This article publishes for the first time a graffito inscription in St Sophia’s Cathedral, Novgorod. The graffito has been preserved in a plaster impression and dates to the third quarter of the eleventh century. It is unique in content and form: a divination made by one Iakov Noga, who refers to himself as “the ravens’ priest.” There are many examples of the worship of ravens as prophetic birds in Old Russian and Scandinavian culture, and there is a close parallel for the expression “ravens’ priest” in one of the verse passages in the “Saga of Hallfred the Troublesome Poet.” The text of the Novgorod graffito is poetic in nature, making use of assonance and alliteration as well as of elements of rhyme. It is of considerable interest as an example of the secular poetry of Rus' and as striking evidence of the syncretism of medieval East Slavic religious culture.
The article discusses the Soviet fate of Cubism after WWII.
This essay examines the reception of Stendhal's Red and the Black in Pushkin's “Queen of Spades” (1833) and Lermontov's unfinished novel, Princess Ligovskaya (1836), particularly with regard to Stendhal's hero, Julien Sorel–the social aspirant, who is at once passionately driven and cunningly disciplined. It focuses on how the reception of Sorel in these two Russian works is contaminated in different ways with a second figure, the romantic archetype of the “child of the age.” If Sorel can be understood as developing in dialectical opposition to the child of the age, Pushkin's Germann appears to reject and undermine this literary historical development. By contrast, Lermontov's attempt to incorporate aspects of the little Napoleon into his novel proves a failure, so he retreats to a more traditional portrait of the child of the age in A Hero of Our Time. In conclusion, the article argues that Lermontov's failure is a more productive moment in the history of the Russian novel than Pushkin's successful, but utterly destructive reply to Stendhal.
During the formative period after the “victory of socialism” in the Soviet Union, the Young Communist League (Komsomol) underwent significant changes. The advent of socialism was supposed to herald the gradual disappearance of class differences, reflected in the meritocratic, class-blind membership policy that Komsomol leaders introduced in 1935-36. Instead of a league of young proletarians, youth leaders claimed the Komsomol would become an organization of the “best” youth of all classes. However, the policy facilitated the creation of a new social hierarchy based on the perceived needs of the state and the continuing biases of political leaders. As young professionals and students joined the Soviet elite, they displaced proletarians as the ideal young subject. At the same time, Komsomol admissions reified old divides, in particular the marginal place of special settler youth in Soviet society. Rather than resolving class tensions, the policies the Komsomol embraced created significant anxiety among leaders and ordinary youth about the role of class under socialism. Ultimately, they reflected a broader trend in Soviet socialism, as class categories were reconfigured but reinforced as tools to distinguish elements of the population. It adds to scholarship on the impact of Stalinism on Soviet socialism and the role of class in the USSR.
Based on the new archival documentation, in this article, I investigate the process of localization (decentralization of authority towards local actors) in the USSR during World War II. Local authorities managed the economy of some regions as a unified complex. They re-allocated the workforce, equipment, and materials among enterprises that reported to different commissariats (economic and state ministries) and determined production plans. In so doing, local party authorities challenged departmental interests and violated the planned centralization standards. The localization of governance is interpreted in this article as the result of interactions between several related processes. On the one hand, after the terror of the 1930's, the composition of regional managers became increasingly stable. On the other hand, during the critical conditions of war the center restructured its relationships with the regions. The overall contraction in manufacturing and the breaking up of cooperation between enterprises forced the government to rely on the initiatives of lower level management, which then acquired significant authority. Under the influence of these factors, many practices of formal and informal localization spread at the regional level. The study and categorization of these practices, their reasons, and consequences is the goal of this article.
