Russian National Myth in Transition. Acta Slavica Estonica, VI. Studia Russica Helsingiensia et Tartuensia, XIV
The articles examines the nationalistic and imperial imagination of three Russian writers (Apollon Maikov, Ivan Goncharov and Alexei Pisemsky), who proposed their own versions of the so-called "Russian Idea" during the Crimean War (1853-56). Exploring the misture of various discourses in their lyrics, journalism and sketches, the article offers the new understanding of the nationalization of patriotism in the literary realm.
The poem “Мне выпало счастье быть русским поэтом…” (1981) was first published in the book Voices Beyond the Hills, where it concluded a mini-cycle of four octets: “Год рождения не выбирают…” (1978), “Я слышал то, что слышать мог…” (1981), “Да, мне повезло в этом мире…” (1982), and “Мне выпало счастье быть русским поэтом…” (Самойлов 1985: 69-71); cf. (Самойлов 2006: 256, 305, 311, 301). Although Samoilov did not give an overall title to these texts as a group, they undoubtedly form a conceptual unity. In addition to the texts’ common themes (a summarization of life events), confessional tones, and equal lengths (the octet is the most common form in Voices Beyond the Hills: 36 out of 131 poems, about 27.5%), their graphical treatment is of note.
The article is dedicated to the reflection of the Finnish war (1808–1809) in poetry and press of the first third of the XIX century and to the participation of Russian literature in the construction of the narrative of the Finnish war. I observe the simultaneous ideological shaping of the campaign in the Russian printed materials, the acceptance of the war by its participants and their younger contemporaries, and then look at the reflection of these images and ideological constructs in the poem “Eda” by E. Baratynsky. Comparing synchronic literary responses to the Finnish campaign and interpretations of it offered in the press to that which we find in Baratynsky’s text and similar statements on the Finnish War, we get a more vivid picture of the essential rhetorical and conceptual breakdown that occurred in the late 1800s – early 1810s in conceptualizing the fate of the empire’s peoples.
The “Nationalities question” is of considerable importance in the pages of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, both in terms of the novel’s representation of the events of the first third of the twentieth century, and in terms of its years of composition at the end of the 1940s and the start of the 1950s. On one hand, problems of confessional and ethnic identity played a significant role in the social life of the Russian Empire’s final years, becoming especially pronounced in the years of the First World War, the Revolution and the Russian Civil War (as has been extensively discussed in the works of contemporary historians, including Oleg Budnitsky, Alexei Miller, Yuri Slezkine, Zvi Gitelman, William Fuller and others). On the other hand, Pasternak’s novel was composed at the height of the Soviet anti-Semitic campaign under the banner of “the struggle with rootless cosmopolitans” and “kowtowing to the West.”
The characteristic principles of Pasternak’s use of sources and embodiment of his philosophy of history are distinctly evident in Doctor Zhivago’s treatment of the nationalities question. For instance, in the episode of Zhivago’s meeting at the front with Gordon, Pasternak makes use of fragments of the book Letters of an Artillery Ensign [Iz pisem praporshchika-artillerista], by Fedor A. Stepun, a direct participant in WWI, in which the author describes the victimization of Jews in the front zone. This is in fact the only episode of the novel that directly presents situations and scene of the war. And it is precisely in this episode that, via Gordon, Pasternak presents the idea of the necessity of rejecting all conceptions of national belonging in the Christian world.
The work goes on to trace the linkages of various characters’ discussions of the “nationalities question” to conceptions of philosophers and literary figures of the turn of the century and of its first decades, including Hermann Cohen, Vladimir Solovev, Andrey Bely, Nicholas Berdyaev, Fedor Stepun and others.