The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia: Language, Fiction and Fantasy in Modern Russia 9781788312288, 9781788317078, 9781788317061

More than 700 ‘utopian’ novels are published in Russia every year. These utopias – meaning here fantasy fiction, science

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The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia: Language, Fiction and Fantasy in Modern Russia
 9781788312288, 9781788317078, 9781788317061

Table of contents :
Cover page
Halftitle page
Title page
Copyright page
Utopias and utopianism
Overview of the history of utopianism in Russia
Post-Soviet utopianism
Content overview
Part One History
1 Alternative Russian Revolution: Viacheslav Rybakov and Kir Bulychev
Perestroika historiography
Authors and stories
Ethnic problems
The image of Lenin
2 Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Post-Soviet Speculative Fiction: Two Trends 1
Russian vs the whole world: future wars
To come back and change for the better: correcting the past
In the beginning: a social lift for a loser
To alter for the better
The Second World War and popadantsy: new allies and enemies
The USSR: back to the future
3 Telluro-Cosmic Imperial Utopia andContemporary Russian Art
Metamodenism, cosmos and post-Soviet Russian conservatism
The Cosmos, cosmism and contemporary Russian art
4 Lazarus on the Ark: Heterotopias in the Novels of Vladimir Sharov and Evgenii Vodolazkin
Heterotopia: an ‘effectively enacted utopia’
Crisis and deviation: clinic, prison and ward
Heterochronicity and simultaneity: memory and time
Conclusion: narratives of trauma and flight
Part Two Ideology
5 Conservative Science Fiction in Contemporary Russian Literature and Politics 1
SF networks and hybrid SF
Engaging with the Strugatsky brothers
Orthodox SF: anamnesis and nemesis
6 Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia
The sources and component parts of Limonov’s vision of the future (I): National Bolshevism, the avant-garde and fascism
The sources and component parts of Limonov’s vision of the future (II): Eurasianism, millenarianism and the New Chronology
The target audience and the genre
7 Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia
Forerunning societies: Edoli and Deitros
A pragmatic utopia: Kvirin
Dystopian societies
8 ‘Respectable Xenophobia’: Science Fiction, Utopia and Conspiracy
A trajectory of the Russian utopia toward xenophobia
The Russian idea in Vasilii Golovachev’s imagination
The trend has changed but the attitude has not
Conclusion: nostalgia for utopia and xenophobia
Part Three Language
9 Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias
The status of Church Slavonic in Russian culture
Church Slavonic as an element in dystopias
The use of Church Slavonic in conservative utopias
10 Contested Utopias: Language Ideologies in Valerii Votrin’s Logoped
The language debate in post-Soviet Russia
Language and identity: concluding remarks
11 ‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary: Russophone Migrants in the UK in the Work of Michael Idov and Andrei Ostalsky
The linguistic imaginary
The two ‘Londongrads’
Speaking Russian in Londongrad
Socially varied Russian
Intercultural communication
Part Four Territory
12 Provinces, Piety and Promotional Putinism: Mapping Aleksandr Prokhanov’s Counter-Utopian Russia*
Prokhanov’s counter-utopian imagination
Intellectual background
Building ‘sacred mounds’
Public commentary
Counter-utopian vision in Prokhanov’s novels
13 Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom: Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD
Bykov’s symbolic geography
Non-Euclidian spaces, impossible timelines
Roads and meetings
The locomotive of history
Circularity – linearity, dystopia – a way out
Conclusion: ethical agents and a Lotman encore
14 The New ‘Norma’: Vladimir Sorokin’s Telluriaand Post-Utopian Science Fiction
Introduction: post- utopian science fiction
Telluria ’s cognitive map
Telluria and neo-medievalism
Afterword: Back to the Future, Forward to the Past? Explorations in Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy
SF and conservatism
Alternative history
Cyclical history
SF and political history
Territory and empire
Utopias in the imperial margins
The besieged ethnic and linguistic fortress
Selected Bibliography

Citation preview

The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia



The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia Language, Fiction and Fantasy in Modern Russia Edited by Mikhail Suslov and Per-Arne Bodin


I.B. TAURIS Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA BLOOMSBURY, I.B. TAURIS and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain 2020 Copyright © Mikhail Suslov and Per-Arne Bodin, 2020 Mikhail Suslov and Per-Arne Bodin have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Editors of this work. For legal purposes the Acknowledgements on p. xi constitute an extension of this copyright page. Cover design by Adriana Brioso Cover image: Monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Buzludzha, Bulgaria. (© Maya Karkalicheva/Getty Images) All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN:

HB: ePDF: eBook:

978-1-7883-1228-8 978-1-7883-1706-1 978-1-7883-1705-4

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Contents List of Figures List of Contributors Acknowledgements Introduction

vii viii xi

Mikhail Suslov and Per-Arne Bodin


Part One History 1 2 3 4

Alternative Russian Revolution: Viacheslav Rybakov and Kir Bulychev Go Koshino Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Post-Soviet Speculative Fiction: Two Trends Maria Galina Telluro-Cosmic Imperial Utopia and Contemporary Russian Art Maria Engström Lazarus on the Ark: Heterotopias in the Novels of Vladimir Sharov and Evgenii Vodolazkin Muireann Maguire

23 39 61 81

Part Two Ideology 5 6 7 8

Conservative Science Fiction in Contemporary Russian Literature and Politics Mikhail Suslov Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-) Utopia Andrei Rogatchevski Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia Anastasia Mitrofanova ‘Respectable Xenophobia’: Science Fiction, Utopia and Conspiracy Victor Shnirelman

Part Three 9

105 129 155 175


Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias Per-Arne Bodin





10 Contested Utopias: Language Ideologies in Valerii Votrin’s Logoped Ingunn Lunde 11 ‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary: Russophone Migrants in the UK in the Work of Michael Idov and Andrei Ostalsky Lara Ryazanova-Clarke Part Four




12 Provinces, Piety and Promotional Putinism: Mapping Aleksandr Prokhanov’s Counter-Utopian Russia Edith W. Clowes 13 Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom: Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD Sofya Khagi 14 The New ‘Norma’: Vladimir Sorokin’s Telluria and Post-Utopian Science Fiction Mark Lipovetsky Afterword: Back to the Future, Forward to the Past? Explorations in Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy Kåre Johan Mjør and Sanna Turoma Selected Bibliography Index

261 281 301

315 331 345

Figures 3.1 3.2

Anton Chumak, New Earth, 2015. The Plumbum-Cobalt Society. Still from video installation The Hunting Fragment: The Russian Stereo, 2016. 12.1 The Pskov ‘sacred hill’. 13.1 The Trumpeting Angel of Chernobyl.

73 74 267 286


Contributors Per-Arne Bodin is Professor Emeritus of Russian and Polish Literature at Stockholm University. He is also a Doctor Honoris Causa in theology at Uppsala University. His research interests include Russian and Polish literature, Orthodox religion, Church and culture. Edith W. Clowes holds the Brown-Forman Chair in the Humanities and teaches Russian language, literature and culture and Czech literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville). Her primary research and teaching interests span the interactions between literature, philosophy, religion and utopian thought Maria Engström is Associate Professor of Russian, School of Humanities and Media Studies at Dalarna University, Sweden. Her research focus is on the post-Soviet right-wing intellectual milieu, the role of the Orthodox Church in Russian politics, contemporary Russian Utopian imagination, and Imperial aesthetics in post-Soviet literature and art. Maria Galina is the author of several fiction books and also of two collections of articles – Science Fiction from the Biologist Point of View (2008) and Not Only About Science Fiction (2013) – dedicated to SF and its history. Sofya Khagi is Associate Professor of Russian Literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has published on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian poetry, postSoviet literature, science fiction and contemporary Baltic literatures and cultures. Go Koshino is an associate professor in the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University in Japan. He is engaged in a joint research project on comparative study of socialist ‘red’ cultures in countries of the former Soviet Union, China and Vietnam. He is also working on other topics: Russian SF, the image of illness in nineteenth-century Russia, the memory of the Napoleonic War, and Belarusian literature. Mark Lipovetsky is Professor and Chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of eight books and more than a hundred articles published in the US, Russia and Europe. viii



Ingunn Lunde is Professor of Russian at the University of Bergen and Professor II of Russian Literature and Culture at the University of Tromsø. Her research interests include Russian sociolinguistics, Slavic medieval culture and Russian literature of the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. Muireann Maguire lectures in Russian at the University of Exeter. She is currently working on Hideous Agonies, a study of childbirth as a theme in Russian and Western literature. Other research interests include nineteenthcentury Russian literature, particularly Tolstoy and Dostoevsky; science fiction; and Gothic literature. Anastasia Mitrofanova is Chair of Political Science, Church-State Relations and the Sociology of Religion at the Russian Orthodox University as well as Professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU) and a fellow of the AURORA consortium. Her research interests include the influence of Orthodox Christianity on world politics, nationalism in today’s Russia and government-initiated nation-building projects in Belorussia and Moldova. Kåre John Mjør is a research librarian at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences and a lecturer in Russian at the University of Bergen. He has published on Russian intellectual history, Russian imperial history and contemporary ideologies. He is currently working on an edited volume on the civilizational discourse in contemporary Russian intellectual and cultural production. Andrei Rogatchevski is currently Professor of Russian Literature and Culture at UiT The Arctic University of Norway (Norway). He is an experienced scholar whose fields of research include Russian literature, films and culture. In addition, he studies Czech culture, the cultural background of Russian immigrants in the United Kingdom and extreme right-wing extremism in post-Soviet Russia. Lara Ryazanova-Clarke is Head of Russian and Director of the Princess Dashkova Russian Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh. She is a series editor of the ‘Russian Language and Society’ book series at Edinburgh University Press. Her research focuses on Russian sociolinguistics and discourse studies. Victor Shnirelman is a senior researcher of the N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Russian Academy of Sciences and an author of over 300 works, including more than twenty monographs on archaeology. Shnirelman’s main fields include the ideologies of nationalism in Russia and the CIS, ethnocentrism and irredentism.



Mikhail Suslov is Assistant Professor of Russian History and Politics at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen. His area of expertise is Russian and East European intellectual history. Specifically he is interested in right-wing and conservative ideologies, geopolitical and religiously-motivated ideas, and utopias. Sanna Turoma has authored and co-edited several articles and books in Russian literature and cultural studies. In addition to cultural and intellectual history she has also published works in contemporary culture, poetry, and media. Her research interests include questions of empire, space, and geopolitics, and she is currently working on an edited volume on the civilizational discourse in contemporary Russian intellectual and cultural production. Her monograph Brodsky Abroad: Empire, Tourism, Nostalgia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010) is forthcoming in Russian in 2020 from Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie.

Acknowledgements This book emerged from the international conference titled ‘ “Russian World” and Other Imaginary Places: (Geo) Political Themes in Post-Soviet Science Fiction and Utopias’, which took place at the Uppsala Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (now the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, http:// on 23–24 March 2017. This event was possible thanks to the generous conference grant provided by the Swedish Research Council. We want to acknowledge support from Stockholm University and the University of Copenhagen for the realization of the project. We would also like to thank the Uppsala Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, as well as Stiftelsen Olle Engkvist Byggmästare, for their contributions towards publication costs for this volume. Mikhail Suslov Per-Arne Bodin



Introduction Mikhail Suslov and Per-Arne Bodin

Utopias and utopianism In Vladimir Sorokin’s novel Telluria (2013), nails, made of the fantastic metal ‘tellur’ and hammered in people’s heads, provide hallucinatory experiences of extraordinary intensity. Coveted by everyone, these ‘nails of happiness’ serve as a precise metaphor of science fiction (SF) which is driving an alternative version of socio-political reality, a ‘novum’,1 in the minds of the post-Soviet Russians.2 This book inquires into the ways in which utopian narratives interact with political discourses and facilitate identity-making in post-Soviet Russia. We argue that the study of socio-political science fiction and utopias exposes the ideational tracks on which Russian society in Putin’s third presidency glided smoothly into the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and confrontation with the West. The volume brings together various academic perspectives, including literature studies, cultural studies and studies of ideologies and politics in order to comprehensively analyse the syncretic genre of SF. Here it is considered as a literary and cultural phenomenon, but also as an instrument for expressing and propagating certain political views. For this purpose, the terms ‘political SF’, ‘speculative fiction’, ‘utopias’, ‘utopian fiction’ are used interchangeably, because they all suggest one simple idea that we can invent our future. Utopias liberate. They emancipate human brains from the traditions of all dead generations, foster the free flow of imagination, undermine hegemony and push us to contemplate alternatives. To be sure, these alternatives can well be far worse than the ugliest present world order, and there has never been a shortage of critics of utopias.3 Anti-utopian intellectuals point to the conspicuous totalitarian propensity of such visions. Indeed, an all-embracing, monolithic, homogenous utopian ideal of a perfect society implicates repressions against difference and dissidence.4 Little wonder that for many a thinker, utopia is the ‘best vomitive’.5 The opposite, ‘anti-anti-utopian’ line of argumentation maintains that utopias are not about blueprints of petrifying 1


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perfection; they are about an impulse, a hope, a desire and a movement towards a better world.6 Without dwelling on the historiography of utopian studies,7 here it is sufficient to mention the most important intellectual inputs in support of the ‘spirit of utopia’. Darko Suvin interprets utopia not as a static social ideal, but as a method of contemplating the alternative.8 Tom Moylan sides with Suvin and argues that contemporary utopia should first and foremost provide comprehensive criticism of the present world order.9 Ruth Levitas grounds her apology for utopianism on Ernst Bloch’s concept of the ‘principle of hope’ that is essential for human nature. She pushes the argument forward, maintaining that the purpose of utopia is to ‘educate desire’, to make sense of the natural utopian impulse and channel it towards creative and unorthodox solutions in practical life.10 Russell Jacoby continues this line of thought, calling for a rejection of utopias as blueprints and projects, but voicing support for the ‘iconoclastic’ or critical utopia.11 A utopia, according to this, ‘anti-anti-utopian’ interpretation, is akin to a horizon which we can see and try to attain but will never reach. The liberating and enslaving sides of utopias are dialectically related. Utopian dreaming is a vulnerable and precious phenomenon that is essentially on the brink of extinction in today’s world.12 Utopianism can be hijacked by the capitalist culture of individualistic consumption, which destroys the possibility of collective actions and solidarity.13 Disneyland and theme parks are the most salient examples of such emasculated utopias.14 The ubiquity of dystopian visions also corrupts our ability to produce utopian ideals. Today ‘it is much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism’.15

Overview of the history of utopianism in Russia The persistent tradition of folkloric utopianism, such as The Legend of Belovod’e, dwells on the escapist myths of the ‘promised land’, imagined somewhere on the fringes of the Russian Empire.16 This way of dreaming about lands of abundance and freedom is common to all cultures. In the Russian context, however, it is even more pertinent: an omnipresent state of continental dimensions and scarcity of resources prompted the people to imagine an escapist utopia with elements of anarchism. The influence of an eschatological mentality should be considered as well. In this context, the people tended to perceive the future in terms of the abrupt, apocalyptic catastrophe, and the sudden, mystical regeneration and the beginning of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’.17



Perhaps the first originally Russian literary utopia was published in 1759. It was the Dream of a Happy Society by Aleksandr Sumarokov.18 The most elaborated and interesting utopian fiction of the eighteenth century was written by Prince Mikhail Shcherbatov, The Journey to the Land of Ofhir (written in 1783, first published in 1858).19 The emergent genre of the utopian fiction represented a mixture of projecting, panegyric and allegoric literature. Already in its immature form, this utopianism bore a generic trait of specifically Russian reflection on Westernization and cultural authenticity. The social ideal of these utopias was traditionalist and patriarchal, portraying the pre-Petrine past as a lost idyll, and calling for isolation from the West. Because of Russia’s historically unique and relatively early experience of self-colonization under Peter the Great, Russian intellectuals were among the first to begin to contemplate the limits of the state-sponsored and rationally planned, sweeping remodelling of society and uprooting of traditions. So, Russia turned into an impressive glasshouse of conservative utopianism early in its intellectual history.20 The evolution of Russian utopianism in the nineteenth century starts with a few texts written by Decembrists – those who were involved in the revolt of liberal-minded aristocrats in 1825 – Aleksandr Ulybyshev’s Dream of 1819 and Vil’gel’m Kiukhel’beker’s European Letters, written in 1820. Utopias depicted by Vladimir Odoevskii in The Year 4338 (1837) and The Nameless Town (1839) brought ‘the Russian science-fiction tradition up to world nineteenth-century standards’21 and addressed a number of themes which became central in the Russian utopian literature of the nineteenth century: romantic reaction to capitalism and urbanism, and the possibilities of reconciliation between science and religion. Still, the key theme for most utopias of the first half of the nineteenth century was the Slavophile struggle with Russia’s imitative Westernization, the dream of Russia’s Messianic role in the future, and its ability to make a genuine contribution to the life of humanity. In 1863, Nikolai Chernyshevskii wrote his fantastic fragment ‘Fourth Dream of Vera Pavlovna’ in the cult novel What Is to Be Done? (1863). This utopia manifested a shift of interests from anxiety about Russian national identity towards solving global problems of social and anthropological perfection in line with the European utopian socialists such as Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier. For several generations of Russian youth, this novel provided a ‘walk through’ for the social reconstruction of the future. Hundreds of communities appeared in imitation of Chernyshevskii’s musings, and even the Russian Populist movement was greatly indebted to his appeal to serve altruistically to the poor and oppressed people. Petr Tkachev, a revolutionary of the Jacobin stamp, as well as Lenin and many other future Bolshevik leaders drew extensively on Chernyshevskii’s thoughts. Georgii Plekhanov wittingly noted that the popularity of this work was due


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to its ‘ “scientific” ’ formula of immediate applicability while simultaneously appealing to people’s best instincts’.22 Yet, Chernyshevskii’s utopia was a sidetrack from the magistral road of late imperial Russian utopianism towards mysticism and anti-modernism. The Coming Race (1871) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, featuring some esoteric themes, appeared in Russia in three editions (and two different translations) in 1872–3, 1891 and 1908. Other popular Western utopias, praising antiurbanism and anti-capitalism, were likewise widely read in Russia, including Erehwon (1872) by Samuel Butler, After London (1885) by Richard Jefferies, A Crystal Age (1887) by W. H. Hudson, and News from Nowhere (1890) by William Morris. The Russian authors of that time produced a raft of imitative pastoral and occult fantasies, often with a touch of anti-Semitism,23 such as 666/3. Fantasie capricieuse (1882) by Maria Skovronskaia. This otherwise bleak fantasy represents one of the first dystopian narratives, which would be very much to the liking of today’s readers of ‘liber-punk’ – a sub-genre, showing the perils of Western liberal democracies. Skovronskaia’s story portrays some distant future world, completely seized by the Jews, in which life revolves around a stock exchange and all production is by machines, while the people only serve them, gradually losing all human features. Even their language degenerates into the roots of nouns.24 Conservative utopias and dystopias dominated the genre at the turn of the century. Such authors as Sergei Sharapov, Nikolai Shelonskii, Ivan Romanov, Dmitry Ilovaiskii, Aleksandr Krasnitskii and a dozen others reflected on the perils of impending revolution and the ascendance of Western liberal values, and mourned the shaken reputation of the Russian Empire. Their fantasies featured colourful apocalyptic scenes, but also dreams of a greater Russian state tramping on the enfeebled nemeses from the West, visions of a more powerful and firmly standing monarchy and Russia’s prophetic role in world history.25 Political fantasies, produced by Russian emigrants in the 1920s, intensified the same paradox of conservative utopianism: for their authors a return to historical tradition and the imagined ‘normalcy’ entailed a radical overhaul of Soviet Russia, as well as a decisive uprooting of socialism.26 In the early 1900s, utopian fantasy in Russia was boosted up by H. G. Wells, Camille Flammarion and Jules Verne, abundantly translated into Russian and published in journals such as Vorkug Sveta (Around the World). Some left intellectuals tried to bandwagon on the growing public impact of this kind of literature. They utilized literary devices of the nascent genre of science fiction for the propagation of various just and harmonious societies.27 The most important examples of this trend are Porfirii Infant’ev’s On the Other Planet: A Story of Life of the Inhabitants of Mars (1901), Leonid Bogoiavlenskii’s In the New World (1904) and Aleksandr Bogdanov’s The Red



Star (1908). All three utopias share the same admiration for simplicity, morality, naturalness and life in harmony with nature, as opposed to urbanism, capitalism, luxury and the artificiality of present-day civilization.28 Both conservative and communist utopians were anxious about the increasing rhythm of modern life, about building up an altogether artificial environment in big cities, about the alienation of people and making them an appendage of the machine and the capitalist system as a whole. In spite of some popularity which fantastic fiction like What Is to Be Done? and The Red Star enjoyed among left-wing intellectuals, the most remarkable fact about pre-revolutionary Russian utopias is that they were very few compared to the Western, especially British and US, literary tradition, where the fantastic genre gained much cultural resonance and became a profitable business with hundreds and probably thousands of books published on the eve of the First World War.29 The low level of literacy in Russia, obviously, imposed limitations on the development of literature for entertainment like SF, but we should also take into account censorial restrictions on expressing political dissidence in utopias. Also, for the nations standing at the forefront of technological and social development, utopian and SF literature was a foray into the uncharted territory of the future, an institution of prognostication of sorts. In Russia, as many intellectuals believed, its future had already been programmed by Western models of historical development, and therefore, political fantasies boiled down to a discussion of Russia’s relation to Europe, her historical path and her national identity. At the beginning of the twentieth century, revolutionary strivings, the culture of experimentation, unorthodox thinking and avant-garde arts flourished in Russia.30 This European periphery with its strong self-colonizing and self-Orientalizing tradition31 became the land of a living socialist utopia.32 The previous fixation on identity lessened during this period, when Russianlanguage SF rediscovered itself as a medium for expressing concerns about the global problems of humanity. But the genre of Soviet-era SF amalgamated many intellectual tendencies. It was also a branch of the state propaganda, fleshing out the ideals of Marxism-Leninism, and it was a literature for mass entertainment for an increasingly more literate and educated society.33 Industrialization of the 1930–40s, the technological breakthrough of the post-war decades and the successes of the socialist movement globally inspired Soviet SF to contemplate space travel, colonization of the faraway planets, technological miracles, the industrial paradises of the future and the unstoppable march of history towards harmonious communist societies.34 Aleksei Tolstoy (e.g. Aelita, 1923) and Aleksandr Beliaev (e.g. Professor Dowell’s Head, 1925) set the trend for SF works of this ilk. At the same time, in spite of the powerful utopian drive, Stalinism was not propitious for daring


