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Other Animals

Beyond the Human in Russian Culture and History

Edited by Jane Cotlow and Amy Nelson

Publication Year: 2010

The lives of animals in Russia are intrinsically linked to cultural, political and psychological transformations of the imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet eras. Other Animals examines the interaction of animals and humans in Russian literature, art, and life from the eighteenth century until the present. The chapters explore the unique nature of the Russian experience in a range of human-animal relationships through tales of cruelty, interspecies communion and compassion, and efforts to either overcome or establish the human-animal divide. Four themes run through the volume: the prevalence of animals in utopian visions; the ways in which Russians have incorporated and sometimes challenged Western sensibilities and practices, such as the humane treatment of animals and the inclusion of animals in urban domestic life; the quest to identify and at times exploit the physiological basis of human and animal behavior and the ideological implications of these practices; and the breakdown of traditional human-animal hierarchies and categories during times of revolutionary upheaval, social transformation, or disintegration. From failed Soviet attempts to transplant the seminomadic Sami and their reindeer herds onto collective farms, to performance artist Oleg Kulik's scandalous portrayal of Pavlov's dogs as a parody of the Soviet “new man,” to novelist Tatyana Tolstaya's post-cataclysmic future world of hybrid animal species and their disaffection from the past, Other Animals presents a completely new perspective on Russian and Soviet history. It also offers a fascinating look into the Russian psyche as seen through human interactions with animals.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Front Cover

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pp. iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

In their introduction to this volume, Jane Costlow and Amy Nelson point to the essay “Why Look at Animals?” by John Berger, a work that occupies a central place in the emerging interest in nonhuman animals—in other animals—as historical subjects. Berger’s claims revolve around a sharp (some would say excessively sharp) periodization between “precapitalist” ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Like all collective endeavors, this book reflects the efforts and support of many individuals and entities. Our collaborative work on the volume began with a conference workshop that brought together an international group of Slavists and other humanists interested in animals in the spring of 2007. For their insightful and expert contributions to the discussions that ...

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1. Introduction: Integrating the Animal

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pp. 1-15

A fictional monk cautions his followers about the corrupting consequences of human pride by affirming the presence of the divine in the “untroubled joy” of more humble creatures. A middle-aged revolutionary chronicles the hardships of agrarian life and an abusive father by recalling the agonies of a beaten workhorse. And a famous journalist underscores the brutality of ...

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Part I. Traditional Worlds and Everyday Life

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pp. 17-19

We begin with the traditional worlds of everyday life. Olga Glagoleva, on the one hand, traces a tale of eighteenth-century provincial life, in which a pig thrown through a window becomes a revealing event for our understanding of animals, women, honor, and law. Her sources are archival: legal documents, letters, maps, family records. On the other hand ...

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2. Woman’s Honor, or the Story with a Pig: The Animal in Everyday Life in the Eighteenth-century Russian Provinces

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pp. 21-41

One summer night in 1764, in a remote village in the Orel province (gubernia), a company of noblemen convened at a local clerk’s place. The gathering was rather casual: all guests were neighbors and relatives. Suddenly, a quarrel broke out between two of the guests—the cousins Danila and Vasilii Psishchev. Vasilii, who started the quarrel, did not limit himself to words ...

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3. Treating the “Other Animals”: Russian Ethnoveterinary Practices in the Context of Folk Medicine

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pp. 42-58

Issues of human health, illness, and medical practices have always been of great importance to society, and health problems, especially those caused by epidemic diseases, have often influenced or even caused historical, cultural, and social change. Thus, scholars from a number of disciplines have explored the sociocultural importance of medicine and issues of human ...

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Part II. Contradictions of Imperial Russia

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pp. 59-61

We enter a period of rapid and momentous change. The period following the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 is traditionally referred to as the era of Great Reforms, an era that ushered in a variety of wide-reaching social, economic, and cultural changes in Russia. These included the reform of judiciary processes and structures, the growth of Russia’s middle ...

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4. That Savage Gaze: The Contested Portrayal of Wolves in Nineteenth-century Russia

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pp. 63-76

Tolstoy’s Nikolai Rostov, an aristocratic protagonist in the novel War and Peace, watches ecstatically as his favorite borzoi throttles an old wolf that his pack of more than one hundred dogs has pinned to the ground: That moment when Nikolai saw the dogs struggling with the wolf in the gully and under the dogs, the wolf ’s gray hair, its extended hind leg, and its ...

