The section “SOVIET PARADIGM: IDEOLOGY AND ANALYSIS” opens with Sergei Alymov’s (Institute of Ethnography RAS, Moscow) article “Cosmopolitism, Marrism and other “sins”: Soviet ethnographers and archaeologists at the turn of the 1940s—1950s” looks into the state of the Soviet studies of the distant раst. By the end of the Stalin era these subjects became burning issues in the light of polemics over ethnogenesis of this or that “Soviet nation”. Ideological campaigns of the time rearranged the academic field: the “war on cosmopolitism” led to removal of the major Leningrad archaeologist Vladislav Ravdonikas who, in turn, had been directing the destruction of the remnants of the “bourgeois past” in his field. A linguistic discussion in which Stalin took part led to Nikolay Marr’s theory being abandoned in the fields where it had actually been perceived as relevant (this turnaround is analysed on the basis of the evolution of academic views of Sergei Tolstov, Director of Moscow Institute of Ethnography).
Еvgeny Ponomarev (St. Petersburg Institute of Culture) in his article “A Textbook in Patriotism: literature in Soviet schools in the 1940s—1950s” discusses interconnections between ideological innovations of the post-war period and theoretical concepts of philologists (especially G.A. Gukovsky) on one hand and the school interpretation of the history of Russian literature on the other. The key issues of the new interpretation (instead of realism and positive influence of progressive criticis) were patriotism and world-scale greatness of Russian writers. As a result in the textbooks of the late Stalin era parsing artistic characteristics of literary works were replaced by exemplifications of ahistoric patriotic principle that is inevitably ascribed to every author in question.
Vladimir Ryzhkovsky (European University, St Petersburg) in his article “Soviet Medieval Studies and Beyond (on the history of one discussion)” offers a detailed study of one of the first post-Stalin debates within historical studies — the debate on the so-called fundamental law of the feudal economy (1953—1955). The characters of two antagonists: a methodologist and a “raging Marxist” Boris Porshnev and a strict empiricist Byzantium scholar Mikhail Siuziumov, allow the author to provide a stereoscopic view of the field of alternative development paths for Soviet history as a discipline. The analysis of this semi-forgotten debate allows him to pose a question about the nature of the synthesis between neutral research techniques and the general “Marxist” methodology within the framework of heterogenous “Soviet Medieval Studies”. Research into the phenomenon of “Soviet Medieval Studies” demonstrates how a breakthrough to a new interpretation of the Middle Ages (Aaron Gurevich and Leonid Batkin) became possible in the 1970s.
Sergei Romanenko (Institute of Economics, RAS) in his article “History of Soviet Yugoslav Studies: between Slavic Studies and a search for “Middle Europe”” analyses the history of a subdivision closely linked to an evolution of the Soviet political regime. After 1917 pre-revolutionary Slavic Studies and its representatives were consistently sidelined by the new authorities. Their place was taken by politicised and quite often opportunistic studies of regional issue. Yugoslav Studies were hit especially hard by the consequences of the Stalin-Tito conflict of the 1948—1953; after the relationships between the two countries settled those studying South Slavic peoples were obliged to consider official the Belgrade position as well. The author puts a special stress on the departure from the supremacy of “Slavic unity” and the significance of unbiased studies of Croatia, Bosnian ethnos and Austro-Hungarian heritage in the works of Soviet historians of the 1960s—1980s (V. Freidzon and his associates).
The section “TRADITIONS OF LITERARY ARCHAISM: AROUND “THE COLLEGIUM OF ADMIRERS OF THE RUSSIAN LETTERS”” is dedicated to the anniversary of the author of the first academic treatise on this society — Mark Grigorievich Altschuller.
Vera Proskurina (Emory University, Atlanta) in her article “Derzhavin’s Ode to Fortune: Politics and Poetics” argues that Derzhavin’s ode To Fortune, written in 1789, and circulated in manuscript during Catherine’s reign, puzzles the readers by its ironic and even buffoonish style, presenting the world as nonsense and carnival. The poem’s confusing title (referring to the ancient tradition which influenced European baroque poets) allowed scholars to consider the ode as addressed to Catherine II and to treat the text as flattering toward the empress. Meanwhile, Derzhavin’s satirical overview gave a detailed and well-informed account of some topsy-turvy political events that confronted Catherine’s policy in 1787—1789. Some scholars tried to connect each line in these “international” strophes to some diplomatic efforts of the Russian court. Derzhavin in these fragments, had no intention of displaying successful achievements, but, to the contrary, pictured mad features of the mad world. It was not Catherine II who generated the political carnival, but a capricious and irresponsible, blind and unfair Fortune. Derzhavin made a clear distinction between Catherine as Minerva and a “wicked God” Fortune, and even implied the Gender difference to underline the difference. The author’s play with both figures as well as with two associated contexts – his usual half-joking reverence for Minerva-Catherine and his half-playful indignation for the mad and unpredictable Fortune – constituted the main counterpoint of the ode.
