Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism

By Ewa M. Thompson | Go to book overview

lived on virtually undisturbed until Solidarity in Poland called its bluff, and until its own economic and nationalistic inefficiencies made it shed its communist economic system. In the 1990s, it began to crumble but did not altogether disappear.96 In the post-Soviet period, when the Soviet union republics broke away from the "Russian" Federal Republic, the process of partial decolonization was generally perceived as decommunization, a view that allowed the colonial nature of the metropolitan center to slip away from sight. Yet the Moscow-centered "Russian" Federation remains an imperial entity, and Russian texts continue to assure native and foreign readers that nothing is amiss in that regard. But just as the white colonies of England eventually claimed independent existence, so might the autonomous republics and regions of the "Russian" Federation begin to claim a larger share of autonomy.97

Upon Evgenii Primakov's ascendancy to premiership in September 1998, a commentator observed: "Whether Primakov is the right person to govern Russia is one question. Whether Russia is still governable is another. Moscow's failure to cope with the deepening economic crisis has aggravated separatist tendencies in the provinces, raising fears that Russia . . . could go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991."98 Remarking on Primakov's suggestion that Moscow should take the lead in putting together a new international coalition against the principle of national self-determination, another commentator argued that "in acknowledging the extent of the difficulties Russia now faces, Primakov joins a growing number of Russian political figures who have suggested that the future of their country in its current borders may be in doubt."99 The empire put together by a remarkable drive for power is in danger of final disintegration. The role played by writers in constructing it, holding it together, hiding its splits and crevices, protesting its dissolution, and, finally, acknowledging its demise, is the subject of subsequent chapters.


NOTES
1
Edward Keenan, "On Certain Mythical Beliefs and Russian Behaviors", The Legacy of History in Russia and the New States of Eurasia, edited by S. Frederick Starr, vol. 1 (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1994), 19-40.
2
Slovar'russkogo iazyka ( Moscow: Akademiia Nauk, 1957-61).
3
I. A. Bunin, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 4 ( Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia Literatura, 1966), 364.
4
New York Times, 14 December 1991.
5
Milan Kundera, "A Conversation with Philip Roth", translated by Peter Kussi, in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, translated by Michael Heim ( New York: Penguin, 1980); and Jaan Kross, The Czar's Madman, translated by Anselm Hollo ( New York: Pantheon, 1993).
6
August von Haxthausen, Studies on the Interior of Russia ( 1847-52), edited by S. Frederick Starr , translated by Eleanore L. M. Schmidt ( Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1972),310.
7
"Ot Pol'shi ostalas samaia malost'. . . . / Oni ne liubili povadok nashikh, / Vel'mozhnyi krivili rot."

-47-

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Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgment vii
  • Introduction: - Nationalism, Colonialism, Identity 1
  • Notes 12
  • 1 - The Problem 15
  • Notes 47
  • 2 - Engendering Empire 53
  • Notes 81
  • 3 - The Consolidating Vision: War and Peace As the New Core Myth Of Russian Nationhood 85
  • Notes 106
  • 4 - The Central Asian Narrative In Russian Letters 109
  • Notes 125
  • 5 - Imperial Desire In the Late Soviet Period 129
  • Notes 150
  • 6 - Scholarship and Empire 153
  • Notes 193
  • 7 - Deconstructing Empire: Liudmila Petrushevskaia 199
  • Notes 221
  • Selected Bibliography 223
  • Index 233
  • About the Author *
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