The article investigates how Leo Tolstoy’s economic ideas are embodied in the plot of his short-story “Polikushka” (1863). Research shows that the fluctuation in the name of a sum of money the protagonist Polikey loses can be explained by the “double exchange rate“ of the ruble, i.e the lag between the rate of the silver ruble and assignation ruble (1:3.5) which existed in Russia from 1839 to 1851. As the main character loses the paper (called “devilish” in the drafts) money, “Polikushka” fits into the ramified European literary mythology of banknotes as the tricks of the devil. In addition to European parallels, the article discusses possible Russian plot sources dating back to Nekrasov’s poetry and the prose of Pogodin, Potekhin and Dostoevsky. In the second section, the article explores the narrative patterns of the story and demonstrates that it is impossible to see the reason for Polikey’s death only as his mistress’ desire to test and rehabilitate him. The narration is organized as a network of mutually exclusive viewpoints, correlation of which develops an ugly portrait of both the old landlady and Polikey, equally guilty in the tragic ending of the story. In the last two sections, the article reveals the ideological underpinnings of such a skeptical Tolstoy’s view on communication between peasants and the educated elite in his pedagogical writings of 1861-62. Here Tolstoy wrote how harmful philanthropy, wrong education, false ideology and unreasonable circulation of money could be for peasants. In conclusion, the article offers a possible source for Tolstoy’s viewpoint in the political and economic ideas of P.-J. Proudhon, with whom Tolstoy communicated in Brussels when writing “Polikushka”.
For many years the playwright Nikolai Erdman and his remarkable impact on Russian theater and drama have been almost forgotten. In the 1990s, however, his drama began attracting critics' attention. Now, as a result, Erdman is viewed as one of the prominent Russian playwrights of the first half of the twentieth century. Although recently Erdman became an important object of research, the innovations of his drama have never been analyzed as specific phenomena. This article is focused on poetics of two main Erdman's plays: “The Warrant” and “The Suicide.” By analyzing the time and space, as well as the plot, dialogue, and characters, the main innovatory elements of these plays are analyzed. According to this analysis, Erdman's dialogue appears to be the playwright's most significant discovery which impacted not only his own drama but the whole Russian theater of the twentieth century as well.
Leskov researchers have often and justifiably focussed on the influence of Old Russian literature and folklore in his prose. However, 19th century Russian literature is equally essential to his work. Leskov often borrowed plot devices, images, and names from his contemporaries; these aspects of his work, namely his 'intertextuality' and literature-centrism are under-appreciated. This paper demonstrates this aspect of his poetics using his play The Spendthrift, showing that The Spendthirft presents a combination of allusions to 19th century works including A.S. Griboedov's Woe From Wit, N.V. Gogol's The Inspector General, A.N. Ostrovsky's Krechinsky's Wedding and A.V. Sukovo-Kobylin's The Case. Using the terminology of postmodernism, the term "pastiche" may be rightfully applied to Leskov's play. Whereas in postmodern art, pastiche is the result of the author's frustration with everything already having been written, Leskov uses others' texts for polemical purposes with the intention of formulating his own literary position.
In the 1990s a number of Western art critics, with Dave Hickey foremost among them, rejected the critical aesthetics of negation and distance as elitist, favoring a more mutualist, egalitarian potential they associated with beauty. This article tests the legitimacy of paralleling the New Academy and the concurrent beauty trend in the West. The focus of my analysis falls on the career of Olga Tobreluts between 1990 and 2003. As I argue, the similar appeal to beauty in the work of Tobreluts and the New Academy in fact partakes of both negation and affirmation while ignoring their difference, undermining the opposition between enthrallment and estrangement (or beauty and the sublime) that made the Western debate about beauty possible.
This article describes the significance of the Hungarian-Soviet artist Béla Uitz’s contribution to the definition of Socialist Realism through the development of a style of anti-imperialist painting based on national form that I call Internationalist Socialist Realism. Relying on previously unpublished archival documents, articles from the Soviet press, and analyses of artworks themselves, the manuscript shows specifically how Uitz developed his internationalist style through transnational encounters with leftist activists in Paris and avant-garde artists in Soviet Ukraine. It also shows how the artist used his position as a policy maker in the Soviet cultural administration to create a platform for the exploration of the role of national form in Soviet art known as the International Bureau of Revolutionary Artists (MBRKh) and how he used that platform to ensure that Internationalist Socialist Realism became a key component of the official style of visual representation in the early 1930s. The manuscript further demonstrates that while the Soviet state’s turn to Russocentrism and Slavocentrism in the late 1930s denuded Internationalist Socialist Realism of many of its radically collectivist, anti-imperial elements, the cultural apparatus accepted Uitz’s core idea that the tactile connection between the human body and the affective materiality of national forms could help catalyze political change and establish connections between different peoples. The manuscript shows that changes in representations of national form in Socialist Realism over time can reveal valuable new insight into the politics of Soviet culture, both during and beyond Stalinism.
