Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By Catriona Kelly; David Shepherd | Go to book overview

acmeists. There was also an emphasis on craft which, if it constrained some émigré poets -- Adamovich or Iurii Mandel'shtam -- into elegant vacuity, made others more self-conscious in their self-fashioning, more careful in their choice of language, than all but very few of their Soviet contemporaries. If the Russian émigré establishment's answer to socialist realism could often be aesthetic genteelism, the saving grace was that many journals were in the hands of working journalists rather than literary critics, and that ideological fragmentation could generate reluctant pluralism as well as defensive proscriptiveness (many of the groups were simply too small to fill journals month by month on their own).

Despite chronic lack of funds, a shrinking readership (those who emigrated as adolescents or children tended, notwithstanding their parents' best efforts to the contrary, to assimilate into countries that had received them, particularly in Britain and France), and a nagging lack of confidence, émigré literature remained a significant force until the onset of the Second World War, when most of the major journals were forced to close, and publishing operations contracted drastically. The years after the war saw something of a revival, with some journals, such as Vozrozhdenie(Rebirth), reopening, and the surviving First Wave writers joined by a number of individuals who had escaped from the Soviet Union during the war (such as Ivan Elagin and Ol'ga Anstei). But the axis had shifted from the European capitals to New York, with Novyi zhurnal(New Review, founded in 1942) now the most important forum for literature published in Russian. American literature proved still less receptive to the Russian sensibility than the European literatures had (with the signal exception of Vladimir Nabokov, now remade as a writer in English), and it was through scholarship rather than literature that the Russian emigration made its mark on the far side of the Atlantic, as theorists, historians, and literary critics both contributed to the development of Slavic studies ( Fedotov, Vernadsky, Raeff, Markov, Karlinsky), and made international reputations in other disciplines (Roman Jakobson, the ancient historian Mikhail Rostovtseff).


Suggested further reading

Populism: Dissidence, informal political movements

Bonnell, V. E., Cooper, A., and G. Freidin (eds.), Russia at the Barricades: Eyewitness Accounts of the August 1991 Coup ( New York, 1994).

Bukovskii, V., To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter ( London, 1978).

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