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“Our Berendeevka”: The Invented Tradition of Russian Modernity

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This article considers the Berendeevka tradition as one manifestation of Russian cultural identity that took hold of the national imagination near the turn of the twentieth century. The fairy-tale village Berendeevka emerged as the setting for A. Ostrovsky’s play in verse The Snow Maiden (1873). Initially a literary invention, the Berendeevka construct was cultivated by the creative intelligentsia in the artists’ colonies Abramtsevo and Talashkino and became part of public culture via theatrical performances, handicraft exhibitions and sales, world’s fairs, and concurrent critical commentary in the press. It has enjoyed ubiquitous success ever since. Yet this affirmative national ideal, Dianina argues, was born out of bitter criticism. Paradoxically, the negative publicity, which accompanied Ostrovsky’s play and later followed related artistic creations, did not undermine but, on the contrary, reinforced Berendeevka as a special site of the national imaginary.

Affiliations: 1: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA, Email:, URL:


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