Throughout time historians have seen cycles of artistic and cultural revolution. Every fifty years or so people seem to gather in small areas around the world and let their minds boil together to create radically new art. St. Petersburg, Russia became one of these places in the late 19th century. It was a time of great change all over Europe and onto its outskirts. It was a time of revolution. In fact, the music that was created in the late 19th century Russia due to this change in thinking became so revolutionary - that it became evolutionary. Modest Mussorsgy's opera Boris Godunov displays this evolution of music through its use of national history and national folk music. This evolution was fueled by one sole engine, an engine of nationalism.
A lot of this nationalism is attributed to a change in class association. For thousands of years people had associated themselves with a social economic class; for example, the bourgeoises, proletarians or aristocrats. This all started to change in the late 19th century when people started identifying themselves with their nations rather than their economic place in society. For three hundred years music seemed only characterized by three different places: France, Italy and Germany. So it was natural for the Russians to want a musical style of their own. .
On January 27th, 1874 Boris Godunov was received for its first time. In the footsteps of the most influential contemporary composer Richard Wagner, Modest Mussorsgy wrote both the music and the libretto to his opera. Mussorsgy's opera was quite Wagnerian in length and in theatrical size; however, something was quite different from both Wagner's operas and most composers before his time. Mussorsgy decided to use his own country's political history as a plot for his music. "History is my nocturnal mate - I absorb it and more than enjoy it, despite my weariness and my dismal mornings at the office," Mussorsgy once said.