For Russia’s aristocracy and intelligentsia, Paris has always been a home away from home, with rich cosmopolitans, artists and writers all finding respite in the City of Lights. Paris is where the Russian elite escape, emigrate and leave for exile. When the aristocracy wants to dazzle at parties or entertain at dinner, they speak French – in fact, many speak it better than Russian. Paris presents itself a natural home away from home. An unwritten rule states that everything that happens in Paris, stays in Paris.
And if Russians love Paris, the French capital also celebrates the Russian elite! Paris has become a true hub of the Russian community, boasting more than its fair share of Russian art galleries, restaurants and shops, to recreate St Petersburg in the heart of France. Artists showcase their work, the ballet travels there to scandalize locals with pieces like The Rite of Spring, which, when first performed a couple of weeks ago at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, caused a riot.
However, while the elite worship everything French, the political situation is anything but clear.
In 1908-09 during the Bosnian crisis, France declined to support Russia against Austria and Germany. The lack of French interest in supporting Russia during the Bosnian crisis was the low point of Franco-Russian relations, with Emperor Nicholas II making no effort to hide his disgust at the lack of support from what was supposed to be his number one ally. The Czar seriously considered abrogating the alliance with France, and was only stopped by the lack of an alternative.
Further linking France and Russia together are common economic interests. The French are the largest investors in the Russian empire, and the industrialization of Russia is partially the result of a massive influx of French capital into the country.
Points of Discussion
– What are the latest rumours from Paris?
– What’s hot this season?
– How does your character feel about the elite’s fascination with France?
– Can France be trusted?
– Is it patriotic to speak French and admire France?