Tatiana Neshumova (Boris Pasternak’s Museum in Peredelkino; “Bolshaia Rossiyskaia Entsiklopedia” Publishing House) presents the first part of a big publication based on count D. Khvostov’s 1806—1807 letters to litterateur
- H.O. Kaisarov (the letters are kept at the Written Sources Department of the State Historical Museum). The letters published in this issue together with the detailed commentary made by the researcher recount the complex peripetia of Khvostov’s fight for a seat in the Senate and provide previously unknown details of early 19th century literary life.
- S. Panov (Moscow) in his notes discusses particular cases of private relationships between the “archaist” writers and the adherents of N.M. Karamzin’s school. The first note deals with the struggle for the reader’s attention that took place in the pages of the “Severnaia Pochta” newspaper in 1811. The other looks into the historical and literary connotations of A.S. Shishkov’s appraisal of V.A. Zhukovsky poetry.
Vladimir Korovin (MSU) in his article ““Hair-splitter’s notes” : F.N. Glinka’s poem “Mysterious drop” and its reader M.A. Dmitriev”” for the first time publishes Mikhail Dmitriev’s letters concerning the “Biblical epic” by Fyodor Glinka as well as his marginalia on the 1861 Berlin edition of the poem. Dmitriev’s normative critics based on the aesthetics of Karamzin discovered in the “Mysterious drop” some features that placed its author into the camp of the archaists of the early 19th century (S.A. Shirinsky-Shikhmatov, etc.). However, despite their differences where style was concerned, those two authors — once a former Karamzinist and a former archaist and in recent past staff members of the Slavophil “Moskvityanin” — proved to be very close in their understanding of the duties and tasks of “sacred poetry” and in their rejection of literary trends linked to the name of V.G. Belinsky.
REINTERPRETING UNOFFICIAL RUSSIAN POETRY OF 1970—1980s AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 21st CENTURY
Olga Livshin (University of Alaska, Anchorage) in her article “Nina Iskrenko: gender as performance” argues that the contemporary Russian poet Nina Iskrenko (1951—1995) has attracted considerable attention from scholars, in particular because of her iconoclastic treatment of traditional gender roles. While existing analyses interpret this aspect of Iskrenko’s work as a variety of feminism, inscribing her into various Western schools of feminism, Olga Livshin demonstrates that this treatment is part of a larger set of cultural and esthetic issues. Iskrenko often uses elements of performance in her work: kaleidoscopically changing roles in her poetry challenge a whole host of literary norms and cultural expectations. As concerns the gendered poetic persona, Iskrenko breaks her down into multiple, mutually conflicting personages. In doing so, she undermines traditional gender roles and behavioral expectations and creates a sense of joyful, limitless freedom. According to Livshin’s analysis, Iskrenko developed this treatment of the theme on the basis of Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov’s early poetry. However, unlike Prigov, Iskrenko often tests the boundaries of the traditional repertoire of what Judith Butler calls “gender performance.” She represents the roles available to women and men in Soviet and Russian cultural contexts alternately as tragically limited, blinding, or even physically menacing. The contradiction between freedom and limitation shapes the dynamics of gender in Iskrenko’s poetry.
Lyudmila Zubova (St Petersburg University) in her article “Synecdoche in Viktor Sosnora’s poetry” analyses the metonymical usage of Viktor Sosnora — generalising synecdoche – in its connection with the poet’s philosophy, the system of imagery used in his text and their literary allusions. According to Zubova, synecdoche in Sosnora’s poetry, points out the offset focus of attention in both physical and mental realms, and also develops and strengthens a trend for shifting taxonomic relationships that is characteristic of Russian as a language.
The issue also contains a section in memoriam of a philologist and cinema scholar Rashit Yangirov (1954—2008).