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HIS-336-20, The Silver Age of Russia

INSTRUCTOR: Sally Stocksdale

SCHEDULE/DAY/TIME: SAT/8:30 am – 4:00 pm, January 5, 12, 19, & 26, 2013


In this course the student will be introduced to the significant artistic movements and major artists of the ‘Silver Age’ of Russian cultural history, roughly 1890-1920.  These movements will be contextualized within the background of political and social developments in late Imperial Russia.  The term ‘Silver Age’ refers collectively to the intellectual, literary, and artistic movements that flourished in late 19th and early 20th century Russia.  This era was characterized by an unprecedented level of experimentation and achievement in all areas of Russian art.  One useful interpretation of this era is to see it as a bridge between the ‘Realist’, artistic tradition of the early to mid-19th century and ‘Modernist’ period of the 20th century.  While the Silver Age essentially came to an end with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the artists highlighted in this course remain as shining stars in the history of world culture:  their impact on Russian and world cultural achievement remains extraordinary and unique.


1. Student will become familiar with major intellectuals and artists of The Silver Age and their works.

2. Student will discuss these works against the political, social and cultural background of the Silver Age.

3. Student will compare and contrast various intellectuals and artists and their works.

4. Student will appreciate this treasure of shining cultural achievement within the context of world culture.


Course lectures will be supplemented with films, documentaries, pictures on overheads, and audio sound pieces.  A field trip to Evergreen House, the ornate Italianate stately home of the Garrett Family of Baltimore Ohio Railroad fame, is scheduled for the afternoon of the third class period, Saturday, January 19.  The theatre in this home was designed by Lev Bakst.


-Punctual attendance for every class period and its duration is mandatory; and class participation is required for every class period, weighted at 12%.

-Four (4) short take home assignments, weighted at 12% each.

-Four (4) short in class assignments (should be viewed as a quiz), weighted at 10% each.


1. Massie, Suzanne Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia (Simon and Schuster:  New York, 1980)

2. Additional readings in the form of short articles will be assigned. See below for the first class period.

3. A total of 3 Films will be on reserve in the Library Media Center for the term. Please view The Cherry Orchard before class on January 12; Nijinsky before class on January 19; and Aelita before class on January 26.



1. Firebird please read Chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 18, 19 and 20. These are not long chapters and represent the longest set of assigned reading for the term. This reading will provide a solid foundation to the course’s content, as well as introduce the term’s first topic: The Wanderers and the Mighty Handful.

2. Realist Ivan Turgenev’s Hunter’s Sketches:  Please choose to read 2 short Sketches from the list of 25 found at this website:  http://www.eldritchpress.org/ist/hunt.htm