The opulent St. Petersburg Imperial Theaters were subsidized and administered by the Russian court from the eighteenth century until the collapse of the tsarist order in 1917. This close association raises many questions about the uses of these theaters and where their loyalties lay in the complex shifting power structure of early twentieth century Russia. This history begins in 1900 with the theater flourishing but undergoing change, then chronicles the impact of war and revolution, as well as audience and administration, leading up to the effective re-establishment of state control over the theaters by the Bolsheviks in 1920. While the theaters were often allied with the forces of change, their grandeur harked back to the age of the tsars, creating an irony that is explored here in depth. Photographs and diagrams of the theaters are included, along with photographs of the central historical figures, and contemporary cartoons referring to the theaters.
Murray Frame teaches modern history at the University of Dundee, Scotland. He has authored or coauthored several books on the Russian Revolution and Russia in world history. He lives in Dundee.