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Area and Ethnic Studies > Russian and East European Studies

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A Nation Astray Cover

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A Nation Astray

Nomadism and National Identity in Russian Literature

The metaphor of the nomad may at first seem surprising for Russia given its history of serfdom, travel restrictions, and strict social hierarchy. But as the imperial center struggled to tame a vast territory with ever-expanding borders, ideas of mobility, motion, travel, wandering, and homelessness came to constitute important elements in the discourse about national identity. For Russians of the nineteenth century, national identity was anything but stable.

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The New Russian Dostoevsky

Readings for the Twenty-First Century

edited by

During the Soviet years, Fyodor Dostoevsky was the most troublesome of the nineteenth-century Russian novelists. Religious, opinionated, conservative, and chauvinistic, his work challenged the atheistic and communist foundation of the Soviet state. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dostoevsky rapidly became the most popular Russian classic. Taking advantage of the freedoms that came with glasnost, Russian scholars have produced a wealth of new studies exploring previously neglected aspects of the writer's life and work. "The New Russian Dostoevsky: Readings for the Twenty-First Century" presents a broad range of works by Russia's finest Dostoevsky scholars, appearing here in English translation for the first time. The collection offers general studies, including essays on the latest trends in Dostoevsky scholarship, on the 150-year history of anti-Dostoevsky sentiment in Russia, on the use of new technologies to study manuscripts and print materials, and on Dostoevsky's religion and philosophy, as well as close readings and annotations of the classic novels "Crime and Punishment," "The Idiot," "Demons," and "The Brothers Karamazov." These essays combine the meticulous scholarship and authority that have always characterized the work of Russian scholars with a bracing originality and a new respect for the religious and cultural aspects of the writer's work that were neglected in the Soviet years. This book will appeal to anyone interested in Dostoevsky's work and eager to learn how he is read and studied in his homeland.

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New Word on The Brothers Karamazov

Jackson, Robert Louis

Edited by the nation's most respected senior Dostoevsky scholar, this collection brings together original work by notable writers of varying backgrounds and interests. While drawing on Dostoevsky's other fiction, journalism, and correspondence, the writing of his contemporaries, the state of Russian culture to illuminate the unfolding novel these essays also make use of new fields of scholarship, such as cognitive psychology, as well as recent theoretical approaches and critical insights. The authors propose readings remarkable for their attentiveness to detail, relatively peripheral characters, and heretofore overlooked incidents, passages, or fragments of dialogue. Some contributors suggest readings so new that they are subvert our usual modes of approaching this novel; all reflect the immediacy of adventuresome, informed encounters with Dostoevsky's final novel. Treating The Brothers Karamazov in terms of a broad range of genres (poetry, narrative, parody, confession, detective fiction) and discourses (medical, scientific, sexual, judicial, philosophical, and theological), these essays embody on a critical and analytic level a search for coherence, meaning, and harmony that continues to animate Dostoevsky's novel in our day.

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Nikolai Klyuev

Time and Text, Place and Poet

Makin, Michael

Nikolai Klyuev: Time and Text, Place and Poet is the first book in English to examine this enigmatic poet's life and work. Klyuev (1884 1937) is an important but not well understood figure in twentieth century Russian poetry. The allusions in his work to folklore, mysticism, politics, and religion, in addition to occasionally arcane vocabulary and difficult syntax, require extensive elucidation. Klyuev rose to prominence in the early twentieth century as the first of the so called "new peasant poets" before being arrested and exiled in 1933, then shot in 1937: a victim of Stalinist hostility to both his cultural ideology and his homosexuality. Makin’s feat is particularly notable because Klyuev was often elusive in his own accounts of his life; a major element of this book is an effort to clarify the poet’s strategies of self mythologization. Nikolai Klyuev: Time and Text, Place and Poet is an insightful guide to both the life and the work of an important poet still relatively unknown to a Western audience.

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Nikolai Zabolotsky

Enigma and Cultural Paradigm

Pratt, Sarah

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The Novel in the Age of Disintegration

Dostoevsky and the Problem of Genre in the 1870s

Scholars have long been fascinated by the creative struggles with genre manifested throughout Dostoevsky’s career. In The Novel in the Age of Disintegration, Kate Holland brings historical context to bear, showing that Dostoevsky wanted to use the form of the novel as a means of depicting disintegration brought on by various crises in Russian society in the 1860s. This required him to reinvent the genre. At the same time he sought to infuse his novels with the capacity to inspire belief in social and spiritual reintegration, so he returned to some older conventions of a society that was already becoming outmoded. In thoughtful readings of Demons, The Adolescent, A Writer’s Diary, and The Brothers Karamazov, Holland delineates Dostoevsky’s struggle to adapt a genre to the reality of the present, with all its upheavals, while maintaining a utopian vision of Russia’s future mission.

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On the Run in Siberia

Rane Willerslev

If I had let myself be ruled by reason alone, I would surely be lying dead somewhere or another in the Siberian frost.

