The Time of Festival:
On the Behavior of Participants in Popular Uprisings
in the Russian Provinces in the Summer of 1648
D. A. Lyapin
Bunin Yelets State University
In the summer of 1648 popular unrest unfolded in Moscow and a number of towns in the Russian provinces. The participants in these riots protested attempts to limit the power of the tsar and demonstrated their support for Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich. They believed that his reign marked a new era, one with a strong monarch who served as an independent judge on behalf of his subjects. Lyapin examines the behavior of participants in the unrest within the entangled context of festivities and everyday life. He argues that elements of carnival culture were present in the unrest. In particular, he identifies the following features of carnival behavior: mockery, social “upturning,” feasting, violence, its origins in the marketplace, and its limited duration in time. The unrest was likely connected with the widespread sense that important changes were taking place across the country. The rebels believed that the rule of the insidious boiars and prikaz officials was at a close, and the just power of the tsar was on the rise. It was this mood of change that was expressed in popular uprisings, which included drunken festivities, fights and feasts, and had features of parody and the grotesque. Further, the rebels did not accept the social hierarchy. Lyapin considers the Russian unrest as a potential repercussion of the “feast of transformation” that was characteristic of medieval and early modern Europe. He concludes that the festive culture shows the unrest through the eyes of its participants, while arguing that the revolts of 1648 were an indicator of important changes, namely the formation of strong autocratic power in Russia.
Keywords: popular unrest, 1648, Russia, festive culture, daily life, the tsar, royal power, rebellion, absolutism