The Silver (Age) Linings Playbook

No, this is not a blog about Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s chemistry in an incredible RomCom. (I wish)…. however, we can use media and the arts as a powerful way to address issues within society. Similarly to the impact of popular culture American society has seen through social media and the messaging of Hollywood, Russia challenged the hegemony of the nationalistic ideals on religion, metaphysical ideas, and philosophical findings in Russia in 1905 to spark a revolution.

A powerful (and often overlooked) element of the Revolution of 1905 existed from within the cultural movement of the people of Russia, through the use of media and popular culture, known as the “Silver Age” (Freeze, 265). According to Freeze, poetry, fiction, theater, music, and plastic arts all challenged a new age of modernism in a society struggling to stay together. These ideals were all used in order to beckon a new age of thinking, embracing the movement away from conservatism.

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I discovered a fascinating piece highlighting Maxim Gorky, playwright based in Moscow; discussing his opinion on the future of Russian “peace” and the governments handling of power in relation to the peasant class. Gorky emphasizes the importance of introspection as a necessary tool for the government to heal Russia, rather than turn to expansionism.

“But inside from the effects of the peace’s upon the chances of liberty being won by the Russian people, the colonial venture should have been finished once for all.”

He also discusses the major social injustice faced by the Russian population at hand. “Besides we have nothing to give others.” This point I found very interesting. It was, in my opinion, a selfless way of acknowledging that expansionist ideals would further divide Russia both internally and damage the reputation of the “Great Power”.

“Political freedom having been obtained, there is bound to be a marvelous unfolding of the spiritual and intellectual faculties of the people. We may experience a veritable Elizabethan age of Russian literature and art. The expansion of the mental horizon to the gold generation of Shakespeare’s day, due to the discoveries of navigators, and the exploits of sailors, cannot be compared with the coming discovery of themselves by the hundred millions of Russia’s benighted workfolk.”

 To add to the cultural ramifications for the “Silver Age”, I critically examined Manifesto of 17 October 1905. Using the powerful jargon: “on the improvement of order in the state”, signifying that it was very powerfully grant change, the first tenet was “Fundamental civil freedoms will be granted to the population, including real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association”. This tenet can be confirmed through the explosion of the arts in the time period, as a way to exercise the freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and consciousness. The freedom of consciousness was so desperately needed, and the media acted as a way of connecting peasants and workers to the causes of the intelligentsia and the Marxist movement.

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This post received the “Comrades Corner” distinction from the Editorial team.

Works Cited:

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GORKY’S INTERVIEW.: Complete Text of Russian Author’s Opinion of Peace. New York Times (1857-1922); Oct 2, 1905; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. 8

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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Kasli: The “Iron” Religious Kingdom?

kasil_russia_libraryofcongress“The Kasli Iron Works plant, founded in 1747 and known for its high quality of cast iron products, had a work force of more than 3,000 people”.

According to the World Digital Library: Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii ventured on several trips around the Ural Mountains, visiting Kasli in 1910.  Kasli is home to one of the precious resources that was capitalized on for economic benefit, iron ore.

The reforms and counter reforms during the tumultuous era of 1855-1890 shaped the way Kasli is viewed and depicted, culturally and economically, through imagery. The photograph, taken in 1910, reveals a post-reform European flair as a result of “the Great Reforms” (Freeze, 199) which proliferated the“Crimean Syndrome” (Freeze 209) centered on reform. Through reforms such as zemstvos, educational reorganization, judicial statutes, military reorganization and retraining, the addition of city councils, the removal of censorship, and the reform of the Russian Orthodox Church, were all critical in creating the mood emitted from the image above.

My interpretation of the image of Kasli detects a light embrace of Westernization and the continuation of traditional beliefs holding the importance of church paramount. Due to the vantage point of the quasi-aerial shot of the town, the breath taking scenery has a skyline dominated with the patriarchal influence of the Orthodox Church, signifying the continuity of religion throughout a time period of revolution.

This image, enhanced with color, demonstrates the presence of the Church, and how its influence is felt through all aspects of life. The reforms of the church through the “Great Reforms” (Freeze, 199) is not explicitly shown, but implies that there was a deep division over the impact of the church, with three different churches within the scope of the picture. Reforms such as: reconstruction of the clergy hierarchy, the reformation of the civil servants and class structure, the reform of the clergy education system, and administration of clergy courts was all conducted in order to deter corruption (Freeze, 212). Overall, the “Great Reforms” (Freeze, 199) set on the clergy were deemed unsuccessful when analysis was undertook in the 1880’s (Freeze, 220), however, the preservation of tradition is noted.
The importance of the economic implication of this photo cannot be overlooked. A Russian blog, Russia Beyond The Headlines hits on the economic relevance of Kasli: “Initially, the bulk of the orders were for the military, but the Ural plant also produced fine cookware, such as pots, cauldrons and other utensils.”

Notice there is a severe lack of railroads and other transportation routes in the picture, which calls on the senses to experience the human geography and the lack of industrialization and modernization. Freeze states: “Industrialization, which has been so retarded and been discouraged by the pre-reform regime, faced considerable obstacles… [such as] Russia’s low credibility…[and] virtual non-existence of railways meant that key resources (iron ore and coal) and markets could not be linked” (Freeze, 215-216). If there is a lack of connectivity and advancement throughout the country and the international economic framework, there might have been a lack of opportunity to modernize not just economically, but socially as well. Furthermore, signifying that reform and counterculture is not accepted within a traditional society founded in conservatism and no connectivity.

Sources:

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Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Prokudin-Gorskii, Sergei Mikhailovich 1863-1944. “View of Kasli.” WDL RSS. September 28, 2016. Accessed January 19, 2017. https://www.wdl.org/en/item/5247/#q=Prokudin-Gorskii&page=3.