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5. “For the bear to come to your threshold”: Human-Bear Encounters in Late Imperial Russian Writing

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pp. 77-94

Some time in the years 1916–1918—years in which Russia was being violently thrust into its Soviet future—Nikolai Kliuev, a poet and mythologer of northern Russia’s dense woodlands, wrote this incantory poem that instructs the reader how to bring the bear to your threshold. “The bear”— that most Russian of all animals—is the creature the poet’s after; to coax ...

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6. The Body of the Beast: Animal Protection and Anticruelty Legislation in Imperial Russia

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pp. 95-112

As a teenager travelling from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Fedor Dostoevsky witnessed what he later recalled as a “disgusting scene,” involving a stout government courier who was changing carriages at the station house across the street from the inn where Dostoevsky’s family had paused for refreshment: [A] new troika of fresh, spirited horses rolled up to the station and the ...

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Part III. Real and Symbolic Animals in the Soviet Project

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pp. 113-115

These chapters show how attention to the animal might complicate common understandings of Soviet culture. To be sure, the broad brushstrokes that defined the Soviet project were those of modernization and of economic and social transformation inextricably linked to and often carried forward by ideology. The chapters here suggest that these impulses ...

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7. Making Reindeer Soviet: The Appropriation of an Animal on the Kola Peninsula

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pp. 117-137

Rudolph seemed far away. And temporally, he certainly was. It had been many years since I had believed in Santa Claus’s enchanted companion heroically leading a herd of fellow flying reindeer with his bright red nose. But spatially, I was standing above the Arctic Circle, closer than I had ever been to Rudolph’s home, the North Pole. Having ventured through several ...

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8. The Animal Mayakovsky

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pp. 138-163

The Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893–1930) once said, “I love animals because they aren’t people but nevertheless alive”1 or perhaps better translated as, “I love animals because they are alive, despite the fact that being so makes them like people.” The poet’s relations with animals were intense and determined. Mayakovsky’s long-time girlfriend Lili Brik writes ...

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9. A Legacy of Kindness: V. L. Durov’s Revolutionary Approach to Animal Training

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pp. 164-177

In 1927, the Soviet Union celebrated the fiftieth year of Vladimir Leonidovich Durov’s (1863–1934) remarkable career. Eighty-seven years later, Russia proudly recognized the continuation of his work by marking the half-century jubilee of his great-granddaughter Nataliia Iur’evna Durova in 2004. As descendants of a long line of state servitors (including the noted ...

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10. Of Men and Horses: Animal Imagery and the Construction of Russian Masculinities

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pp. 178-194

In her classic book on the Soviet novel, Katerina Clark notes the intimate relationship between the “new Bolshevik hero” and his horse. According to Clark, in the thirties, “[o]ne of the symbols used to link [the traditional warrior-bogatyr’ and his Soviet reincarnation] was a close relationship to horses. In thirties biographies of Civil War generals, writers stressed that ...

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Part IV. Boundary Work: Late-Soviet and Post-Soviet “Humanimals”

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pp. 195-197

The collapse of Soviet Communism in 1991 brought about the end of the Cold War and its defining categories of “us” and “them.” It also initiated a breathtaking transformation in the former Soviet Union, involving experiments with democracy, rapid and wrenching economic changes, exposures of corruption and massive social (and environmental) problems ...

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11. Life of Ferret and the “Manimal” in Post-Soviet Literature

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pp. 199-218

In 1994, the writer Petr Aleshkovsky gained instant notoriety with the nomination of his second novel, Life of Ferret1 (Zhizneopisanie khorka), for the Russian Booker Prize. Clearly influenced by Dostoevsky and Gogol, as well as the village prose writers, the novel recounts the troubled coming of age of the deformed Daniil Khorev (nicknamed Khorek or “Ferret”) amid the ...

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12. The Animal Watches You: Identity “After” History in Tatyana Tolstaya’s The Slynx

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pp. 219-233

Dragan Kujundzič claims in his controversial “After”: Russian Post-Colonial Identity that Russia is “after” history in a sense that it is “outside history, before history occurred, in the realm where the temporality of World History has not even happened: in the realm of Messianic promise that will alone hurl Russia towards the historical, its full teleological fulfillment, ‘after’ it ...

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13. The Human Dog Oleg Kulik: Grotesque Post-Soviet Animalistic Performances

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pp. 234-251

In Rotterdam in 1996, a new European biennale called Manifesta was established.1 The aim of the Manifesta was to give young artists from all over Europe a platform to present their work, with special emphasis given to projects from Eastern Europe. In its first year, seven Moscow artists visited the event. One was the Russian performance artist Oleg Kulik, a member ...


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pp. 253-304


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pp. 305-307


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pp. 309-320

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822973720
E-ISBN-10: 0822973723
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822960638
Print-ISBN-10: 082296063X

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 29 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2010