True Songs of Freedom
Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Russian Culture and Society
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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This book took a while to reach completion, partially because it was a lot of fun to write. As usual, everyone at the University of Wisconsin Press was terrific. My heartiest thanks to Matthew Cosby, Frances Grogan, Sheila Leary, Carla Marolt, Adam Mehring, Barbara Wojhoski, Logan Middleton, Lauren Vedal, and especially...
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My two epigraphs, drawn from occasional comments by two major twentieth- century Russian writers, represent not the full range but rather the extreme antipodes of Russian and Russo- Soviet opinion surrounding Harriet Beecher Stowe’s legendary antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, (1852...
1. Before Emancipation
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Tsar Alexander II officially abolished serfdom in Russia on 19 February 1861, thus freeing circa twenty- two million men, women, and children (or over 35 percent of the entire population of the country) from the approximately one hundred thousand nobles who owned them. Although...
2. After Serfdom, before October
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Gauging in detail the immediate response to the Russian translations is difficult. To my knowledge, no reviews appeared, although we do have a few letters reporting strong reactions (like those of Leo Tolstoy, discussed below). It is worth noting, however, that government censors, who sometimes expressed their concerns about a text after it was already...
3. The Early Soviet Period (to 1945)
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The historian Sheila Fitzpatrick has described the central dynamic of early Soviet cultural politics as a struggle between the Bolshevik Party and the intelligentsia—“ two great protagonists,” she writes, that in many ways “had more in common than either cared to admit”:...
4. Uncle Tom, Cold Warrior
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Kornei Chukovsky may not have even known about the edition of the 1941 translation (together with his preface, much altered) published in Sverdlovsk in 1950. It is safe to say that he would not have been pleased. The original preface contained a good deal about Stowe’s early life, but the later edition removes virtually all that material, except the references to her poverty...
Coda: Tom, Meet Scarlett
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Although standard (i.e., condensed) Volzhina versions are occa-sionally republished, and at least one entirely new translation has appeared since 2000, religious publishing houses have begun releasing their own editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, sometimes selecting from among the many prerevolutionary options, properly aware of the distortions in the Soviet editions....
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Scarlett and Uncle Tom, matter and spirit: no two protagonists could be less compatible. Might the shift from Stowe to Mitchell be symptomatic of a fundamental mutation within Russian attitudes toward literate culture as such? As Stephen Lovell notes, For the first time in 130 years . . . the reader was no longer a subject of impassioned debate...
Appendix: Summary of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
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Page Count: 136
Illustrations: 6 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2013