Viollet-le-Duc earned a privileged place in the annals of modern architecture by elaborating a general theory that could respond flexibly to a variety of local traditions, cultural practices, and material resources. In 1877 he undertook to test this theory by applying it to an unfamiliar case-the architecture of Russia. The first study of its type to appear in the West, L'Art russe chronicled Russia's architectural past and predicted its future. The book touched a nationalist nerve in the Russian audience and engendered a heated debate in Russia about the nation's ethnic identity and architectural destiny. Analysis of the text and its critical reception will demonstrate the political timeliness of Viollet-le-Duc's argument for the eminent rationality of allowing national traditions, tastes, and resources to inspire the architect's design choices.

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