Soil and Soul: The Symbolic World of Russianness, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Soil and Soul

The Symbolic World of Russianness, 1st Edition

By Elena Hellberg-Hirn


290 pages

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Originally published in 1998, in this book, a number of stereotypes, symbols and signs of Russia, such as the double-headed eagle, the star, bread-and-salt, troika, the Orthodox cross, etc., are presented as a consistent set of metaphors, revealing a symbolic world made by and for the Russians in order to sustain and reinforce their group identity. The Russian language, culture and history form the basic core of the symbolic archive, or thesaurus, of Russianness, from which the necessary images, symbols and signs of identification are provided to manifest connection with the sphere of Russian identity. Such symbolism may directly or obliquely refer either to the territory (soil) of Russia, or to the ethnically specific traits of the Russian people (soul). Both soil and soul are emphatically personified in the symbolic image of Holy Russia - Mother Russia.


’…this courageous and idiosyncratic book will provoke further thought among all readers fascinated by the contradictory nature of Russian nationalism…infectiously lively style and seemingly insatiable inquisitiveness which becomes all the more impressive as the scope of the inquiry widens to cover all key symbols of Russianness.’ IDÄNTUTKIMUS ’…her analysis stands out for the freshness and candor of her approach, for the stimulating way in which she constructs her synthesis …flashes of brilliance…deserves a wide audience for its sensitive and engaging exploration of Russian national character.’ Slavic Review

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1. Symbolic Communication. 2. Territorial Symbolism: The Double-Headed Eagle. 3. Symbols of the Centre. 4. The Tsar: Father to the People. 5. Orthodox Christianity: The Collective Spirit. 6. Mother Russia: Soil and Soul. 7. Ethnic Symbolism: Real Russianness? 8. Russian Stereotypes. 9. Creation of the Nation: A Symbolic Discourse. 10. Understanding Russianness.

About the Author

Elena Hellberg-Hirn, Professor, Senior Researcher, Academy of Finland, Finland

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