This chapter serves to set the scene, sketching out cultural Russia at the time of Petipa’s arrival in 1847. It gives a brief history of Russian ballet; it describes the different theatres and the imperial monopoly over them in Moscow and St Petersburg; it provides a glimpse of the process of Westernization and the reliance on foreign talent. Equally, it sets against this the manifestations of national consciousness, particularly during the Napoleonic War; and it covers the uniquely Russian phenomenon of serfdom and serf theatre. Finally, it summarizes the differences between the two capitals and the political and symbolic significance of the Imperial Ballet.
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