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Samovars and quills: the representation of bureaucracy in mid-nineteenth-century Russian literature

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Archival Science
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)55-68
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Russian literature of the nineteenth century provides a valuable insight into the character of Russian society during the period. The figure of the bureaucrat, and of bureaucracy more generally, looms large in works that appeared during Russia’s golden age of literature. The idea that Russian public life was distorted by a stifling lack of initiative and high levels of corruption amongst officials was a common theme in all forms of belles-lettres. This article examines a series of literary works by major authors—ranging from Gogol and Herzen to Turgenev and Tolstoi—and suggests that each of them had their own particular insight into the problem. For most leading writers, bureaucracy was more than simply a political and administrative phenomenon: it was also rooted in more far-reaching issues relating both to Russia’s distinctive history in particular and more universal philosophical problems in general.