Traditionally, since the middle of the 18th century, Russian opera had been influenced by the Italians, just as the music world as a whole had been strongly oriented towards that country during the empire of the czars. For Russian composers, this meant that they have to battle incessantly for the recognition of their musical identity, which was not surprising in a country where many prominent families felt more at home speaking French than Russian. In his operas A Life for the Czar (1836), and Ruslan and Lyudmila (1841), Michael Glinka laid a foundation for the national opera culture, and Alexander Dargomishky followed his example. However, their music was still strongly influenced by foreign works; the torch was then taken over by Alexander Borodin and a few others, who grouped together under the name Moguchaya Kuchka (the ‘mighty handful’). Their main objective was to develop an authentic idiom, based on Russian folklore music. In addition, they strove to create a high degree of realism in the music drama. They were successful at this, even though at times hindered in the realization of their intentions by a lack of professional training of various members.