Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title Boris Godunov in the Art of the Great Reforms Period: Paradoxes of Representations
Author email
About author Chernysheva, Maria Aleksandrovna — Ph. D., associate professor. Saint Petersburg State University, Universitetskaia nab., 7/9, 199034 St. Petersburg, Russian Federation. Khodorkovskaya, Elena Semenovna — Ph. D., associate professor. Saint Petersburg State University, Universitetskaia nab., 7/9, 199034 St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
In the section Russian Art in the 18th–19th Centuries DOI10.18688/aa200-2-32
Year 2020 Volume 10 Pages 363375
Type of article RAR Index UDK 7.035 + 7.04 + 7.044 + 76 +78.08 Index BBK 85.103(2)1 + 85.313(2)

At the turn of the 1860s and 1870s, forty years after the publication of Pushkin’s “Boris Godunov”, the image of this tsar attracted the attention of the Russian public again. In 1866, the censorship banon the theatrical production of Pushkin’s play was lifted and in 1870, the tragedy was first staged. In 1869, Modest Mussorgsky completed the first version of his “Boris Godunov”. In 1870, Alexey Tolstoy published the final part of his historical trilogy, the tragedy “Tsar Boris” (staged in 1881). Previously, there have not been any purposeful attempts to correlate the way Godunov was depicted in opera and literature with his representation in painting and graphics of the 19th century; these representations themselves remain little studied. We see the value of our work in filling this gap. The article traces Boris Godunov’s iconography through the epochs of Nicholas I and Alexander II. It has been discovered that there existed a composition by Vyacheslav Schwarz “The Death of Boris Godunov”, which was not mentioned in the literature on the artist before. The interpretation of Godunov’s character given by Nikolai Ge in his sketch “Tsar Boris and Tsarina Marfa” (1873–1874) was the closest visual one to those by Pushkin and Mussorgsky. It is also noted that in Russian painting and graphics of the period it is unthinkable to find something corresponding to the Kromïscene, which defined the finale of Mussorgsky’s opera (when it was first staged in 1874) and became the unprecedentedly expressive representation of a Russian rebellion.


Reference Chernysheva, Maria A.; Khodorkovskaya, Elena S. Boris Godunov in the Art of the Great Reforms Period: Paradoxes of Representations. Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of articles. Vol. 10. Ed: A. V. Zakharova, S. V. Maltseva, E. Iu. Staniukovich-Denisova. — Lomonosov Moscow State University / St. Petersburg: NP-Print, 2020, pp. 363–375. ISSN 2312-2129.
Publication Article language russian
  • Billington J. H. The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian. New York, Knopf Publ., 1967. 841 p.
  • Chernysheva M. A. Paul Delaroche’s Works from the Collection of Anatoly Demidov and Their Significance for Russian Artists of the 19th Century. Zakharova A. V.; Maltseva S. V.; Stanyukovich-Denisova E. Yu. (eds.). Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of Articles, vol. 6. St. Petersburg, NP-Print Publ., 2016, pp. 597–604. Available at:–7–64/ (accessed 02 February 2019) (in Russian).
  • Chernysheva M. A. The New Historical Narrative in the 19th Century Painting. Zakharova A. V.; Maltseva S. V.; Stanyukovich-Denisova E. Yu. (eds.). Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of Articles, vol. 8. St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg University Press Publ., 2018, pp. 140–148. Available at:–188–1–13 (accessed 02 February 2019) (in Russian).
  • Drizen N. V. Dramaticheskaia tsenzura dvukh epokh. 1825–1881 (Dramatic Сensorship of Two Eras. 1825–1881). Petrograd, Prometei Publ., 1917. 346 p. (in Russian).
  • Emerson C. Bakhtin and Intergeneric Shift: The Case of Boris Godunov. Studies in 20th Century Literature, 1984, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 145–168.
  • Emerson C. Boris Godunov: Transposition of a Russian Theme. Bloomington, Indiana University Press Publ., 1986. 288 p.
  • Emerson C.; Oldani R. W. Modest Musorgsky and Boris Godunov: Myths, Realities, Reconsiderations. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press Publ., 1994. 339 p.
  • Istoriia Rossii v kartinakh (Russian History in Pictures), vols. 1–8. St. Petersburg, Tipografiia Tovarishhestva “Obshhestvennaia pol’za” Publ., 1863–1871 (in Russian).
  • Istoriia russkogo naroda v 24 kartinakh (History of the Russian People in 24 Pictures). St. Petersburg, Tipografiia Tovarishhestva “Obshhestvennaia pol’za” Publ., 1866. 24 pl. (in Russian).
  • Karamzin N. Istoriia Gosudarstva Rossiiskogo (History of the Russian State), vol. 11. St. Petersburg, Pliushar’s Widow and Son Publ., 1835. 302 p. (in Russian).
