The Popular Theatre Movement in Russia

Paper Text – $45.00

ISBN 978-0-8101-3484-3

E-book – $79.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-6590-8

Cloth Text – $77.00

ISBN 978-0-8101-1550-7
Publication Date
May 2016
Page Count
376 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

The Popular Theatre Movement in Russia

Gary Thurston

In The Popular Theatre Movement in Russia, Gary Thurston illuminates the “popular theater” of pre-revolutionary Russia, which existed alongside the performing arts for the nation’s economic elite. He shows how from Peter the Great's creation of Europe's first theater for popular enlightenment to Lenin's decree nationalizing all Soviet theaters, Russian rulers aggressively exploited this enduring art form for ideological ends rather than for its commercial potential.

After the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, educated Russians began to present plays as part of a crusade to "civilize" the peasants. Relying on archival and published material virtually unknown outside Russia, this study looks at how playwrights criticized Russian social and political realities, how various groups perceived their plays, and how the plays motivated viewers to change themselves or change their circumstances. The picture that emerges is of a potent civic art influential in a way that eluded and challenged authoritarian control.
About the Author

"Frequently disowned in the Russian twentieth century as a tool of imperial oppression, the popular theatre movement now claims an honoured place in theatrical culture, and thanks in no small measure to Thurston's work." —Slavonic and East European Review

"... a detailed discussion of the history of this under-studied branch of Russian theatre." —Slavic and East European Journal

 "Gary Thurston's new study of popular theater in Russia during the late imperial period reminds us how powerful a civilizing force theater can be." —Slavic Review

"Thurston’s book not only illuminates an interesting aspect of imperial Russian cultural history; it can also be read as an introduction to popular
theater under the Soviet regime." —Journal of Modern History

This is a passionate book from which scholars can learn much about the history of Russian theater, the popular education movement, and the constitution of  Russian society in the last half century of the old regime." —American Historical Review