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Article

Academic Biography in the Context of the Anti-Formalist Campaign of the 1930s

ENTHYMEMA. 2014. No. 7. P. 58-68.

The paper is focused around two biographical themes. Theme one is history of demolishing Leningrad school of dramatic theory developed in the State Institute of History of Art (GIII) in the 1920s. In 1931, the GIII was closed by a Sovnarkom resolution and transformed into Leningrad division of the State Academy of Art Studies (LOGAIS) established by the same resolution. Theme two is description of the ‘academic traumatism’, traumatic behavior and its biographical effects caused by destruction of a whole scientific trend during the anti-formalism campaign of the early 1930s. Based on archival documents (from the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art), shorthand notes and reports on discussions of the 1930s, we analyze and classify behavioral tactics of initiators, participants and victims of the longstanding stigmatization and catalog absolutory, denunciative and repentant narratives. Several documents are analyzed as climax points of polemics and demolition of the scientific community. The most important of them is the unpublished letter to the editors of Rabochiy i Teatr journal written by Alexander Slonimsky, mostly known in the world of science as a Pushkinist. Through the 1920s–1930s, Slonimsky was one of the key players in development and obliteration of dramatic theory associated primarily with Alexei Gvozdev’s group and with transformation and dissolution of the leading humanities institutes. When compared to the regular reports on scourging and self-recrimination of members of the theatrological ‘clique’, the text of the letter appears to be engrained in the complicated mosaic of measures aimed to discredit Meyerhold’s theater practice and Gvozdev as the leader of the scientific school. Deliberate misinterpretation and corruption of self-descriptions along with reconstruction of biographies are some of the most crucial factors that affected reception of cultural projects and their creators in the 1930s and later.