Behavioural Practices of the Russian Imperial Court in the Biography of Ekaterina Dolgorukova, Princess Yuryevskaya
This review analyses a monograph written by Yulia Safronova, a St Petersburg-based specialist in the era of the Great Reforms, who makes an attempt to create the first historical biography of Princess Dolgorukova, the long-time mistress and then morganatic wife of Emperor Alexander II. The reviewer describes the structure of Safronova’s work, considers the methods of studying sources, and indicates the details of Yuryevskaya’s biography that have been clarified thanks to Safronova’s research. The source base of the work comprises approximately 5,000 letters by Alexander II and Princess Dolgorukova stored in the State Archive of the Russian Federation and written in French with single words or phrases in Russian, which the author considers a sort of “speech play” between the confidants. In Safronova’s study, the correspondence between Alexander II and his “Katya” is presented as a multifaceted source on the issues of Russian domestic and foreign policy, the history of the male and the female, sexuality, parenting, and, most importantly, the history of everyday practices of the Russian imperial court. The reviewer points out topics successfully developed by the author of the work, characterises the style of the author’s narrative, and identifies the subjects that need further research. The reviewer concludes that Safronova managed to successfully write an interesting biographical work thanks to a number of factors, such as wellfounded research, scrupulous and comprehensive work with sources, and a composed writing style, which allows the author to stay within the scope of scholarly discourse even when considering certain intimate issues that are difficult to analyse in an academic text.
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