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C O N C L U S I O N POST-STALIN AND POSTMODERN CHRISTS Trembling all over, I said to myself, talitha, cumi, rise and prepare for the end. This is not talitha cumi anymore, I am certain that this is lama sabachtani,or,as our Savior said,my God,why hast thou forsaken me.Why, oh Lord, did you forsake me? The Lord was silent. Venedikt Erofeev, Moscow to the End of the Line Faith Narratives after Stalin Neither Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita nor Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago were published in their homeland during their author’s lifetime, appearing only decades after each author’s death: the Master and Margarita in censored form in 1966–1967 and Doctor Zhivago in 1988, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost and perestroika. However, the centrality of the Passion narrative to their images of Christ both established Jesus’s final days as the fundamental faith narrative of the Soviet century and anticipated other post-Stalin literary imagings of Christ in Russian literature, most prominently Venedikt Erofeev’s Moscow to the End of the Line (l969,first published in the Soviet Union in 1989), Yury Dombrovsky’s The Faculty of Useless Knowledge (1978, first published in C O N C L U S I O N 206 the Soviet Union in 1988) and Chingiz Aitmatov’s The Place of the Skull (1986). All three of these works share both Christ’s Passion narrative and a glasnost-era date of publication, a reminder that even after Stalin’s death, works that treated Jesus’s life in a serious or positive fashion were nearly impossible to publish in the Soviet Union. Christ, of course, was not the only controversial aspect of these works. Erofeev’s work featured an alcoholic cable layer as its hero; Dombrovsky’s novel dealt with Stalin’s terror and the GULAG prison system; and Aitmatov’s focused on hot-button issues of the glasnost era, including drug abuse, the deterioration of the family, and the exploitation of the environment. But each novel’s Christ narrative would likely have been enough by itself to sideline publication in each of the decades in which the works were written, for religion and questions of faith were still taboo subjects in post-Stalin Soviet literature. The relaxation of religious prohibitions, the restoration of the Patriarchate and the curtailing of anti-religious propaganda during the Second World War along with the stabilization of the church during the interregnum from 1953 to 1958 changed abruptly after Nikita Khrushchev consolidated power. Beginning in 1961 and throughout the next four years, 59 of the country’s 69 monasteries, 5 of its 8 seminaries,and 13,500 of its 22,000 parish churches were all closed.1 During this time, priests were halved in number, dropping from about 20,000 to 10,000.2 A hostile policy toward the Church continued for the next twenty years, subsiding only when Gorbachev ascended to the leadership in 1985. In this environment, literary works featuring Jesus Christ had little hope of being published,with,of course,one prominent exception:that of the 1966–1967 publication of The Master and Margarita in the journal Moskva.The appearance of the novel—startlingly different in every regard from the usual fare appearing in Soviet journals at the time—seemed either a kind of miraculous event or a stupendous oversight on the part of the Soviet literary censors. In truth, it was actually the product of both a quiet rehabilitation of Bulgakov that was ongoing at the time and the literary and geopolitical politics of the day. Bulgakov’s plays, collected and published in 1962, had reappeared on Soviet stages in the late fifties. His Life of Monsieur de Molière appeared in 1962 and his Theatrical Novel,based on his work with Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theater,was published in 1965. Thus the appearance of The Master and Margarita a year later could be seen as but the natural next step of Bulgakov’s post-Stalin rehabilitation. At the same time, however, it is also clear that for such a controversial work to be published by Leonid Brezhnev’s neo-Stalinist regime, other factors had to be in play. Some have speculated that following the notorious literary trials of the 207 Post-Stalin and Postmodern Christs poet Joseph Brodsky in 1964 and the writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel a year later—trials roundly condemned in the West—Brezhnev needed some kind of cultural...


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