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 article is devoted to the phenomenon of fan fiction in its interaction with Russian classical literature. Traditionally, fan fiction is associated with products of mass culture – fantasy novels, TV-series, anime or comic books. The transformation of canonical literary texts by their creative fans is hardly a widespread practice. In Russia and the Russian-speaking world, where “great Russian literature” has sacred status and the classics are obligatory reading at secondary school, fan fiction based on classical texts is an especially exotic and shocking phenomenon. In this work I list the key characteristics of Russian-classics fan fiction, outline fan fiction writers’ most popular Russian classical texts – Eugene Onegin, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and Woe from Wit – and describe recurring narratives of fanfics: “crossovers”, “slash” stories, and alternative endings. I also reveal a unique subgenre of fan fiction specific to Russian classical literature, which puts the original work’s author and his characters together into the same literary space. Further, I problematize the reverence given to literary classics in the Russian-speaking world, the secondary school experience, and their influence on the creative processes of fan fiction. From a series of in-depth interviews with fan fiction writers, I identify the emotional modes of “guilt”, “responsibility” and “challenge” that are typical of the Russian-classics fan fiction experience.
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.
This introduction to the cluster seeks to reestablish “peasant studies” as not only a historical but also a literary subfield of investigation in Slavic Studies. The representation of peasants in mid-nineteenth-century Russian literature is regarded in this article as an issue of sociological poetics, cultural history, and institutional theory. The authors give a critical overview of well-known and recent scholarship on the images and depiction of peasants and the narod in Russian literature and propose an interdisciplinary combination of approaches to the topic.
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 the mid-2010s, rap suddenly (for many external observers) became one of the most important genres in Russian pop culture. Recordings of rap battles and videos of new rap songs receive millions of views on YouTube within a month or two. At the same time, Russian rap became more and more saturated with images of violence and rhetorics of success and personal domination; nevertheless, countercurrents such as, primarily, female rap and political satire rap, can also easily be discovered. This paper presents a social-theoretical interpretation of these transformations. The main argument is as follows: Russian society in the 2010s entered a state of covert anomie. The combination of increasing social stagnation and persistent openness to Western pop culture produced an unpredictable effect: the emergence of a “hybrid” subaltern in Russian society – a “mask” of a subaltern, involved in perseverating the reproduction of performances expressing revolt. However, this revolt is mocking and self-ironical and not intended to bring about any social change. This scenario of a “mock fight” charged with images of compensatory violence is the most popular type of narration in Russian rap, but it is not the only type: it is increasingly being “ousted” by politically charged rap, which presents the state as a main actor of violence and psychological pressure.
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 explores how the social changes of the Russian Great reforms are represented through the love triangle between peasants and nobles in Aleksei Pisemskii’s folk drama Bitter Fate (1859). The adultery of peasant woman Lizaveta falling in love with her landowner becomes a more universal story about the crisis of patriarchal rituals under the onslaught of modernization. The author shows that in Pisemskii’s drama many emancipatory ideas, embodied in the main character Ananii, are closely intertwined with archaic practices and concepts of sin, repentance, and love, which suggests that the modernization project failed. Moreover, the article shows that constant references to tyranny, executions, and tortures in the speech of Lizaveta and Ananii revive the spirit of the bloody Russian history of the eighteenth century, which occupies a large place in the literary and cultural mythology of the Great Reforms era.
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».
Theorists of social media and the information society such as Manuel Castells have paid attention, first of all, to their modernizing and emancipatory potential. A new wave of such theorists, however, point out that social media promote not only the establishment of connections between different segments of society, but also the closing of “filter bubbles”, as they were designated by Eli Pariser. This essay is focused on depicting how “filter bubbles” enhance both innovative and archaizing types of poetic writing in a period when much new poetry is being published in social media. A vivid example of archaization is the cultural legitimization of amateurish genres and styles in some online communities. This process of divergence of innovative and conservative styles strengthens “non-simultaneity” – an English translation of the German term Ungleichzeitigkeit widespread due to the works of the philosopher Ernst Bloch. This paper is aimed at outlining a theory connecting the concepts of non-simultaneity, “filter bubbles” and “Eigenzeit” (a term coined by the philosopher Helga Nowotny) in the interpretation of online poetic publications.
This article studies the emergence and development of iambic tetrameter in Ukrainian poetry in the 18th to mid-19th century. The genesis and evolution of the verse pattern is regarded with its Russian poetry at the background. The core hypothesis of this study is that the early forms of Ukrainian iambic verse are closely related to the poetic work of Mikhail Lomonosov and Alexander Sumarokov. The shaping and development of particular features of Ukrainian metrical verse are traced from 1761 to Taras Shevchenko. According to the proposed hypothesis, the development of alternating rhythm in Shevchenko’s verse, which is normally attributed to Pushkin’s influence, may be no less determined by some innate prosodic features of the Ukrainian language.
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.