Ivan Narodny (1869-1953) was a Russian-Estonian-American "revolutionist," journalist, writer, art critic, modernist playwright, "friend" of Roosevelt, Gorky, Lenin, Tolstoy, Roerich, and Sibelius, arms dealer, dance master, con-man, madman, Kulturträger, and Theosophist. He was the founder of the imaginary United States of Russia and author of its Declaration of Independence (1908), as well as a peculiar "Greenwich village" religion of art. He was also a creator of a number of literary frauds, including a legend of Esenin's death and a myth of Shangri-La, which spread all over the world via the agency of the Hearst papers. In this paper, Vinitsky will consider the "cultural psychography" (or, in terms of Narodny, the mimodrama) of this colorful individual as a re-enactment of certain cultural trends and ideas characteristic of the American society of the 1900-40s.
Ilya Vinitsky is Professor of Russian at Princeton University. His main fields of expertise are Russian Romanticism and Realism, the history of emotions, nineteenth- century intellectual and spiritual history, and Russian and American cultural ties. His books include Ghostly Paradoxes: Modern Spiritualism and Russian Culture in the Age of Realism (University of Toronto Press, 2009), Vasily Zhukovsky's Romanticism and the Emotional History of Russia (Northwestern University Press, 2015) and The Count of Sardinia: Dmitry Khvostov and Russian Culture (Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2016; in Russian).