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The Russian Joke in Cultural Context
In his original new study, Seth Graham analyzes a rich and forgotten vein of humor in an otherwise bleak environment. The late Soviet period (1961–1986) hardly seems fertile ground for humor, but Russian jokes (anekdoty) about life in the Soviet Union were ubiquitous. The cultural and political relaxation in the decade following Stalin’s death produced considerable optimism among Soviet citizens. The anekdot exploited and exposed what Graham calls "Soviet diglossia" (official Sovietese vs. Russian everyday language) and emphasized the distance between official myths and quotidian reality. Jokes engaged a range of official and popular culture genres and also worked meta textually, referring to the political consequences of jokes. While the dissidents of this period, who stressed the heroic and opposed everything Soviet, have been much written about, Graham’s work on the anekdoty—written in the third person, ironic, and engaged with everything Soviet—fills a hole that has been overlooked in cultural history.
Imagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity
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.
History and Literature
Throughout the development of modern Russian society, the memoir, with its dual agendas of individualized expression and reliable reportage, has maintained a popular and abiding national genre "contract" between Russian writers and readers. The essays in The Russian Memoir: History and Literature seek to appreciate the literary construction of this much read, yet little analyzed, form and to explore its functions as interpretive history, social modelling, and political expression in Russian culture.
Hunting Stories, Letters from Exile, and Military Memoirs
Of a noble and distinguished family disenfranchised by the Bolshevik revolution, Vladimir Trubetskoi (1892 1937) alone remained in Russia, and suffered the consequences of his decision. His life and experiences are well documented in this remarkable volume, a selection of his writings that reflects his comfortable prewar existence and his post revolutionary poverty, uncertainty, and displacement, all conveyed with humor and ironic detachment.
The Creative Universe of Viacheslav Ivanov
The Poetic Mind of Marina Tsvetaeva
Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva’s powerful poetic voice and her tragic life have often prompted literary commentators to treat her as either a martyr or a monster. Born in Russia in 1892, she emigrated to Europe in 1922, returned to the Soviet Union at the height of the Stalinist Terror, and committed suicide in 1941. Alyssa Dinega focuses on the poetry, rediscovering Tsvetaeva as a serious thinker with a coherent artistic and philosophical vision.
Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940
Balkan Community Building and the Fear of Freedom
Examines the themes of sacrifice and violence for the sake of community, nation, and ideology by taking up the Balkan legend of the immurement of a live female body into an architectural edifice that cannot stand without a human sacrifice. The sacrificed body becomes a metaphor for acts of violence in the course of the region’s many ethno-religious conflicts in the 20th century, as Aleksic demonstrates how this sacrificial economy functions in a range of cultural and literary texts. The theoretical framework encompasses sociological analyses, feminist theory, human rights reports, and other sources documenting the destruction of individual subjectivities by the purported necessity of nationalist projects.