The author, professor at the Columbia University, looks at the Russian imperial court of the eighteenth and the first half of nineteenth centuries. He traces down the history of a "scenario of power" based on the fundamental ideas realized in the system of court rituals, ceremonies, festivities, receptions, and symbols. Richard Wortman invokes coronation procedures, burial rites and other royal events to describe how the image of the Russian emperors was taking shape from Peter the Great to Nicholas I.
The book concentrates on two major aspects: the imperial "scenario of power" impacted by the dominating ideas and the monarch's personal worldview that made the "scenario" peculiar to him or her alone. These were the factors that developed both the institutes of power and the monarch's personality. The author relies on a wealth of historical sources to demonstrate how the court ceremonies became one of the most important factors in the lives of Russian monarchs. "The royal children grew up amid this spectacle. The ritual, the literary and artistic expressions of the court life were their psychological reality and determined the relations between the crown princes and their parents and subjects thus shaping the concepts of their future rule."
The author gives space to the history of courtiers and the czar's closest circle thus providing an idea of how the court perceived the monarch and how the official and unofficial myths about him were shaped.
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