Literary Monopolists and the Forging of the Post-WWII People’s Republic of Letters
Failed attempts to create a unified cultural and literary sphere in the ‘second world’ are also at the centre of Rossen Djagalov’s contribution, which deals with two special features of the institutionalization of literature in the Soviet bloc: the unusual formats in which the new cultural empire was to be moulded, and the frequent substitution of individuals with appropriate life histories for office holders with clearly defined functions. The starting point of the researcher’s analysis of archival materials is that the bureaucracy of Soviet post- war internationalism was literature-centred and, as such, it looked to create institutions that would promote the vision of a unity of cultures (the ‘People’s Republic of Letters’) and not just of a political bloc. Such institutions were international in their very basis, a good example being the International Congress of Writers from People’s Democracies that was planned for July 1948. Even though (or possibly because) the event never took place, the detailed plans for its organization offer an excellent idea of how the Soviet authorities envisioned the ideal cultural cooperation between the satellites and the centre in that special format that was on the border between a strictly organized, formal procedure and informal, personal communication. The congress was supposed to be the platform for subsequent publications on matters pertaining to the literary culture of the ‘Second World’; it was also to become the seal of approval for those who would be invited and would thus become the ‘offi cial masters’ of the new literature in their respective countries. The plans for the congress, in Rossen Djagalov’s view, mark a point of transition from the cosmopolitanism of 1930s Moscow and the cultural pan- Slavism of the earlier 1940s to a new form of cultural internationalism, which would be based on a format habitually associated with a free exchange of opinions, although in this case it was, of course, to be carefully orchestrated and strictly controlled.