Russian Postmodernism: New Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture

By Mikhail Epstein; Alexander Genis et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Thomas Epstein

L ike its Western counterpart, Russian postmodernism and the discourse surrounding it have proven to be a vast, rich, and diverse storehouse of competing ideas and aesthetics. Alternately intriguing and maddening, insightful and bombastic, humble and totalitarian, Russian postmodernism and its discourse raise questions, some of them quite unpleasant, that are nevertheless fundamental to the cultural experience of the last third of the twentieth century.

The instructiveness of the Russian case is in part a result of its "unnaturalness": appearing with its all too familiar temporal lag (in this case, a result of decades of censorship and other forms of repression of the cultural process), Russian postmodernism presents a concentrated, intellectualized, and accelerated form of the phenomenon. Always taken with extremes, Russia has once again "Caught up," and with a vengeance, producing a body of challenging, sophisticated, and sometimes extremely radical postmodern texts. This is no less true for the discourse on postmodernism, as the present volume demonstrates.

Given the deconstructionist underpinnings of much postmodern discourse, it is only natural that we begin with a question for which we do not claim to have a definitive answer: "Just what is Russian postmodernism?" Is it merely one cultural trend among others, foregrounding "play with the signifier," parody, de-centered discourse, and the absence of an organizing self? Or is postmodernism as such part of a larger cultural paradigm, the Postmodern, marked by a sense

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