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Images of Pugachev before the Canonization: Transnational Controversies over the Interpretation of Revolts in Pre-Modern Times Konstanz Pugačev-Bilder vor der Kanonisierung: Transnationale Deutungskämpfe in der Vormoderne

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This article deals with the commemoration of the Pugachev rebellion (1773–75) during the first half-century after its suppression – until Alexander Pushkin published his historiographical work on the revolt (1833) and his famous novel The Captain's Daughter (1836). Due to the Russian government's damnatio memoriae policy and vivid international interest in the events and the leader, who had impersonated Peter III, Catherine's II defunct husband and predecessor, practically all representations were published abroad. Two anonymous or pseudonymous accounts stand out as major templates for following treatments of the events throughout Europe: a French biography of Pugachev published in 1775 (Le faux Pierre III – The False Peter III), where more than two thirds of the text are dedicated to the protagonist's (alleged) life before the uprising and which has been criticized as a mere novel bearing not more than some resemblance to historical events; and a German account (Zuverlässige Nachrichten von dem Aufrührer Jemeljan Pugatschew und der von demselben angestifteten Empörung – Reliable News about the Rebel Emel'ian Pugachev and the Rebellion Instigated by Him), published in 1784, that focuses in the first place on the military side of the revolt and is certainly closer to what had actually happened. It is shown that the "biography", which was probably first and foremost a contribution to the intellectual criticism of French despotism, presented a serious challenge to Catherine's self-portrayal as enlightened monarch. On this background the role of the German account is reassessed: It must have been secretly commissioned by the Tsaritsa herself in order to counteract and discredit a work that tarnished her image and enjoyed enormous popularity throughout Europe.
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Language: German

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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  • The Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas ("East European History") present the discipline in its entire breadth; for thematically focused articles the emphasis lies on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the former Soviet Union. A double-blind review process with international experts ensures adherence to the annals' recognized high quality standards. An extensive section devoted to reviews informs the reader about current trends in German and international research. In addition, the editorial board publishes an electronic review supplement under the title jgo.e-reviews at
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