Vol. 3 nº 1, février 2016
Russian ties with French history and culture are exceptionally rich and diverse. A great passion for French civilisation—which included the cultural phenomenon of bilingualism and the adaptation of images, plots, and motives from French literature and arts—helped determine the special status of French culture in Russian life. A particular niche was carved out for French Orientalism. The purpose of this essay is to contextualize French Orientalism—or more precisely, French artworks with oriental subjects—within nineteenth-century Russian culture, and to consider how French oriental music was received in Russia and resonated with Russian compositional practices. Instead of covering the whole complex phenomenon of Orientalism, described by Edward Said as a theoretical construction designed to serve the interests of European imperial powers, I concentrate on one of its aspects pertinent to nineteenth-century Russia: the role of Orientalism in cultural self-definition (Said 1978).