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political fantasies, and the genre was dominated by the ‘close range SF’ – a kind of popularization of the Soviet technological achievements with a limited time horizon. When the next, post-Second World War and ‘Thaw’-era generation of SF writers came of age, reading SF became one of the most popular pastime activities of the Soviet people. For the newly forged technical intelligentsia, serving the mammoth industrial complex of the Soviet superpower, SF was ‘their’ kind of literature, written by the intelligentsia, for the intelligentsia and about the intelligentsia.35 SF mirrored their Promethean beliefs in endless perfection, unlimited human knowledge and the malleability of the world. For Soviet engineers – the target audience of the fantastic fiction – a utopia was akin to a bold technological design: it was not only doable, but doing it was a ‘professional’ obligation of us humans.36 During the ‘golden years’ of Soviet SF in the late 1950s–1980s, this genre gave the intelligentsia the language, the mirror for self-identification, and the means for self-organization. At the same time, Soviet SF echoed global concerns about limits and backlashes of the industrial developments. Such authors as Ivan Efremov, Aleksandr Kazantsev and Kir Bulychev together with the flagship journals Ural’skii sledopyt and Tekhnika – molodezhi turned Soviet SF into a quality mass literature with elements of philosophical reflection, also about societal problems.37 Likewise, a raft of SF films including Andrei Tarkovsky’s œuvres Solaris (1972) and Stalker (1979), while catering to the tastes of the masses, provided the language to speak about contemporary societal and moral problems.38 Understandably, the SF of the 1960s–80s began to harbour much political unorthodoxy. In this period, the Soviet Samizdat widely circulated canonical anti-utopias, including We (1920) by Evgenii Zamiatin, which evoked parallels with the Soviet regime and inspired dissidence. In the post-Thaw era and through the glasnost’ era to 1991 ‘metautopian’ sensibility became quite strong, exemplified by such writers as Vladimir Voinovich, Abram Terts/ Siniavskii, Venedikt Erofeev, Aleksandr Zinov’ev, Vasilii Aksenov and Liudmila Petrushevskaia. Metautopian writing takes a position in between various utopian visions, treating all of them with a decided scepticism.39 Brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, the cult writers of SF, challenged the very foundations of the genre, positing questions about the costs of the technological progress and the moral issues of transforming human nature.40 Their novel The Ugly Swans (1967) was bootlegged and published abroad, and also became popular in Samizdat, causing its authors many problems with the Soviet authorities. Even more canonical communist utopias, written by Ivan Efremov, Georgii Martynov and the early Strugatskys, feature descriptions of by far more democratic and inclusive political systems of the future, than the Soviet one. This does not mean, however, that the Soviet-era



SF was outright oppositional to the regime. By contrast, this genre was begot by the technological optimism and communist teleology of the Soviet modernization project, so SF became one of its instruments for self-reflection.

Post-Soviet utopianism One month before the proclamation of perestroika, in March 1985, Visitor from the Future (Gost’ia iz budushchego) was aired on Soviet television. This fivepart SF mini-series was based on Kir Bulychev’s children’s book41 and it soon became a cult movie of sorts. Visitor from the Future presents an adventure story about a girl who travels to the Soviet present from the communist world of the future. The film shows us the optimistic utopia of communism, populated by intelligent, strong and happy people. The atmosphere of this world is very compelling: it is joyful, gleaming and full of sunlight and humour. The theme song of the film became popular, and even today for millions of Russian speakers it sounds like a distant reminder of the time when the words ‘future’, ‘hope’ and ‘happiness’ meant one and the same thing: I hear a voice from the wonderful faraway, A morning voice in the silvery dew. I hear a voice, and the beckoning road Makes me dizzy, like my childhood carousel.42

In December 2016 Dionisii Kaptar’, a journalist and writer of conspirological history and geopolitical books of a nationalist and monarchist bent, offered an unorthodox interpretation of Visitor from the Future on the TV channel Den’ TV.43 Following his twisted and strained argument, the future world of the film is actually a repulsive dystopia of endless military conflicts and anarchy, where all normal ethics have been abolished and even human nature itself has been distorted.44 This vignette sums up the intellectual dynamics of utopianism over the past three decades. It shows a closing of the horizon of hope, a waning faith in human happiness as the ultimate goal of progress, a negation of the very idea of progress and even profound scepticism as to whether the concept of the ‘future’ is meaningful. Kaptar’ symbolically and ideologically tramples upon Bulychev and his childish optimistic fantasies. Today, it seems, Russia has been lost for global utopianism. Its traditions of progressive, dissident, liberating, optimistic, humanistic utopianism have been generally forgotten. Current Russian political fantasies – quite in tune with the political climate of Putinism – are conservative and loyalist. Russian


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

utopianism has at the same time lost its appetite for the universal recipes for social and anthropological transformation. It is no longer concerned with global proposals for a more just, humane and prosperous world. It generally stands outside of the central discussions now occupying Western intellectuals: ecology, climate change, artificial intelligence, experimentations with human nature, exploration of the cosmos and so on. Post-Soviet political SF has reverted to the themes, debated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, of ‘identitarian fixation’ about Russia’s place in the world and its relations to the leading industrial nations in the West. At the same time, utopian fiction in today’s Russia has inherited from the Soviet-era SF readership the popularity of the genre and the institutional ‘muscle’ of SF production (journals, films, publishing houses). Now, 700 to 900 SF titles of various sub-genres (fantasy, space operas, alternative history, social utopia, etc.) are published annually in Russia and predominantly by Russian authors.45 Dozens of popular and art-house films and video games are released. On top of that, leaders of mainstream literature such as Vladimir Sorokin, Viktor Pelevin and Dmitry Bykov have all tried their pens at this ‘low genre’. So, socially-oriented SF has become an entire industry of literary reflection on Russia’s national identity, which exerts a palpable influence on society as well as on the political leadership. It is also important to consider the resilience of the tenacious Soviet belief that we can program the future if we know the hidden mechanisms of history.46 The paradoxical combination of projecting social blueprints and the Romantic quest for collective selfdiscovery makes post-Soviet SF writers especially interested in such literary devices as alternative histories, alternative geographies and geopolitics, conspiracy and secret service fantasies, as well as dystopian imagery. However, we would misconstrue the dynamics of Russian utopianism if we interpret its ‘identitarian’ focus as merely parochialism. In fact, themes discussed by political SF resonate with the concerns of all non-Western societies across the globe, and explore a problem that is very topical and central for all of us, namely whether there is any alternative to Westernized liberal and capitalist globalization. Post-Soviet SF continues to address issues of international pertinence such as the rise of nationalism, right-wing populism and imperial revanchism and attempts to strike a balance between modernization and cultural authenticity, traditional values and conservatism, and the presence of religion in the public sphere. The utopian imagination condenses political myths, metaphors, concepts and emotions, thereby giving us a better understanding of Russian political culture. This fiction also bridges the gap between fiction writers and public figures and intellectuals (e.g. Vladislav Surkov, Aleksandr Prokhanov, Mikhail Iur’ev, Vsevolod Chaplin, Fedor Berezin, etc.), who have also authored science



fiction but are primarily known as ideologists. Indeed, Russian literary utopias have existed in symbiosis with ideological projects such as the ‘Russian World’, Eurasianism and the idea of ‘Russian civilization’. On a more ominous note, these visions have even moved from purely literary fantasies to become implemented by armed activists in ‘Novorossiia’, which has attracted many ideological visionaries (Pavel Gubarev), historical reconstructors (Igor Strelkov) and professional science fiction writers (Fedor Berezin). For them, ‘Novorossiia’ is a breakthrough to Russia’s utopian future, a true ‘New Russia’ (this is what ‘Novorossiia’ literally means).47 It is no exaggeration to say that for millions of Russians, speculative fiction has become one of the chief means of processing the trauma of the disintegration of the Soviet empire. By the same token, politicization in fantastic fiction has by and large become ‘geo-politicization’. Today, Eksmo Press even features a book series such as ‘Imperial science fiction’ and ‘Close combat fantasy’ that focus specifically on fantasies about replaying history, regaining the empire, recollecting the Russian lands, and so on. By extension, many SF works deal with some version of ‘retro-futurism’, laying out various models of antipostmodern society, usually grounded in Soviet-style industrialism and prerevolutionary patriarchalism. Quite often, the message of these utopias could be summed up as ‘spaceships instead of iPhones’, implying that there could be and should be an alternative to the technological civilization with a bent towards communication, information and bio-technologies. Instead, these authors suggest that we have to roll history back to the 1960s and push it in a different direction, promising breakthroughs in space exploration, the development of such sources of energy as photon engines and thermonuclear fusion, and the discovery of new properties of physical matter. In this context, the ubiquity of dystopias deserves to be noted. Dystopias are the predominant form for depicting fears and anxiety, a lack of happiness and the thrust towards restoring the ‘true self ’ of the community. Dystopias are the natural habitat of conservative and communitarian ideologies with the identitarian slant. Utopias express our desire to become someone else; they are the political and literary vehicle for representing the human capacity to expand and change our personalities. By contrast, dystopias tell us who we do not want to be, and in order to know this, we have to know who we are. In other words, dystopias call to us to come back, to recollect and remember ourselves.48 During President Putin’s third term in power, Russia has turned decidedly towards conservatism as its national ideology. At the same time, the intellectual inertia inherited from Soviet times prioritizes the idea of rational planning and future-oriented optimism. As a result, the oxymoron ‘conservative utopianism’ has become the earmark of post-Soviet speculative fiction, connecting it to the


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nineteenth-century Slavophile-inspired tradition. This new utopian mainstream does not offer any alternative, universally applicable rules of the game that would make all people happy. The famous Strugatsky brothers’ utopian maxim – ‘happiness for everybody, free, and nobody will go away unsatisfied!’49 – is no longer relevant or appealing to the writers of SF today. Instead, they emphatically argue that being true to oneself is more primary and important than being happy.50 In one 1988 interview, Arkady Strugatsky explained the title of the novel The Waves Extinguish the Wind (Volny gasiat veter, in English translation The Time Wanderers, 1987 /1985) by noting that there certainly are challenges awaiting humankind in the future, but that these threats will awaken hidden forces capable of meeting them.51 Objecting to this optimistic vision of the future, in an interview with the Orthodox journal Foma, Sergei Luk’ianenko, the doyen of Russian fantastic literature, deplored the possibilities of irrevocable changes in society, ethics and even human bodies. ‘Thank God,’ he argues, ‘we have a power that counteracts these developments – the Orthodox /faith/’ and ‘traditional moral foundations’.52 To sum up, utopian narratives dwell on what politically concerned visionaries consider to be Russia’s greatest advantages in the global competition, and the most important components of Russian identity:

1. Its historical legacy: the greatness of the Soviet superpower, its technological achievements, geopolitical ascendance and Messianic strivings. 2. Russia’s unique ‘civilizational code’: its values, ideology and tradition standing in sharp contrast to ‘Western civilization’. 3. Russian culture (and more specifically, its language and religion). 4. Russia’s territory, its continental dimension and qualities as a Eurasian ‘heartland’. Most utopias toy with various – often paradoxical – combinations of these components, offering visions of alternative history, alternative ideologies, alternative languages and religions and alternative territorial planning. The book is structured according to this logic, comprising 4 parts: ‘History’, ‘Ideology’, ‘Language’ and ‘Territory’.

Content overview Part 1 of this book (History) discusses the centrality of Russian history of the twentieth century for the construction of utopian worlds. The Soviet era of history works as the major ideological divide in post-Soviet political debates, although the recent coalescence of state-sponsored conservatism has



prompted a decisive turn towards appropriation of the Soviet period as part and parcel of Russian history, and at the same time towards a negation of the Revolution of 1917 as a ‘Time of Troubles’. Fantastic literature mirrors this amalgam of the idealization of Soviet industrial modernity and the exploration of cosmos on the one hand, and demonization of the socialist revolution, which made this modernity possible, on the other. This part begins with a chapter by Go Koshino, who focuses on the subgenre of alternative history in the 1990s. The author differentiates between cryptohistory (a term coined by Henry Lion Oldie referring to speculations of hidden or lost episodes in history) and alternative history per se. He analyses novels in the latter category by Kir Bulychev and Viacheslav Rybakov. These works depict a history in which the October Revolution never occurred. Koshino investigates three aspects of the novels: ethnic problems, violence and the importance of Lenin. Both authors thematize the role of different languages spoken in the former Soviet Union. Bulychev is found to be pessimistic, depicting an alternative history in which the Whites’ victory in the Civil War would only have resulted in a political regime just as repressive as that of the Bolsheviks. Rybakov is on the contrary rather optimistic about the possible alternatives: the world is convertible and modifiable, outlining thus a utopian society. In one of his novels, Romanovite Russia has managed to avoid revolution thanks to the success of Alexander II’s reforms and continues to flourish until the present day. Maria Galina notes at the start of Chapter  2 that mass literature is a sensitive indicator of the collective consciousness. She finds two trends in post-Soviet speculative mass literature, one focusing on a future war between Russia and other countries, the other on the revision of Russian history and the role of the so-called ‘popadantsy’, by which is meant characters who unexpectedly land in other worlds and historical epochs. In Russian SF the latter trend is closely connected with social tension and frustration as a consequence of the USSR’s collapse. This is poor quality mass produced literature , but as Maria Galina maintains, it merits study because it illustrates traits in Russian intellectual developments that can be extrapolated for the future. A long series of novels written before the annexation of Crimea in 2014 deal with the situation in Ukraine and feature a Russian takeover of its neighbour. At the time, these novels lacked virtually any sort of broader readership. Alternative historical fiction often deals with Old Rus’, with the time of Ivan the Terrible or the Second World War. Galina notes that the October Revolution was not a popular motif even during the anniversary year of 2017. In Chapter 3, Maria Engström introduces the notion of metamodernism to define the conservative turn in contemporary Russia, where postmodern


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irony coexists with clearly defined and often conservative ideological positions. Her chapter focuses on post-Soviet neo-cosmism, which combines space technology, the quest for immortality, nostalgia for the Soviet Union in relation to the space programme, and the Arctic theme. The inspiration comes from the philosopher Nikolai Fedorov and his ‘common cause’ and the father of the Soviet space programme, Konstantin Tsiolkovskii. Yuri Gagarin functions as a kind of saint, and there are serious attempts to canonize him. Engström also follows contemporary efforts to unify Orthodox mysticism, Soviet space discourse and the nuclear weapons programme. The legacy of the Strugatsky brothers is important in the artistic rendering of this neocosmism and the vision it advances of a resurrected past and universal human immortality. Engström concludes that neoconservatism and neoliberalism might join to form a new ideological hybrid in the Russia of today and tomorrow, with neo-cosmism as the common denominator. Muireann Maguire’s chapter uses the Foucauldian term heterotopia in an analysis of two novels: Vladimir Sharov’s Before and During (Do i vo vremia, 1993) and Evgenii Vodolazkin’s The Aviator (Aviator, 2016). Both works are shown to bear witness to historical trauma and also open new perspectives on the present and the future. Both are ‘ward’ novels. Sharov’s is set in a dementia ward with superannuated survivors of a Soviet institution for geniuses, while Vodolazkin tells about the destiny of a cryogenically frozen prisoner from the Stalin era. Both writers construct heterochronies, which accumulate time but also aim to annihilate it. These novels focus on traumatic memories and remembering as well as forgetting. Maguire notes that they revisit themes of human perfectibility from an ironic, post-utopian perspective, and bear witness to historical trauma while opening a new perspective on the present and the future. She concludes that not only these novels but Russian society in general is to a considerable degree heterotopic. Part 2 of the book (Ideology) explores the ideological foundations of the vision of Russia as a ‘unique civilization’. This vision rests on two staples: the idea of Russia’s principal difference from the West, and the idea that this difference has some kind of prophetic meaning for the history of humanity – that Russia is showing an alternative to the entire world, dissatisfied with the Western global order. Similar to the ambiguity in attitudes to the Soviet past, the ideology of ‘unique civilization’ is internally schizophrenic. It promotes the ideas of the particularity and universality of Russia at the same time: Russia is unique and universal, tradition is revolutionary, conservatism is utopian. Politicallyoriented SF revolves around this paradox, engaging with such themes as antiWesternism, rejection of the Enlightenment, and Russian ‘traditional values’. Chapter 5, by Mikhail Suslov, concerns the unprecedented convergence of fantastic literature with state-sponsored conservatism and the Russian



Orthodox Church. Often through various think tanks, the authors of this trend have in many cases close ties to the presidential administration or the leadership of the Church. Soviet SF, in contrast, was traditionally reputed to be dissident in nature. Suslov applies the term ‘hybrid literature’ to describe different SF books, films and games that are used to draw illustrative pictures of particular political projects. Noticeable here are the contours of conservative anti-Westernism and a distrust of science. These utopian projects are related to Russia’s geopolitical ascendance and restoration of the past. Suslov dwells on the frequent use of motifs from the Strugatskys’ novels, to which these later works have assigned quite opposite meanings and values. Yet another theme in this type of fantastic literature is connected with anamnesis, the recollection of a past religious experience in childhood that leads to votserkovlenie (acculturation into the religious values and practices). Andrei Rogatchevski’s chapter presents the leader of the extremist National Bolshevik Party, Eduard Limonov, and two of his books often labelled as non-fiction. Rogatchevski contextualizes and interprets their (anti-)utopian component. Limonov maintains that there exist two types of state cohesion: socialistic – typified by labour or death camps – and capitalist disciplinary sanatoriums, both of which are in the end virtually identical in character. Limonov’s utopia is characterized by a mixture of regression, advanced technology and some form of anarchy instead of a strong state. He finds earlier traces of this form of desirable society in the Scythians, the prehistoric nomadic tribe much noted by Russian symbolists in the early twentieth century. Rogatchevski notes that this utopian project contains multiple inconsistences, something to which other chapters in this volume also call attention with respect to different kinds of conservative utopias. As the National Bolshevik Party broadly defines it, Russianness has to do with ‘neither blood nor creed’, but characterizes anyone who considers the Russian language and Russian culture and history as native. At the end of the chapter, Rogatchevski introduces the term ‘mockumentary’; that is, Limonov’s books can also be understood as ‘a direct challenge to the discourse of factuality’, a theme that is very topical in the political situation of today’s world. Science fiction, utopias and dystopias in today’s Russian literature are mostly written by men and describe a male world. One exception is Iana Zavatskaia, whose novels are analysed by Anastasia Mitrofanova in Chapter  7. A long-time resident of Germany, Zavatskaia writes genuine utopian novels with serious content. She envisions an ideal communist society built on a Christian foundation that is often inspired by the novels of the Strugatsky brothers, which is thus another link to Soviet SF. In her earlier novels describing states with failed utopian ambitions, she addresses questions


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of child education, state–Church relations, tolerance, and capitalism versus communism. As Mitrofanova notes, blame for the failures is often laid on the Philistines and their longing for private life and pleasures. In the fourth of her novels, Zavatskaia outlines a utopia with nearly unlimited material wealth, a society without censorship with a mixed economy and a network democracy that provides access to governance for every citizen. It is a technocratic society regulated by an ethical code. In Chapter  8, Victor Shnirelman focuses on the science fiction writer Vasilii Golovachev, born in 1948. His novels mirror the current political situation in Russia, depicting, as we have already noted of other studies in this volume, an eternal conflict between Russia and the West that in this case is disguised as a conflict between the Hyberboreans and the Atlantic People. Golovachev’s reality is xenophobic. He sympathizes with Slavic neopaganism, and in contrast to many other contemporary conservative SF writers, he is quite critical of the Orthodox Church. He is interested in various esoterics, and his novels contain both anti-Semitic and racist traits. Russia represents the good side in an eternal historical conflict with the evil West, as represented, for example, by Americans, Georgians and Ukrainians. Shnirelman notes that Golovachev’s readers often have some connections with the military and security services. Like the works of many other ‘national writers’, his novels actively lay the ground for the conservative turn in today’s Russian politics and society. As both Shnirelman and Suslov state, in contrast to the classical anti-utopias, these worlds are devoid of irony and parody and are meant to be taken quite seriously as part of the mission to rescue the Russian people and to a lesser degree humanity in general. Part 3 (Language) shows the importance of language for fantasizing about post-Soviet Russian identity. Under Putin, the Russian language has been securitized and politicized as one of the major national assets. The ‘Russian world’ project has been imagined as primarily a linguistic community of Russian-speakers in and outside the country. Today, the Russian language is the pivot of the third conceptual debate about who ‘we, the people’ are: a (post-)imperial ‘salad bowl’ of various cultures and nationalities loosely united by language and distant memories, or a solid body of a single nation, or something in between? In Chapter  9, Per-Arne Bodin explores the use of Church Slavonic elements in both liberal and conservative utopias. Church Slavonic is still used in the liturgy of the Orthodox Church and is an important stylistic element in the Russian literary language. Sometimes viewed in the nineteenth century as an uncultivated tongue used for and by the lower classes, in Soviet times it was attacked and more or less forbidden. This special history with its heavy semiotic and cultural-historical role is reflected in Russian contemporary



literature. In the liberal utopias it is employed for comic and lower-class connotations, whereas in conservative utopias it is valued for its flavour of ancientness and as a carrier of spiritual values. Here and as demonstrated in other chapters in this book, utopias are deeply imbedded in the question of language. Ingunn Lunde’s chapter discusses Valerii Votrin’s novel Logoped and its mirroring of the language debate during recent decades in Russia. The novel presents a future dystopia in which language and especially pronunciation become more and more distorted. The linguistic liberals are depicted as ultimately no less brutal and unscrupulous than their conservative counterparts. This sort of outlining of two different forces as equally negative and destructive can be found in many examples in our material. Lunde concludes that the overall impression produced by the work is one of destabilization and ambiguous concepts, positions and ideologies. Lara Ryazanova-Clarke’s chapter deals with the hybrid identities of Russian immigrants living in London. Their trans-cultural and trans-lingual Soviet world has both utopian and dystopian implications. The two works she discusses are Mikhail Idov’s television series Londongrad and Andrei Ostalsky’s novel Angliiskaia Taina (An English Mystery). Focusing on the language issue, she develops the term metrolinguistic to analyse the special situation of the immigrants, who in their efforts to master English either play with or ignore the relationship between the two languages and often use a defamiliarization of English. The main character in Ostalsky’s novel defies biculturalism and advocates a utopian comfort zone for the immigrants in which Russia and Russianness are a constant feature. Idov’s immigrant world is a utopian Russophone microcosm in which stereotypical friendships and loyalty within the group generate broader post-Soviet supra-ethnic Russian-speaking commonalities. His utopia embraces integration but does not seem to offer any possibilities of realizing it. Ryazanova-Clarke points out that the common deterritorialized Russian language is not necessarily a basis for a shared diasporic identity. Furthermore, it should be noted that neither Idov’s nor Ostalsky’s characters have any hope of de facto creating a transnational identity. Part 4 (Territory) inquires into fantasies around and about the territory of Russia. Like other major staples of Russia’s national identity – history, ‘traditional values’ and language – territory is not just an identifier but a source of intense hopes and mourning. The Russian Federation still has the largest territory and controls the proverbial ‘Eurasian heartland’. Its territory is the most solid and unquestionable – made of rocks and sand – proof of Russia’s greatness. At the same time, the disintegration of the Soviet Union created a profound uncertainty about Russia’s spatial position in the world. This uncertainty, and the trauma of the loss of the empire, kept SF writers


