French Influences in Russia, 1780s to 1820s: The Origins of Permanent Cultural Transfer
Coker, Adam Nathaniel
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This dissertation defines aspects of Russian culture which bear the marks of French influence and explores the historical origins of that influence. While it is generally acknowledged that Russia’s culture has been influenced by France, no systematic history of the origins of this influence has been written. Previous research has dealt only superficially with the topic, focusing almost exclusively on the Francophile preferences of society’s elite. The present study examines Russian society more broadly and explores those elements of French cultural influence still relevant today through an historical analysis of the Russian language. French loanwords found in dictionaries from the time of Peter the Great to the present are analyzed chronologically and topically, yielding the conclusion that the most significant period of long-lasting French influence was the turn of the nineteenth century and was primarily cultural in nature—including the areas of fashion, cuisine, the arts, interior design and etiquette—but was also in areas related to technology and official administration. Following this lexical analysis, other primary sources—archival documents, military memoirs, and periodical publications from the resultant period—are searched for influences in these areas, especially during the period’s two major Franco-Russian events: the wave of immigration to Russia following the French Revolution and Russia’s war with Napoleon. The former facilitated deep cultural enrichment as native Frenchmen and French women, engaged in various occupations, acted as cultural mentors to the Russian nobility. The latter facilitated broad cultural immersion as tens of thousands of Russian troops—noble and common alike—marched into France and experienced French culture firsthand. This dissertation concludes that both of these explosive events, though by no means the beginning of French influence, were unique in the depth and permanence of their mark upon Russia’s culture.
PhD in History
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