The Siberian taiga: a massive forest region of roughly 4.5 million square miles, stretching from the Ural Mountains to the Bering Sea, breathtakingly beautiful and the coldest inhabited region in the world. Winter temperatures plummet to a bitter 97 degrees below zero, and beneath the permafrost lie the fossilized remains of mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and other ice age giants. For the Yukaghir, an indigenous people of the taiga, hunting sable is both an economic necessity and a spiritual experience—where trusting dreams and omens is as necessary as following animal tracks. Since the fall of Communism, a corrupt regional corporation has monopolized the fur trade, forcing the Yukaghir hunters into impoverished servitude.

Enter Rane Willerslev, a young Danish anthropologist who ventures into this frozen land on an idealistic mission to organize a fair-trade fur cooperative with the hunters. From the outset, things go terribly wrong. The regional fur company, with ties to corrupt public officials, proves it will stop at nothing to maintain its monopoly: one of Willerslev’s Yukaghir business partners is arrested on spurious charges of poaching and illegal trading; another drowns mysteriously. When police are sent to arrest him, Willerslev fears for his life, and he and a local hunter flee to a remote hunting lodge even deeper in the icy wilderness. Their situation turns even more desperate right away: they manage to kill a moose but lose the meat to predators and begin to starve, frostbitten and isolated in the frozen taiga.

Thus begins Willerslev’s extraordinary, chilling tale of one year living in exile among Yukaghir hunters in the stark Siberian taiga region. At turns shocking and quietly moving, On the Run in Siberia is a pulse-pounding tale of idealism, political corruption, starvation, and survival (with a timely assist from Vladimir Putin) as well as a striking portrait of the Yukaghirs’ shamanistic tradition and their threatened way of life, a drama unfolding daily in one of the world’s coldest, most enthralling landscapes.

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Operation Albion

The German Conquest of the Baltic Islands

Michael B. Barrett

In October 1917, an invasion force of some 25,000 German soldiers, accompanied by a flotilla of 10 dreadnoughts, 350 other vessels, a half-dozen zeppelins, and 80 aircraft, attacked the Baltic islands of Dago, Osel, and Moon at the head of the Gulf of Riga. It proved to be the most successful amphibious operation of World War I. The three islands fell, the Gulf was opened to German warships and was now a threat to Russian naval bases in the Gulf of Finland, and 20,000 Russians were captured. The invasion proved to be the last major operation in the East. Although the invasion had achieved its objectives and placed the Germans in an excellent position for the resumption of warfare in the spring, within three weeks of the operation, the Bolsheviks took power in Russia (November 7, 1917) and Albion faded into obscurity as the war in the East came to a slow end.

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Over the Wall/After the Fall

Post-Communist Cultures through an East-West Gaze

Sibelan Forrester, Magdalena J. Zaborowska, and Elena Gapova, eds.

"... a hot subject in today's scholarship... and a groundbreaking project of vital significance to the field of cultural studies at both 'western' and 'eastern' geographical locations." -- Elwira Grossman

Over the Wall/After the Fall maps a new discourse on the evolution of cultural life in Eastern Europe following the end of communism. Departing from traditional binary views of East/West, the contributors to this volume consider the countries and the peoples of the region on their own terms. Drawing on insights from cultural studies, gender theory, and postcolonial studies, this lively collection addresses gender issues and sexual politics, consumerism, high and popular culture, architecture, media, art, and theater. Among the themes of the essays are the Western pop success of Bulgarian folk choirs, the Czechs' reception of Frank Gehry's unconventional building in the center of Prague, bohemians in Lviv, and cryptographic art installations from Bratislava.

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Overkill

Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture

Perestroika and the end of the Soviet Union transformed every aspect of life in Russia, and as hope began to give way to pessimism, popular culture came to reflect the anxiety and despair felt by more and more Russians. Free from censorship for the first time in Russia's history, the popular culture industry (publishing, film, and television) began to disseminate works that featured increasingly explicit images and descriptions of sex and violence.

In Overkill, Eliot Borenstein explores this lurid and often-disturbing cultural landscape in close, imaginative readings of such works as You're Just a Slut, My Dear! (Ty prosto shliukha, dorogaia!), a novel about sexual slavery and illegal organ harvesting; the Nympho trilogy of books featuring a Chechen-fighting sex addict; and the Mad Dog and Antikiller series of books and films recounting, respectively, the exploits of the Russian Rambo and an assassin killing in the cause of justice. Borenstein argues that the popular cultural products consumed in the post-perestroika era were more than just diversions; they allowed Russians to indulge their despair over economic woes and everyday threats. At the same time, they built a notion of nationalism or heroism that could be maintained even under the most miserable of social conditions, when consumers felt most powerless.

For Borenstein, the myriad depictions of deviance in pornographic and also crime fiction, with their patently excessive and appalling details of social and moral decay, represented the popular culture industry's response to the otherwise unimaginable scale of Russia's national collapse. "The full sense of collapse," he writes, "required a panoptic view that only the media and culture industry were eager to provide, amalgamating national collapse into one master narrative that would then be readily available to most individuals as a framework for understanding their own suffering and their own fears."

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