Third Rome, Venice of the North: Russia's Complex Relationship with the West
This course looks at two focal points in Russia’s relationship with Western Europe, embodied in the two cities that have been at different times its capital. As Russia emerged from the Middle Ages only recently unified and Christianized, it responded to the fall of Byzantium by declaring itself ‘The Third Rome,’ the successor to Rome and Constantinople as the leader of the Christian world. Under Peter the Great, St. Petersburg was built as a new capital, a bastion against intrusions from Catholic and Protestant Europe, designed to more than match the splendor of Western Europe’s capital cities. This reorientation only heightened the tension between the stronghold of Eastern Christianity and a politically and technically ascendant Europe of which Russia aspired to be a part, and the country spent the nineteenth century grappling with age-old problems of national identity. Readings for this course are historical, literary and philosophical, and there is a component of art and music.