Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism

By Ewa M. Thompson | Go to book overview

5
Imperial Desire in the Late Soviet Period

While Solzhenitsyn Cancer Ward is a novel that refuses to acknowledge colonial space on the verge of separatism, the texts considered in this chapter demonstrate the imperial desire that embraces spaces where colonial power is still firmly entrenched. In such a situation, three types of imperial pathology can be discerned. The first belittles or minimizes the presence of the native peoples in territories that, as recently as a few generations ago, were inhabited in large part by non-Europeans, who retain residual presence and rights to the land. Such is the situation in Siberia. While a large percentage of Siberia's natives were destroyed during the Russian march toward the Pacific, Siberia and the Far East are still divided into ethnic republics and areas that nominally, at least, possess sovereignty, based on the rights of the area's native inhabitants. It can be expected that in the future, the struggle for territory will become acute in the Siberian part of the "Russian" Federation, not necessarily because the native peoples will rise, but because the Russian-speaking white population will switch their attachment from Moscow to their native lands. That brings us to the second kind of imperial pathology. It manifests itself in a refusal by writers to distinguish between the Russian-speaking people in the center of the empire and those on the periphery. Siberia is one such periphery, and its inhabitants show the signs of getting weary of Moscow's control. In the twenty-first century, they may try to revive such entities as the Dal'nevostochnaia Respublika ( 1920-22) and other entities meant to assert regional rights. This development would correspond to how in the British empire the "white" colonies eventually became independent states. But some Russian writers studiously avoid noticing the centrifugal forces at work in the already-diminished empire, and they continue to proffer a vision of a unified Russian Federation. The third form of imperial pathology is evident in regard to such minorities as Jews and others who have no territorial claims but whose interests are stubbornly disregarded. In this last case, it is not a question of separatism but rather of recognition of Another's point of view without demonizing or belittling him or her.

-129-

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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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