Beyond Nations and Empires : The ‘Byzantine Commonwealth’ and Russian Émigré Scholarship

Authors

PALLADINO Adrien

Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Citation
Description The notion of “Byzantine Commonwealth” was coined in 1971 by Dimitri Obolensky (1918–2001), a Russian émigré almost entirely educated in Great Britain. However, the idea of an overarching cultural “influence” exerted by the Eastern Roman empire on a variety of countries which had formed parts of the Russian empire and extended to encompass the lands which – until 1991 and the fall of the Soviet Union – had been united in an economic and political block, possesses deeper roots. Furthermore, the very roots of thinking about a Byzantine “Commonwealth” have been transformed by the individual trajectories of scholars, especially those who emigrated after 1917. In the frame of this presentation, I would firstly like to present the idea – or myth – of Byzantine Commonwealth. Starting with Obolensky, I would like to further analyse the ideas behind the notion. The latter must be linked with the reworking of Russia’s “Byzantine heritage” by Russian scholars in dialogue with the “West”. Secondly, special focus will be given to the notion of Byzantium’s artistic “influence” by extending the discourse to another Russian émigré scholar, André Grabar (1896–1990). Especially his early works – written while in emigration in Bulgaria or shortly after in France on Bulgarian materials – were instrumental in the creation of the idea of the local “artistic dialects” rather than separate languages spoken by the different areas of Byzantine influence beyond its formal borders. Both figures here analysed, stemming from two different generations, are ideal to exemplify the transformation of the idea of Byzantium from an imperial (and for some “totalitarian”) state to a utopic supranational entity from the years 1917 to 1971.
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