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busy fantasizing about alternative geographies and the necessity of securing Russia’s territory or reconfiguring it in a way which they deem to be more conducive to great-power status. Chapter  12, by Edith W. Clowes, investigates the utopian views of one of the best-known ultranationalist leaders in contemporary Russia: Aleksandr Prokhanov. Although many view him as merely a right-wing crackpot, Clowes maintains his importance in the intellectual void in Putin’s Russia. Analysing his building of ‘sacred hills’, his public commentary and his novels, she comes to the conclusion that his chauvinist, defensively anti-Enlightenment, racist, sexist, belligerent and autocratic ultranationalism embodies a conservative vision with no concern for the wellbeing of ordinary Russians. She defines Prokhanov’s thinking as exemplifying what Karl Mannheim calls a counterutopia: ‘a conservative vision that resists change and urges audiences to enact an imagined social condition or political order from the deep past’. Sofya Khagi’s chapter discusses Dmitry Bykov’s 2006 novel, ZhD, which Bykov himself characterizes as ‘the most politically incorrect book of the millennium’. It depicts a scheme in the near future with two colonizing forces, one Varangian and the other Khazar, which are easily decoded as West and East. Both warring factions are portrayed rather harshly as equally evil and bad. Khagi uses what she calls symbolic geography to unfold the ethic dimension of the novel by separating a linear and a circular movement. Key motifs in the study include the road (following Lotman’s analysis of this theme), the train, freedom and emptiness. Moral responsibility is an important concern. Classified by many researchers as an anti-utopia, this novel seems to have some utopian content after all. In Chapter 14, Mark Lipovetsky focuses on Vladimir Sorokin’s Telluria from 2013, a work he characterizes as a unique synthesis of post-apocalyptic SF, steampunk and cyberpunk. The novel exhibits both dystopian and utopian aspects. Contradictions are a feature that many of the contributors to the present volume have noted in their materials, and many conflicting voices can be heard in Sorokin’s novel as well. Lipovetsky discovers medieval thinking in Telluria, comparing and contrasting it to Dugin’s notion of the Middle Ages and partly equating it with Berdyaev’s neo-medievalism. In contrast to Berdyaev’s concept, there is no opposition between God and the Devil in the world created by Sorokin. His medievalism is also much more individual than Dugin’s, but in that respect it is more like Berdyaev’s. Lipovetsky concludes that ‘Sorokin’s characters act as gods, as demiurges while creating their own utopian worlds during their tellurian trips’. These tellurian trips are further identified with literature per se. Kåre Johan Mjør and Sanna Turoma sum up the main themes and problems of the volume in Afterword.



Notes 1 Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979). 2 This metaphor is considered in Chapter 14 by Mark Lipovetsky in this volume. 3 For example, Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966/1945), vol. 1; Joachim Fest, Der zerstörte Traum. Vom Ende des utopischen Zeitalters (Berlin: CORSO, 1991); Ralf Dahrendorf, ‘Out of Utopia: Toward a Reorientation of Sociological Analysis’, American Journal of Sociology 64, no. 2 (1958): 115–27; Aurél Kolnai, The Utopian Mind and Other Papers: A Critical Study in Moral and Political Philosophy (London: Athlone, 1995); John Carey (ed.), The Faber Book of Utopia (London: Faber & Faber, 1999). 4 Cf. ‘Every utopian fantasy construction needs a “scapegoat” in order to constitute itself . . .’ , in Yannis Stavrakakis, Lacan and the Political (Abingdon: Taylor and Francis, 2014), p. 100. 5 Emil Cioran, History and Utopia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 85. 6 The term ‘anti-anti-utopia’ is proposed in Lucy Sargisson, Fool’s Gold? Utopianism in the Twenty-first Century (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). On the criticism of understanding utopias as perfectionism, see, inter alia, Lucy Sargisson, ‘The Curious Relationship between Politics and Utopia’, in Tom Moylan and Baccolini (eds), Utopia Method Vision: The Use Value of Social Dreaming (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 27–30. 7 For a useful literature overview, see Sargisson, Fool’s Gold? 8 Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction. 9 Tom Moylan, Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination (New York: Methuen, 1987). 10 Cf. ‘The essence of utopia seems to be desire – the desire for a different, better way of being.’ See Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990), p. 181. See also Ruth Levitas, ‘Some Varieties of Utopian Method’, Irish Journal of Sociology 21, no. 2 (2013): 41–50. 11 Russell Jacoby, Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). 12 Among the first to voice concern about the ‘depletion of utopian energy’ was Jürgen Habermas in ‘Die Krise des Wohlfahrtsstaates und die Erschöpfung utopischer Energien’, in Jürgen Habermas, Die neue Unübersichtlichkeit: Kleine politische Schriften (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1985). 13 Cf. ‘It is not just socialism which appears to have died but the very concept of the social itself.’ Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds), Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), p. 5.


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14 E.g. Darko Suvin, ‘Utopianism from Orientation to Agency: What Are We Intellectuals under Post-Fordism to Do?’ Utopian Studies 9, no. 2 (1998): 162–90. 15 Slavoj Žižek (2011) quoted in Sargisson, Fool’s Gold, p. 32. 16 Kirill Chistov, Russkaia narodnaia utopiia (St Petersburg: Dmitry Bulanin, 2003); Aleksandr Klibanov, Narodnaia sotsial’naia utopiia v Rossii: XIX vek (Moscow: Nauka, 1978). 17 Viacheslav Shestakov, Eskhatologiia i utopiia, Ocherki russkoi filosofii i kul’tury (Moscow: Vlados, 1995). 18 It was followed by such works as Fedor Emin’s Nepostoiannaia fortuna, ili Pokhozhdenie Miramonda (1763), Vasilii Levshin’s Noveishee puteshestvie, sochinennoe v gorode Beleve (1784), Pavel L’vov’s Rossiiskaia Pamela, ili istoriia Marii, dobrodetel’noi poselianki(1789), and Mikhail Chulkov’s Son Kidala (1789). 19 E. M. Hartenstein, Michail Shcherbatov (1733–1790) als politischer Ideologe des russischen Adels und seine utopische Staatsschrift ‘Reise ins Land Ofir’ (Halle: Hochschule für Industrielle Formgestaltung, 1988); Marina Rossi Varese, ‘Introduction’, in M. Rossi Varese (ed.), Utopisti russi del primo ottocento (Naples: Guida, 1982), p. 7; J. Breuillard, ‘Fragments d’utopies dans la littérature russe du XVIIIe siècle: Levšin et Xeraskov’, Revue des études slaves 61, no. 1 (1984): 17; A. Monnier, ‘Une utopie russe au siècle de Catherine’, Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique 22, no. 2 (1982): 187. 20 Andrzej Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: History of a Conservative Utopian Nineteenth-Century Russian Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 30; T. V. Artem’eva, ‘Istoki konservativnogo utopizma v Rossii epokhi Prosveshcheniia’, in Evoliutsiia konservatizma: evropeiskaia traditsiia i russkii opyt (Samara: n.p., 2002), pp. 104–14. 21 Darko Suvin, ‘The Utopian Tradition of Russian Science-Fiction’, Modern Language Review 66, no. 1 (1971): 140. 22 N. G. O. Pereira, The Thought and Teachings of N. G. Černyševskij (The Hague and Paris: Mouton, 1975), p. 85. See also: A. Besançon, ‘Fonction du rêve dans le roman russe’, Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique 9, no. 3 (1968): 339–51. 23 See also N. P. Aksakov, ‘Faust VIII’, Russkoe delo 1 (1889): 15–17; T. Bondarev, Torzhestvo zemledel’tsa, ili Trudoliubie i tuneiadstvo (St Petersburg: Posrednik, 1906); N. N. Shelonskii, V mire budushchego (St Petersburg: tip. I. Sytina, 1892); V. S. Solov’ev, Tri razgovora o voine, progresse i kontse vsemirnoi istorii (St Petersburg: Trud, 1900); K. S. Merezhkovskii, Rai zemnoi, ili Son v zimniuiu noch’, Skazka-utopiia XXVII veka (Moscow: Prior, 2001/1903); L. A. Tikhomirov, ‘V poslednie dni’, in L. A. Tikhomirov, Khristianstvo i politika (Moscow: Vernost’, 1906); V. I. Kryzhanovskaia (Rochester), V inom mire (Riga: Gudkov, 1929), Vol. 1. 24 Maria Skovronskaia, ‘666/3 (Fantasie capricieuse)’, Drug zhenshchin 7 (1882). 25 See, for example, Mikhail Suslov, ‘Fenomen imperialisticheskogo utopizma, 1880–1914’, Voprosy filosofii 3 (2010): 18–29.



26 See, for example, Petr Krasnov’s Za chertopolokhom (1921) and Nikolai Pavlov’s Bred. Rossiia v 19 godu (1928). 27 Infatuation with Mars comes from Giovanni Schiaparelli’s discovery of the Mars ‘channels’ in 1877, and especially after the success of H. G. Wells’ SF story The War of the Worlds (1898). 28 Petr Infant’ev, Na drugoi planete. Povest’ iz zhizni obitatelei Marsa (Novgorod: Gub.tip., 1901); Leonid Bogoiavlenskii, V novom mire (Kiev: G. Tatsenko, 1902); Aleksandr Bogdanov, Krasnaia zvezda (utopiia) (St Petersburg: t-vo khud.pechati, 1908). 29 Lyman T Sargent, British and American Utopian Literature, 1516–1985: An Annotated Bibliography (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979). 30 Cf. ‘Utopianism . . . is the key to the emotional force of the Russian revolution’, in Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 4. 31 Cf. Aleksandr Etkind, Internal Colonization: Russia’s Imperial Experience (Cambridge: Polity, 2012). 32 Note the title of the book: Mikhail Heller and Aleksandr M. Nekrich, Utopia in Power: The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present (London: Hutchinson, 1986). 33 Thomas Möbius, Russische Sozialutopien von Peter I. bis Stalin: Historische Konstellationen und Bezüge (Berlin: Dr W. Hopf, 2015). 34 J. T. Andrews and A. A. Siddiqi, Into the Cosmos: Space Exploration and Soviet Culture (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011); Matthias Schwartz, ‘How “Nauchnaia Fantastika” Was Made: The Debates about the Genre of Science Fiction from NEP to High Stalinism’, Slavic Review 72, no. 2 (2013): 224–46; Matthias Schwarz, Die Erfindung des Kosmos: Zur sowjetischen Science Fiction und popularwissenschaftlichen Publizistik vom Sputnikflug bis zum Ende der Tauwetterzeit (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2004). 35 Cf: Vladimir Komissarov, Sovetskaia intelligentsiia v sfere nauchnoi fantastiki: Obshchestvenno-politicheskii diskurs i prakticheskaia deiatel’nost’, 1950enachalo 1980-kh gg. PhD dissertation (Ivanovo, 2015); Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. ‘Science Fiction and the Thaw’, Science Fiction Studies 31, no. 3 (2004): 337–44. 36 Patrick McGuire, Red Stars: Political Aspects of Soviet Science Fiction (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1985). 37 On the most important Soviet SF writers, see, among many others, Ol’ga Eremina and Nikolai Smirnov, Ivan Efremov (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2013); Iuliia Cherniakhovskaia, Politiko-filosofskoe osmyslenie problem obshchestvennogo razvitiia v tvorchestve A. i B. Strugatskikh. PhD dissertation (Moscow, 2013). 38 More on this: Marina Braterskaia-Dron’, Evoliutsiia sovetskogo nauchnofantasticheskogo fil’ma. PhD dissertation (Leningrad, 1990). 39 Edith W. Clowes, Russian Experimental Fiction: Resisting Ideology after Utopia (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).


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40 Yvonne Howell, Apocalyptic Realism: The Science Fiction of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (New York: Peter Lang, 1994). 41 For more on Kir Bulychev’s SF, see Chapter 1 by Go Koshino. 42 ‘Prekrasnoe daleko’, 43 The political mainstays of this channel are great-power imperialism, Russian patriotism, socially-oriented economy, and religion in the spirit of ‘Moscow the Third Rome’ Messianism. See ‘Den’ TV – o nas’, pages/item/about-us/. 44 Dionisii Kaptar’, ‘Fil’m Gost’ia iz budushchego kak mrachnaia antiutopiia’, 17 December 2016, 593s. The majority of commentators found this vision absolutely unacceptable. As one of them penned, ‘he has encroached on the sacred, whereas his level of moral development is very low’ (see the comment by ‘Dmitry Anatol’evich’ on the same webpage). 45 For more on this, see Chapter 5 by Mikhail Suslov. 46 Cf. Ilya Kukulin, ‘Alternative Social Blueprinting in Soviet Society of the 1960s and the 1970s, or Why Left-Wing Political Practices Have Not Caught on in Contemporary Russia’, Russian Studies in History 49, no. 4 (2011): 51–92. 47 ’Novorossiia’ is a project entertained by some parts of the Russian leadership and society after the start of the anti-Ukrainian rebellion in the Donbas region in spring 2014. Its goal was to substantiate the specific geopolitical identity of this region, dissociate it from the Ukrainian nation-state and possibly draw it into the Russian Federation. For more on this, see Marlène Laruelle, ‘The three colors of Novorossiya, or the Russian nationalist mythmaking of the Ukrainian crisis’, Post-Soviet Affairs 32, no. 1 (2016): 55–74; Mikhail Suslov, ‘The Production of “Novorossiya”: A Territorial Brand in Public Debates’, Europe-Asia Studies 69, no. 2 (2017): 202–21. On Eduard Limonov’s plan to turn Eastern Ukraine into a ‘Utopian state’, see Chapter 6 by Andrei Rogatchevski. 48 We are thankful to Magnus Pharao Hansen for drawing our attention to this problem. On post-Soviet dystopias, see also Eliot Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, in Evgeny Dobrenko and Mark Lipovetsky (eds), Russian Literature Since 1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 86–103. 49 Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979). 50 Cf. Boris Strugatsky’s reponse to the question of ‘happiness’. 51 Arkady Strugatsky, ‘Budem drat’sia’ (1988), strug_a_11.htm. 52 ‘Dozor budushchego Sergeia Luk’ianenko’, Foma 147, no. 7 (2015), https://

Part One





Alternative Russian Revolution: Viacheslav Rybakov and Kir Bulychev Go Koshino

In the utopian far future imagined by Soviet science fiction (SF) writers, the profession of historian would become deadwood. In Sergei Snegov’s famous late-socialist space opera Humans as Gods (1966–77), ‘epic’ events are possible only outside the Earth in which all political borders have long since been abolished. Pavel Romero, a devotee of antique items, accordingly somewhat deviates from the society of the New Era. He reproduces the long-forgotten practice of shashlik parties in detail, but the obsolete amusement is to be represented with the disguise of a black magic ritual. This type of fictional future provides a utopian world for humanity after the completion of the historical process. The radical cultural movement in the early revolutionary period in Russia coincides with Christian teleology in that they both aim to bring an end to history.1 It is fair to suppose that Soviet fantasts inherited best the eschatological sense of time from the Revolution. The majority of Soviet SF writers preferred to locate their utopia in the near or far future rather than retrospectively speculate on the past. By contrast, history becomes one of the fantast’s favourite materials regarding the collapse of a ‘realized’ utopia, the Soviet Union. Some of the most intriguing ‘historical’ plots develop within parallel counterfactual timelines in which the October Revolution has not occurred, be the world utopian or dystopian. Kir Bulychev’s The River of Chronos (1992) and Viacheslav Rybakov’s Graviplane Cesarevich (1993) come into focus in this chapter as the prominent examples.2 Within the post-Soviet era, the Revolution of 1917 proves to be one of those turning points over in the context of which intellectuals have obsessively discussed the uniqueness of Russia’s historical role.3 For instance, the issue of Peter the Great’s modernizing reforms provided motivation for similar disputes as a crucial moment. Mikhail Shcherbatov, an Enlightenment writer, in his work A Journey to the Land of Ofir (1783) imagined a mirror image of an alternative Russia located somewhere in the Antarctic. The governors of Ofir succeed in avoiding the effects of Westernizing innovations, as was 23


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the case in real Russian history. A certain degree of temporal distance must be maintained for counterfactual speculations on the historical process to be possible. Suggestively in this regard, it took almost the same amount of time between the building of Petersburg in 1703 and the appearance of Shcherbatov’s anti-Westernization utopia as the period between the year 1917 and Rybakov’s and Bulychev’s alternative histories of the Russian Revolution. Cherny and Petukhova categorize the works of historical SF into two types, whose ways of interweaving fictional settings in the historical framework are contrastingly different.4 The first category, the genre ‘cryptohistory’, develops fantastic speculations as hidden or lost episodes of real history. It does not dare to revise the chronological order of time to which we are accustomed. In contrast, in another genre, ‘alternative history’, the temporal sequence of past events appears to be changed to a different direction in a certain chronological moment. Rybakov and Bulychev’s counterfactual speculations on a world in which Lenin failed to seize power belong to the latter category. The term ‘cryptohistory’ (secret history) was coined by a famous pair of writers under the pen name of Henry Lion Oldie for a representative work of this genre,5 Andrei Valentinov’s series The Eye of Power, in which the first of the trilogy (1996) was dedicated to the Revolution and the Civil War. The entire history of the Soviet Union proves to be manipulated by the hands of mystical transcendental beings. Cryptohistorical works, which follow a single-lined pathway of history, were allowed to exist during the Soviet era. It is possible, for example, to include in this sub-genre a representative of the ‘conservative’ Soviet SF, Aleksandr Kazantsev’s obsessive motif of extraterrestrial visitors whose secret activities are supposedly found elsewhere in human history. In contrast to cryptohistory, works of alternative history are rarely found in the tradition of Soviet fantastika. Alternative history as a sub-genre of science fiction dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century in European literature. Mikhail Pervushin’s The Second Life of Napoleon, which is regarded as the earliest example in Russia, appeared in the same year as the Russian Revolution; however, it was difficult for writers to speculate on historically divergent pathways under a socialist regime. A single line of historical development should be dominant in a Marxist worldview. Therefore, we can follow the related outcomes of creating parallel histories only among émigré writers, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada (1969) or Vasilii Aksenov’s The Island of Crimea (1981). A Soviet pioneer of this genre is Vasilii Zviagintsev, who set about the then unpublished series of alternative histories Odysseus Leaves Ithaca at the end of the 1970s (the first book came out in 1992). In one of the early episodes, the author depicts a divergent history in which Russia after the Revolution appears to be divided into Northern

Alternative Russian Revolution


and Southern territories, and where Trotsky becomes the leader of the Communist Party.

