Who gets to indulge in the foreign in Petrine Russia

I could not help but notice a serious divide among the men’s and women’s etiquette laid out in The Honorable Mirror for Youth. Men were encouraged to abstain from hooliganism, nose-picking, fish soup splattering etc. and partake in a “vigorous” life of foreign languages, modest food and drink, and calculated European (Erasmian) conversation. Women were encouraged to take up only the word of God as recorded in the scriptures and many of their “etiquettal” maxims numbered among God’s ten commandments. This disparity in instructional etiquette suggests that the draft Peter let into Russia upon opening the window to the West was not intended for women as much as it was for men. Hughes seems to agree with such an assessment when she argues that “…what on superficial acquaintance might be identified as ’emancipation’ in fact represented a female version of service to the State…” (201). True, elite women were now encouraged by Peter to join their husbands in the ballroom and at other Petrine dysfunctional functions, but the Mirror encourages women to be “meek” and “god-fearing” in these appearances.

A question I have about the Mirror regards the documents relationship or tension with Peter’s mock court and assemblies which seem to parallel official life. Are not the farcical celebrations undertaken by Peter also mockeries of all this supposedly European etiquette? In some ways, then, perhaps Peter’s mock assemblies were more than just a criticism of the orthodoxy or of Catholicism. Perhaps Peter simply wanted to create a Dionysian universe that paralleled the official, rationalized, and centralized formation of the Russian state at the time.

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