From poetry to peasantry: my early adventures in Russian studies

Maureen Perrie

Abstract


The Editorial Board of the journal is rightly proud that it managed to persuade Professor Maureen Perrie, the eminent British historian of Russia, to write this memoir, intriguingly entitled ‘From Poetry to Peasantry: my Early Adventures in Russian Studies’. The memoir is written with such candour, and in such a lively and entertaining style, that its appeal will extend beyond specialists in the humanities. The reader is presented with a portrait of an entire generation, with its insights and its delusions, its loyalty to its parents’ moral code and its aspiration towards new visions of humanity. Maureen Perrie’s remarkable memory for detail enables her to create a complex and dynamic picture of the attitude of British society towards Russia, of cultural interactions and the cruel political prejudice that played such a pernicious role. At the same time we have a valuable account of her youthful enthusiasms, heartfelt experiences and the role of personal relationships in her development as a historian. The author followed a complex path, beginning with an interest in Russian literature and the Symbolists (her favourite poet was Alexander Blok), and leading on to research on the Russian peasantry, pretenderism and the Russian monarchy. This trajectory provides evidence of her inquiring mind and her desire to get to the very heart of a phenomenon – because a true understanding of Russia involves first and foremost an understanding of the patriarchal mindset, the peasant world, popular utopias and the cruelty of the regime towards its own people. Maureen Perrie has brilliantly succeeded in her task. Her publications make a major contribution to international Russian Studies; and this autobiographical essay, which is so revealing of the author’s personality, provides entertaining and moving reading for all lovers of Russian culture.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.1.077

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