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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Politics, Opera and National Identity: History of Performance and Interpretations of "Boris Godunov" in the Bolshoi Theater in the 20th century

Irina Kotkina.

"Boris Godunov" is the masterpiece of the Russian opera famous all over the world. Because of its fame it is perceived by the audience and authorities as the representation of a national symbol. The stage productions of opera (particularly in the Bolshoi Theater) always attracted attention of the authorities that wanted to control this representation. The history of stage productions of Boris Godunov is a part of the general problem of the classical inheritance and its ideological treatment by the regime. While the problem of the political treatment of contemporary compositions is already studied, the problem of the fate of the classical heritage was not precisely studied yet. It extends the knowledge of interrelation of opera and politics, because being unable simply to omit the classical operatic heritage, the government had to give a new meaning to these operas to make them serve their ideology and to establish new identity.

I shall review the history of the debate surrounding the productions of Boris Godunov in order to describe how the meaning perceived by producers and politicians in a Soviet historical context was negotiated and debated in the process of bringing up to the stage a production of a "national symbol".


Irina Kotkina  (Italy)
full-time graduate student
Department of History and Civilization
European University Institute

Born 1975, Moscow, Russia, graduated Moscow State University, department of History, 2000, and Russian State University for Humanities, department of History and Philology, faculty for Theater studies, 1997 MA in the Central European University in the European History in 2001/2002, in 2002 entered the PhD program in History at the department of History and Civilization, European University Institute (Florence).

  • Politics
  • Opera
  • Ideological treatment
  • Soviet regime
  • National identity
  • Classical artistic heritage
Person as Subject
  • Musorgsky Modest "Boris Godunov"

(30 min Conference Paper, English)