Popular Theater and Society in Tsarist Russia


"Swift captures the habits, inclinations, tastes, and uses of leisure time among Tsarist Russia's urban lower classes--in all their colorful complexity. He vividly presents the kaleidoscopic world of popular theater, where culture meets entertainment, where Shakespeare and Ostrovsky meet racy vaudeville, farce, and melodrama, and where social and cultural identities blur. His study is a carefully analyzed, superbly documented, and immensely readable exposition of how "popular culture" really worked in prerevolutionary Russia, and how the tastes of its consumers constantly stymied and conflicted with the visions of state, educated society, and radicals alike."--Richard Stites, Georgetown University

"The fullest and most interesting account of how the Russian public seized upon the theater as an art form, as entertainment, and as an instrument of popular education. Swift makes Ostrovsky, Stanislavsky, Chekhov, and Tolstoy come alive, bringing great clarity to the larger context in which Russia's great dramatists thought about theater, its audience, and its functions."--Jeffrey Brooks, author of "When Russia Learned to Read: Literacy and Popular Literature, 1861-1917"

"In this stimulating book, Anthony Swift shows how popular theater became a forum where all the weighty questions of Russia's future were discussed: Who were the Russian people, how should they be governed, and what should they believe?"--Lynn Mally, author of "Revolutionary Acts: Amateur Theater and the Soviet State

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Berkeley, CA
Publication year:
  • 2002