Julia Bekman Chadaga’s ambitious study posits that glass—in its uses as a material and as captured in culture—is a key to understanding the evolution of Russian identity from the eighteenth century onward. From the contemporary perspective, it is easy to overlook how glass has profoundly transformed vision. Chadaga shows the far-reaching effects of this phenomenon.
Her book examines the similarities between glass and language, the ideological uses of glass, and the material’s associations with modernity, while illuminating the work of Lomonosov, Dostoevsky, Zamyatin, and Eisenstein, among others. In particular, Chadaga explores the prominent role of glass in the discourse around Russia’s contentious relationship with the West—by turns admiring and antagonistic—as the nation crafted a vision for its own future. Chadaga returns throughout to the spectacular aspect of glass and shows how both the tendentious capacity and the playfulness of this material have shaped Russian culture.
“This is a well-researched and well-argued book that will prove useful to scholars.... the book really inspires us to pay more attention to glass and the ways in which it shapes our lives” —Slavic Review
"This book is a Wunderkammer of Russian and Soviet culture, a museum of glass in literary texts, architecture, film, and other media. Her analysis of high and low culture is interspersed with the history of the material: the arrival of glass in Russia, the process of making window panes in the early nineteenth century, the working conditions in glass factories. The scope of the book is both astonishing and impressive." —The Russian Review