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Russian Literature, 1995-2002

Russian Literature, 1995-2002: On the Threshold of a New Millennium

N.N. Shneidman
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 240
  • Book Info
    Russian Literature, 1995-2002
    Book Description:

    Writers have a difficult time making a living in contemporary Russia. Market-driven publishing companies have pushed serious domestic prose to the fringes of their output and few people have money to buy books. The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 led Russian society to become polarized between an increasingly prosperous minority and a very poor majority. This divide is also mirrored within the writing community, with some writers supporting conservative, nationalist pro-Soviet thinking, and others, liberal, democratic, pro-Western thought.

    N.N. Shneidman, in the tradition of his previous volumes -Soviet Literature in the 1970s;Soviet Literature in the 1980s;Russian Literature, 1988-1994- investigates the Russian literary scene with special emphasis on the relationship between thematic substance and the artistic quality of recently published prose. Despite the many challenges besetting it, Shneidman argues convincingly that literary activity in Russia continues to be dynamic and vibrant. The future development of Russian literature may depend on general economic, political, and social factors, but a new generation of talented writers is fast moving past older forms of ideology and embracing new ways of thinking about Russia.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7952-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Russian Literature and Society on the Threshold of the New Millennium
    (pp. 3-28)

    The 1980s were a decade of turbulence and transition in Soviet domestic life and foreign policy. The ascent of Mikhail Gorbachev to power in 1985, and the introduction of the policies ofglasnost’andperestroika, undermined the ideological and political control of the Communist Party and destabilized the Soviet system of government and its planned economy. The upheavals that followed, including the failed anti-Gorbachev coup d’état in August 1991, led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the creation of a Commonwealth of Independent States, composed of most of the former Soviet Union republics. The year 1992 marked the...

  5. 2 The Seniors’ Prose
    (pp. 29-51)

    The writers of the old generation share a Soviet upbringing and education. Many are graduates of Soviet institutions of higher learning, and some, like Viktor Astaf’ev, Iurii Bondarev, or Grigorii Baklanov, served in the Soviet army during the Second World War. With the exception of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Georgii Vladimov, who were expelled from the Soviet Writers’ Union and exiled from the USSR, all others discussed here worked within the Soviet system and their works appeared in official Soviet publications. Some occasionally questioned Soviet policy, but they never openly challenged the regime. They learned to compromise and acquiesce, the only...

  6. 3 The Mature Generation
    (pp. 52-79)

    Most writers of the mature generation discussed in this chapter are now in their late fifties and sixties. They all matured in the Brezhnev era of stagnation and were educated in the spirit of the Soviet totalitarian myth. Some complied hesitantly with the publication requirements of the Soviet regime; others refused to accept official ideology at its face value and were forced to go underground. Thus Leonid Borodin was denied publication and imprisoned in the Soviet GULag, while Viktor Erofeev was victimized by the Soviet authorities and expelled from the Writers’ Union. Eduard Limonov, on the other hand, went into...

  7. 4 The New Writers of the Perestroika Era
    (pp. 80-110)

    The authors who appeared on the Russian literary scene in the days of Gorbachev’sperestroika, and in the immediate post-Soviet period, represent today the most active and vigorous group of Russian writers. Most of the writers discussed here are relatively young, currently in their thirties, forties, with a few in their fifties. Most of them reside in Moscow, although Mikhail Kuraev and Aleksandr Melikhov live in St Petersburg, Aleksei Slapovskii lives in Saratov, Oleg Ermakov lives in the Smolensk region, and Mikhail Shishkin in Zurich, Switzerland. Some authors, such as Aleksandr Ivanchenko and Valeriia Narbikova, who made a mark in...

  8. 5 Women Writers
    (pp. 111-132)

    In the days of Soviet rule women formed a small minority of the writers’ community. No more than 15 per cent of the total membership of the Writers’ Union was composed of women. Moreover, there was not a single woman among the best-known Soviet writers. This situation began to change in the days ofperestroika, when a number of promising female authors, such as Nina Gorlanova, Irina Polianskaia, Nina Sadur, Liudmila Ulitskaia, Svetlana Vasilenko, and many others began to appear on the scene. In the late 1990s the list of active women writers was further expanded by the inclusion of...

  9. 6 The Writers of the Conservative ‘Patriotic’ Camp
    (pp. 133-153)

    The writers discussed in this chapter are well-known representatives of the so-called Russian conservative patriotic camp. They are grouped together here primarily because of their political and ideological convictions, as well as their membership in the conservative Writers’ Union of the Russian Federation. In the days of Soviet rule many of these writers, such as Vasilii Belov, Valentin Rasputin, and Vladimir Lichutin, were associated thematically and spiritually with ‘village prose.’ Iurii Bondarev, on the other hand, was one of the main proponents of Soviet war prose, while Aleksandr Prokhanov was well known, at that time, for political novels set in...

  10. 7 The Mystery Novel Writers
    (pp. 154-164)

    The conventional detective story is a narrative in which a mystery, often involving murder, is unravelled by a detective. There is usually a seemingly perfect crime; a suspect who, from the circumstantial evidence, appears to be guilty but is later proven innocent; a policeman, or another representative of the administration of justice, who questions the detective’s course of action; and a denouement in which it becomes clear who killed whom, how, and why. The author of the detective novel invites, in a way, the reader to match wits with the central character, as both the reader and the detective uncover...

  11. 8 The New Names of 1995–2002
    (pp. 165-181)

    All of the writers discussed in this chapter are in their thirties and forties, and most did not become well known until the second half of the 1990s. Some, like Sergei Gandlevskii and Nikolai Kononov, were established poets, but their first successful attempts in prose were made in the late nineties. Others published some insignificant prose before 1995, but their early works received little critical attention. Ol‘ga Slavnikova and Marina Vishnevetskaia also belong to this group of new prose writers, but their works have already been discussed in the chapter on women writers.

    The prose of these new writers is...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 182-184)

    The end of the twentieth century was marked by the change of political leadership in Russia, and some attempts of economic reform, but there was no improvement in the living standards of the majority of Russian citizens. The introduction of a market economy and the privatization of state property led to social polarization and the creation of two classes of ‘new Russians’: the minority who became rich, and the majority who turned into paupers. The transition from communist rule to democracy has been an agonizing process, characterized by economic instability, ideological squabbles, the re-evaluation of old values, and the search...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 185-192)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-200)
  15. Index
    (pp. 201-209)