Postmodernism with a Russian Accent: The Contemporary Communist Dystopia
In recent decades Russian writers-both in the Soviet Union and in exile in the West-have frequently turned to the dystopian form to express their reaction to the oppressive policies of the Soviet regime. Often these works have been informed by a combination of humor and skepticism that has a decidely postmodernist flavor, especially if one accepts the notion I have put forth elsewhere that a crucial distinction between the two is that modernist texts exhibit an abiding faith (or at least hope) that artistic form and technique can make powerful (and potentially influential) statements about reality, while postmodernist texts show a general skepticism toward the ablity of art to make a positive difference in real world issues.1 The extensive use of comedy and parody in recent Russian dystopian novels also points toward recent trends that might be described as a postmodern turn in dystopian fiction worldwide. One should not, however, ignore the influence on contemporary Russian writers of dystopian fiction of the rich comic tradition among Russian satirists from Gogol and SaltykovShchedrin onward. Modern writers like Mikhail Bulgakov, Yuri Daniel, Fazil Iskander, Andrei Sinyavsky ( Abram Tertz), Vassily Aksyonov, Alexander Zinoviev, and Vladimir Voinovich continue this tradition with their attacks on Stalinism and on the Soviet system in general.