A History of Women's Writing in Russia

By Adele Marie Barker; Jehanne M. Gheith | Go to book overview

14
The persistence of memory:
women's prose since the sixties
ADELE MARIE BARKER

The period in Soviet literary life since Stalin's death in 1953 through glasnost in the mid-1980s has been one of the most volatile in Soviet letters. The thaw (ottepel') that followed on the heels of Stalin's death brought with it under Khrushchev a period of relative relaxation in literary censorship, allowing writers to write about formerly forbidden topics such as the camps, the purges, anti-Semitism, and the response of the leadership to World War II. The liberal reforms were soon followed, however, by a conservative backlash that came increasingly to characterize literary life under Brezhnev. The era was marked by the birth of the dissident movement, samizdat (self-publishing), and tamizdat (works published abroad), the preferred venues for those who refused to bend to the more conservative literary trends of the day and chose instead to publish outside the official literary establishment. Although the term zastoi (stagnation) has since the mid-1980s been used to describe the state of cultural and literary life during the Brezhnev era, it was also true that from time to time important and honest works (those by I. Grekova and Iurii Trifonov, for example) found their way into print through official literary channels in response to increased pressure from the writers themselves for greater latitude in speaking their minds. Similarly, new literary schools such as the village prose writers (derevenshchiki) came into being, depicting with nostalgic longing the rural life of Russia that lay outside the domain of official Partymandated life. Thus, it may be more accurate to term the Brezhnev era part of a long though admittedly uneven continuum wherein Soviet writers were waging the slow and often subtle battle to distance themselves from the ideological rigors imposed upon them ever since the late 1920s. When the policy of glasnost or openness was first publicly

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