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Models of Personal Conversion in Russian cultural history of the 19th and 20th centuries


Jens Herlth and Christian Zehnder

This volume offers a view of modern Russian intellectual culture as shaped by the dynamic of conversions. The individual contributions examine a rich variety of personal conversions occurring in a culture in which the written word enjoyed a privileged status and, historically, was closely linked to the sacred. However, the essays presented go beyond the original meaning of conversion as a change of religious beliefs. They address shifts in style, aesthetic outlooks, and mindsets, political and ideological transfigurations as well as religious conversions in the true sense of the term.
Whether at the level of culture, society or biography, the study of conversions opens the way to profound reflections about questions of identity, cultural ruptures, and continuity. The awareness of former conversions and the possible «convertibility» of one’s own ideological, spiritual or social stance has been among the central traits of Russian intellectual culture during the last two centuries.
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Conversion to Dionysianism: Tadeusz Zieliński and Heptachor


Irina Sirotkina

Conversion to Dionysianism: Tadeusz Zieliń ski and Heptachor

In the spring of 1910, a group of young people travelled from Petersburg to Odessa by train, and from there to Piraeus by boat. Tadeusz Zieliński led students of Saint Petersburg University and of the Bestuzhev Higher Women’s Courses, where he was professor, and of the Raev Higher Women’s Courses, where his colleagues, Innokentii Annenskii and Viacheslav Ivanov, taught. Vsevolod Meyerhold joined the excursion to prepare for the staging of Greek tragedies; later he remembered how beautifully the students sang folk songs on the boat (Kats, 2007: 142). Sitting in the bow, Zieliński

was surrounded by women students. They took off their scarves and decorated the ropes. Wind played with little coloured flags above the teacher’s head. And he narrated to them how the Athenians returned from Tauris or Colchis to their natives shores and how they peered into the distance, to see the golden spear of Pallas Athena, who crowned the Acropolis, sparkle in the sun. (Antsiferov, 1992: 157)1

The professor led his pupils to their native home rather than to distant ruins. Each European, he believed, has at least “two motherlands: one is the country by which name we call ourselves, the other – Antiquity” (Guseinov, 1993: 3).

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