  • Karamzin N. On the Events and Characters in Russian History (Which May be the Subject of Arts). Vestnik Evropy (European Herald), 1802, no. 24, pp. 289–308 (in Russian).
  • Kostomarov N. I. Time of Troubles of the Moscow State at the Beginning of the 17th Century. 1604–1613. Vestnik Evropy (European Herald), 1866, vol. 1, pp. 1–154 (in Russian).
  • Levashev E. M.; Teterina N. I. Istorizm khudozhestvennogo myshleniia M. P. Musorgskogo (Historicism of Artistic Thinking of M. P. Musorgsky). Moscow, Pamiatniki istoricheskoi mysli Publ., 2011. 745 p. (in Russian).
  • Lomonosov M. V. Ideas for Paintings from Russian History. Lomonosov M. V. Izbrannaia proza (Selected Prose). Moscow, Sovetskaia Rossiia Publ., 1980, pp. 257–262 (in Russian).
  • Lotman Iu. M. Karamzin: Sotvorenie Karamzina. Stat’i i issledovaniia. Zametki i retsenzii (Karamzin: The Сreation of Karamzin. Articles and Studies. Notes and Reviews). St. Petersburg, Iskusstvo Publ., 1997. 829 p. (in Russian).
  • Mikhailova E. The Path to the Authentic Text. The Stage History of Musorgsky’s Opera “Boris Godunov” in the Version of 1869. Ruchevskaia Ekaterina Aleksandrovna. K 90-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia: sbornik statei (Ekaterina Ruchevskaia. To the 90th Anniversary of Her Birthday. A Collection of Articles). St. Petersburg, Kompozitor Publ., 2012, pp. 226–247 (in Russian).
  • Musorgsky M. Boris Godunov. Libretto. Moscow, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo Publ., 1928. 124 p. (in Russian).
  • Ocherki k Borisu Godunovu Aleksandra Pushkina (Essays to Boris Godunov of Alexander Pushkin). St. Petersburg, 1842. 15 pl. (in Russian).
  • Pisarev A. A. Predmety dlia khudozhnikov, vybrannye iz Rossiiskoi istorii, Slavenskogo basnosloviia i iz vsekh drugikh sochinenii v stikhakh i proze (Subjects for Artists Selected from Russian History, the Slavensky Fables, and from All Other Works in Verse and Prose). vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, Tipografiia Shnora Publ., 1807. 253; 343 p. (in Russian).
  • Platt K. M. F. Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths. London, Cornell University Press Publ., 2011. 294 p.
  • Pushkin A. S. Boris Godunov. St. Petersburg, Ja. A. Isakov Publ., 1871. 116 p. (in Russian).
  • Stasov V. V. Theatrical Production of Pushkin’s “Boris Godunov”. Stasov V. V. Sobranie sochinenii (Collected Works). 1847–1886, vol. 3. St. Petersburg, Tipografiia I. N. Skorohodova Publ., 1894, pp. 364–367 (in Russian).
  • Syrkina F. Ia. Russkoe teatral’no-dekoratsionnoe iskusstvo vtoroi poloviny XIX veka: Ocherki (Russian Theatrical-Decorative Art of the Second Half of the 19th Century. Essays). Moscow, Iskusstvo Publ., 1956. 380 p. (in Russian).
  • Taruskin R. Crowd, Mob, and Nation in “Boris Godunov”: What did Musorgsky Think, and Does It Matter? Studia Musicologica, 2011, vol. 52, no. 1/4, pp. 123–142.
  • Taruskin R. Musorgsky vs. Musorgsky: The Versions of Boris Godunov. 19th-Century Music, 1984, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 91–118.
  • Taruskin R. Musorgsky vs. Musorgsky: The Versions of Boris Godunov (II). 19th-Century Music, 1985, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 245–272.
  • Tolstoy A. K. Tsar Boris. Tolstoy A. K. Dramy (Dramas). Berlin, I. P. Ladyzhnikov Publ., 1922, pp. 329–512 (in Russian).
  • Vdovin A. Shkol’nyi literaturnyi kanon XIX veka: chto chitali russkie gimnazisty? (School Literary Canon of the 19th Century: What Did Russian Schoolchildren Read?) Available at: (accessed 30 September 2018) (in Russian).
  • Zhivopisnoe obozrenie (Picturesque Review), 1888, no. 20, pp. 311–326 (in Russian).
  • Zhivopisnyi Karamzin, ili russkaia istoriia v kartinakh (Picturesque Karamzin, or Russian History in Pictures), vol. 1–3. St. Petersburg, Gintze and Pratz Publ., 1836–1844. 121; 124; 107 p. (in Russian).