The Transnationalism of Swedish and Russian National Theatres in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century: How Foreign Performative Art Sharpened the Aesthetics of National Identity


  • Maria Berlova Russian University of Theater Arts (GITIS, Moscow)



Gustav III, Catherine II, Swedish eighteenth-century theatre, Russian eighteenth-century theatre, national theatre, transnationalism, mobile artists


In this article, I consider the formation of national theatres in Sweden and Russia under the guidance of King Gustav III and Empress Catherine II. Both Swedish and Russian theatres in the second half of the eighteenth century consolidated their nationalism by appealing to various national cultures and absorbing them. One of the achievements of the Enlightenment was the rise in popularity of theatre and its transnationalism. Several European countries, like Russia, Sweden, Po- land, Hungary and others, decided to follow France and Italy’s example with their older traditions, and participate in the revival of the theatrical arts, while aiming at the same time to preserve their national identities. The general tendency in all European countries of “second theatre culture” was toward transnationalism, i.e. the acceptance of the inter-penetration between the various European cultures with the unavoidable impact of French and Italian theatres. The historical plays of the two royal dramatists – Gustav III and Catherine II – were based on nation- al history and formulated following models of mainly French and English drama. The monarchs resorted to the help of French, Italian and German composers, stage designers, architects, choreographers and actors to produce their plays. However, such cooperation only emphasized Swedish as well as Russian national- ism. Despite many similarities, Gustav III and Catherine II differed somewhat in how each positioned their own brand of nationalism. By delving deeper into the details of the formation of the national theatres by these monarchs, I will explore similarities and differences between their two theatres.

Author Biography

Maria Berlova, Russian University of Theater Arts (GITIS, Moscow)

Maria Berlova is a lecturer in European Art History at the Russian University of Theater Arts (GITIS, Moscow, Russia). She also works as a Senior Researcher at the State Institute for Art Studies. Right now she is working on two book projects: Performing Power. Political Masks of Gustav III in English and Theater of the King in Russian. Berlova received her MA in theater studies at GITIS in 2006, and PhD in 2011. She obtained her second PhD from Stockholm Univer- sity in 2013. Her research interests are European theater history of the eighteenth century, particularly Swedish and Russian theater history.


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How to Cite

Berlova, M. (2015). The Transnationalism of Swedish and Russian National Theatres in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century: How Foreign Performative Art Sharpened the Aesthetics of National Identity. Nordic Theatre Studies, 27(1), 104–114.



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