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Block I Illinois Library Illinois Open Publishing Network


Vol. 10 (2022)

Crimean Tableaux of Catherine II’s Court as the Visual Record of the Russian Empire’s Southern Expansion



This article analyzes celebrations of Russian military victories over the Ottoman Turks during Catherine II’s reign on the examples of pictures (tableaux) featured in fireworks, illuminations, triumphal arches, processions, and instances of live theater. Performing the Crimean conquest via these artistic displays, from the early 1770s—the time when Crimea first begins to appear in them—and until Catherine’s final years, served as a way of incorporating the peninsula as a part of the imperial design and of announcing the Crimean Tatar as the latest member of the Russian Empire’s supporting cast. This paper argues that Crimea’s changing status in the ceremonial culture of Catherine’s court is reflected in these tableaux with their focus on the territory (Crimea) as opposed to its people (Crimean Tatars).