This article explores the sociocultural situation of the Petersburg Cooperative of Artists (Artel) and the Peredvizhniki and in doing so interprets the nature of Russian realist (in many respects, populist) art through the prism of the new reality artists of the time faced: the commodification of art and the commercialization of art’s circulation and distribution.
This article uses the genealogy of school building in Russian school as a lens to explores the articulation of “disciplinary” sensibilities and practices in the empire in the first half of the eighteenth century. While in pre‐Petrine and Petrine Russia school building as an instrument of control over students remained unarticulated and “invisible” to policymakers, by the time of Catherine II’s accession it was perceived as a tool of power central for organizing surveillance over students and manipulating their space and time in order to achieve internalization of prescribed models of behavior and thought. By exploring the shifting meanings of school building in educational projects, regulations, and official correspondence across the decades the article highlights the role of “administrative entrepreneurs” in promoting the new, “disciplinary” understanding of special arrangements. On the other hand, it illustrates the ways in which these religiously‐inspired techniques were domesticated and “secularized” in the Russian context by actors who reinterpreted the school building and ascribed a variety of different meanings to it.
This article brings the question of late Imperial Russian space into the scene of historical criticism. It does so by examining the spatial problematics of four stories Tolstoy and Chekhov published during the final decades of the nineteenth century. Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need” (1886) and “Kholstomer” (1886) and Chekhov’s “The Man in a Case” (1898) and “Gooseberries” (1898) inscribe into public discourse spatial terms, ethical quandaries, and a range of spatial experiences common during the rapid modernization of imperial Russia. Each author anchors major spatial binaries like city and country and spaciousness and crowding to the question of property, thereby posing a series of related questions to readers. Who will manage the growing space of Russia? How will it be managed? And what could be done if it is not managed well? When placed within the relevant social and historical contexts, I argue, these stories show Tolstoy and Chekhov grappling with the problem of space through both their chosen literary forms and in their lives as landowners.
Review on Viola Lynne Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine Oxford University Press, 2017
Fedor Danilovich Gnezdilovo was born in 1898 to a poor peasant family in Voronezh province. Long before he became a famous partisan, he joined the counterinsurgency troops fighting the insurrections in Turkestan that began in 1916. During the Civil War he joined the Red Army to fight the Whites in the South, then returned to Central Asia to “liquidate bands” of rebels in the early 1920s. Having finished only a one-class peasant school, he was too illiterate to take advantage of an invitation to study at a party school, he recalled, but after demobilization at the end of 1922 he began work as an executioner for Soviet courts in Central Asia. “Eleven years I shot enemies of the people who were sentenced by our Soviet court,” he proudly told the Academy of Sciences Historical Commission, the socalled Mints Commission, in May 1942.1 By 1929 he had “gone psycho” (zapsikhoval), as he readily admitted in his interview, but was cured after six months in a psychiatric institute. He moved to Moscow and found work in the department of prisons of the NKVD.
The article discusses the corpus of Dmtri Prigov's manifestoes, articles, and programmatic interviews as a manifestation of a coherent theoretical concept. The author of the article argues that Prigov's theoretical ideas are structured in accordance with his own central artistic category-for which, oddly enough, he did not have a common name. The author refers to this category as performativity, although Prigov himself did not use this word, preferring to discuss the behavioral level, operational modes, characters, images (imidzhi), and so on. Performativity, in this interpretation, permeates the totality of an artistic practice, without exception. Texts, paintings, installations, actual performances, and any public utterance-interviews, for example-become "traces" of performative behavior. It is along these lines that one can speak about the performative life of the contemporary author, about the "behavior that is to be found within a non-playful art form, in which the typical type of conventional professional language does not imply (or rather, until the relevant time period, did not imply) the appearance of the creator, who by his presence relativizes the very value, durability, uniqueness, and self-sufficiency of the language of the objects he made." It is from this perspective that the author discusses the overarching meaning of Prigov's oeuvre as the grandiose mockery of societal cultural practices rather than a collection of self-sufficient works. This approach also elucidates Prigov's programmatic self-modeling as the trickster who can only fulfill the performative as the central category of contemporary culture. © 2016 The Russian Review.