Perestroika historiography Perestroika came to historical science sooner than to historical fiction. It is widely supposed that the emerging trend of reconsidering Soviet historiography anticipated the style and logic of historical SF in the 1990s. According to historian Aleksandr Logunov, the first wave of perestroika-oriented historians’ activities focused on ‘blind spots’ (belye piatna) in history.6 It was deemed that unknown or politically forbidden facts should be revealed and brought from sealed archives into open access. Perestroika historians in the second wave were concerned with the ‘historical alternative’, considering the possibility of more desirable choices in the course of Soviet socialist construction (Bukharin’s alternative that would have replaced Stalin’s Great Terror) or Russia in general (a way of avoiding violent revolution). Logunov prefers liberal reforms to revolution. He contemplates an alternative world, in which the Romanov dynasty survives the First World War and Revolution. For example, he points at the historical possibilities that would have emerged if the strong-arm politician Stolypin had not been assassinated (this version was eagerly supported by Solzhenitsyn).7 In any case, each of the two tendencies in perestroika historiography respectively corresponds to cryptohistory and alternative history, sub-genres of historical SF, in the way of correlating imagination with chronological facts. The collapse of the socialist ancien régime and the blunder of promising democratic reforms in the 1990s brought existential trauma to Russian and other post-Soviet inhabitants. A desire to reveal hidden historical factors that would account for the absurd reality appears in the shape of conspiracy theory. Sheiko and Brown presume this sort of historical discourse to be ‘an act of therapy’, investigating the most successful project, Anatoly Fomenko’s ‘new chronology’, which disclosed a glorious past of the Russian–Cossack Empire, deleted from the official history by Western conspiracy.8 The history of Russia is easily imagined as fairly brief compared with many other European and Asian nations, although the seemingly long tradition and culture of those regions appear mostly to be a product of national histories constructed in the modern era. A continual sense of a lack of Russian writers and other intellectuals was, however, compensated by the 1917 Revolution, which was able to turn Russia’s historical inferiority into an advantage, skipping the process of social development toward the ultimate goal of building a socialist construction. In the course of the collapse of Soviet values,


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the inferiority complex was resurrected, which brought people to find therapeutic compensation in Fomenko’s megalomaniac projection of Russian history. The ambitious theory of Fomenko’s ‘new chronology’ is also known as alternative history; however, it would be fairer to categorize it as pseudohistory, or folk history, the latter a term developed by historian and SF writer Dmitry Volodikhin.9 This historical genre parallels fictional works of cryptohistory, since both are always inclined to speculate on what could have happened in historical blind spots, which are actually found at every chronological moment. Fomenko’s project does not aim to falsify historical ‘facts’, although it has compiled the chronological order in a curiously topological way. While cryptohistory is liable to a thirst for revision and reinterpretation of the past, alternative history as a genre of SF, and ‘historical alternative’ as a way of scientific speculation, retain an ironical and critical distance from ‘real’ history, describing what might be taking place in a parallel time frame. In contrast to cryptohistorical novels or folk-historical projects (such as Fomenko’s), alternative-history works are able to provide a reflective opportunity of dialogue between alternative and real historical timelines. It would be effective if we could study the ‘history of things that did not happen’, evaluating past incidents not from the present viewpoint in hindsight, but in the multilayered context around a historical nexus point.10 The acts of narrating alternative history and filling in historical blind spots have something in common, too. Both of them in a way ‘spatialize’ diachronic sequences; however, the former attempts to unfold multiple lines inside the unforked path, while the latter (Fomenko in particular) reconstructs a single-line prospect in a topologically identical layer. The critical distance, however, can be composed of different political positions. While perestroika historians searched for historical alternatives in a more liberal way, alternative histories, written in the post-Soviet 1990s, were gradually idealizing the imperial version of Russian history.11 Focusing on representative works of the period when this value shift occurred, we attempt to clarify the basic features of the emerging genre. It would help us to reflect on the historical process of things that did, and did not, happen in the turbulent early post-Soviet period when the way of speculating on alternative realities was in fashion.

Authors and stories Kir Bulychev (1934–2003) is among the representative science fiction writers of the late Soviet period, together with the Strugatsky brothers. His real name,

Alternative Russian Revolution


Igor Mozheiko, is known as that of an Orientalist specializing in Burmese history. He began to write science fiction in the 1960s. His series of novels in which a girl of the late twenty-first century, Alisa Selezneva, appears as the main character is probably the most famous work in the genre of juvenile science fiction during the Soviet period. The historical science fiction novel The River of Chronos first came out in 1992 and later was published in three separate books (1999–2000) as a serial, to which Bulychev added more sequels in later years. As a result, The River of Chronos transformed into a massive literary project with the element of alternative history. In the story, on the eve of the First World War, Andrei Berestov and his lover Lida Ivanitskaia unexpectedly obtain a means of time travel. Falsely accused of murder, they decide to jump into the future. Andrei and Lida go through various turning points of Russian history from the Russian Revolution to Stalin’s rule and finally to the early 1990s, the post-Soviet period. In the second part, named Charging Diulber,12 Lida wanders into an alternative branch of history. After the February Revolution, Lenin fails to return in time to Russia from Switzerland, being unable to wait for the ‘sealed train’ prepared by the German authorities. As a result, the Bolsheviks cannot seize power, while Aleksandr Kolchak, then the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, succeeds in a counter-revolution by setting free the Empress Dowager Maria Fedorovna with other imperial relatives confined in Diulber around Yalta, and occupying Istanbul. Viacheslav Rybakov (1954–) is one of the most famous authors belonging to the group known as the ‘pupils of the Strugatskys’. He also works as an Orientalist – a scholar of ancient Chinese history. Many of his novels are written in the genre of alternative history. The well-known series Eurasian Symphony, written under the fictitious name Kholm van Zaichik (together with another Orientalist science fiction writer, Igor Alimov), is set in an alternative world where Russia and China have integrated into a huge Eurasian empire.13 In the novel Graviplane Cesarevich, Romanov Russia has managed to avoid the spread of terrorism and the Revolution thanks to the success of Alexander II’s Great Reforms, and continues to flourish until the present day. Communism composes one of the major religions in the empire, equally with Orthodoxy and Islam. The protagonist Prince Trubetskoy, a high official in the secret police, investigates a chain of strange terrorist attacks committed in a utopia-like Russia. It turns out that, around 1870, a pair of mad scientists created a small parallel world containable in a basement. They conducted experiments to facilitate the violent nature of human beings, and incite the alternative world to go through the actions of Hitler and Stalin. The alternative world is in fact our real history. A kind of sympathetic resonance occurs


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between the same personalities living in different universes, transforming a peaceful communist into a violent terrorist. The novel’s ‘matrioshka’ structure, in which the main universe of the alternative history includes another alternative world inside, resembles Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962). In both novels, the second alternative history turns out to be similar to the real world. Bulychev and Rybakov share negative views on the Bolshevik Revolution and speculate on the historical possibilities of avoiding this event as a historical turning point. The period in which they wrote their novels coincides with the shift of focus from Stalin to Lenin’s activities in the disputes over historical alternatives. However, the two writers sharply disagree with each other about how they treat the ‘alternativeness’ of the historical process. Bulychev remains sceptical of the possibility of changing the main tide of history, while Rybakov attempts to show an ideal world through historical multiplicity. The remaining part of this chapter compares two novels, focusing on three points – ethnic problems, violence and the image of Lenin – that allow us a more detailed analysis of the similarities and differences between their viewpoints. It is notable that each of these issues feature both the early 1990s, in which the works appeared, and the year 1917, in which they were written. While Rybakov’s Graviplane Cesarevich is reminiscent of Dick’s classical work, Bulychev’s The River of Chronos belongs to another type of alternative history exemplified by L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall (1939). The former is set in a world where history has already been changed past the turning moment; contrastingly, the latter focuses on the very process in which a branch of time gradually takes an alternative direction. The subgenre of popadanchestvo (accidental travel) that became quite popular in the 2000s is also similar to this type of novel in that the protagonist (popadanets) jumps to a certain moment of the past era and diverts the process of crucial events.14 The device of the accidental traveller from the present functions as a diegetic viewpoint toward heterogeneous time-space, reminiscent of the narrator-traveller to unknown lands in classical utopian literature. Bulychev’s main heroes are characterized with more complexity in that they travel to one past from another, gradually coming up to the present time (the 1990s). In contrast, the alternative world of Rybakov’s novel has no such outsider’s perspective except for the miniature ‘matrioshka’ universe. This type of homogeneous narrative structure typifies twentieth-century dystopian novels in which reflective dialogue between alternative worldviews or histories would occur in the extra-diegetic dimension of the reader’s interpretation.

Alternative Russian Revolution


Ethnic problems During the period from the second half of the 1980s to the first half of the 1990s, a number of ethnic conflicts, which had been invisible under Soviet rule, suddenly bubbled to the surface. This contemporary milieu partly explains the reason why Bulychev chose Crimea as his stage for the first three books of The River of Chronos15 series. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, local residents of the region (most of whom were Russians) demanded independence from Ukraine, while Crimean Tatars, deported from their homeland during wartime (1944), were allowed to return in 1989. Akhmet is one of the important characters in Bulychev’s series. Despite being a Crimean Tatar nationalist, he always offers help when his Russian friends are caught in difficult situations. He leads a group of radical activists to achieve the independence of Crimean Tatars’ Crimea in the middle of the confusion caused by the February Revolution. His nationalist activities, however, are destined to fail, oppressed by the authorities both in the alternative (the second book) and the real (the third book) histories, which reflects Bulychev’s negative attitude toward historical alternativeness. Rybakov’s novel tackles a wider range of diverse nationalities in Russia. The protagonist, Prince Trubetskoy, living in the capital city of Petersburg (not Moscow),16 travels to Georgia, Kazakhstan and other corners of the empire. His direct superior is a Russianized Baltic German while his subordinates include an Estonian psychologist, a Cossack security guard, a non-violent Buddhist detective and a Crimean Tatar combatant. Interestingly, Rybakov allocates some pages to the depiction of Crimea; for example, Trubetskoy cherishes his memories of spending summer vacations with his beloved wife and little daughter in this romantic landscape.17 Dedicating all of the first three books of the series to this region, Bulychev also develops a plot of a romance between the main heroes in the summer resort of Yalta, after the literary tradition of Chekhov’s The Lady with the Dog; although we can see here partly a reflection of the author’s own episode with his wife Kira, who is of Crimean origin.18 It is noteworthy that Rybakov’s hero reveals a friendly but patronizing manner as a member of the imperial elite when the question concerns minority languages and gender relations. His Georgian friend Iraklii makes a cynical remark when Trubetskoy prefers the Russianized names of cities such as Tiflis, Verny and Revel to the vernacular Tbilisi, Alma-Ata and Tallinn, while he likes to learn elementary expressions in local languages: ‘It is a really Russian characteristic. If there are some languages, you want to know all at once. If you can’t do all, then you don’t want any of them. At best, one phrase from each language. Your soul is imperial . . . Be careful.’19


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It is characteristic that Trubetskoy’s ‘imperial’ gesture toward subordinate nations appears parallel to his relationships with women. Besides the main plot of investigating unusual terror incidents, Rybakov’s novel has another plot line of an adulterous love affair with a Polish woman poet, Anastasia. It turns out that Trubetskoy constantly has sexual relations with multiple women and treats each of them with real sincerity, although this seems paradoxical. He answers, ‘I’ll do my best’ when his wife Liza points out that one cannot be a husband to all women at once. She ironically compares this polygamous ‘utopian’ desire to his enthusiasm for minority languages, partly repeating Iraklii’s cynical remark: ‘I wish I could learn all the languages. How many times you have said this!’20 The polygamous motif is further developed in the series Eurasian Symphony (especially the protagonist Bogdan’s episodes with his temporary and permanent wives, the French Jeanne and the Uzbek Muslim Firuze), in which this sort of asymmetric gender relationship acquires a completely positive sense based on Oriental moral values.21 In contrast to Trubetskoy’s amateur interest in vernaculars, in Bulychev’s The River of Chronos, the protagonist Andrei Berestov and his friend Nikolai Bekker fluently command at least one local minority language, Crimean Tatar. According to the author’s explanation, in Simferopol, where Andrei and Nikolai were born, Tatars and Russians have coexisted for a long time, so all inhabitants understand both languages. On the other hand, Bulychev’s protagonist is also criticized for his typical Russian imperial nature. Andrei, attaching no importance to Crimean Tatar independence, asks his Tatar friend Akhmet why they prefer to be ruled by close-by local masters instead of remote Petersburg authorities, even though the former cannot always be better than the latter. Akhmet persuasively reminds him that Russians also unnecessarily fought in the Battle of Kulikovo to escape being ruled by the distant Mongolian khans.22 In Rybakov’s and Bulychev’s novels, the main characters (both of whom are male Russians) reveal their natural mode of approving the Russian people’s dominant and patronizing role, although they are portrayed as remarkably tolerant of ethnic diversity. These characteristics are not contradictory to each other, but combine to form the protagonists’ typically ‘imperial’ manner of being. An important point in this regard is that their dominant postures are counterbalanced by the presence of ethnic (or gender) others who keep a friendly but critical distance from them. In addition, it is noteworthy that the utopia-like description of Rybakov’s alternative Russian Empire contains inconsistent anti-imperial voices within. We can see here a turning moment in the course of the author’s literary evolution. In his later work, Eurasian Symphony, such critical viewpoints are disassimilated and projected onto the adversary discourse in Western countries.

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Violence The increasingly accelerated process of glasnost’ facilitated the rise of disclosure discourses not only in the sphere of historical ‘blind points’, but on the previously taboo subject of social problems. Under the influence of economic crisis, the number of socially deviant activities actually grew, while illegal crimes and other social disorders was widely reported in journalism, creating a collective consciousness of a morally collapsed society for postSoviet inhabitants. In the late perestroika period, so-called chernukha, naturalist description of sex and sadistic violence in fictional and nonfictional genres enjoyed popularity. Borenstein finds a moral aspect in seemingly immoral representation of social realities in that chernukha pursues the matter of truth and openness.23 Bulychev and Rybakov focus on violence as a negative effect caused by radical change in the process of revolution, which in some ways appears parallel with the social chaos undergone in the early post-Soviet period. The second book of Bulychev’s serial, Charging Diulber, depicts the violence and disorder rapidly penetrating the city of Yalta after the February Revolution. One of the main characters, Nikolai Bekker, witnesses the revolution-minded masses rushing toward the local courthouse building. Later, he is suspected of being a spy by a group of drunken soldiers and is nearly fatally shot. It is remarkable that the author defines the conditions in Yalta as a transitional stage toward ‘violence and absence of the police as the final instance of disorder’.24 A situation that allows armed people to enter any house and take whatever they like, even a person’s life, is called ‘the law of revolution’,25 which is emerging but has not yet been established. People’s aggressive impulses appear barely controlled by the charismatic figure of Kolchak, who would eventually succeed in a counter-revolution, taking advantage of his command of the Black Sea Fleet. According to the author’s argument, the violent disorder of revolution is sooner or later to be replaced by strong-arm official authorities, be they revolutionary or counterrevolutionary. Bulychev shows that both a tsarist restoration government in an alternative history and a Bolshevik regime in real history prove to be repressive to the same degree. Rybakov’s alternative Russian Empire is not a utopia in its exact sense, but a society that is ideal to the extent that violent conflicts occur only infrequently. The real history (where the Russian October Revolution occurred) appears as a parallel world inhabited by people whose violent aggressiveness is artificially strengthened. Here Rybakov’s alternative history emphasizes the view of human beings’ inherent goodness in a strangely naïve way. Mysterious terrorist acts in a semi-utopian Russia are conducted by


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good-natured communists under the influence of the resonance from this artificial violent world. Trubetskoy learns with surprise that residents there have experienced harsh repression under Stalin and Hitler, names that are completely unknown to him. In the process of investigating the history of human violence, Trubetskoy eventually comes across the inventor of the miniature universe that causes violent incidents in the alternative utopian world. A young talented Russian scientist emigrated from his homeland, where his ambitious project was rejected, and found patronage from a German millionaire, Haushofer, who in real history would be the father of a famous geo-politician in Nazi Germany. It is worth noting that here Rybakov locates the source of violent evil outside Russia, although anti-Western sentiment does not rise to the surface as is evident in The Eurasian Symphony series written in later years. In the epilogue of Graviplane Cesarevich, a doppelganger of the protagonist living in the artificial micro-universe (in which the October Revolution occurred) is subjected to absurd violence committed by extreme Russian nationalists.26 This scene reflects a picture of confused post-Soviet society in real history in a grotesquely exaggerated way. Rybakov emphasizes the importance of ethical values by comparing the chernukha-style description of contemporary Russian society with moral life in his alternative moral empire. By contrast, Bulychev cynically juxtaposes revolutionary social disorder with order restored by a dictator, both of which prove to be immoral to the same extent.

The image of Lenin The cult of Lenin, with symbolic icons and rituals, was constantly present during the Soviet period. Even Stalin and Khrushchev shared common ground in that they both took advantage of Lenin’s mythologized personality for the purpose of grounding their own political authority.27 Gorbachev also utilized the slogan ‘Return to Lenin’ to promote his perestroika policy; however, the tide of disclosing historical ‘blind spots’ did not avoid Lenin, providing multiple personal ‘facts’ hidden in archives (on his ethnic origin, for example), which eventually undermined the sacred authority of the Bolshevik founder.28 The famous fake documentary broadcast in 1991 on the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms on Lenin and the October Revolution,29 the story of which was composed after the fashion of folk history, signalled the advent of a turning point in Lenin’s symbolic image and a crucial phase toward the collapse of Soviet Union. Rybakov and Bulychev introduced an alternative historical figure of Lenin in their counterfactual worlds that are devoid of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Alternative Russian Revolution


In Rybakov’s Graviplane Cesarevich, communism is a peaceful religion in which activities are completely separated from worldly politics. Karl Marx remains the founder of a ‘real’ communism, familiar to us since he formulated his doctrine mostly before the divergence of history (around 1870). By contrast, Lenin appears as an alternative figure who reorganizes the politicoeconomic theory into an ethical religion. An important moment occurs when he replaces the key term ‘collectivization of property’ with ‘collectivization of interests’. This means that each individual interest should consider the interests of the surrounding people, while each individual interest must be respected by all.30 This relationship between the individual and society reminds us slightly of the Slavophile idea of spiritual unity and harmony, sobornost. It is characteristic that the name Stalin completely disappears in this version of Russia’s communist history, while the present patriarch of communism looks like Gorbachev. Bulychev depicts Lenin as a negative figure who is ready to sacrifice any attachment for the sake of power.31 Lenin, staying in Zurich, receives news about the outbreak of the February Revolution and decides to return to Russia as soon as possible, otherwise he will lose the chance to gain power. Lenin’s choice at this moment appears crucial in Bulychev’s serial, since it determines the divergence of history. He does not wait until the ‘sealed train’ is prepared by the German authorities, but instead rushes to Russia, disguising himself as a deaf and dumb foreigner. On the return journey, however, he is arrested by the German police and cannot reach the revolutionary Petersburg in time. As a result, the October Revolution does not take place. By contrast, in the third book, The Return from Trabzon, which is based not on alternative, but real, history, Lenin arrives in Petersburg and succeeds in attracting a massive revolutionary tide earlier than any other revolutionist.32 Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that Bulychev emphasizes his ‘internationalist’ orientation. On the train back to Russia, Lenin dreams of the revolution to come in Germany, a country more orderly and clean than his homeland.33 This nonRussian characteristic of the revolutionary leader curiously coincides with the non-Russian (German, again) origin of humankind’s violent urges in Rybakov’s alternative history. Most of the characters, except for the two protagonists Andrei and Lida who travel through time, have the ambitious aim to leave his or her name in history. A fictional character, Nikolai Bekker, is appointed as a navy officer by Kolchak and plays an active part in the conspiracy of counter-revolution. The admiral of the Black Sea Fleet encourages Nikolai, saying, ‘No great army commander could enter history without being surrounded by loyal marshals beforehand,’34 which apparently references Napoleon’s deeds. Finally, Nikolai is killed in the battle at Diulber where Kolchak’s troops release the Empress


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Maria Fedorovna and other imperial relatives. An important point is that Nikolai feels meaninglessness in his death, remembering the last words of Napoleon’s unfortunate son: ‘There were two incidents worth mentioning in my life, my birth and my death.’35 Bulychev shows in his novels that an individual is not able to change the main stream of history, although his ambitious characters have a desire to play a major role in history. His historical perspective, with frequent reference to Napoleon, reminds us of Tolstoy’s masterpiece, War and Peace. In this regard, Bulychev’s Lenin has the exceptional ability to catch the invisible historical tide like Tolstoy’s Kutuzov, however negatively the former is characterized in the author’s view.

Conclusion Alternative-history novels also came into fashion in the 1990s in Western countries. Gallagher supposes that their popularity grew against the background of widespread recognition of multiplicity in the historical process in the post-Cold War period.36 This assumption is applicable in the wider context to the Russian case, too, as discussed earlier; however, the thirst for counterfactual speculation in Russia with its dialogical reflections between real and alternative histories reached a peak in the late perestroika days. In the course of the turbulent 1990s, multiplicity became gradually equated with unfavourable disorder in the mass consciousness. Consumer demand increasingly preferred an imperial order with a lesser degree of reflective distance both in alternative (Eurasian Symphony) and real (Fomenko’s project) histories, as a compensation for the post-perestroika trauma of social disorder, such as ethnic conflicts, violent crimes and so on. In this regard, Rybakov’s and Bulychev’s novels in the early 1990s mark a crucial turning point. According to the study of Petukhova and Cherny, the writers of alternative histories are categorized in three generations. Bulychev belongs to the elder group together with Zviagintsev, characterized by their anti-communist standpoint. Rybakov is a representative writer of the middle generation. An important point is that many of the writers in this group experienced both fervent hope and black despair regarding perestroika. As a result they mostly feel nostalgia for lost empires, be it the Soviet empire or the Romanov dynasty,37 which is compensated for in alternative imperial utopias, such as Rybakov’s Graviplane Cesarevich. By contrast, Bulychev slightly idealizes the pre-revolutionary local community in Crimea, where both Russian and Tatar residents coexist based on a considerable degree of mutual understanding. It is characteristic that Bulychev has a significantly pessimistic perspective on the alternativeness of history. Kolchak’s counter-revolution eventually

Alternative Russian Revolution


leads to a political regime repressive to the same extent as the Bolsheviks. In any case, members of the provisional government and Vladimir Nabokov are forced to go into exile. Moreover, according to the author’s viewpoint, every alternative branch of history is destined to perish sooner or later. The historical pathway always remains a single line, which, ironically enough, coincides with the Marxist historical viewpoint. The Russian Revolution is inevitable, however negative the results would be. Rybakov, by contrast, is rather optimistic about the possibilities of alternatives. It is typical that both the historical process and human nature are convertible and modifiable although, of course, they can be changed in a worse direction as well. In this regard, his worldview is compatible with the utopian ‘bright’ aspects of the early revolutionary movement, in spite of the difference whereby the writer values a more ethical framework. As Lotman and Uspensky illustrate, the history of Russia appears to be composed of dualistic materials, destined for total replacement whenever a revolutionary shift of value occurs.38 This means that Russia is a comfortable breeding ground for historical science fiction. The moment of each political turning point readily offers an alternative branch of Russian history. Covered up or deleted ‘inconvenient’ facts would encourage the conspiracist imagination of cryptohistory. In his autobiography, Bulychev affirms that the official historiography in the Soviet Union resembles the genre of historical fiction, since it attempts to weave real historical figures into fictional and ideological settings. According to the writer’s ironical judgement, fantastic historical imagination in today’s Russia has inherited this tradition.39 In any case, however, it remains possible to unearth an alternative branch made invisible by contemporary ‘imperial’ SF. As Aleida Assmann suggests, every historical trace, even if it might be forgotten, never totally disappears if stored in the archive of memory: ‘One can view this store of knowledge either as a graveyard of data or as precious evidence of a different reality that can challenge the status quo of the present.’40 Alternative histories presented in Russian SF allow us to reconstruct a historical perspective of the early 1990s as a crucial turning moment, with its variety of historical imagination related to both the beginning and the ending points of the Soviet Union.

