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Peddlers, Peasants, Icons, Engravings: the Portrait of the Tsar and Romanian Nation‑Building, 1888‑1916 (2019-2020)

Field of study: History

The present contribution examines how, in late-nineteenth-century Romania, a subversive political object transformed the dynamics of nation-building. Brought in by Russian peddlers selling religious icons on transregional routes, engravings of the Russian tsar in peasants’ homes attracted the attention of political elites and catalysed top-down attempts at nationalizing the peasant majority. By
considering a case in which the rural masses were exposed to the “wrong” political symbols before official nationalizing and dynastic paraphernalia could reach them, the study homes in on the attempts of both state and church to solve a surprisingly long-standing state of affairs, from 1888 to 1916.

Keywords: nation-building, nineteenth century Eastern Europe, cultural history of nationalism

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