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Professor Elena Marasinova

Elena Marassinova

National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Moscow

Lena Marasinova, professor in History, works at the Institute of Russian History (Russian Academy of Sciences) and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Lena graduated from Moscow Lomonosov University and had a fellowship in Max-Planck-Institut für Geschichte in Göttingen and Institut für osteuropäische Geschichte und Landeskunde at Tübingen Universität. Lena is a specialist in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russian history and literature. She is the author of two books The Psychology of the Elite of the Russian Nobility in the Last Third of the 18th Century: based upon correspondence (Moscow, 1999) and State and Person: Essays on the Russian 18th Century (Moscow, 2008). Work in progress is «Law» and «Citizen» in 18th Century Russia: essay on social consciousness.

Scaffold and Monastery in the Social Landscape of 18th Century: From the Death Penalty to the Penance

The penitentiary system of the modern era presents a field in which material culture is often used to embody the system of perceptions of crime and sin, which may be considered as part of textual culture. This function gives special meanings to the objects and spaces included in the process of criminal punishment. The structured text of a law, i.e. a phenomenon of textual culture, interacts in a special way with the field of material culture, generating special visual symbols. In addition, the human body itself, subjected to whatever form of execution, also becomes an object included in the complex semiotic zone of punishment.

The report will address the following issues:

  • Types of death penalty in 16th to 18th century Russia and their connections with the notion of punishment at the Last Judgment: the impossibility of resurrection for the dismembered criminal, boiling in a cauldron as a symbol of hellfire, etc.
  • The appearance in 18th century Russia of the concept of “political death”, whereby the death penalty was simulated on a specially constructed scaffold, but the criminal remained alive.
  • The usage of certain words to stigmatize the offender: the shift from the word “thief” to that of “murderer”.
  • The 18th century moratorium on the death penalty in Russia and the transition from punishment of the body to rehabilitation of the soul: the space of the scaffold replaced by that of the monastery.