Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By David Shepherd; Catriona Kelly | Go to book overview

3
Culture and Crisis: The Intelligentsia and Literature after 1953

The many historians and analysts of the Russian intelligentsia have few points in common, but they would all surely agree that the intelligentsia in Russiaalways occupies an intermediate position between political authority (vlast') and people (narod).To fall between these two stools may at times be inconvenient and embarrassing, for example when a programme of political action needs to be implemented in the name of the people, but it also carries with it certain advantages. The educated stratum is necessary and privileged under Soviet-style state socialism. As well as its role in administering the state bureaucracy, it is also entrusted with a significant cultural mission: to act as the bearer of enlightenment and the instiller of a particular state-sanctioned model of culturedness. 1By the last two decades of the Soviet Union's existence, the section of society engaged in what went under the name of 'intellectual labour' enjoyed cultural hege- mony along with a certain amount of prestige and security. Members of the intelligentsia could read and write books and journals, work away in research institutes, stage plays, make films, and -- in the privacy of their own homes -- hold long vodka-driven philosophical debates, without for a second doubting that these were important, socially constructive, and financially viable activities. This is not to suggest that truly free-thinking and independent-minded intellectuals felt anything other than stifled in Brezhnev's Soviet Union; it is just that such free-thinkers, as in any large sample of intellectuals, were in the minority.

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