The history of Russia's urban fire departments and the authoritarian elements of a growing public sphere.
Nineteenth-century commentators often claimed that Russia burned to the ground every thirty years. In an empire whose cities were built of wood, firefighters had a visible presence throughout Russia's urban centres and became politically active across the country. Democracy Burning? studies the political, cultural, and social values of volunteer firefighters and reveals the ways in which their public organizations cooperated with the authoritarian state. Nigel Raab considers the important roles that nationalism, regionalism, militarism, photography, and civil society played in fire departments and challenges prevailing notions that volunteer organizations opposed the state. His analysis not only provides insights into questions about a nascent civic consciousness in the years leading to revolution but also reveals new and important information about other aspects of urban life. A skilled work of history and urban studies, Democracy Burning? forces us to rethink the way we consider large public organizations and their relation to authoritarian governments.