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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

About the author


In the autumn of 1991, two years before his death, at the invitation of the Pushkinsky Fond, Lotman began working on a 3-volume history of the Russian nobility through the everyday life of the Durnovo family from St. Petersburg. The second volume was published posthumously in 1996, but all that remains of the third is the introductory fragment entitled «Kamen’ i trava». Despite its brevity and incompleteness, this essay nevertheless deserves attention, because it leads us to reflect on a fundamental rupture in pre-revolutionary cultural history, namely the disintegration of the dual structure of Russian society (aristocracy–peasants) and the rise of a “third” class between them: the urban middle class. Lotman, like Chekhov before him, traces this passage focusing on changes in the noble country estate: its slow degradation and its progressive “democratization” and transformation into dacha. Drawing on heterogeneous sources, from high poetry to mass literature, the scholar offers reflections of astonishing insight and perception that, if reread in the light of the cultural and anthropological debate developed in the 25 years since the author’s death, help to understand the roots of contemporary practices and phenomena such as mass tourism, changes in taste and the affirmation of kitsch, the weakening of cultural and epistemological categories that were once “strong” like the Self and the Other, the Here and the Elsewhere.

  • Keywords: Yu.M. Lotman, estate, dacha, everyday life, literature, mass culture, social history, cultural anthropology, urbanism.


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