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The Rise of the Legend of the City of Kitezh in Russian Literature

November 26, 2012 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Lisa Woodson outdoors in front of a mountain peak with sunglasses on her head

Monday Seminar:

Lisa Woodson

Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2012-2013)

Slavic Languages and Literature, UW-Madison


Little known outside of Russia, the Legend of the City of Kitezh describes an ideal city hidden from the profane world around it. In some versions of the legend, the city became invisible to protect it from invading infidel armies; in others, it sank to the bottom of a lake or was hidden underground. According to the legend, only a select few from the profane world are ever counted worthy enough to glimpse this city as it becomes momentarily visible, or better yet, to leave the world behind and enter Kitezh forever. The legend, which claims to date to the 13th century, was virtually unknown in Russian culture before its “discovery” in communities of a persecuted religious sect in the mid-1800s. Within 70 years, the legend attained immense popularity in Russian culture, appearing widely in literature, music, and painting. One of the remarkable features of the appropriation of the legend was the great flexibility with which different writers used it to illustrate a variety of ideological, artistic, and philosophical positions. This talk will focus on how the legend went from unilaterally negative to largely positive interpretations between 1860-1910, paving the way for the explosion of excitement about the Kitezh legend in the next decade.


Lisa Woodson, a Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow, is a graduate student in Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She has taught Russian language, literature, and intellectual history at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Missouri. A Madison native, Lisa returned to Madison for graduate school after living abroad in Russia and Canada for several years, where she continued her studies and worked in the Russian environmental movement. She also holds a master’s degree in spiritual theology from Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, and a bachelor’s degree in Russian Area Studies from Wellesley College in Massachusetts.


November 26, 2012
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Categories:


University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States