ALEKSANDER OSTROVSKII AND THE CENSOR: BETWEEN OPPRESSION AND SYMBIOSIS
Aleksandr Ostrovskii, the best known and very prolific Russian playwright of the nineteenth century, interacted constantly with the officials responsible for dramatic censorship, considered by most of Ostrovskii’s contemporaries the most brutal branch of the censorship apparatus. The censor and, independently, Nicholas I personally, did not allow Ostrovskii to stage his first major play. A similar fate awaited some of his later plays. By the mid-1850’s, Ostrovskii had accumulated significant symbolic capital and officials from the Censorship Department started avoiding conflicts with him. Instead, they tried to draw him to their side by interpreting his works in a light that would render them suitable to the requirements for dramatic works. Ostrovskii, from the beginning of his career, tried not so much to avoid conflicts with the censorship and cuts to his plays as to provide the censor with a way to interpret his works that would not require them to be banned. The present article analyzes both the history of such attempts by Ostrovskii and his censors to find common ground, and the reasons why these attempts turned out to be not entirely effective. Using material from the censorship archives, I attempt to demonstrate that such attempts changed the playwright’s status.