Slavic Review

Abstracts for Spring 2000 (vol. 59, no. 1)




Clare Cavanagh, "Lyrical Ethics: The Poetry of Adam Zagajewski"

Poetry has fallen on hard times in the American academy recently. In the ideological criticism that dominates anglophone literary studies today, the lyric has become the whipping boy for ambitious scholars anxious to prove their credentials as expert unmaskers of political agendas disguised as pure art. The place of lyric poetry in the modern world has been a key issue in Adam Zagajewski's writing from the start. He has tested the limits and possibilities of lyric poetry in a way few western writers can claim. Zagajewski's controversial poetic career not only takes us to the heart of some of the most pressing Polish cultural controversies of recent decades. It also suggests new answers--both richer and more refractory--to the questions posed by recent theory on the relationship of lyric poetry to society.




Laura A. Crago, "The Polishness of Production: Factory Politics and the Reinvention of Working-Class National and Political Identities in Russian Poland's Textile Industry, 1880-1910"

An exploration of why nationalist political solutions proved so popular among Russian Poland's textile workers. After establishing the complex ethnic nexus of the textile trade, the author examines how workers imagined "polishness" between 1880 and 1910. One section argues a legacy of ethnic segregation made nationalist workers reject socialism as "german," and therefore, "foreign to Polish soil." Yet, even as nationalist workers forwarded a narrowly ethnic definition of political organization, they were already rethinking and reinventing the very meaning of "polishness" as a result of changes in textile manufacturing strategies. Thus, by 1905, as the National Democratic Party's intellectual elite castigated textile manufacturers for their German and Jewish surnames, National Democratic workers, in both the NZR and Unity workers' association, developed a production-based definition of polishness.




Stephen F. Jones, "Democracy from Below? Interest Groups in Georgian Society"

A vital part of the democratization process in the newly independent states is the promotion of interest groups and mechanisms for articulating and representing their interests. This paper examines the formation of interest groups in Georgia since independence, the environment in which they operate, and their effectiveness in influencing government policies. The paper argues that western economic policies, in particular, are retarding the creation of an interest-based civic society by focusing on the reduction of Georgian government social and economic actvity. Public participation and interest organization are essential components of a stable and genuine democracy and will not flourish in the polarized, poor, and corrupt societal conditions of Georgia. Western policies need to move beyond the simplistic monetarist modeling of the International Monetary Fund, which is undercutting social activism and popular participation.




Nathaniel Knight, "Grigor'ev in Orenburg, 1851-1862: Russian Orientalism in the Service of Empire?"

In December 1851, Vasilii Vasil'evich Grigor'ev, one of Russia's foremost specialists in eastern languages and history, left St. Petersburg to take a position as an administrator in Russia's Central Asian borderlands. Grigor'ev role as a scholar in imperial service would appear to illustrate precisely the pattern of mutually enabling knowledge and power spelled out by Edward Said in his influential work Orientalism. This article uses Grigor'ev's service to probe the mechanisms underlying the interplay of scholarly knowledge and imperial power and to evaluate the value and applicability of the Said's model of Orientalism in the Russian context. After examining Grigor'ev's conception of Orientalism, his experiences as an administrator and his attitudes toward the peoples under his jurisdiction, the author find significant differences with the patterns described by Said. Said's model, he concludes, should be applied with caution, if at all, in the Russian context.


Amy Nelson: The Struggle for Proletarian Music: RAPM and the Cultural Revolution

This article examines the political fortunes of the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians (RAPM) and its campaign to reform popular music during the Cultural Revolution. It indicates how both the paradigm of Cultural Revolution and recent studies of longer term patterns of cultural change help elucidate developments in this period of Soviet musical life, and offers a counter-model to the much-studied example of the Proletarian Writers' Association (RAPP). Even at its peak the Cultural Revolution in music was not terribly radical, "proletarian," or well-supported by the authorities. RAPM's relative weakness, even in its heyday, casts a different light on commonly held perceptions of the period's radicalism and the "turning points" of 1928 and 1932, as does the half-concealed conservatism and musical traditionalism that undermined the group's efforts to effect a revolution in popular musical culture.


Michael S. Gorham, "Mastering the Perverse: State-building and Language 'Purification' in Early Soviet Russia

This article demonstrates, on the broadest level, the degree to which language standards and literary style became objects of broad-based negotiation in early Soviet Russian culture, and played an important symbolic role in the formation, legitimation and execution of the ideas and policies of the nascent state. More specifically, it documents the gradual emergence of a discourse of language "purification" which reappropriates the authority ascribed to the Russian language of the pre-revolutionary realist "classics" to help codify the official language of the Soviet state. Marginalized from public discourse, in the process, were those voices celebrated by many in the earlier post-revolutionary years as the true heirs of linguistic authority under Soviet rule--the Russian people, or narod. Central figures in the articulation of this discourse on language cleansing were Vladimir Lenin, Maksim Gor'kii and scores of linguists, teachers, writers and critics who participated in the cross-institutional debates over the appropriate forms of writing and speaking in the new Soviet society. The purification process coincided with, and provided important symbolic legitimacy to, the more pernicious policies and practices of collectivization under Stalin.




Keith Livers, "Scatology and Eschatology: The Recovery of the Flesh in Andrei Platonov's Happy Moscow"

This article examines Andrei Platonov's unfinished novel Happy Moscow (1932-1939) as an example of the author's retreat from the full-blown utopianism characteristic of such earlier works such as Chevengur and The Foundation Pit toward a cautious poetics of rapprochement. While Platonov's works of the 1920s are characterized by an almost manichean split between the aspirations of a life-transforming ideology and its flawed realization in time--between the antagonistic realms of spirit and matter--Happy Moscow and its thematic satellites employ Stalinism's partial rehabiliation of private life as a means of articulating a new utopian space where matter and spirit are no longer incompatible. In stark contrast to his earlier work, this space is most closely associated with the female body, specifically, that of the novel's heroine, Moskva Chestnova. Finally, Platonov's emphasis on the body as a site of reconciliation allows him to incorporate the crippling strictures of the Stalinist utopia into a greater text of artistic and spiritual transcendence.



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