Notes 1 Robert C. Williams, ‘The Russian Revolution and the End of Time: 1900– 1940’, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 43 (1995): 364–401; Igal Halfin, From Darkness to Light: Class, Consciousness, and Salvation in Revolutionary Russia (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000).


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2 Both works were, although published in the early 1990s, repeatedly reprinted, which proves their relevance to contemporary readers. The last version of Graviplane Cesarevich and the first trilogy of The River of Chronos appeared in 2018. Viacheslav Rybakov, Gravilet ‘Tsesarevich’: avtorskii sbornik (Moscow: Eksmo, 2018); Kir Bulychev, Naslednik; Shturm Diul’bera; Kir Bulychev, Vozvrashcheniie iz Trapezunda (Moscow: Veche, 2018). 3 Andrew B. Wachtel, An Obsession with History: Russian Writers Confront the Past (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994). 4 Elena Petukhova and Igor Cherny, Sovremennyi russkii istoriko-fantasticheskii roman (Moscow: Manufaktura, 2003). 5 For more on ‘H. L. Oldie’, see Maksim Dvorak, Spetsifika khudozhestvennogo mira, konflikta i zhanra v sovremennoi rossiiskoi fantastike: Na primere proizvedenii H.L.Oldie. PhD dissertation (Moscow, 2015). 6 Aleksandr P. Logunov, ‘Krizis istoricheskoi nauki ili nauka v usloviiakh obshchestvennogo krizisa: otechestvennaia istoriografiia vtoroi poloviny 80 – nachala 90 gg.’, in Sovetskaia istoriografiia (Moscow: n.p., 1996), pp. 447–87. 7 Vladislav Krasnov, ‘Wrestling with Lev Tolstoi: War, Peace, and Revolution in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s New Avgust Chetyrnadtsatogo’, Slavic Review 45, no. 4 (1986): 707–19. 8 Konstantin Sheiko and Stephen Brown, History as Therapy: Alternative History and Nationalist Imaginings in Russia, 1991–2014 (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2014). 9 Dmitry Volodikhin, ‘Fenomen fol’k-khistori’, Otechestvennaia istoriia 4 (2000): 16–24. Volodikhin is discussed by Mikhail Suslov in Chapter 5. 10 Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt, Practicing New Historicism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 57. 11 Evgenii Kharitonov, ‘Russkoe pole utopii: Rossiia v zerkale utopii’ (2001). On the contemporary boom of imperial SF in general, see Mikhail Suslov, ‘Of Planets and Trenches: Imperial Science Fiction in Contemporary Russia’, Russian Review 75 (2016): 562–78. 12 The original title was Charging Ai-Todor, which would be renamed as Charging Diulber in the 2000 edition. 13 Mikhail Suslov, ‘Eurasian Symphony: Geopolitical and Utopia in Post-Soviet Alternative History’, in Mark Bassin and Gonzalo Pozo (eds), The Politics of Eurasianism: Identity, Popular Culture and Russia’s Foreign Policy (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017), pp. 81–100. 14 See also Chapter 2 by Maria Galina. 15 Akseonov’s alternative history, The Island of Crimea, became available for Soviet readers in 1990, which possibly made an impact on Bulychev’s idea of writing a story set in Crimea. 16 The preference for Petersburg rather than Moscow as the imperial centre is obvious in several works of alternative history such as The Bite of an Angel (1999) by Pavel Krusanov, and The Eurasian Symphony series. Go Koshino, ‘Obraz imperii v “al’ternativnykh istoriiakh” sovremennoi Rossii’, in Tetsuo Mochizuki (ed.), Beyond the Empire: Images of Russia in the Eurasian

Alternative Russian Revolution

17 18 19 20 21

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

37 38

39 40


Cultural Context (Sapporo: Slavic-Eurasian Research Centre, 2008), pp. 406–8. Viacheslav Rybakov, Gravilet Tsesarevich, in Sochineniia (Moscow: Terra, 1997), vol. 1, pp. 45–6. Kir Bulychev, Kak stat’ fantastom: Zapiski semidesiatnika (Moscow: Drofa, 2003), p. 142. Rybakov, Gravilet Tsesarevich, p. 11. Rybakov, Gravilet Tsesarevich, p. 135. Go Koshino, ‘Illusion and Mirror: Image of China in Contemporary Russian Literature’, in Shinichiro Tabata (ed.), Eurasia’s Regional Powers Compared: China, India, Russia (London and New York: Routledge, 2015), pp. 205–21. Kir Bulychev, Reka Khronos (Moscow: AST, 2004), pp. 551–2. Elliot Borenstein, Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007), p. 13. Bulychev, Reka Khronos p. 353. Bulychev, Reka Khronos, p. 358. Rybakov, Gravilet Tsesarevich, pp. 193–203. Nina Tumarkin, Lenin Lives! The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 252–68. Alexei Yurchak, ‘The Canon and the Mushroom: Lenin, Sacredness, and Soviet Collapse’, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7, no. 2 (2017): 165–98. Alexei Yurchak, ‘A Parasite from Outer Space: How Sergei Kurekhin Proved That Lenin Was a Mushroom’, Slavic Review 70, no. 2 (2011): 307–33. Rybakov, Gravilet Tsesarevich, p. 36. Bulychev, Reka Khronos, p. 402. Bulychev, Reka Khronos, p. 526. Bulychev, Reka Khronos, p. 405. Bulychev, Reka Khronos, p. 411. Bulychev, Reka Khronos, p. 481. Catherine Gallagher, ‘Telling It Like It Wasn’t’, Pacific Coast Philology 45 (2010): 12–25. For more precise analysis, see her recent publication: Catherine Gallagher, Telling It Like It Wasn’t: The Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018). Petukhova and Cherny, Sovremenny russkii istoriko-fantasticheskii roman, Chapter 2. Jurii Lotman and Boris Uspenskij, ‘The Role of Dual Models in the Dynamics of Russian Culture’, in The Semiotics of Russian Culture (Ann Arbor: Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan, 1984), pp. 3–35. Bulychev, Kak stat’ fantastom, pp. 6–9. Aleida Assmann, Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 327–32, 397.



Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Post-Soviet Speculative Fiction: Two Trends1 Maria Galina

Introduction Mass culture in general and mass literature in particular are sensitive indicators of collective sentiments, phobias and hopes. So it is worth paying attention to mass genres and so-called trash literature – especially to speculative fiction – for this reflects trauma and expectations even better than an individual work of art.2 Post-Soviet Russia is rapidly changing, and to understand and follow these changes (and sometimes to predict them) it may be useful to investigate mass literature – especially a speculative fiction which provides trends extrapolated to the future (or, paradoxically, to the past). In this aspect it is very interesting to observe an evolution of two Russian post-Soviet speculative (or science) fiction trends.3 One is dedicated to geopolitical plots that suggest the future aggression of NATO and the West in general towards Russia and the former Soviet republics (especially Ukraine). The other is a very specific phenomenon typical only of the so-called ‘Russian world’, which presents models of the ‘desired past’ corrected by a contemporary protagonist, which appears in some key point of Russian history. It is essential here that both trends were almost absent in post-war USSR speculative fiction literature: the first, for the reason that the post-war USSR in spite of its actions in the global arena adhered to peace-loving rhetoric (besides, Soviet ideologists were very suspicious of any future models – even positive ones);4 the second, because its main idea of ‘history correction’ conflicts with the Marxist-Leninist concept of the role of a personality in history. So both trends (though present as we will see later in pre-war SF literature) became very noticeable only in post-Soviet Russia. Appearing in the 1990s, they became more and more popular in 2000–15 together with the emergence of empire moods that Russian post-Soviet speculative fiction tends to 39


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manifest.5 Nevertheless, as we will see later, the two trends are quite different in nature and origin. It is difficult to say if we are dealing here with dystopia (in the first case) or with masked utopia (in the second case). In the first case, a model of the future where Russia is under attack turns as a rule into a triumphant plot for Russia and for revision of the global map in Russia’s favour. In the second case, real historical failures turn into victories of Russian arms, a brilliant future for the empire and once more to revision of the global map because of a protagonist’s intervention. But the importance of the trends cannot be underestimated in order to better understand contemporary Russia. For the base of our investigation we used publishers’ catalogues with lists of lines and books and information about the number of copies and reeditions. We also examined internet fan sites, which provide information about authors and books and corresponding readers’ and literature observers’ responses.

Russian vs the whole world: future wars This trend does not belong to ‘science fiction’ in the strict sense, so ‘speculative fiction’ might be a better definition. The only speculative assumption here is an attack by some hostile invasion force on post-Soviet space (not necessarily, as we will see later, Russian territories). In general it may be conditionally defined as ‘combat speculative fiction’, where the main condition is that in the near future, Russia stands against some aggressor. This aggressor, with few exceptions, represents the ‘Western World’: the Russian army stands against NATO and especially the USA. Here we try to follow how this plot, at first marginal and occasional, becomes more and more widespread. In the first novels (late 1990s) a crucial battle mostly takes place on the territory of Ukraine, which is annexed by NATO forces as the result of a cunning plot by secret world structures. One of the first such portrayals, we believe, is a novel by the Moscow writer Dmitry Iankovskii (Дмитрий Янковский), A Rhapsody of Wrath (Рапсодия Гнева), in 2000. A musician, Iankovskii (born in Sebastopol in 1967) claims six years’ military service as a sharpshooter in Russian special forces and to have started his literature career as a writer of ‘Slavic fantasy’ (information provided by the website).6 Such a biography, as we will see later, is almost typical for the authors we examine here. A Rhapsody of Wrath not only models Russian confrontation with the USA (still local and not open), but also refers it to the Crimean peninsula. Here is the publisher’s description:

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


An action takes place in the near future after the third Chechen war. In Sebastopol unknown persons using some secret weapon methodically kill members of an American religious sect, who are involved in a dark anti-Russian affair. Under this excuse NATO makes an attempt to occupy Crimea, but local people led by the mysterious avengers organize armed resistance.

The theme of ‘bringing back’ the peninsula into the maternal womb of Russia had already been raised in the novel Look into the Eyes of Monsters (Посмотри в глаза чудовищ) by Andrei Lazarchuck and Mikhail Uspenskii (Андрей Лазарчук, Михаил Успенский) (St Petersburg: Azbuka, 1997). Two years later came A Skylark (Жаворонок) by the St Petersburg writer Andrei Stoliarov (Андрей Столяров) (the literary magazine Znamia (Знамя) 6, 1999), where a mockumentary story tells us about a new Jeanne d’Arc who manages to restore the Soviet Union and reunite Russia and Ukraine. But these two novels still tend towards the mainstream (the postmodern Look into the Eyes of Monsters was nominated for the Russian Booker award, and A Skylark was published by one of the most prestigious Russian literature magazines), while A Rhapsody of Wrath was published by Tsentrpoligraf (Центрполиграф), whose field of activity is mainly mass and pulp literature. Mainstream literature observers did not notice the novel at all, but in 2006 it was republished by Iauza (Яуза), which is affiliated with the Moscow EKSMO (ЭКСМО ) holding. Iauza specializes (and it is essential, as we will see later) in ‘war, war history and alternative-historical SF’ and is known for its revanchist tendency. It is telling, that the enemy in this novel is the US secret service. Iankovskii’s novel triggered controversial responses – and continues to do so – from readers on a number of related websites. Some readers criticize the novel for its anti-Americanism and anti-Ukrainian tone, while others claim that it was this novel that inspired anti-NATO and anti-American attitudes in Crimea, in 2006 (see, for example, a comment by the pro-regime political analyst and SF-observer Artem Gularian).7 Worth noting is that in 2006 the novel was reprinted in the Iauza series Future Wars (Войны будущего, 2005– 6), launched in Russia just after the Ukrainian ‘Orange Revolution’ with the subtitle ‘A Field of Battle – Ukraine’. The series comprised fifteen novels by different authors (each title having print runs of between 3,000 and 10,000). This series also included novels by Fedor Berezin (Федор Березин). Born in 1960, Berezin, according to,8 was also a professional military man, though not very much is known about him. However, we do know that he is one of the ‘Novorossiia’ ideologists and held a high position in the government of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. In his cycle


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War 2030 (2005–6), a mysterious Center of Russian Renaissance confronts the USA, which is fighting for world hegemony. The number of copies printed was quite modest for the beginning of the 2000s, while the concept of this series is uneven. Berezin also produced a purely escapist cycle, entitled A Big Black Ship, in which imaginary battles take place on some distant planet. The lifetime of the series was very short – only two years. Successful series usually last longer. But it was not only Iauza that was interested in the theme. In 2008, St Petersburg’s Leningrad Publishing house (Ленинградское издательство) produced a novel by the Dnepropetrovsk (now Dnepr) Ukrainian writer Ian Valetov (Ян Валетов). Born in 1963, Valetov, an engineer by training and a businessman, is now a popular pro-Ukrainian blogger. A Nobody’s Land (Ничья земля) (3,000 copies) depicts a Ukraine left in ruins after some global catastrophe initiated by a confrontation between narcomafia and missile barons. The novel started a cycle and got a genre award (at the SF convention Interpresskon 2009, in St Petersburg). Genre awards are usually quite symbolic and do not affect print runs, nevertheless the novel was republished twice in Russia (the last edition in 2011, 20,000 copies overall), was translated into Polish in 2016 and was reprinted by the Ukrainian publisher Folio in 2017. But the concept here is closer to post-apocalyptic projects popular in Russia – METRO 2033 (started in 2009, with more than eighty titles) and S.T.A.L.K.E.R (started in 2013, with more than fifty titles) – than to Iankovskii’s and Berezin’s novels. In 2009 another St Petersburg publishing house – Krylov – published a post-apocalyptic two-novel serial entitled Marauder (Мародер) by an anonymous author using the pen name Berkem Al Atomi (Беркем АльАтоми), with a print run of 4,700 copies overall. Here we encounter a Russia completely ruined by NATO and ‘corrupted liberal democracy forces’. It seems that a plot line in which post-Soviet space becomes a field of battle for different forces and criminal groups was quite popular in the period 2005–15. The series in which Valetov’s novel was first published – Battle SF (Боевая фантастика) – appeared in 2006 and was still running in 2017, even though the publishing house itself had changed its name and was now affiliated with the AST (АСТ ) holding. The series deals mostly with post-apocalyptic, fantasy and space opera plots and, to judge by its print runs, is still quite stable (3,000–4,000 copies for each title). Like Iauza, Krylov launched several similar series over the next ten years that were not long-lasting. The next one was War: Imperial Headquarters (Война. Имперский генеральный штаб) in 2007–8. The concept of the series was again uneven. This series includes, among other books, a collection of alternative history short stories, Seagulls above the Kremlin (Чайки над

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


Кремлем), and another Fedor Berezin novel with the significant title Satisfied with the Ruins of Pentagon! (Развалинами Пентагона удовлетворен!) in 2008. The series comprised only five books, with an average print run of 5,000–7,000 copies, and is now closed. In 2009 a new series named On the Threshold of War (Война на пороге) was launched. It lasted only one year and was almost completely dedicated to confrontation with NATO on the territory of Ukraine. Titles here also are very indicative: Field of Battle – Ukraine: A Broken Trident (Поле битвы – Украина: Сломанный трезубец) by Grigorii Savitskii (Григорий Савицкий); An Epoch of Stillborns: The Second Ukrainian Front (Эпоха мертворожденных: Второй украинский фронт) by Gleb Bobrov (Глеб Бобров); and The Pentagon Must be Destroyed! (Пентагон должен быть разрушен!), again by Fedor Berezin. Six titles were published with an average print run of 4,000– 5,000 copies. In general it seems that Iauza began to focus on this theme after the first Ukrainian ‘Orange Revolution’ (2005), which was very negatively covered by the Russian media. Here are some publisher’s blurbs for novels published by Iauza in the period 2005–10: There is a cloudless sky above all Ukraine. And in this sky NATO aviation does anything it wants. The ‘liberal’ world media doesn’t say a word about the invasion. And no orders are given to put into action air defense systems. But there still remains military duty and Soviet-produced military equipment. And it is Russia that’ll help without hesitation . . . World War Three is on the threshold! . . . And Russia will not stand aside – the main frontline of the future war will be the Ukrainian front! Near future. Betrayed by its own ‘elite’, Ukraine is occupied by American troops. The air forces of NATO patrol the sky. The Island Zmeiny is occupied by Romania; Turkish troops are landing in Crimea. The ‘Democratic’ West deliberately doesn’t pay attention to aggression; Kiev keeps silent and doesn’t resist the occupiers. But there still are some men who keep faith with the military oath – and NATO’s hawks are in the fire! 2010 ongoing. Having provoked riots, ‘orange’ Nazis instigate in Ukraine a civil war. With the aid of a NATO ‘military peacekeeping contingent’ . . . West–Ukrainian butchers with a trident on their shoulder straps start to eliminate Russian-speaking residents, wiping out whole cities . . . All the Left Coast, Crimea and Novorossiia arise against the occupiers. Russia helps Resistance troops with new arms, volunteer soldiers and military advisers . . . They will break the damned Bandera trident! They will give NATO’s hawks a bloody nose! The battlefield is Ukraine! It is our last and crucial battle!


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I have deliberately provided several publishers’ blurbs, for the rhetoric employed is very similar to that of the official Russian media commenting on the Ukrainian conflict a few years later, which labelled opponents as Banderites, Nazis, Junta, fascists, West–Ukrainian butchers, liberal traitors and so on.9 Also I want to draw attention to the supposed elimination of Russian-speaking residents by ‘West–Ukrainian butchers’ and to the USA intervention theme, reborn ‘Nazis’ in Ukraine and so on. We also see revival of the historical term ‘Novorossiia’ and its role in the struggle against the ‘West–Ukrainian butchers’ – a theme that would become prevalent in the Russian media several years later. In these novels Russia is presented as a liberator intervening in the war directly or helping ‘Resistance troops with new arms, volunteer soldiers and military advisers’ (which looks like a very accurate prognosis). While authors and publishers seemed obsessed with this theme, readers did not appear to be as interested, since the line lasted only a year, the print runs were quite modest, there were no fan followings for the authors and no SF-readers’ responses. For example, the popular fan site had no readers’ comments on Field of Battle – Ukraine: A Broken Trident, nor even an author’s biography, which was unusual. Nevertheless the book was republished in 2014 (after real unrest in Ukraine), with 3,000 copies printed. In general, this unexpected outburst of Iauza production dedicated to future wars with ‘Nazis’ in Ukraine is very interesting. The next Iauza series was Tomorrow’s Wars (Войны завтрашнего дня) in 2009–10, with thirteen titles of 4,000–5,000 copies each. These included the likes of Field of Battle –Tbilisi (Поле битвы – Тбилиси) and Field of Battle – Sebastopol: A Hero-City against NATO (Поле битвы – Севастополь: Город-герой против НАТО ), both by Georgii Savitskii, and War of 2011: Against NATO (Война 2011: Против НАТО ) by Fedor Berezin. Here we have not only a Ukrainian plot but also a Georgian plot at play. In 2012 a new series, An Enemy at the Gate (Враг у ворот), was launched and lasted until 2017 (fifty-two books overall). The Ukrainian theme is again prominent, for example in Wrath of Novorossiia (Гнев Новороссии) (2014) by the abovementioned G. Savitskii, as well as in other books, but it is significant that, as a rule, in these novels the action mostly takes place on Russian territory (an enemy intrudes, then a counterstrike follows). The series already comprises forty-four titles, but the number of copies of each novel printed has noticeably decreased (from 6,000 in 2012 to 2,000 in 2016). Nevertheless it seems that editors consider this plot more topical now than the Ukrainian theme, which had moved to TV news and the newspapers. Besides the USA and NATO, some other possible enemies of a future Russia are considered: for example, Japan, in the novel On the Threshold of War: Gilbert’s Desert (Война на пороге. Гилбертова пустыня) (2007) by

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


Sergei Pereslegin and Elena Pereslegina (Сергей Переслегин, Елена Переслегина). Pereslegin is a well-known political analyst, a prominent member of both the group ‘Building the Future’ and the Center of Strategy Development ‘North-West’. The publisher’s blurb sets the scene: ‘2012. Exactly as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Far East again is doomed to be a hot spot. And again, as it was more than one hundred years ago, Russia is doomed to stand against Japan, which dreams about revenge.’ The ‘Chinese threat’ also features in another novel, A Field of Battle – China (Поле битвы – Китай) (2010), again by Grigorii Savitskii, who seems to be rather monotonous in his choice of titles. Several other novels feature a NATO invasion of the Arctic, a subject that now interests the official Russian media very much. It is difficult to say if this trend was inspired and promoted from above (at least by some structures affiliated with the government if not by the government itself) or became popular owing to the ‘phantom imperial pain’ of authors and the target audience. Was it, so to speak, an answer to mass demand or a propaganda project? First of all, as we have seen already, it is difficult to determine whether the books were really popular. Publishers prefer not to disclose such information, but generally successful book series tend to last. In this case, however, Iauza book lines have been launched and then very soon ended (some lasted no more than one year). The print run of each novel – for example, of those written by a key author in the project, Fedor Berezin (with more than fifteen titles in total) – has gradually decreased from 13,000 to 4,000 copies. On the whole it seems that, at least until 2014, the wider audience was not much interested in the Ukrainian plot, and during and after 2014 it mostly paid attention to the media, not to works of fiction. For example, The Pentagon Must Be Destroyed by Berezin attracted no readers’ comments on the key Russian literature-review site, LiveLib, and has only six comments on the field-specific, including such as, ‘I failed to read this to the end.’ Berezin’s War of 2010: The Ukrainian Front (Война 2010: Украинский фронт) (2009) has only one reader’s comment on LiveLib and just seven comments on – all of which are negative except for a comment by the above-mentioned Russian political analyst Atrem Gularian. Compare the novels just discussed with Notre-Dame de Paris Mosque (Мечеть Парижской Богоматери) (2005) by Elena Chudinova (Елена Чудинова), which was also part of the Future Wars series and had a modest print run of 10,000 copies. Later it was republished four times (a total of 25,000 copies), discussed by critics and literary observers and translated into French, Bulgarian, English, Polish, Turkish, Norwegian and Serbian.10 On LiveLib it got thirty-four comments and on twenty-three, both


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positive and negative (her other novels were not so lucky). We do not know how many times books in the Russia: Future Battles series were illegally downloaded, but we can safely assume that these novels were not especially popular, compared to the likes of Notre-Dame de Paris Mosque. Of course, it is reasonable to assume that the readership of such novels do not visit internet book forums, but in this case, print runs also would be much more impressive. For example, one of the last (2018) novels of Daria Dontsova (Дарья Донцова), the leading woman’s detective author, had a print run of 12,000 just for the hard-cover version, quite an impressive figure in current times. The readership for this writer comprises mostly women over forty on generally low incomes and who rarely discuss literature on the web (for example, the novel in question has only two reader reviews on LiveLib). Another significant point is that it is only Iauza that has so far been interested in the ‘Russian–Ukrainian wars’ models, at least on such a scale. Noteworthy too is the trend in its book titles, for example The USSR – A Lost Paradise (СССР – потерянный рай), Stalinism is Salvation for Russia (Сталинизм – спасение России) (both 2010) and so on. In general, according to the plots of the novels, it seems that in the near future Russia is destined to stand against the whole world – the syndrome of a besieged fortress (a scenario that would be implemented in realpolitik only a few years later). The same speculative fiction models of Russian geopolitical victories existed before the Second World War,11 where again we see the low literary level of such prose, which might be regarded as a social phenomenon but certainly not an artistic one. The only difference is that in the 2000s we read not only about the impressive victories of Russian arms in future wars but also about the restoration of the USSR (a very popular theme, as we will see later) after its victories. It is also important to observe how the language and scenarios of such fiction became as it were a template for Russian TV rhetoric in 2014 and beyond.

