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. Available
This paper contextualizes Khodasevich’s poem ‘Slezy Rakhili’ (‘Rachel’s Tears’; 1916) and his article ‘Voina i poeziia’ (‘War and Poetry’; 1938) as his responses to World War I and to the Munich agreement, respectively. I contend that the First World War provided the impetus to Khodasevich for starting to write modernist poetry, in which he explicitly opposed “then” and “now”, a contrast that lies at the core of modernist consciousness. In Khodasevich’s case, this acute awareness of a break with previous values had a personal quality, as the birth of his modernist poetics evolved out of a personal crisis in the wake of the suicide of his closest friend, Samuil Kissin, on 22 March 1916. Khodasevich’s poem ‘Slezy Rakhili’ recapitulates macro- and micro-histories, referring to the broader issue of refugees and deportees and to Kissin’s tragic end. ‘Slezy Rakhili’ is also a self-referential war poem as it reflects on current war poetry and questions whether poetry can adequately negotiate modernity in its most extreme form of a modern war. It is a conscious exploration of the contrast between “established things” and the new catastrophic reality of war and postwar Russia and Europe that makes Khodasevich a modernist poet and unites him with other modernist poets, like Vladimir Maiakovskii, despite their personal and literary animosities.
The two most important processes influencing new cultural trends in today’s Russia are the state’s annexation of transgression and the transformation of social norms. In Russia’s public space, speakers representing different official or semi- official institutions make aggressive statements and defy accepted norms of public communication. They behave as if they perform the roles of “official holy fools”. Thus, the state “annexes” the right of mediatized public transgression characteristic of contemporary art. State actors are described in the article as “active conform- ists” embodying the expectations and desires of TV-watching “passive conformists”. Accordingly, strategies of heroic resistance in art and literature cease to be relevant for shaping the new wave of Russia’s aesthetic nonconformism. The article discusses alternative scenarios and discourses emerging in contemporary art and literature as formative for the new type of nonconformity.
This article examines Nikolai Leskov's apocryphal sketch on Nikolai Gogol, "Putimets" (1883). The story represents a unique case in 19th century Russian literature in which a contemporary writer is made the protagonist. We examine the possible reasons for Leskov's choice of Gogol and present a thorough survey of the source material "Putimets" draws from. This includes the writings of Mikhail Zagoskin, The Tale of Igor's Campaign, Shakespeare, Schiller, as well as Gogol's own letters and jjournalism. The article explores the Leskov's literary logic as he projects his own image of the ideal Russian writer onto his construction of Gogol.
In the late 18th century the word “legenda” entered the Russian language, and several decades later it started to be used by Russian writers as a generic label. The present paper analyses short prosaic texts written in the 1820-1830 with this label in their titles or subtitles. The aim of the research is to ascertain whether such texts followed a similar generic pattern. As the literary legend was a fully developed genre in the late 19th century Russian literature, the research will presumably enable us to trace the formation of the genre. I argue that the chosen texts share a network of constituent properties, which indicates their generic cognateness and allows the reader to attribute them as literary legends. Roughly, the Russian literary legend of the 1820-s1840-s may be characterized as a historical narrative relating some extraordinary, often criminal events. Though the audience is likely to disbelieve the story, the narrator finds it necessary to communicate it, as it contains an important truth or idea missing from conventional sources. Despite the similarity of the generic pattern, the genre had fuzzy boundaries in the first half of the 19th century, which is revealed in numerous title alterations, inconsistency in using cognate labels (skazanie, predanie, byl’), absence of legend cycles, and insufficient speculations on the genre. However, it can be concluded that the literary legend of the time was a grain from which the late 19th century genre developed.
The article discusses Ivan Turgenev’s Mumu, and in particular its protagonist’s muteness, from the standpoint of representation of consciousness in Russian pre-novelistic fiction. It suggests that Turgenev’s rather unusual hero manifests the fundamental incongruence between inner life and its outer manifestations that is the core of the authorial attempt to narrate the inner life of any character, however sincere and articulate. The article argues that in Mumu, this situation, far from marking a narrative impasse, yields a unique resolution to the narrator’s inability to represent consciousness.
In this note the poems of Vladislav Khodasevich “Pereshagni, pereskochi…” (“Step over, jump over…”) and of Sergei Gandlevskii “‘Ili – ili’ – ‘I – I’ ne byvaet” (“‘Either – or’ – ‘both – and’ do not happen...”) are compared.
