La Scrittura e la steppa

Ultimo aggiornamento: 09 January 2023

Ghini G.

La Scrittura e la steppa

L'esegesi figurale e la cultura russa

Quattroventi Urbino 1999

Scheda a cura di: Ghini G.


Modern Europe often held and projected a negative, inverted image of Russia most likely because she maintained a traditional, if not always conservative culture, through the ages. This book analyzes one of the most important cultural devices of this traditional culture, the fourfold figural pattern of biblical typology. Beginning with E. Auerbach’s seminal research (1938), scholars have identified this figural pattern in its four Scriptural senses—historical, allegorical, moral and analogical— within several cultural fields, including English Medieval and American Puritan Literatures. Until now, scholars have not considered its relevance to Russian studies, except R. Picchio’s discovery in the literary code of Slavia Orthodoxia of the so-called synsemia (con-significance, i.e., the presence of a higher, spiritual meaning of a text beyond its first, literal one). This present text provides six examples of persistent figural representation in Russian culture. The first is one of the first East-Slavic texts (ca. 1050), the so-called Sermon on Law and Grace, authored by Hilarion as strong critical tradition holds. The work is grounded upon a typological pattern of prefigurationfulfillment which explicitely recalls biblical passages and explains the “position” of the newly baptized Rus’ in sacred history. The second example comes from an extraordinary icon created after Ivan IV’s victory over the Tartars in 1570. Here, as in the following third example of the Palm Sunday procession of the same period, biblical typology is combined with the “Moscow–Third-Rome” ideology and keen Apocalyptic expectations.

The fourth example is a picture belonging to the period of Moscow Baroque. It's taken from the Epithalamion presented by the official court poet Karion Istomin for Peter the Great’s first marriage in 1689. In taking advantange of Baroque use of mottos and quotations, three marriages in this image are typologically juxtaposed: the Old Testament marriage celebrated by God Himself (Gen 1), the New Testament marriage at Cana in Galilee celebrated by Christ (John 2) and Peter and Eudokia’s marriage to which, as the poem explains, Christ is invited. In this extraordinary picture—one of the first, trully realistic Russian portraits—Istomin merged traditional Old Russian culture with new Jesuit Western fashion. Two centuries later, Dostoevsky patterned his last masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, after a figural model. We may view it most especially in the relationship between the Evangelic epigraph and several Christ-shaped characters of the novel. The last example is taken from Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Here the relationship between Hamlet, Christ and Zhivago himself carries forward a “rehabilitation” of everyday life. The presence of the figural pattern in Russia’s culture demonstrates that when Europe left traditional European culture in order to embrace modernity, Russia still actively nurtured and kept biblical-liturgical patterns: in the far Russian steppe, European values were reserved for a post-modern Europe.


Pdf completo: La Scrittura e la steppa. L'esegesi figurale e la cultura russa.