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Article

От полемики к травле. Риторика спора вокруг формалистов в 1920-е гг.

Логос. 2017. № 5. С. 25-44.

The present article traces the origins and forms of aggressive rhetoric in the Soviet literary criticism of the 1920s, using the example of the debates surrounding the Len- ingrad branch of the Russian Formalist School. e discussions around this research circle can be traced to the destructive experience of revolution and civil war, and the shi from conventional forms of debate to the abuse and annihilation of opponents, transforming the latter practices into the new mainstream. e discussion as such becomes a race for power, or a straight-up competition between political groups. In turn, literary criticism also starts reproducing the repressive methods of the victor. e so-called “formalists” represent the most prominent example of this process, as they were sentenced to annihilation as pure ideological enemies of the new hegem- onic class — both in a political and cultural sense.

The contrast dualism that characterizes the opposition between ‘us’ and ‘them’ in Russian culture to the present day became visible during that time, as the trium- phant class was fundamentally unwilling to compromise with the defeated. e Bol- sheviks were not feeling magnanimous a er the victory of the October revolution. eir strategy was to cultivate hatred, pitting di erent groups against each other under the banner of class struggle in order to further strip and/or remove any phe- nomena diverging from the established way forward. e primary motivation for the crackdown through terror was civil war. Subsequently, it was replaced by the require- ment for special vigilance during the temporary resurgence of the bourgeoisie in the period of New Economic Policy (NEP). e conceptualization of the NEP was not only an economic and industrial, but also inevitably a cultural matter, and the prole- tariat simply had to feel threatened by the surviving oppressors whose consciousness remained the same as before the revolution. Ultimately, the announced and long- awaited rejection of the NEP and its “restorative” culture legitimized a new round of aggressive rhetoric that reinforced the internal crisis of the Soviet “poputchiks” (pri- marily discriminated intelligentsia) and allowed to put an end to them on the cusp of the 1920s and 1930s.