Russia on the Edge
Imagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity
Publication Year: 2011
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russians have confronted a major crisis of identity. Soviet ideology rested on a belief in historical progress, but the post-Soviet imagination has obsessed over territory. Indeed, geographical metaphors-whether axes of north vs. south or geopolitical images of center, periphery, and border-have become the signs of a different sense of self and the signposts of a new debate about Russian identity. In Russia on the Edge, Edith W. Clowes argues that refurbished geographical metaphors and imagined geographies provide a useful perspective for examining post-Soviet debates about what it means to be Russian today.
Clowes lays out several sides of the debate. She takes as a backdrop the strong criticism of Soviet Moscow and its self-image as uncontested global hub by major contemporary writers, among them Tatyana Tolstaya and Viktor Pelevin. The most vocal, visible, and colorful rightist ideologue, Aleksandr Dugin, the founder of neo-Eurasianism, has articulated positions contested by such writers and thinkers as Mikhail Ryklin, Liudmila Ulitskaia, and Anna Politkovskaia, whose works call for a new civility in a genuinely pluralistic Russia. Dugin's extreme views and their many responses-in fiction, film, philosophy, and documentary journalism-form the body of this book.
In Russia on the Edge, literary and cultural critics will find the keys to a vital post-Soviet writing culture. For intellectual historians, cultural geographers, and political scientists the book is a guide to the variety of post-Soviet efforts to envision new forms of social life, even as a reconstructed authoritarianism has taken hold. The book introduces nonspecialist readers to some of the most creative and provocative of present-day Russia's writers and public intellectuals.
Published by: Cornell University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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In January 1986, the new Borovitskaia Metro Station opened by the Kremlin wall in central Moscow. Built to remind the visitor of the low-arching hallways of the medieval Kremlin, the station’s visual centerpiece is a vast, gold and burnt orange mural depicting the map of the Soviet Union and its peoples growing as a tree among the towers of the Kremlin. Fifteen impassive human ...
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Introduction: Is Russia a Center or a Periphery?
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The dissolution of the Soviet empire in 1991 unleashed waves of self-doubt in many quarters of Russian life.1 Throughout the 1990s Russians felt disempowered, politically adrift, lacking a sense of national dignity. As Viktor Pelevin joked in his 1993 novel, The Life of Insects, after 1991 Rus-sians wondered whether Moscow was still the “Third Rome” [Tretii Rim], ...
1 Deconstructing Imperial Moscow
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Creative moments in the lives of the world’s major cities often come during times of identity crisis. Even before the return of Soviet Russia’s capi-tal to Moscow in March 1918, the imperial Russian capital, St. Petersburg, experienced a crisis of identity—it had always been, as the great historian V. O. Kliuchevskii allegedly remarked, the “center on the periphery.”1 In his ...
2 Postmodernist Empire Meets Holy Rus': How Aleksandr Dugin Tried to Change the Eurasian Periphery into the Sacred Center of the World
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I am a Muscovite, root and branch, I am pathologically in love with Moscow and the Muscovite period of our history. I am a consistent and radical —Aleksandr Dugin, Pop Culture and the Signs of the Times (2005)“If the European New Right chooses us [Russians], that means it chooses the barbarian element, and therefore it must choose our methods of action,” ...
3 Illusory Empire: Viktor Pelevin’s Parody of Neo-Eurasianism
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It is not diffi cult to detect behind this forgery, now more than 70 years old, the activity of well-fi nanced and aggressive forces which were interested in concealing the truth about Chapaev from the peoples of Eurasia. . . . the very discovery of the present manuscript seems to us a clear indication that the Among the most popular novels in post-Soviet Russia, Viktor Pele-...
4 Russia’s Deconstructionist Westernizer: Mikhail Ryklin’s “Larger Space of Europe” Confronts Holy Rus'
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These essays have helped me bear [the last eight years] by placing me in a broader European cultural space. [This space] has not yet been accepted by most of my fellow citizens as an integral part of themselves, [for whom] many aspects of openness are still traumatic, but I am far from being the only one A spectre is wandering across Russia, the spectre of religious nationalism and ...
5 The Periphery and Its Narratives: Liudmila Ulitskaia’s Imagined South
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He loved looking at this land, with its weathered mountains and its rounded foothills. It had been Scythian, Greek, Tatar, and although now it was part of the Soviet farming system and had long been languishing, unloved and slowly dying from the ineptitude of its masters, history had not forsaken it but was hovering in this blissful springtime, every stone, every tree reminding him of ...
6 Demonizing the Post-Soviet Other: The Chechens and the Muslim South
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You can’t go to the south. Chechens are there. First come steppes and more steppes—your eyes drop out from looking,—and beyond the steppes are the have long been the site of exotic nature and untamed humanity, the Other, resistant to the perceived civilizing forces of Russian empire. The Caucasus embody life force. They are a place where the Russian protagonist feels both ...
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Until recently, Russia saw itself as Pluto in the Western solar system, very far from the center but still fundamentally a part of it. Now it has left that orbit entirely: Russia’s leaders have given up on becoming part of the West and Who is a Russian? Where is Russian identity located? Why is Russia in such trouble, as Petr Pustota quips in Pelevin’s novel? And is there a solu-...
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Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2011