Menageries and Zoos in the Russian Literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries: between Heaven and Hell

Valery Maroshi

Abstract


The article analyzes the process of representation of menageries and the first zoological gardens in Russian literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries during the pre-Soviet period. The author mainly focuses on particular representations of mobile menageries, of manor menageries, and Moscow and Berlin zoos. Conditions of animals in Russian menageries and zoological gardens were not as comfortable as in Europe. Additionally, the author’s special attention is paid to a “German” influence on these loci that gradually became a basis for a topos, combining the loci of different types of menageries and a large zoo. The opposing sides of meanings of this topos become meanings dating back to the archetypes of biblical Heaven and Hell. The former are represented by situations of visions of the future, memories of the lost Paradise of childhood; and the latter by imprisonment, a cry of a beast, rebellion of beasts or a beast, an escape from the zoo. All the images of both animals and the zoo are characterized by a high degree of allegorization and humanization of animals. The most important task for the Russian literature of the time in question was to express of sympathy for suffering animals, to draw attention to their position which correlated with the attention to the condition of the poor.


Keywords


Russian literature, menagerie, zoological garden, topos, archetype, paradise, hell.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.1.084

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