empire of the tsars declined and fell and a new state replaced it.

Russia generally finds itself beyond the purview of studies concerned with the ongoing potency of the classical world in modern society. Slavists, for their part, have only recently begun to note the influence of classical civilization not only during Russia’s neo-classical eighteenth century but also during its modernist period. With its interdisciplinary scope, Russia’s Rome fills a gap in both Russian studies and scholarship on the classical tradition, providing valuable material for scholars of Russian culture and history, classicists, and readers interested in the classical heritage of Russia.

Russia’s Rome is an exemplary study in cultural history. Erudite and elegant, it shows how Russian modernists employed Rome as a magic crystal with which to divine Russia’s own destiny. Behind their obsession with Rome, Kalb finds the intertwined three R’s of modern Russian thought and imagination —Russia–Rome –ressentiment— offering us a work that no Russian specialist should do without.”  —Gregory Freidin, Stanford University

"Kalb's scope and capacity prove more than a match to explain the workings of Russia's Rome as a 'mythmaking tool'. Her penetrating illustration of the topos' staying power offers a multitude of original insights, and recovers a forgotten chapter in the European classical tradition...A brilliant and absorbing book."––Caspas Meyer, International Journal of the Classical Tradition

Judith E. Kalb is associate professor of Russian and comparative literature at the University of South Carolina. She has coedited two books with J. Alexander Ogden, Russian Novelists in the Age of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Russian Writers of the Silver Age, 1890–1925.

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The cover of Kalb's book is red, with illustrations of imperial visions of all sorts.

August 2010

LC: 2008011966 PG
320 pp.   6 x 9   15 b/w illus.

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Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22924-5
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Russia’s Rome gives a new and significant context to the work of some of Russia’s major poets and prose writers of the early twentieth century. Kalb’s main contribution is to show that the interest in the Roman Empire was not an incidental part of Russian literature in this period, but a genuine obsession.” —Michael Wachtel, Princeton University




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