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The Bear as a Russian National and Militarist Symbol The Bear and the Finnish Maiden. Vesa Matteo Piludu 2009. University of Helsinki Department of Art Research, Semiotics. National symbols are taboo
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The Bear as a Russian National and Militarist SymbolThe Bear and the Finnish Maiden Vesa Matteo Piludu 2009 University of Helsinki Department of Art Research, Semiotics
National symbols are taboo In a negative sense (general prohibition: for Italians it is quite uncommon postulate that Dante was a mediocre poet) In a positive sense (they include general rules of behavior: the Bulgarians enjoy if the Bulgarian football national team defeat Germany 2-1) Generally national symbols are part of Doxa (Common sense), are not object of discussion, are accepted and celebrated as a matter of faith The semiotic analysis of national symbols includes a deconstruction and often a critic of the ideological use of the national symbols Semiotics as taboo-breaker National symbols as taboo
Deconstruction - Construction • the so-called deconstruction of the national symbols includes the knowledge of the historical and cultural construction of the national symbols • Often the national symbols are based on folk or ethnic culture • The modern nationalism is based on the national romantic philosophy that idealized folklore as the true soul of the nations • Many scholars and artists participated in the nationalization of folk symbols (Grimm, Wagner, Lonnrot, Sibelius…) • The nationalization of the folk symbols includes a complete redefinition, simplification and sometimes falsification of folklore
Ethnosemiotics and semiotics of popular culture • The semiotics analysis of National symbols could include • Ethnosemiotic for the analysis of the symbols in their original folk culture • Cultural and social semiotics for the process of nationalization of the symbols • Semiotics of popular culture and media for the study of the sprawl of national symbols in different contexts (advertising, satirical magazines…)
Ethnosemiotics • Using methods of semiotics in the traditional fields of cultural anthropology, ethnology, ethnography, folk studied • Anthropology and semiotics are related field of studies • (Auge is popular in semiotic studies) • Today cultural anthropology and folkloric studies includes the study of modern societies
Animals as national symbols • Part of the study of the cultural representation of animals • Cultural semiotic • Significational Anthropological biosemiotics according to Dario Martinelli • According to cultural anthropologist, animals are one of the most important sources of symbols and significations
Nationals animal symbols in Russia and Finland • In Finland and Russia the bear is an unofficial national symbol • The Finnish coat of arms has a Lion • The Russian coat of arms has the Imperial Eagle • But the bear, in both countries, is more popular
Bear: a national symbol rooted in folklore • The identification between Russia and the bear is deeply rooted in the Russian folklore • The identification between Finland and the bear is deeply rooted in the Finnish folklore • The bear compares often in the Russian rituals and wonder tales (volshebaia skazka) • The bear had a great importance in the Finnish oral poetry: • In epic poems (Kalevalaic songs) • In ritual songs to hunt the bear (karhunpeijaiset) • In rituals to summon female power (lempi) • In healing songs, as a helping-spirit of the Finnish healer (loitsut) • In folk tales
Veles or Volos: the Master of the Animals, protector of cattle and bears
The bear hunt in Russia • In Russia there were hunters which bagged bears with a spear (Russian word for the bear spear is "rogatina" and the hunter is called "rogatchik"). Different people of Russian society from the ordinary peasant up to the noble aristocrat were keen participants of this very dangerous method of hunting, with a few people being professionals. • They have to be a brave and strong person, and have to anticipate the unexpected bear behavior. • The great specialist of bear hunting was the main huntsman of the great duke Nikolay Romanov - Mihail Andrievskiy. In the magazine ("Nature and Hunting" 1894) he published a well known and very interesting article about bear hunting with "rogatina". He described every detail and all aspects of this hunting: bear behaviour, psychology and strategy fighting, construction of spear and so on. Vadim painted this picture according to this article and following some advice with bear specialist zoologists.
St. Seraphim and the bear • One day a nun coming to visit St. Seraphim at his hermitage in the woods near Sarov, found the old monk being visited by a bear. • Terrified, the nun let out a scream. • But the bear lay down by Seraphim’s feet. • “I was as terrified as before,” the nun later recorded, “but when I saw Father Seraphim, quite unconcerned, treating the bear like a lamb, stroking him and giving him bread, I calmed down.”
Wonder tale Ivan the bear son Viktor Vasnetsov: Ivan's Battle with the Three-Headed Serpent (1912)
Appling Lotman to the national symbol analysis • Long ”memory” of the national symbols • Diacrony: vertical cut • Sincronicity1: adaptation to the (contemporary) cultural context • Sincronicity 2: the same (national) symbol could be idealized in a context (Soviet Olimpic – United Russia) and ridiculized in others (foreign newspapers’ articles about the Russian agressive foreing politic)