To come back and change for the better: correcting the past In light of the short-lived character of the above-mentioned lines, it is significant that another series by the same publishing house, Iauza, is enormously longrunning, quite profitable and even famous. This is Military and Historical SF (Военная и историческая фантастика), which was launched in 2008 and is still running, comprising more than 130 titles. It includes books of two types: one is the ‘alternative history’, where real historical events are replaced by an alternative possibility, usually a very satisfying alternative for a ‘patrioticoriented’ Russian reader. Here is a typical publisher’s note:

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


We live in the wrong world. We vegetate in an alternative reality. Our future is dark and our past is rewritten due to somebody’s evil will. In reality it must be a quite different world. In reality Russia won the First World War, there was neither the revolution nor the civil fratricidal war and after 1917 the Golden Age of the Russian Empire began. In reality Russian military officers of the Imperial Russian Space Forces were the first people on the Moon. Aleksandr Markov, Russians on the Moon, 2009

The other type of book is so popular that it has been given a special nickname by fans that is now almost official: popadanets, popadantsy (попаданец, попаданцы) – a division of trash literature describing the adventures of a modern protagonist or a group protagonists who by chance find themselves in the past (usually at some key point of history). Compared with previous trends that are almost exclusive to Iauza, this one is much more widespread. It is not surprising that the phenomenon has been widely studied by literary observers and cultural commentators (Vitenberg 2004, Frumkin 2016, Galina 2017, and others).12 What is important is that this trend appeals to the reconstruction movement (a very popular role play in contemporary Russia that imitates different historical periods and events),a movement whose contribution to the events of the past several years cannot be underestimated. For example Girkin/Strelkov, one of the ‘Novorossiia’ project ideologists and leaders, belonged to a military-historical reconstruction group and also positioned himself as a writer of young-adult fantasy stories (rather escapist and sentimental). Both alternative-history SF and time-travel SF prospered in Western literature (the first popadanets was Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)), but were not popular in post-war Soviet SF. The reason was that all SF literature (like any other genre) published in the USSR was censored, and the idea of history alternation contradicted Marxist ideology, which declared the historic process to be determined. A few samples of time-travel literary scenarios (mainly short stories) proved history to be fundamentally incapable of changing. For the same reason, we in the USSR did not have classic examples of this sub-genre (except the above-mentioned A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) – even the famous The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962) was published in Russian translation only in 1992, after the fall of the USSR.13 Likewise, The Crimea Island (Остров Крым) by Vasilii Aksenov (Василий Аксенов), one of the key texts of Russian alternative history literature (1979), was published in the West in 1981 and in the USSR only in 1990. Thus, it is not surprising that the first


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shoots of the popadanets phenomenon appeared only in the late 1980s. Let us take a brief survey.

In the beginning: a social lift for a loser Who is a typical popadanets? In general there are two types:

1. An everyman – the fact that allowed critic Vasilii Vladimirskii to make the statement that this phenomenon refers not to literature but to mass psychology and that it owes its success to commercial exploration of a typical loser complex, when one is sure that only external forces prevent one from realizing one’s hidden capacities.14 2. A trained specialist – a commando or a historical re-enactor or reconstructor. Sometimes there are hybrids of the two types: the trained commando may be a superfluous person in ‘our world’ but due to his qualities gets a high position in the past or in some invented world. The history of the sub-genre in Russia begins with the adventures of protagonists in invented worlds. A protagonist here is, if not everyman, then a superfluous person who is not able to find a place for himself in the ‘brave new world’. During the 1990s the theme of ‘a superfluous person’ gaining skills in fantasy worlds was very popular. For example (we mention here only very popular authors and books), Major Svarog in Aleksandr Bushkov’s (Александр Бушков) cycle, A Knight from Nowhere (Рыцарь из ниоткуда) (1996) is a trained commando in this world and a prince in the parallel fantasy world. Sir Max, the hero of an enormously successful cycle by Max Fray (Svetlana Martynchik and partly Igor Stepin (Светлана Мартынчик, Игорь Степин)), the first book of which was A Stranger (Чужак) (1996), is a complete loser in our world and a powerful magician in a mysterious town named Echo. The hero of a novel by Sergei Luk’ianenko (Сергей Лукьяненко), Lord from the Earth Planet (Лорд с планеты Земля) (1996), an ordinary chap from Alma-Ata, is involved in galactic battles and evolves into a space prince. The protagonist of a novel by Andrei Belianin (Андрей Белянин), A Nameless Sword (Меч без имени) (1997), is a young painter in our world and a powerful knight in some kingdom in a parallel world. As we can see, all these novels were published almost simultaneously and have much in common – they are purely escapist and based on the fantasy decor. Their popularity may be connected with unstable social roles in the 1990s (one day you may be a complete loser and then a successful businessman or vice versa).

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


This sub-genre also tends to feature mostly a male protagonist, but the situation changed drastically in the 2000s, for it gave birth to ‘romance fantasy’, which is enormously popular among women readers. Here a woman protagonist, usually quite ordinary, an ‘everywoman’ in the ‘real world’, becomes a mighty sorceress or a bride of a mighty sorcerer, a prince, a king, an elf and so on, winning his love and gaining a high social position. The LiveLib website presents a selection of some 360 books published in 2016 alone, 422 books published in 2017 and 433 in 2018.15 Here is a typical publisher’s note: I have never imagined to find myself one day in a magic world! Now everybody takes me for the heiress of a noble dragon family and a stepmother forcibly married me to a cruel Fessalian general. His heart is poisoned, his look is murderous and his marriage is the only hope to deal with a curse. The problem is that the wife of a basilisk is doomed to die on the first wedding night.

This culturological and sociological phenomenon has not yet been adequately studied and in my view deserves further consideration.

To alter for the better The first historical location that popadantsy authors paid attention to was ancient Rus’. This is not surprising, for it is similar to a fantasy world. This is partly because of the specific Russian folk genre of heroic sagas known as bylinas (былины), with mighty heroes (boratyri (богатыри), similar to Mongolian bahadur), fantastic beasts and miracles, and partly because of the Slavic fantasy cycle The Wolfhound (Волкодав) and The Valkyr (Валькирия) by Maria Semenova (Мария Семенова), which was very popular during this period. No later than 2001, Aleksandr Mazin (Александр Мазин) published The Varangian (Варяг), in which a former commando, Sergei, finds himself in tenth-century Kiev Rus’ and becomes a warrior of Prince Igor. In the same year, Aleksei Vitkovskii (Алексей Витковский), in his novel The Knight (Витязь), places a Second World War pilot shot down above the Barents Sea in the same tenth century, but this time with the North Vikings. This trend still continues, exemplified by the novel by the politician and businessman Eugenii Krasnitskii (Евгений Красницкий), A Youth: Grandson of a Centurion (Отрок: Внук сотника), published in 2008 and then republished several times (80,000 copies overall). The novel has more than forty readers’ reviews on, and its twelve sequels expanded this number to more


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than 120. However, the latest novel in the cycle has only one review (2017). This suggests that the popularity of the location was connected with attempts to find a new national identity in the wake of a collapsed empire, and that presently this issue isn’t of much interest to Russian readers. But all these novels are purely escapist: the protagonists do not try to change history, just adapt to it. At present we have in total about 110 titles dedicated to adventures in ancient Russ and about eighty titles dedicated to the early medieval Rus’ location. In 2003, Aleksandr Prozorov (Александр Прозоров) started a shared project entitled A Boyards’ Hundred (Боярская сотня), comprising nearly forty novels overall. In the first novel a group of history re-enactors from St Petersburg engaged in a reconstruction game find themselves in the sixteenth century at the court of Ivan the Terrible. Readers have criticized Prozorov for the serious historical mistakes in his novel, with the basic problem being that Ivan the Terrible’s kingdom is still as conventional as ancient Rus’. Nevertheless, the first novel of the cycle – A Land of Dead Ones (Земля мертвых), with twenty-two readers’ reviews on – was republished seven times (the latest in 2011), with 27,000 copies in total, and opened the way for countless novels dedicated to this period of history. Here, maybe for the first time, protagonists are ‘specialist’ reconstructors (and on the role of the reconstructors movement in the most recent Russian history, see above). Furthermore, for the first time in post-Soviet popadantsy literature, the protagonists not only have adventures but radically change Russian history to the benefit of the Russian Empire. Here begins ‘the history of changing history’, bearing the motto ‘Let us save the Russian Empire’. In 2010 a very successful publishing house, Alfa-kniga/Armada (Альфакнига/Армада), launched a series named Fantastic History, which now comprises almost 120 titles. In this series Roman Zlotnikov (Роман Злотников, born 1963), a trained military specialist and an author very attuned to the mass market, published the novel Tsar Fedor: One More Chance (Царь Федор: Еще один шанс), which has attracted nineteen readers’ reviews on (and seventy-two reviews in total for the trilogy of which it was part). In the book a successful Russian businessman and former Mafioso finds himself in the body of the small son of Boris Godunov and, aware of the latter’s early death, tries to prevent it, succeeds and thereby changes the history of Russia for the better. The novel was republished three times (45,000 copies overall) and became part of a serial. Overall there are now (up to 2018) about 100 titles dedicated to a protagonist’s invasion of the period 1530–1613: sometimes the protagonist invades the body of Dimitrii the Impostor; sometimes the real Dimitrii of

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


Uglich; sometimes Prince Magnus – an ally of Ivan the Terrible; and sometimes even Ivan the Terrible himself. But in almost every case the intrusion leads to Russian military victories and the triumph of Russia in general. At the same time, authors try to change other crucial historical events to save the Russian Empire for the future. By the 2010s, novels dedicated to the correction of recent history begin to appear. In2010, Andrei Velichko (Андрей Величко), in the first novel of his cycle A Caucasian Prince (Кавказский принц), transfers the protagonist – a contemporary Russian engineer – to 1899 and into the body of Count Georgii Romanov, thus providing the victory of Russian arms in the Russo-Japanese war. A year later, in 2011, the above-mentioned Roman Zlotnikov wrote the novel The General-Admiral (Генерал-Адмирал), with a print run of 33,000 copies in two editions, in which a successful manager finds himself in the body of the Great Prince Aleksei Romanov at the end of the nineteenth century – with the same result as in Velichko’s story. Also in 2011–12, Aleksei Kulakov (Алексей Кулаков) wrote a serial in which the mind of the protagonist is transferred to the body of the aristocrat Aleksandr Agrenev, after which the protagonist makes a career of preventing the fall of the Russian Empire and the advent of the Revolution. So it seems there are historical periods attractive (or traumatic and thus requiring ‘correction’) at least to the authors and publishers (and possibly to the readers): ancient and early medieval Russia; the sixteenth century (including Ivan the Terrible, Oprichnina and the time of trouble); the second half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century with the outcomes of the Crimean and Russo-Japanese wars revised.16 Also it is interesting that such a crucial point as the October Revolution seems not so popular as one might expect it to be (with fewer than sixty novels), as though authors are not sure if it was a desirable or an undesirable historical event (the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution was celebrated in Russia rather modestly, for the same reason). It is also remarkable that in many novels it is Great Britain and the USA that are the objects of ressentiment and frustration. In the alternative versions of history given, these countries represent antagonists of the Russian Empire (and as we’ll see later, the USSR). As a rule, Russia wins, sometimes allied with Germany and even Japan (which mostly are not objects of ressentiment for the reason that will be considered in the next chapter). Literary history in popadantsy novels tends to follow ‘real history’: first ancient Russia, then the Ivan the Terrible époque, then the eighteenth– nineteenth centuries; and last but not least, the Great Patriotic War and the fall of the Soviet Union. Attention is mostly paid to ‘weak’ or crucial points which must be revised – at least in imagination. It is also worth mentioning


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the conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic motives of such novels.17 It seems that historical periods of great achievements and victories – for example, the era of Peter the Great (featured in about thirty novels) and Catherine the Great (also in aound thirty novels, mostly pure adventures) or Napoleon’s invasion (in about ten novels) – are not so popular with writers and, correspondingly, readers.18

The Second World War and popadantsy: new allies and enemies But the most powerful trend is connected with the Great Patriotic War. It started with the above-mentioned and very successful series Military and Historical SF (Военная и историческая фантастика) from Iauza.19 Due to the economic crisis, print runs have recently declined sharply (with an average of 2,500 copies per title in 2016), but in 2012, for example, they reached 23,000, for, say, the novels of a local star, Aleksandr Kontorovich (Александр Конторович). The number of book titles is so huge that the Full Encyclopedia of Popadantsy to the Past by Aleksei Viazovsky and others, on which we have partly based our investigation, applies subdivisions such as ‘Air Forces’,‘Tank forces’,‘Landing forces’ and so on. Here is a typical publisher’s note: An unexplained cataclysm transfers a web-designer Andrei Chebotarev more then 60 years back to February 1941, only a few months before the War begins. Andrei manages to penetrate the upper circles – to Beria and Stalin themselves, and to persuade them that he is right. But who knows is it for better or worse . . . Sergei Burkatovskii, Yesterday There Will Be the War, 2008

It is also important to emphasize that the author of Yesterday There Will Be the War, IT specialist Sergei Burkatovskii, is a fan of war history and a participant in the war-historical forum and that his novel is considered to be one of the best in this genre (with thirty-eight readers’ reviews on, six editions, the most recent in 2014, and 30,000 copies printed overall). Here again we are conscious of the input of the Reconstruction movement in the events of 2014. Sometimes the popadanets transfers to the past in flesh and blood. Sometimes he just invades a real historical person body: Stalin, Zhukov, Beria or others. By 2017, more than 250 titles dedicated to the period of the Second World War had been published – and the number continues to grow.

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


Since 2005 (the 60th anniversary of victory in the war) the theme of the Second World War and Russian victories has received a lot more media attention. The Victory Day celebration has also become much more pominent – for example in 2007, for the first time since 1991, a military parade consisted of three components: infantry, armoured vehicles and air forces; and in 2011 about 20,000 military personnel participated in the parade – a record in new Russian history. During the same period the ‘popadantsy’ theme was exploited by the state-sponsored film industry in the trilogy We Are from the Future (Мы из будущего, 2008, 2010, 2017), in which a group of ‘illegal archeologists’ unexpectedly find themselves on the Great Patriotic War battlefields. The first of these films premiered on the Russia-1 television channel on 9 May 2008, a further significant development.The historian and popular SF-writer Andrei Valentinov has observed: A Simulacrum of the Victory – is not the Victory yet but only a whistle channeling revanchist feelings and emotions strictly to the zenith and together with this allowing a level of inner pressure to be lowered. A matter which is useful in a practical plane – not for maintaining fury but quite the opposite – to let off steam.20

But note the date of this rather optimistic statement – 2009. Since then everything has changed, with the rhetoric of propaganda intensified in response to the real events of 2014. In this genre, various scenarios are employed in relation to the war. Sometimes the protagonists’ input is local and rather modest, while on other occasions they help to deal with Hitler quickly and effectively. Sometimes their intrusion radically changes the post-war global map. But what is significant is that in these novels the war is never prevented from occurring – but it is always won. It seems that both for writers and readers this victory is a very important aspect of self-identification. What is also important is that in several novels the USSR, due to popadantsy, allies with Germany in order to conquer Great Britain, France and the USA, which are treated here as the ‘true enemies’ of the USSR. An example of such is German Romanov’s A Comrade Führer (Герман Романов, Товарищ Фюрер) (2012), published in two volumes by EKSMO, which carries the advertising line, ‘Our man heads the Third Reich. Will he manage to ruin England in the operation “Sea Lion”, hang Churchill and together with Stalin conquer the USA?’ The anti-Alliance theme became rather popular, exemplified in Oleg Tarutin’s novel Special Troops: The Battle for Berlin (Олег Тарутин, Штурмовой отряд: Битва за Берлин) (2017), published by Iauza. In this


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story, special troops from our time are thrown into 1945 with the mission of capturing Hitler alive for the Nuremberg trials in order to get him to confess that it was Churchill and Roosevelt who armed the Reich, planning to unleash it on the USSR. Sometimes Britain is depicted as a direct aggressor in these novels. For example, in Aleksandr Golodnyi’s Without Right to Live (Александр Голодный, Без права на жизнь) (2011, EKSMO), we have an alternative world in which Britain establishes a world tyranny. The literary quality of these books is rather low and in general they can be classed as pulp fiction (with the type of covers associated with the same). Nevertheless, as noted earlier, in the best examples of Second World War popadantsy literature (such as Sergei Burkatovskii’s Yesterday There Will Be the War, 2008), the protagonist is not able to prevent the conflict – only to minimize casualties to a certain extent. It seems therefore that the Great Patriotic War, in spite of its traumatic effect and dramatic consequences, is almost the only unquestionable source of national pride and the one point that is able to unite the nation. As already noted, Soviet SF provides remarkably few texts dedicated to time experiments associated with the Second World War. Indeed, the first exception to this general rule – Vasilii Zviagintsev’s Odyssey Leaves Ithaca (Василий Звягинцев, Одиссей покидает Итаку) (1988) – received negative as well as positive readers’ responses (for the most part, readers were uncomfortable with the idea of ‘speculation’ on the war theme). Part of the reason for this reaction was the already noted fact that Soviet ideologists did not trust experiments with the past or alternative models in general,21 and also that not just the authorities but also writers and readers in general regarded this particular theme as ‘sacred’. All speculation about the course and outcome of the Great Patriotic War was therefore to some extent taboo.22 It is significant that Zviagintsev wrote his novel in the period 1978 –83, but it was only published in the later stages of perestroika, when censorship was reduced. It is also worth noting that this is the first time in Soviet SF (but not in Soviet war prose) that the figure of Stalin appears. These post-Soviet developments merit our attention, for the old motto of ‘Never again’ is eventually replaced by the new one of ‘We can do it again’.

