Arts & Letters Writer | February 24, 2017
Alexander Martin, a Notre Dame professor of history and fellow of the Medieval Institute, has won the Urban History Association’s Best Book Award for a work of non-North American urban history published in 2013-14.
His book, Enlightened Metropolis: Constructing Imperial Moscow, 1762–1855; also won the 2013 Marc Raeff Book Prize awarded by the Eighteenth-Century Russian Studies Association to the best book in any discipline or language on the history and culture of Russia during that time period.
Martin’s work “addresses a significant gap in Russian, European, and urban historiography,” the Urban History Association said, that had not been explored in English-language scholarly literature.
“Martin’s (book) is thus a well-rounded history of Moscow as an idea, a built environment, and a lived community,” the association said in its fall newsletter.
Two Stereotyped Cities
Enlightened Metropolis challenges the myth that Imperial Russia’s two capital cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, had fundamentally different identities.
“The standard stereotype is that St. Petersburg was Russia’s window to Europe, whereas Moscow preserved the nation’s traditions,” Martin said. “I make the argument that this is not true. The tsarist regime worked to make Moscow a modern European city, with new buildings, a police force, and an improved infrastructure.”
In Enlightened Metropolis, Martin reveals that tsarist Moscow was also developing a middle class, “more than we sometimes think.”
The idea of 19th-century Moscow as a backward, un-European, and quintessentially “Russian” city needs to be revised, he said, noting that the city had actually kept up with Europe until the early 1800s.