'Freedom of the Theatres': the Abolition of the Russian Imperial Theatre Monopoly
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This article investigates why the Russian Imperial Theatre monopoly was abolished in 1882. The reform is regarded as an important turning-point in Russian cultural history, but its timing seems puzzling. The monopoly emerged for economic reasons but came to be defended on political grounds. Its abolition was regarded as an act of liberalization, yet it occurred when Alexander III was embarking on a programme of reaction. The article explores possible interpretations of the reform and suggests that, far from being an uncharacteristic concession to ‘progressive circles’, the monopoly's abolition makes sense only when viewed as part of Alexander III's ‘conservative-nationalist’ agenda.