Beyond the Human in Russian Culture and History
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press
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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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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 ...
1. Introduction: Integrating the Animal
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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 ...
Part I. Traditional Worlds and Everyday Life
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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 ...
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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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 ...
3. Treating the “Other Animals”: Russian Ethnoveterinary Practices in the Context of Folk Medicine
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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 ...
Part II. Contradictions of Imperial Russia
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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 ...
4. That Savage Gaze: The Contested Portrayal of Wolves in Nineteenth-century Russia
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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 ...
5. “For the bear to come to your threshold”: Human-Bear Encounters in Late Imperial Russian Writing
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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 ...
6. The Body of the Beast: Animal Protection and Anticruelty Legislation in Imperial Russia
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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 ...
Part III. Real and Symbolic Animals in the Soviet Project
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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 ...
7. Making Reindeer Soviet: The Appropriation of an Animal on the Kola Peninsula
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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 ...
8. The Animal Mayakovsky
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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 ...
9. A Legacy of Kindness: V. L. Durov’s Revolutionary Approach to Animal Training
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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 ...
10. Of Men and Horses: Animal Imagery and the Construction of Russian Masculinities
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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 ...
Part IV. Boundary Work: Late-Soviet and Post-Soviet “Humanimals”
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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 ...
11. Life of Ferret and the “Manimal” in Post-Soviet Literature
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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 ...
12. The Animal Watches You: Identity “After” History in Tatyana Tolstaya’s The Slynx
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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 ...
13. The Human Dog Oleg Kulik: Grotesque Post-Soviet Animalistic Performances
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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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Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 29 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2010