The USSR: back to the future The most recent trend is connected with the restoration of the USSR. The theme of ‘the USSR that we have lost’ was first actively promoted by the official media, and in the relevant novels the USSR’s image was always quite positive, with the only task for the popadanets being to prevent the USSR’s

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


collapse and make it more successful in the world arena. This trend developed during the 2010s, when the 1990s became officially regarded as a period of havoc and criminal chaos – with the collapse of the USSR viewed as a catastrophe. In 2012, Sergei Arsen’ev (Сергей Арсеньев) published the novel A Student, a Komsomol Member, a Sportswoman (Студентка, Комсомолка, Спортсменка) (Alfa-kniga, 6,000 copies) – the first instalment of the Moscow, 1983: A Fork (Москва, 1983: Развилка) series – in which the mind of a pensioner is transplanted from a dystopian (due to ‘liberal’ reforms) future (2040) into the body of a young girl in 1983. The protagonist assasinates Gorbachev, preventing perestroika and the collapse of the USSR. This ‘body exchange’ allows the author to play with slightly erotic narratives untypical of ‘War popadanets’ literature but typical of the ‘nostalgic Soviet’ trend (exemplified by the modern ‘Soviet pin-up’ style that interprets the Socialist Realists’ art in an erotic manner, which is popular on the internet). Also in 2012, Pavel Dmitriev (Павел Дмитриев) began the five-novel serial It is Not Too Late (Еще не поздно), while Aleksandr Sanfirov (Александр Санфиров) presented on (a free-publishing site) the series Back to Youth (Назад в юность). In the latter, an experienced war surgeon (now a pensioner) returns to his own young body, aiming by hypnosis to force ‘the Kremlin elders’ to change course and prevent the ‘crushing of the State’. In the novel Saboteur no. 1. Our man Sudoplatov (Диверсант № 1. Наш человек Судоплатов) (EKSMO, 2016) by Valery Bolshakov (Валерий Большаков), again the first of a series, in 1996 a former NKVD officer and now a pensioner, Pavel Sudoplatov (a real person, 1907–96), finds himself in his own but younger body just before the war. In addition to following a typical popadanets’ programme, he eliminates Khrushchev ‘the traitor’, thus preventing ‘the Communist Party course correction’. The most peculiar feature of one such novel is where our contemporary, finding himself in the USSR, decides to become a famous and influential writer. To this end he rewrites the not-yet-published story about Harry Potter. Ironically, the fact that the fantasy genre was unwelcome in the USSR (for obvious reasons) means that in the real USSR the writer would never have succeeded. Almost sixty such novels have been published up to 2018 (mostly by EKSMO and Alfa-kniga, with average print runs of 3,500–6,000copies), with perhaps three times that number freely accessible on It is interesting that there are at least twenty novels in which the protagonist who is transferred to the past is a pensioner (sometimes into his own but much younger body, sometimes into the body of some other young person), with the aim of preventing the USSR’s collapse. Sometimes the protagonist


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exterminates key individuals and establishes ‘the power of a steady hand’ in the period of the 1960–90s, and sometimes he invents (or copies, due to his knowledge of future technology) a super missile or hi-tech device to help the USSR hold its own in the arms race. The key ‘guilty’ individuals in these novels are variously Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Chernenko, while the ‘saviours’ include Romanov, Masherov, Andropov and again Brezhnev. Perhaps one motivation for this publishing trend is simply nostalgia for a time when ‘the grass was greener’, reflected in the fact that the protagonist is often a pensioner. It would be reasonable to assume that the readership of such novels is also not very young. But it should also be borne in mind that the authorities and correspondingly the media and political scientists now actively promote a positive image of the USSR, for example in ‘thematically’ decorated Moscow metro trains, numerous art and architecture exhibitions, TV series and so on. It is again difficult to judge the extent of the impact of such state propaganda on the ‘Soviet nostalgia’ book line, but it is clearly a factor. Another point worth noting is that, in contrast to the aggressive and military cover design of books dedicated to the war period, Soviet nostalgia books have covers with idealized and romantic images of the USSR often in pink and blue colouring. The ‘alternative USSR’ trend also has a futurological component, demonstrated in interactive projects such as the competition ‘The USSR– 2061’ (2016), featuring short stories, essays and posters, and promoted on under the motto ‘The future we want to live to see’.23 Posters are often designed in the anime style, which is very popular with the young audience, and some in the above-mentioned ‘Soviet pin-up’ style; at least one of the posters shows Stalin’s portrait against the background of a spaceship cabin.

Conclusion In this chapter we have considered two of the most powerful trends in contemporary Russian speculative fiction related to utopian and dystopian pictures of the future (and even the past).Neither trend existed in the speculative prose of the post-war USSR (but for various reasons), so they might be regarded as typical post-Soviet phenomena, reflecting some hidden (or even already open) trends in the regime and in readers’ moods. Even on the basis of title numbers, these publishing lines are quite unique in SF history and may be regarded not as literature but as social phenomena. For example, in his comments about alternative literature models of the

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction


1990s, Boris Vitenberg emphasizes that such phenomena may be connected with several psychological traumas, the most important of which was the collapse of the USSR. It is clear that authors – and maybe the target audience – do not see a distinction between the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, treating the collapse of both as equally catastrophic. It is also essential to note the increased exploration of the ‘besieged fort’ syndrome and the ‘image of the enemy’. In such models it is not always Germany that is regarded as an enemy in alternative scenarios of the Second World War (sometimes she can be even an ally), but rather ‘the liberal West’, which plans to destroy the Russian Empire/the USSR/ modern Russia and in the end itself is ‘punished’ by Russian arms. Here it is important to consider the most traumatic historical events for the target audience. Correction of these ‘unlucky’ events would bring the Russian Empire (the USSR) to prosperity. History thus is presented not as an objective process but as ‘controllable chaos’, with a key role played by a strong personality. Again it is difficult to say if we are dealing here with some propaganda project or with mass audience demands – or both. But it is worth pointing out that Empire reconstruction SF (both Tsarist and Soviet), as well as SF dedicated to the Second World War, became popular after 2008, when intensified propaganda sought to exploit the syndrome of a besieged fortress and a nostalgic attitude to the collapsed Soviet Union. But feelings of ressentiment due to the collapse of the empire, and the post-traumatic syndrome, should not be underestimated.

Notes 1 The present chapter is based on talks presented at the 1st and 2nd Annual Tartu Conference on Russian and East European Studies (June 2016, June 2017) and the Uppsala Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University Conference ‘Languages of Utopia: (Geo)political Identity-Making in Post-Soviet Speculative Fiction’ (March 2017). The author wants to thank the website for its thematic catalogue, and acknowledge the debt owed to and Polnaia entsiklopediia popadantsev v proshloe (Full Encyclopedia of Popadantsy to the Past) by Aleksei Viazovskii. 2 Mark Lipovetsky, ‘V zashchitu chudishsh’, Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie 98 (2009): 194–202. 3 ‘Speculative fiction’ is an umbrella genre encompassing narrative fiction with supernatural or futuristic elements. This includes, but is not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, superhero fiction, science fantasy, horror, utopian and dystopian fiction, and supernatural fiction, as well as combinations thereof. This definition was introduced into literature by American SF writer Robert



5 6


8 9

10 11


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia A. Heinlein in 1947; see Robert Heinlein, ‘On the Writing of Speculative Fiction’, in L. A. Eshbach (ed.), Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of ScienceFiction Writing (Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1947), pp. 9–17. We prefer this term to the term ‘science fiction’, because the objects of our investigation have nothing in common with ‘science’. See also Jeff Prucher, ‘Speculative fiction’, in Jeff Prucher, Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 213–15. Ilya Kukulin, ‘Al’ternativnoe sotsial’noe proektirovanie v sovetskom obshchestve 1960–1970–kh godov, ili Pochemu v sovremennoi Rossii ne prizhilis’ levye politicheskie praktiki’, Novoe Literaturnoe Obozreni 88 (2007): 169–201. Mikhail Suslov, ‘Of Planets and Trenches: Imperial Science Fiction in Contemporary Russia’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (2016): 562–78. Here and below all information provided about authors’ biographies and readers’ reviews has been gathered from and ‘Rhapsody sounds again. Not the least due to our frenemies. In any case the 2006 events on the Crimea peninsula when local people picketing made NATO forces get away resemble “The Rhapsody of Wrath” scenario, though in not so brutal a way (as a civil counterpart but not as an armed conflict) . . . But the scenario based on the Iankovskii novel was played like a fiddle: first raising tension in Russian–Ukrainian affairs; then the “Pomeranian” President invites NATO forces for collaborative training [exercise] “Sea breeze”. The fact that Crimea people remained unprovoked . . . last but not least took place because six years before “The Rhapsody of Wrath” had been published. At least I personally want to believe such a connection exists’ ( See, for example, the special issue, entitled ‘Russian Media and the War in Ukraine’, of the Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society 1, no. 1 (2015); Mervi Pantti, Media and the Ukraine Crisis: Hybrid Media Practices and Narratives of Conflict (Bern: Peter Lang, 2016). On religious SF, see Chapter 5 by Mikhail Suslov. V. Tokarev, ‘Sovetskaia voennaia utopiia kanuna Vtoroi Mirovoi’, Evropa: Zhurnal Pol’skogo Instituta Mezhdunarodnykh del 5, no.1 (2006): 97–161. I want to thank philologist and culturologist Ilya Kukulin who acquainted me with this research. Aleksei Viazovskii, Garik and Aleksei Batitskii, Polnaia entsiklopediia popadantsev v proshloe, See also Andrei Valentinov (Andrei Shmalko), a writer and historian who constantly provides impressive examples of popadantsy literature on his blog (Facebook). See also Maria Galina, ‘Vernut’sia i peremenit’, Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie 146, no. 4 (2017): 258–71; B. Vitenberg, ‘Igry korrektirovshchikov: Zametki na poliakh al’ternativnykh istorii’, Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie 66 (2004): 281–93; K. Frumkin, ‘Al’ternativno-

Ressentiment and Post-traumatic Syndrome in Russian Fiction

13 14 15 16 17



20 21 22 23


istoricheskaia fantastika kak forma istoricheskoi pamiati’, Istoritcheskaia ekspertiza 4 (2016): 17–28. Maria Galina, ‘Hyperfiction: Zamknuv vysokii zamok’, Novyi Mir 9 (2016): 212–18. V. Vladimirskii, ‘Mnenie kritika. Kommentarii k stat’e: Nevskii B. Popadantsy. Shtampy i otkrytiia’, Mir Fantastiki 109, no. 9 (2012): 54.романтическое-фэнтези/selections. Data were taken from Viazovskii, Garik and Aleksei Batitskii, Polnaia entsiklopediia. D. Poliukhovich, ‘Popadantsy protiv evreev’, Evreiskaia panorama: Nezavisimaia ezhemesiachnaia gazeta, 11 June 2017. See also Chapter 8 by Victor Shnirelman. The numbers can alter because of publishing houses’ activity, but the proportion remains the same. Nevertheless it is worth mentioning that one of the first Russian novels about popadantsy – UNCEREMONOUS ROMAN (БЕСЦЕРЕМОННЫЙ РОМАН ) (1927) by Veniamin Girshgorn, Iosif Keller and Boris Lipatov (Вениамин Гиршгорн, Иосиф Келлер, Борис Липатов) – was dedicated to Napoleon’s Wars. It tells of a communist engineer, Roman Vladychin (his surname means ‘powerful’), who helps Napoleon to win Waterloo and to arm his forces with modern weapons. In 2010 the same publishing house launched another very successful series – In the Storm of Times (В вихре времен) – dedicated to popadantsy in exotic countries and times; to date it comprises around ninety titles. Andrei Valentinov, ‘Svistok dlia revanshista’, Mir Fantastiki 69, no. 5 (2009): 48–51, Vitenberg, ‘Igry korrektirovshchikov’. For more on the genre of alternative history, see Chapter 1 by Go Koshino. V. Revich, ‘Esli zavtra voina’, in V. Revitch, Perekrestok utopii (Moscow: IB RAN, 1998), p.157. See



Telluro-Cosmic Imperial Utopia and Contemporary Russian Art Maria Engström

Introduction Russia has been trying to articulate its idea, its specificity, hidden between the East and the West, since the early nineteenth century, and for the past 200 years the country’s intellectual elite has been struggling with this seemingly hopeless task. Boris Groys, a famous Russian-German philosopher, art critic and media theorist, summarizes the issue: In Russia, one achieved very early an insight that there is nothing original in the Russian past and in the present. Thus, Russia’s place in history could only be in the future. Russia is no historically formed reality but a project, a promise, a new beginning. Russia is something that is not yet there. It is all about an everlasting future that perhaps will never become a reality.1

The history of Russia consists of those new beginnings that arrive with diminishing intervals in time. Christianization of Russia in 988, Peter the Great’s modernization in the early eighteenth century, the October Revolution of 1917 followed by the Soviet modernization, the post-Soviet beginning in 1991 and the current conservative post-post-Soviet start, all require a new ideological affirmation. But what fundamentals, what structures and symbols are there left which can function as a starting point for the new national identity and which are not yet deconstructed by the postmodern irony? What are those that would be both solemn and entertaining, which could be consumed within the high as well as mass culture, which could seduce and be exported? Ivan Okhlobystin, a popular actor, (former) Orthodox priest and conservative ideologist, insists that there are three such fundamentals. The cornerstones of the Russian identity, according to him, are War, Love and the Cosmos. 61


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In post-Soviet Russia, not Westernizers and liberals but contemporary Slavophiles and conservatives are preoccupied with the production of radical visions of the great Russian future and new seductive and consumable (geo) political utopias. Radical conservatives offer a new imperial project as an alternative to the post-industrial ‘new Middle Ages’.2 This conservative utopia is characterized by a fusion of the leftist idea of social justice and the rightist idea of overcoming fragmentation and localization through the weakening of corporations and the oligarchy along with strengthening the state. The conservative futurist projects that this chapter focuses on offer an inclusive postmodern pastiche and remix of Russian, Soviet and Western ideological traditions, but at the same time challenge the postmodern suspicion about the grand narratives, combining deconstruction with reconstruction. In the times of the entertainment economy and emotional politics, the ideological production of the ‘new beginning’ is not limited to literary or philosophical works but is very extensive in the sphere of visuality (film, music videos, fashion and visual arts). This new utopian visuality not only closely interacts with but also shapes the political context and the intellectual debate in contemporary Russia. Aesthetically these ideas are manifested in a visual style, which can be described as industrial neoclassicism, reminiscent of Greco-Roman antiquity, the European Enlightenment and the era of Soviet industrialization and space exploration.

Metamodenism, cosmos and post-Soviet Russian conservatism The endless cosmos as an alluring promise is a suitable symbol for Russia, which is interpreted as an unfinished and an unfinishable project. The cosmos in Russia is not just the historical voyage of Yuri Gagarin into space on 12 April 1961 and the pride over the country’s technical progress. The cosmos is an ahistorical or a post-historical place where time is suspended. In Soviet culture, the cosmos alongside the Arctic and its desolate landscape was an expression of the sublime, which in its turn was connected to the imperial.3 Today the heroic space discourse, the technological sublime and the utopian philosophy of Russian cosmists are used to construct neo-imperial narratives within conservative intellectual circles and conservative contemporary art. Russian official cultural policy also tries to break away both from the postmodern criticism of heroic metanarratives (e.g. Viktor Pelevin’s and Vladimir Sorokin’s works) and from the capitalist consumption of the cosmos as a territory for global migration (e.g. Elon Musk’s space project). Instead, it

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seeks to actualize the romantic potential of the cosmos as a part of the new ideological mobilization project. When studying the contemporary ‘conservative turn’4 in politics and culture in Russia and in a global perspective it is apposite to use the theory of metamodernism. Dutch cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker in their essay ‘What is Metamodernism’ from 2010, where they analyse the emergence of a new cultural mainstream, argue: Meanwhile, architects and artists increasingly abandon the aesthetic precepts of deconstruction, parataxis, and pastiche in favor of aesthetical notions of reconstruction, myth, and metaxis. These artistic expressions move beyond the worn out sensibilities and empty practices of the postmodernists not by radically parting with their attitudes and techniques but by incorporating and redirecting them. In politics as in culture as elsewhere, a sensibility is emerging from and surpassing postmodernism; as a non-dialectical Aufhebung that negates the postmodern while retaining some of its traits.5

Metamodernism does not exclude the utopian impulse, and the postmodern irony and estrangement coexist with a clearly defined ideological position and vision of the future. Post-Soviet Russian conservatism in art and politics not only fits, but also in many aspects forms, this new global cultural and political vector, which is defined by the term ‘metamodernism’.6 Several conservative communities and organizations are working today at promoting the metamodern neo-utopian ideas of cosmic heroism and romanticism – for instance, the Izborsk Club, the most famous conservative Russian think tank, which united established conservative ideologists, such as Aleksandr Dugin, Aleksandr Prokhanov, Mikhail Shevchenko, Father Tikhon Shevkunov and others.7 According to Aleksandr Prokhanov, a writer who is a leading figure at the Izborsk Club and editor-in-chief of the ultraconservative newspaper Zavtra, the most dangerous fragmentation which weakens the country is not between conservatives and liberals but the one between two types of conservatives: ‘the whites’, that is, the Orthodox who have a rather negative notion of the Soviet period in Russian history, and ‘the reds’ – communists and other left-wingers who renounce the role of the Russian Orthodox Church and its significance for the country’s future.8 To mark the symphony of the Orthodoxy and the Soviet space and military industry the Izborsk Club held its constitutive meeting in Khimki, at the famous Energomash factory which produces rocket engines. In Prokhanov’s novels as well as in his articles in Zavtra, the essence of Russian civilization is presented as a symphony between the state, the Church, Russian nature and


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

technology, while Gagarin is called a Russian icon.9 Close to Prokhanov’s utopia is the doctrine of ‘Nuclear Orthodoxy’ (Atomnoe pravoslavie) proposed in 2007 by the conservative journalist Yegor Kholmogorov. For Kholmogorov, developing and strengthening Russia’s military shield is a matter of ‘sacral industrialization’ and ‘hagiopolitics’, in other words, a spiritual question. Therefore, the fact that the Soviet atomic bomb was developed in a scientific institute established under Stalin’s orders on the territory of the Sarov Monastery (bearing the name of Seraphim of Sarov, one of the main Russian saints) is thought to be estimated as the agency of Providence.10 The connections between space, war, Orthodoxy and empire can also be found in the Heaven Coalition (Koalitsiia Nebo) project, established in 2012 by Ivan Okhlobystin. Being a member of the party means being involved in a role-playing called Empire. Participants of the project follow their own chronology and count year 2011, when Okhlobystin published his doctrine of the Empire, as the ‘First Imperial Year’. The purpose of role playing is that participants would prepare themselves for the coming apocalyptic war between the East and the West. The outcome of this war should be the establishment of the New Orthodox Empire. The ‘heavenly’ party’s militant aesthetics and patriarchal messages have many parallels in the Warhammer game. The party’s symbol, a conventional double-headed eagle, which represents the Empire, is also borrowed from Warhammer. The movement has a very distinct target group: namely, young people with a taste for virtual warfare. Okhlobystin defines his ideology as an ‘aristocratic national patriotism’. The party’s manifesto, Doctrine 77 (Doktrina 77), was read by Okhlobystin from the top of a giant pyramid in front of almost 10,000 spectators at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on 10 September 2011. He wanted to run for president during the 2012 elections on that programme but then withdrew his candidacy as the Church objected to an Orthodox priest’s active involvement in politics. According to Okhlobystin, Russian cosmists, philosophers and scientists, who shared the dream of technological immortality and resurrection of the dead proposed at the end of nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries by Nikolai Fedorov (1829–1903),11 are the fathers of the party: Let us go back to the grand purpose, the creation of the ideal state in our hope that our Lord will appreciate our efforts . . . and we will acquire an Emperor. We do not entertain illusions that the success is close, we are all mortals, but we treat with respect the ideas of our fathers, Russian cosmists, and see no shame in an immanent resurrection.12

It is worth mentioning the new wave of interest in Soviet science fiction, particularly the Strugatsky brothers, characteristic of neoconservative

Telluro-Cosmic Imperial Utopia and Contemporary Russian Art


circles.13 Arkady and Boris Strugatsky describe the future as a conflict between two types of civilizations, Rainbow and Pandora, where Rainbow, or Bureau, is a techno-patriarchy, while Pandora, or Forest, is an eco-matriarchy. In the novel Far Rainbow (Dalekaia raduga, 1963), one encounters a new race of superhumans – the ‘lyudens’ (liudeny). The magic matriarchy of Pandora, which we find in The Snail on the Slope (Ulitka na sklone, 1966), develops in the opposite direction – towards technological retrogression, harmonization with the environment, and female power over the living and non-living nature. The only ones who can resist Pandora’s mermaids and their magic powers are ‘the chosen’, the lyudens, the shield of humankind.14 Boris Mezhuev, one of the leading conservative thinkers in Russia today, argues that the Strugatsky brothers feared the Pandora project’s success, mostly due to the ‘people’s inclination towards matriarchate’: The women of the future (whose magical abilities are described by the Strugatsky brothers in the style set by their teacher Ivan Efremov) possess certain higher magical powers that surpass the entire knowledge of technocratic civilization. They are able to control living and nonliving nature and even transform one into another. Apart from that, their power is determined by some psychological inclination towards this matriarchal state. All this makes the Noon [Universe] people powerless before the magic of the Forest. The second possible future entails victory by the ‘male’ civilisation of the Bureau. This is the techno-scientific path of development advanced by modernism, primarily through biotechnology and genetic engineering. The result of the eugenic research will be the new race, the elite of supermen, liudeny, which will be able to resist the magic of the mermaids from Pandora.15

So, in the neoconservative discourse, Pandora corresponds to the liberal doctrine that is characterized by the abolition of patriarchal values and the hierarchical structure of culture and education, an aggressive green movement, mass propaganda for the ideology of sustainability, democracy understood as ‘minority rights’, new gender policies, various neo-pagan movements and ethno-nationalism. Rainbow, in its turn, is associated with the technological and neo-modernist conservative national imperial idea. Most of the post-Soviet SF/alternative history writers tend to prefer the neo-/ metamodernist project of the Bureau as a symbol of Soviet technological modernity and an object of nostalgic desire. The clear signs of the metamodernist civilization of the Bureau can be seen in the Kremlin’s resistance to the anti-patriarchal manifestations of Western liberalism (the concept of a ‘Russian approach to human rights’, the recent legislation


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prejudicial to LGBT+ individuals and actions against NGOs). President Vladimir Putin in his Message to the Federal Assembly (1 March 2018) announced a new turnaround in civilization and a revolutionary programme for the country’s technological advancement: the creation of state-of-the-art nuclear weapons systems in Russia that would radically change the strategic balance of power on the planet. The Message demonstrated the rhetoric of ‘a breakthrough’ and a new ‘common cause’, as well as the mitigation of religious (female) emotionality, replaced by the technological (male) sublime. Another important metamodernist sign is the growing investment by Russian (and global) elites in the questions of longevity and immortality. The ideology of posthumanism and transhumanism entered the official rhetoric of modernization in the early 2000s.16 Transhumanist ideology was spread by the pro-Kremlin website and first Russian internet TV channel, which combined criticism of the opposition and legitimization of today’s political elite with reports about the prolongation of life for up to 100 years and victory over death. In April 2012 the UMA foundation (UMA is a Russian abbreviation for ‘Intelligence, Youth and Activity’ (Um, Molodost’, Aktivnost’)) was established in order to support young scientists, with the notorious ex-spy Anna Chapman its director. The first action of the foundation was a joint event with the Russian Academy of Science: a conference on the genetics of aging and life extension. It opened on 22 April 2012, Vladimir Lenin’s birthday. In February 2011 one of the main Russian media technologists, the millionaire Dmitry Itskov, CEO of the media group Newmedia Stars, who calls himself ‘a humble producer of immortality’, founded a sociopolitical movement, Russia 2045. The movement offers a ‘New Evolutionary Strategy for Mankind’. In 2012, the all-Russia political party Evolution 2045 was established and now has around 40,000 members. The party ideologist is the right-wing SF writer and ideologist Maksim Kalashnikov,17 who on 30 May 2012 told the newspaper Zavtra: We must combine space technology with working to achieve human immortality . . . This, in fact, is a reconstruction of the demolished Great Man and the Great Dream. If we can achieve immortality and expansion into Deep Space, advanced technologies on Earth and the resurrection of Man as such, we will overcome the consequences of the liberal dehumanization of the past 30 years, and the entire world will follow us.18