The paper focuses on the specifically magical dimension of the poetic work of Boris Poplavskii (1903-1935), an emblematic figure of the “lost generation” of Russian émigrés in Paris. In his youth, Poplavskii was much influenced by anthroposophist and theosophist doctrines, and later manifested a deep interest in occult and magical writings. In this article, I analyze magic in Poplavskii from a number of perspectives, including those of concrete rituals and techniques (witchcraft, invocation, alchemy, meditation), as well as practical mysticism (Christian and Jewish) and different patterns of “divine-working” (theurgy) which have had an explicit or implicit impact on Poplavskii’s poetic and narrative texts. In particular, I highlight the visual component of various magical practices referenced by Poplavskii.
The introduction to the special issue cluster explores the complexity and ambiguity inherent in the position of a censor in the Imperial Russia. On the one hand, the censor was a law enforcement agent whose job was to constrain and constrict. At the same time, the act of censoring works of literature or music demanded multiplex interactions between the censor and different participants in the creation and dissemination of these works and thus could never be ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’ towards the aesthetical and cultural dimensions of art. Instead of representing censorship exclusively as an extension of governmental oppressive politics, recent approaches to studying censorship have focused on cultural practices of censors and the censors’ reciprocal interactions with writers, artists and philosophers. By and large, this trend has been absent from the historiography of Russian censorship. The interdisciplinary cluster of articles in this issue illuminates anew the multifarious relationship between the Censorship Department’s officials in Russia of Nicholas I and Alexander II and the authors of the works they reviewed.
The poetry of Mikhail Lomonosov and Aleksandr Sumarokov played a decisive role in the establishment of Russian syllabo-tonic versification. Lomonosov’s early iambs show a noticeable foreign influence, whereas the prosodic structure of Sumarokov’s poems was formed in a fundamentally different way from the very start. The research presented in this article provides a new understanding of the sources of the rhythm of Sumarokov’s iambic verses, which represent a distinctive vector in the development of Russian verse. This vector displays significant differences from the principles of continental, West European syllabo-tonic poetry; an attempt at mastering whose principles can be observed in the early Lomonosov.
Presented here are selected works by A.M. Kondratov from his personal archives, currently kept in the Manuscripts Department of the Russian National Library.
The article dwells on autobiographical documents (diaries and letters) devoted to Goethe from the Moscow archive of E.Medtner. The author reconstructs an cultural utopia -- another one among Russian symbolist projects of self-fashioning: transforming Goethe from an aesthetic model and an object of personal cult into the founder of a new religion «Saint Wolfgang».
One of the particular characteristics of Russian verse is its high level of rhythmic flexibility, attributable to a high frequency of pyrrhic feet. This research attempts to reconstruct how this situation was built on earlier periods of the development of Russian verse. Its results place in doubt the classic notion that the prevalence of pyrrhic feet arose out of the substantial length of the Russian word. A comparison of how the rhythm of iambic tetrameter developed in Dutch, German, and Russian verse shows that the level of metrical flexibility does not depend on the average length of the rhythmic (phonetic) word in a language. The historical conditions surrounding the emergence of syllabotonic verse and the evolution of versification clearly played a decisive role in the prevalence of pyrrhic feet in Russian verse.
The artical discusses the origins of the term "libertine" and its cognate, and explores certain aspects of "libertinage" and "dandyism" in the figures of Pushkin's contemporaries P.P. Kaverin and P.Ia. Chadaev, who find themselves together in the first chapter of Evgenii Onegin. The author demonstrates their differences on the basis of autobiographical texts and memoires of such contemporaries as P.A. Viazemskii, F.F. Vigel', I.D. Iakushkin
The article introduces a previously unknown text by Boris Pasternak, written by the latter in the album of his gymnasium schoolmate at the beginning of the last school year. The structure of the autograph reveals the preferences of the future poet with regard to philosophy and music. In particular, a connection between Pasternak’s aphorism and Schopenhauer’s ideas can be traced. The place of Pasternak’s writing within the context of the album sheds light on the author’s relationship with the circle of Kurlov. Finally, some hypotheses are advanced concerning the role of early impressions in the development of Doktor Zhivago, and a possible explanation of the origin of Zhivago’s brothers’ names is proposed.
The article dedicates the newly discovered letter of Boris Pasternak to his second wife Zinaida Nikolaevna Neuhaus, written at the beginning of the 1931. This letter, preserved only in a copy, sheds a new light on one of the author’s most important themes—the relation of art and immortality. In this document, Pasternak explains his views on the unacceptability of suicide. The letter is closely related to the autobiographical work A Safe Conduct, the final part of which was written soon after the suicide of Vladimir Mayakovsky. But it is possible to stretch a line from the letter to the late novel Doctor Zhivago. The life finals of two protagonists, Yuri Zhivago and his antipode Pavel Antipov-Strelnikov, are compared. The main protagonist dies, leaving behind his poetry. For Pasternak it is the way of continuation, “life after death”, and the symbol of creative immortality of a poet. On contrary, the suicide of Antipov is the final “end”, and it does not meet the world view of Boris Pasternak.