The role of historians is very tough to ascertain. Are they supposed the stay within the books and the world of academics and enrich the entire arena, or are they supposed to come up in the forefront and reach out to the world at large who are not aware of how exactly History works? While this constant tussle is on, Orlando Figes steps away ahead, and ranges out his popularity beyond the world of academia, and started growing some fame in general readership. This wasn’t an easy job at all since this has brought him lot of criticism from his fellow academicians. Some of them have even described him as historical journalists while the rest has accused him of taking the creative liberties with evidence.
But this has stopped him at all from coming up with books one after another that poses a bright light at the Russian Revolution, and how it has brought a strong cultural difference in the entire community. The book Natasha’s Dance: a Cultural History of Russia is a strong representation of how Orlando Figes looks back into history and how he approaches in studying the micro-narratives which otherwise is ignored in most of the cases.
Russia was described by Winston Churchill as a riddle that has been wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma and such a statement has been given the status of a conventional thought being eccentrically expressed. It is the Russian high culture and conundrums that have been ravishing the western 19th-century imagination to a great extent. And this captivation of the western mind had their effects strongly till the latter half of the twentieth century as well. While all of them were still wrestling with the universal questions, this particular book by Orlando Figes actually reveals how these intellectuals were exercised by the Russian questions as well.
It was the governmental censorship that put its tough restrictions on the functions of the critics in the literary society. But somebody had correctly said that creative minds cannot be blinded with any external force. These figures started using the Aesopian language, and still let their followers know what they actually thought. This led to the famous revolution in October 1917, and the freedom achieved was better than under the Soviet regime.
This book, Natasha’s Dance: a Cultural History of Russia actually examines the tangled roots of nationhood and culture. The most common assumption that has been made is that the intellectuals observed the peasantry from a clinical distance. Figes was completely against this, and in order to make things much more clear, he actually described in his book how the Russian upper classes imbibed the peasant life from birth and that actually helped them to mark a strong connection between the two classes.
The younger generation of Russian intellectual actually chooses to ignore this and it seems to be a mere romanticism for them to learn from the common people. But Orlando Figes nicely shows in his book how the 19th-century intellectuals developed this quality in them and ultimately helped them to produce an art form of transcendental quality.