Several international celebrities, including the Dalai Lama, the futurologist Raymond Kurzweil, and Putin’s friend, actor Steven Seagal, support the movement and the party. Here are excerpts from Russia 2045’s manifesto:

Telluro-Cosmic Imperial Utopia and Contemporary Russian Art


We believe that the world needs a different ideological paradigm, which will compel us to formulate a higher goal and a new vector of development for all of mankind, effectuating a scientific and technological revolution. As one of its priorities, the new ideology must confirm the use of innovative technologies for the perfection of man himself, and not just his habitat . . . We believe that aging and death can and must be eliminated, that we can overcome the fundamental physical and psychological limits set by our biological bodies . . . The country which first proclaims the unification of these two technologies in order to create a working cybernetic mechanism will be the leader of the main technological project of modernity. This country must be Russia.19

Members of Russia 2045 wrote an open letter to the government proposing a new national idea: the conquest of death through cybernetic immortality. Specialists in the fields of interface design and artificial organs and systems asked the Russian president to support the ‘Avatar’ project, which planned to create an artificial human body. The Russia 2045 movement set a timeline for the project of creating posthumans: in 2015, the first avatar is predicted (an artificial copy of a human, controlled by thought through a neuro-interface); in 2020, an artificial body to which the human brain can be transplanted; in 2035, the transplantation of human consciousness into a fully artificial body; finally, in 2045, the creation of an immortal body/hologram with human consciousness. This ‘immortality’ project and its pro-Kremlin stance met with not-unexpected criticism from liberal media (cf. the internet meme ‘Putin Forever’ (Vechnyi Putin)). On 10 May 2012, Itskov wrote yet another open letter to re-elected President Putin, proposing to add the right to immortality to the Russian constitution: The Constitution of the Russian Federation (article 2, section 20) states the right of citizens to life. We believe that the Constitution has to be modified and the right to immortality has to be added. I am positive that our example will be followed by other developed countries and this symbolic step will advance the time when mass technology for immortality will be developed and realized.20

While the elites are trying to find a technology of immortality, the Russian people started a movement which is the most striking example of post-Soviet neo-cosmism. The Immortal Regiment procession (Bessmertnyi polk), initiated in 2012 by citizens of the Siberian city of Tomsk, is a collective ritual and a public act of remembrance dedicated to relatives who died in the


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Second World War and the Great Patriotic War. On 9 May 2017, almost 8 million people participated in the Immortal Regiment march during Victory Day in different part of Russia, carrying portraits of their ancestors. The procession can be read as a combination of Krestnyi khod (Procession of the Cross), with portraits of the dead instead of icons, and a Soviet parade with portraits of the party leaders. This new Victory Parade, when the dead march together with the living, manifests not only the victory over Nazi Germany, but also victory over time and death.

The Cosmos, cosmism and contemporary Russian art The contemporary interest of global elites in post- and transhumanism, which is to a great extent based on the philosophical intuitions of Nikolai Fedorov and Russian cosmism, coincides with the return of the ‘cosmic’ theme to the official cultural policy of Russia.21 The increasing interest in the theme of the cosmos in Russia during the last decade fits with the government’s rhetoric concerning the development of advanced technologies, which is evident, for example, in the extensive media coverage of the Mars-500 project as well as preparations for a manned mission to the moon, which is planned for 2029 (it is included in the Federal space programme of Russia for 2016–25), as well as in a string of events marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Soviet space program in 2011. Recent years have seen a sharp rise in interest in the subject of space both in the spheres of modern art, cinema and popular culture and at the level of state projects. Exhibitions devoted to the Russian cosmos – organized at a state level with the support of entities such as the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) and the Federal Museum and Exhibition Centre (ROSIZO), as well as private foundations – took place in Russia and Europe. These included Le Cosmos Russe/ The Russian Cosmos (Turin, 2011–12);22 Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age (London), and its continuation in Moscow, Cosmos: Birth of the New Era (10 June 2016–10 January 2017); and Russian Space (Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, 18 May–18 November 2016, curator Olga Sviblova). In Russian contemporary art the ideas of cosmism have been addressed from the 1970s–1980s by the Moscow conceptualist movement (Ilya Kabakov, Boris Groys and Andrei Monastyrski with the Collective Actions Group). Ilya Kabakov is highly critical of cosmism as one of the main ideological sources of the Soviet project: the most famous example of this criticism is his installation The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment from 1988. Theoretical interpretation of Nikolai Fedorov’s ideas, primarily his notion of a museum as a machine for immortality and a factory of resurrection, has been suggested by Boris Groys.23 Among currently important artists who share

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Boris Groys’s interest in cosmism with due account for Kabakov’s critical distance, one ought to mention Anton Vidokle, an artist and an e-flux editor, as well as Arsenii Zhiliaev, also an artist and curator. Vidokle recently made a trilogy about Russian cosmism. The first film, This Is Cosmos (Eto kosmos) (2014), is an introduction to cosmism, while the second film, The Communist Revolution Was Caused By the Sun (Kommunisticheskaia revolutsiia byla vyzvana Solntsem) (2015), is based on the work and ideas of biophysicist Aleksandr Chizhevsky. The third film, Immortality and Resurrection for All (Bessmertie i voskreshenie dlia vsekh) (2017) revolves around Fedorov and his philosophy of museums as factories of anti-progress, the sites for resurrecting the past. In the summer of 2015, Vidokle together with Groys arranged at the Garage Museum an exhibition and seminars that were timed to coincide with the release of the Russian Cosmism anthology edited by Groys.24 The creative activities of Arsenii Zhiliaev are also of interest, specifically his latest installation projects Cradle of Humankind (Kolybel’ chelovechestva) (2015), Tsiolkovskii: Second Advent (Tsiolkovskii: Vtorye prishestvia) (2016) and The Return (Vozvrashchenie) (2017), which represent the post-utopian vision of the heritage left by Soviet modernism and Fedorov’s teachings.25 The ideas of Russian cosmism as a philosophical and political doctrine were addressed long before Vidokle and Zhiliaev, as far back as the early 1990s, by artists from Timur Novikov’s (1954–2002) circle. Unlike Kabakov, who deconstructed the Soviet space project from the viewpoint of humanism and who showed the disappearance of a human amid this limitless utopia, Novikov suggested a different strategy, namely a ‘merry remix’ (veselaia perekompozitsia) of the Soviet space project’s aesthetics but with the preservation of the utopian and romantic impulse and technological optimism of the latter. The first such remix was the celebrated Gagarin Party, which took place on 14 December 1991 and, thus, brought with it the birth of the Russian techno, rave and clubbing culture of the 1990s. The party was held in the Cosmos pavilion at Moscow’s VDNKh, and Artemy Troitsky, a famous Russian music critic and one of the organizers, notes: It must be said that Gagarin Party was an epoch-making event. No other event, neither before it nor after, stands comparison with it. The same sense of novelty, of freedom and of a step into a new reality has never occurred before. It was a complete new history . . . The psychedelic part was vitally important, since from the very beginning it was ideologically tied up in ecstasy.26

About a thousand people attended the first Gagarin Party, while Soviet cosmonauts Georgii Grechko and Valentina Tereshkova were present as


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

honorary guests. Timur Novikov and the artists from the countercultural queer art community the New Academy of Fine Arts (Novaia Academiia Iziashchnykh Iskusstv), which he had only recently established (1989), created posters and ran an exhibition devoted to the cosmos (Novikov 1996). Later the cosmos as a metaphor for all things ‘young, new and beautiful’, and a place of unconditional opportunities, became, alongside antiquity and classical art, the fundamental myth of the New Academy and of the whole radical-conservative trend in post-Soviet culture, the so called conservative avant-garde27 The main artistic device of the New Academists from then on was the synthesis of the three elements that the Gagarin Party showed: the combination of the Soviet romantic and industrial aesthetics with rave (or some other types of transgression) and neoclassical architecture. The colour blue became the defining sign of neo-academic art, not just as the colour of the sublime – ice and space, snow-covered expanses – but also as the colour of rave parties and of the ‘universality’/the globality of that radically new futuristic Russian culture, which differed both from the Soviet and the dissident ones (e.g., works by Andrei Medvedev (1959–2010) from the 1990s, as well as the more recent art by Doping Pong and Aleksei Chizhov). Rave culture died in the early 2000s, and the focus was transferred from the individual transgression to the collective political imaginary. A number of interesting projects emerged, which developed the imperial constituent of Fedorov’s doctrine of elimination of time and victory over death. Boris Groys, in his essay ‘Russian cosmism: biopolitics of immortality’, characterized Fedorov’s ‘common cause’ project as a project of total biopower: The state can no longer allow its people [to] die a natural death and let the dead rest in peace in their graves. The state has to overcome the limits set by death. Bio-power must become total. Such totality can be achieved only by levelling art and politics, life and technology, state and museum. To . . . erase the border between life and death one needs not to implement art in life but rather museumificate life radically.28

Artists from Timur Novikov’s circle such as Aleksei Beliaev-Gintovt, Aleksei Morozov, Mikhail Rozanov, Anton Chumak and others presented in the 2000s politically-charged projects that visualized the image of the future Russia as a telluro-cosmic empire that had resurrected classical European art and achieved the absolute museumification of life. Virtually all members of that community applied the principles of renewing the museum, of resurrection and of historical memory. Neo-industrial classicism became the dominant style for visualizing the ideas of this ‘conservative revolution’. This world of conservative utopia was masculine, sterile, mechanistic and austere.

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The language of classical figurativeness, rejected after the Second World War as ‘potentially totalitarian’, was used to visualize the alternative, global future project. Many of the works referred to the rich tradition of visionary architecture as the art of utopia – surrealist projects of the era of classicism – primarily, the visionary ideas and megalomania of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78), Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728–99), Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736–1806) and Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826), as well as Soviet visionary neoclassicism. Post-Soviet industrial neoclassicists visualized the aesthetic utopia of the new cosmic order as an alternative to the chaos of neoliberal globalism, which, in their opinion, had set us back to the ‘new Middle Ages’ with its ethnic nationalism, fragmentation, irrationality and uncontrollable emotionality.29 One of the first and most famous visions of the imaginary capital of a sacred future agro-cosmic empire is the project New Novosibirsk (Novonovosibirsk), produced by the leading neoconservative artist Aleksei Beliaev-Gintovt (b. 1965) in collaboration with Andrei Molodkin and Gleb Kosorukov. Together they formed the F.S.B. group, or the Front for Peaceful Prosperity (Front Spokoinogo Blagodenstviia). The frightening militarization of Novonovosibirsk, the capital of the new Hyperborea, is a sham. The weapon on Apollo’s back is designed exclusively for regulating nature. Beliaev-Gintovt notes: The rockets launched from the ‘quiver’ of the Greek god have a profoundly peaceful purpose – they allow residents to regulate the meteorological conditions in their megalopolis. In general, the ability to influence the climate and the environment as a whole is a prerequisite for the flourishing of an agrarian-cosmic state, the capital of which must be Novonovosibirsk.30

Beliaev-Gintovt literally follows the ideas of Russian and Soviet cosmists by creating images of a new physicality in his project Cosmoparade, or The Victory Parade 2937 (2010). Russian cosmists and their contemporary followers share the alchemists’ dream of the interpenetration of man and nature, nature and technology, and man and technology. The transfiguration of man’s physical nature has become one of the main tasks of cosmism. According to Nikolai Fedorov, technologization represents only a temporary stage in the development of science. Man must turn away from technological inventions to the transformation of his own organs, of his own body. Man must invest all his energy, not in artificial attachments to his organs, but in the organs themselves, to their improvement, development and radical transformation in order to support life in a variety of environments. In


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Cosmoparade, or The Victory Parade 2937, this dream of uniting nature and technology is given its most obvious incarnation in the Eurasian army of sun-drenched super-soldiers, Stalin’s Falcons, raised from the dead in fish scales and feathers. This agro-cosmic miracle army can operate in any environment, armed with weapons in the shape of wheat stalks.31 The motif of the unification of neoclassicism, natural resources and cosmism is fully implemented in Anton Chumak’s project Borders (Granitsy) from 2015. Anton Chumak (b. 1980), a St Petersburg artist, blacksmith and curator, is one of the founders of the New Aesthetics (Novaia Estetika) movement, which can be seen as a sequel to Timur Novikov’s New Academy. His project Borders is presented on the Novorossiia website Window to Donbass (Okno v Donbass). Here the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the ‘extraction economy’ (ekonomika nedr) linked to it are described by means of the archeofuturistic language that makes a reference both to the neoclassicism of the 1920s–1930s, the avant-garde architectural utopias of the Russian Piranesi Iakov Chernikhov (1889–1951) and Nikolai Fedorov’s ideas. The artist uses the term ‘tellurio-cosmic’ (telluro-kosmicheskaia) civilization, emphasizing both national identity and the global, universal context. The term ‘telluric’ was introduced to the current Russian political lexicon in the early 1990s by Aleksandr Dugin, who cites Carl Schmitt’s Theory of the Partisan (1963).32 In Russian radical-conservative circles, the term is widely used not only to signify locality, sovereignty and the ‘soilbound’ tradition, but also as a synonym for a defensive rather than an invasive war. The project is devoted to the trauma of new borders and to the dream of a new revival. Chumak writes: While driving past Mariupol I saw the plants, far off in the distance, in the heat haze. They reminded me of half magic castles, half intergalactic space ports that have grown in the steppes. I imagined that for a moment I saw the Soviet utopia when a plant was a cathedral, and labour was the cult . . . And, most importantly, I realised that not all was lost in the bloodbath of the 90s. That much was preserved and what perished can be created anew. I believed again in the possibility of a new revival and a new ‘big project’ in the post-Soviet space and in the world as a whole. All my art since that day has been an attempt at romantic visualisation of that project and the search for its new fundamentals that are faced into the future.33

The artist examines the metaphysics of Donbass as the most tellurium-rich region of the former united motherland and presents images of its mythological landscape. Chumak’s graphic art (see Figure 3.1) can be seen as

Telluro-Cosmic Imperial Utopia and Contemporary Russian Art


Figure 3.1 Anton Chumak, New Earth, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

a visual comment on Prokhanov’s organic technicism and his neo-Soviet industrial utopia of Novorossiia and the ‘Fifth Empire’: This state has a powerful technosphere, inherited from the Soviet times: the grand factories that build rockets and airplanes, turbines for nuclear power plants, elements of the spacecraft . . . [Novorossiia] combines a technocratic cosmism with mystery of the origin of the human race.34

The reference to the works by Aleksandr Prokhanov can be also found in the art of the neo-academic Plumbum-Cobalt Society (Tovarishchestvo Svinets i kobal’t), formed by the artists Sergei Sonin (b. 1968) and Elena Samorodova (b. 1970). In their project The Strategic Heritage (Strategicheskoe nasledstvo), which was filmed in the production halls of the legendary industrial complex Energomash, the anthropomorphic images of the rocket engine represent an attempt to synthesize organics and mechanics. This ‘soil-boundness’, partisan war for sovereignty, the metaphors for which are the ‘gifts of the earth’ – oil, coal, gas, fresh water – is proposed by


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

present-day Russian conservatives as an alternative to post-industrial globalism. The mineral resources economy, agrarian autochthony combined with the neo-Soviet industrial romanticism and the artistic language of the neoclassics is yet another attempt to see the future by returning to the modernization processes of the 1920s and 1930s. The synthesis of the telluric and cosmic narratives, organicism and industrialism can be treated as visualizations of the ideas of Ernst Jünger (1895–1998), according to which the worker is not only the master of technology but also the ‘Son of the Earth’. Jünger contemplates the possibility of bridging the gap between the rational and mythological perception of the world in his post-war works The Forest Passage (1951) and At the Wall of Time (1959). Many neoconservative artists demonstrate an interest in ‘bewitching the technique’, in the mythological perception of technology being part of nature. For instance, the video project The Hunting Fragment: The Russian Stereo (Okhotnichii fragment: Russkoe stereo) (2016) by the Plumbum-Cobalt Society tells the story of the meeting of Apollo and Artemis in the woods of the Fifth Empire: space rockets and capsules coexist with birch colonnades and spruce porticoes (see Figure 3.2), reminiscent of the Russian Palladianism of Nikolai Lvov (1751–1803). The spaces of new geopolitical utopia need their heroes, both superhuman, posthuman and human. Beside the ancient gods and transhuman creatures, the depictions of Gagarin are especially popular within neoconservative art

Figure 3.2 The Plumbum-Cobalt Society. Still from video installation The Hunting Fragment: The Russian Stereo, 2016. Courtesy of the artists.

Telluro-Cosmic Imperial Utopia and Contemporary Russian Art


communities. Each national idea requires a pantheon of heroes and saints, and nowadays in Russia, we witness an active search for a national symbol that would bring together and mobilize diverse and currently strongly polarized social groups. It is with increasing frequency that one reads and hears Gagarin’s name in that context. For instance, in Ogonek magazine of April 2007 we read the following: It is hard to find another character in our history who would be accepted by everyone. Gagarin’s flight into space is the most humane occasion in Soviet history, and this voyage can become the basis for the historical continuity between the Soviet Union and the new Russia . . . The only exclusive trait that remains in Russia’s image is the ability to lift oneself over the mundane. To take the first step into infinity. Gagarin’s flight is the symbol of that. Gagarin is the symbol for professionalism but not the bureaucratic kind spread in offices but the creative and thinking professionalism, which is associated with risk and romanticism. Russia is the country of Gagarins, of dreamers who go the extra mile. This is how one could formulate the main thesis of the new ideology.35

A distinct current trend is to unify the Orthodox Church, Stalin and Gagarin in the same myth.36 In plenty of factual books, fiction and the new iconography, which primarily spreads online, the heights of Soviet history (victory in the Second World War, technical modernization and the space project) are blended with Orthodoxy. There are discussions of new icons picturing Stalin, demands to canonize Marshal Georgii Zhukov (the most notable Soviet strategist during the Second World War) and writings of apocrypha devoted to Yuri Gagarin. A source of inspiration for those artists and ideologists who would like to unify Orthodox mysticism and Soviet space discourse as well as canonize Gagarin is a noteworthy late Soviet picture book (a set of sixteen postcards) dedicated to Yuri Gagarin entitled The Son of Russia (Syn Rossii, 1987) by the artists Boris and Valeria Kukuliev. In a row of stylized colourful pictures, we see an interesting hybrid of folk tales, iconographic motifs and praise for Soviet technological wonder. Gagarin reminds us of the Prophet Elias who drives into heaven in a fiery chariot while other cosmonauts levitate in space like angels. The Soviet space project is presented here as an organic part of Russian folklore and Orthodox tradition. So far, it is the conservative and populist groups that pursue the issue, but the tendency for the popular canonization of Gagarin is evident. Reconciliation with the Soviet past brings the Church greater support and constituency than negation of the Soviet past and emphasis on its sufferings during this period.


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Conclusion The boundlessness of the Russian character and the ‘thirst for risk’, symbolized by Gagarin and the cosmos, have yet another side to them, which is highlighted by Boris Groys in his discussion about national identity and consumption. According to Groys, the need for a national idea arises when a country faces a marketing problem. Russian philosophers and writers who in the early nineteenth century were the first to address the issue of formulating the meaning of Russia did so in the context of long residence in Europe and, therefore, approached the task of representing their country, of formulating Russia’s peculiarity, in accordance with Romanticism’s demand for originality. But what they ‘discovered’ as genuinely Russian was not genuine,37 but rather ahistorical, consuming the distinctive traits of others in an especially radical way. Groys writes: What is the Russian soul as Dostoevsky describes it? This is a soul that reacts to everything, accepts everything but despite this finds everything insufficient. Its mood constantly changes, it is wasteful and intemperate but, simultaneously, generous, kind and dreamy. In other words, the Russian soul is the perfect consumer soul.38

Present-day Russia is the ultimate consumerist society, where religion and heroic utopianism is yet another commodity to be marketed and sold. In today’s Russia, Gagarin is not simply an icon or a romantic hero, but a highly demanded market tool, who can sell the populist conservative ideological package needed to build the neoliberal Russia. As the research of Aleksandr Bikbov (2016) and Ilya Budraitskis (2017) shows,39 neoconservatism and neoliberalism do not contradict each other in Russia, but constitute a new ideological hybrid. The anti-anti-utopian narratives developed by the conservative avant-garde as a critique of the new post-socialist order are becoming today a consumable commodity for the masses and an important segment of the global entertainment economy. The ruins of the Soviet space utopia are being restored as profitable cultural and political products, as branded and consumable goods (state sponsored exhibitions, blockbusters about Soviet space heroes, the restoration of the Stalinist VDNKh as a theme park with a slide complex called ‘Raketa’, etc.). Ensuring the success of the new military and space projects among broad sectors of the population of the Russian Federation, the neoliberal turn to conservative utopia successfully capitalizes on the Russian radical messianic traditions and the Soviet civilizational model. The new metamodernist ideology satisfies utopian (noncommercial) desire by offering a highly profitable entertainment and selling a

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collective dream without demanding what utopias usually demand – collective actions and human sacrifice.

Notes 1 Boris Groys, Avantgardet och samlingens logik (Stockholm: Site Editions, 2012), p. 250. Translation from the Swedish is mine (M.E.). 2 The concept of the ