Dissertation Defense: Volodymyr Ryzhkovskyi
Candidate Name: Volodymyr Ryzhkovskyi
Advisor: Michael David-Fox, Ph.D.
Title: Soviet Occidentalism: Medieval Studies and the Restructuring of Imperial Knowledge in Twentieth-Century Russia
This dissertation explores the history of late imperial and Soviet medievalism as a discipline focused on the production of knowledge about the paradigmatic Occident — the Medieval West — which, I argue, was integral to the re-making of the imperial culture, knowledge, and elites in the crucible of the revolution. My research traces the transformation of Russian medieval studies from the late-imperial expert discipline, eager to contribute to Western-inspired modernization of the Romanov Empire, into what I frame as aestheticized connoisseurship – a scholarly practice responsible for establishing Soviet cultural superiority vis-a-vis the West and instrumental in maintaining the new imperial hierarchies based on this ideological claim. Unraveling the paradoxical nexus between privilege and repression, promotion and control in the twentieth-century history of Soviet medieval studies, my work presents the rise of connoisseurship as an exemplary case of what I define as Soviet Occidentalism: an ideological and institutional structure located in the Moscow imperial center, and involved simultaneously in the production of knowledge about the West and in maintaining the distance between Moscow and numerous parochial indigenous Soviet peripheries, including Russian provinces. I present the changing institutional, intellectual, and social structure of Soviet medieval connoisseurship as a key site for understanding the genesis of Soviet academic institutions, knowledge and cultural elites, and their emergence as a contradictory product of the collapse and at the same time a regeneration of imperial structures, mediated by the paradoxes of the Bolshevik revolutionary ideology.
Wednesday, December 4 at 9:00am to 11:00am
Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center, 462
37th and O St., N.W., Washington