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Dr. Reinhard Nachtigal

Contact Information and Profile (in German)

SFB 948 Project:National Hero and Folk Hero: Alexander Suvorov and Yemelyan Pugachev from the 18th to the Early 20th Century

Focusing on two heroic figurations this project studies the historical trends of different models of the heroic in Russia from the late 18th to the early 20th century. During his own lifetime General Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov (1729-1800) was a war hero. He has been a national hero in all political systems in Russia including the post-Soviet period. He embodies the Russian art of war, brilliant victories, military genius, greatness and power of the Empire. Having never lost a battle and engaging in a campaign through the Alps in the fall of 1799 are regarded as his greatest military achievements. A Cossack from the Don region Yemelyan Pugachev (1742-1775) embodies another type of hero: He was a folk hero and until 1917 regarded as an unperson by the state for having incited a rebellion and impersonating Czar Peter III. Despite state censorship he was however heroized by Cossacks, peasants, but also by parts of the Russian intelligentsia. Idealized traditions of Cossack life constituted the context in which this construction was possible, for instance, the concept of the return of the rightful czar and the defense of the true faith. Especially the intellectual discussion regarding Pugachev comprised a heroization process.

This project intends to show the different ways in which heroes were canonized in Tsarism and how the changing political climate in the early Soviet Union subsequently determined their canonization. Furthermore, this project can elucidate how heroes became model figurations and how the social and cultural range of the heroic developed. Its method concentrates on lifeworlds, communication, medialization and practices of heroization and heroism. In regards to the heroic this means that different social figurations constructed their own figuration prototype upon which they projected their values and ideas. These social figurations then reproduced the characteristics and behavior attributed to the hero.

Approaching this topic in regards to lifeworlds promises to be very enlightening for both these historical figures. First attempts have been made in media history to investigate the Pugachev rebellion after Pugachev attempted to heroize himself. Heroization functions through mediums of communication. Hence, the mediums, i.e. texts, images, monuments, songs, literary works, and later theater and film, and how these mediums supported heroization are to be investigated. The transformations of the heroic and their functions for the contemporaries are to be systematically compiled and compared.