This article reconstructs the views of Soviet schoolchildren of the 1930s about the future, which they nearly always identified with communism. The attitudes to this this perspective among the pre‐war school students are quite remarkable taking into account that they were the first generation of the Soviet citizens molded in accordance with the USSR’s ideological matrix, within the school system of the 1930s that had been remodeled to meet the communist ideological priorities. The texts created by individuals belonging that age group, provide a fairly clear picture of the hierarchy, combinations, and depth of grasping the messages of the program to form a communist consciousness. Based on the analysis of children’s essays, statements, and ego documents of high school students, the article shows group differences in how the Communist ideal was perceived. For younger adolescents, this ideal did not penetrate deeply into their consciousness. Rather, it provided an external framework for technogenic fantasies and adventurous escapades. Thus transformed, these fantasies in fact demonstrate typical reactions to problematic areas of communication with the outside world, peculiar to age‐related psychology. For older adolescents enduring hardships and loneliness, this ideal was a model for the relationships between people and between a person and society–which promised to solve their problems. Creative and socially active youngsters were inspired by a communist outbreak of discoveries, radically changing the conditions of human existence, and were looking for a way to apply their personal resources to it. One of the results of this search and hence the product of communist education was an unofficial rating of professions and professionals widely adopted by young people. At the top were the intellectual activities involving a good education, opportunities for creative achievement, and the people representing these qualities. The lowest were non‐creative mass professions without heuristic potential and those involved in them. These hierarchies of people and occupations led to the increased heterogeneity and inequality in society, in other words, they worked in the opposite direction to the building of a homogeneous communist society of equal subjects.
There has been a recent upsurge of interest to the Krushchev’s Thaw as not only the period of ideological liberalization, but also as a moment of broadening and deepening of social control. Yet the primary Soviet institution responsible for the social control of children and adolescents, the school, has been largely overlooked in this respect. In this paper I position the school disciplinary practices of the Thaw in the context of the high‐profile discursive and institutional trends of the epoch, including hooliganism, obshchestvennost’, and outsourcing of social control to vigilante brigades and comrades’ courts. The data come from a case study of documented disciplinary action in one rank‐and‐file school in the town of Toropetz in 1953–68. The part played by the school in the ensemble of formal and informal institutions that regulated adolescent behavior is analyzed by the systematic inquiry into the accusations worded, punishments meted out, and references to other institutions made in the disciplinary records. I argue that one of the effects of the broadening of horizontal supervision during the Thaw was a more pronounced in‐school disciplinary reaction to the out‐of‐school infringements. Seeing the school as the primary institution to exert peer pressure on the adolescent and his parents, as obshchestvennost’, the teachers felt the urge to duplicate the functions of the official penal system by their own quasi‐judicial disciplinary procedures.
Sheremetev’s Almshouse was the first private institution of social welfare in Russia which openly proclaimed that not all the poor deserved relief and exposed the applicants to inspections by the administrators. The study demonstrates that the recipients of the Almshouse relief did not belong to the lowest tiers of Moscow population but originated from its middle stratum. They were clerks and ranked officials, the military of middle ranks, and priests, or their families. Considerable number of them had additional sources of income before they obtained allowances from the Almshouse, only for a few of them the relief was crucial for survival. This paradox can be explained by examining the reports on the recipients written by an administrator of the Almshouse. The document reveals that the Almshouse supported those Moscow dwellers who were involved in the network of patronage or were connected by the relations of military or civil service with the administration of the Almshouse and with Moscow aristocracy. The support from the patrons served a better guarantee for the Almshouse’s administration than the evidences of the neighbours or relatives. On the basis of the unearthed archival documents, the study brings out that the Almshouse was an institution deeply rooted in the Moscow patronage and protective network which connected people of middle stratum and the aristocracy. Selecting recipients of relief, the administration of the Almshouse was guided by the logic of privilege and assertion of status opposed to economic definitions of poverty.