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9. Johannes Ambrosius Rosenstrauch (1768–1835)

Edited by Stephen M Norris and Willard Indiana University Press ePub

 

ALEXANDER M. MARTIN

There are two principal justifications for writing someone’s biography.1 Some people (such as Catherine the Great or Lomonosov) are significant for the individual roles they played in history. Others performed no great deeds, yet if we ask the right questions, they can tell us much about the world in which they lived. This approach—“microhistory”—is especially rewarding in the case of immigrants, religious converts, and others who experienced a change in their social position, for how they exchanged old identities for new ones illumines the wider process by which social identities are formed and maintained.

The life of Johannes Ambrosius Rosenstrauch—immigrant, stage actor, merchant, freemason, religious convert, writer, and pastor—is a case in point. Crisscrossing his native Germany, emigrating to St. Petersburg, making his fortune in Moscow, and finally settling on the Russian steppe frontier, he repeatedly refashioned himself socially, professionally, and spiritually. The only known likeness of him, a painting by Johann Baptist Lampi the Younger that belongs to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and is entitled “Portrait of a Pastor,” dates from the final stage of Rosenstrauch’s journey. By then, as a man of the cloth, he had achieved sufficient public regard that after he died, his grateful congregants could sell an engraving made from Lampi’s painting as a fundraiser. Look closely at that engraving: Does it not seem that alongside the demonstrative air of piety, the artist captured a hint of irony in Rosenstrauch’s expression? There was more to this man, he seems to suggest, than meets the eye.

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25. Lazar' Moiseevich Kaganovich (1893–1991)

Edited by Stephen M Norris and Willard Indiana University Press ePub

 

HIROAKI KUROMIYA

Lazar' Moiseevich Kaganovich lived for nearly a century: he was born in 1893 in the village of Kabany, near Chornobyl' (or Chernobyl' in Russian), Ukraine, and died a loyal Stalinist in Moscow in July 1991, six months before the Soviet Union collapsed. Perhaps he was fortunate not to witness the demise of the country to which he had devoted his entire adult life. He loyally and unswervingly served the country’s dictator Joseph Stalin (1878–1953) as one of his most trusted associates. Like the man he served, Kaganovich was both extraordinarily energetic and capable, and extremely brutal and ruthless. Unlike Stalin, however, Kaganovich was not capable of independent thinking. If Stalin was a statesman, then Kaganovich was his trusted “vassal.” Even though after Stalin’s death in 1953, Kaganovich was politically discredited by his own erstwhile protégé, Nikita Khrushchev, he remained until the very end of his life a stubborn defender of Stalin. Kaganovich’s devotion to Stalin and the state he had created was such that he was called by another loyal Stalinist Viacheslav Molotov (1890–1986) a “200-percent Stalinist.”1 Of Stalin’s inner circle, he was the last to die. His remarkable life was part of the remarkable history of the Soviet Union, the first socialist state in the world.

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18. Petr Badmaev (1851–1920)

Edited by Stephen M Norris and Willard Indiana University Press ePub

 

DAVID MCDONALD

As much as any other figure of his time, Petr Aleksandrovich Badmaev embodied the conflicting notes of ambition, ambivalence, optimism, and suspicion that marked Russia’s career as an imperial power in East Asia during the last decades of Romanov rule. Historians know him best as the author of an elaborate 1893 memorandum advocating Russia’s historic mission to extend the “white tsar’s” sway over eastern China and Tibet. Contemporary observers and posterity alike also regarded him as a symbol of the autocracy’s decadence or disarray during its final years under Nicholas II, one of those shadowy figures like his sometime associate Rasputin who played an unsavory role “behind the scenes of tsarism.”1 While these perspectives certainly offer useful approaches to understanding Badmaev as a “personality of empire,” they also downplay or submerge two other salient facts—his visible exoticness as a Buriat who made his livelihood in the imperial metropolis, and the degree to which his improbable career, and historical notoriety, themselves resulted from the same forces that propelled Russia into East Asia during the years after 1855.

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21. Mathilde Kshesinskaia (1872–1971)

Edited by Stephen M Norris and Willard Indiana University Press ePub

 

KRISTA SIGLER

The essentialist view of nationality has by now been thoroughly rejected by the academic world. Instead, historians and other scholars have come to see national identity as a construct whose implications can vary widely depending on the individual. To be or feel national, in short, is akin to donning a costume in a play. Depending on the interpreter, the costume can express a variety of meanings and fit numerous roles. To a degree, one can also take the costume on and off, which allows whoever is wearing it the ability to signal inclusion or exclusion, difference or sameness.

Such was the case with Polish nationality in late Imperial Russia. In some social arenas, to be seen as Polish was an asset; in others, it meant association with the state’s ultimate rival and nemesis, the bastion of liberalism that stubbornly refused to be assimilated into the triangle of Orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationality. For Poles within the empire, nationality, in fact, meant an identification that carried a host of implications, marking the individual as an insider or outsider.

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20. Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867–1951)

Edited by Stephen M Norris and Willard Indiana University Press ePub

 

BRADLEY D. WOODWORTH

One of the great ironies of the history of Finland is that its most celebrated son, Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867–1951)—statues of whom stand throughout Finland—was less a product of Finland itself than of the tsarist empire. Mannerheim had two careers: one as an officer in the tsarist army; the other as Finland’s first de facto head of state and greatest wartime hero. For Mannerheim, this was no contradiction; he was a man who disdained the exclusionist nature of ethnic nationalism and felt comfortable in a world in which loyalty to the land of his birth—Finland—and to his own aristocratic cultural background as a Swedish-speaking Finn—did not preclude loyalty to Imperial Russia.

In their steady rise in status, Mannerheim’s forebears exemplified the permeable nature of the aristocracy in early modern Europe (not unlike that of Russia of the time) as well as the often flexible political loyalties among Europeans who were skilled, mobile, and ambitious. In 1768 Johan Augustin Mannerheim, grandson of a seventeenth-century Dutch immigrant to Sweden named Henrik Marhein, was elevated to the rank of baron for military services rendered the kingdom. His son, Carl Erik Mannerheim, survived a political tussle with the crown in the late eighteenth century and relocated to Finland, part of the Swedish realm from the thirteenth century. As Finland became established as a Russian-held grand duchy in the course of the Napoleonic Wars, this Mannerheim was present at the creation of the largely autonomous new Finnish state; in 1808 he led a delegation that met with Emperor Alexander I in St. Petersburg, and he later held high office in the Finnish Senate. He also purchased the large, dignified English-style estate not far from Åbo (Turku in Finnish) in southwestern Finland on which his great-grandson, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (called Gustaf by family and friends)—the future Grand Marshal of independent Finland—was born.

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