Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Sarah Hudspith (University of Leeds, UK)

War and Peace in Putin's Russia: 19th Century Literature in Contemporary Russian Cultural Policy

The opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi provided a recent example of how Russia selects and packages its cultural, historical and technological achievements, in order to create a certain image of Russia for international consumption. With post-Soviet culture barely figuring in the ceremony's brief guide to Russia, and following the establishment in 2014 of a state cultural policy firmly focused on preservation of the cultural heritage, it is timely to examine how canonical works and writers of the past are appropriated in current state discourses on Russian culture. A case in point is Tolstoy's War and Peace, which featured in the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony as a 19th century society ball. This text gives rise to conflicting significations, thanks on the one hand to the author's views on the forces of history, war and patriotism, and on the other hand to the importance of the novel's climactic episode, the 1812 Battle of Borodino, in Russian national consciousness. War and Peace has been co-opted for various agendas in support of or in opposition to military conflicts both in Russia and beyond. This paper seeks to examine the tension between the Russian state's need to use culture to conserve and reinforce a historically founded, unified image of Russia, and the position of one of its greatest icons as an opponent of all forms of state intervention in history. I will ask what methods are employed to appropriate Tolstoy, a critic of the concept of nation-state, into the Russian state's exercise in nation branding. I will interrogate the Western critical emphasis on Tolstoy's universalism in the light of the challenge to globalisation presented by the fundamental conservatism that holds currency among the Russian elites. By using Tolstoy as a case study, I will point to wider implications of cultural policy on the relationship between national identity and canon formation.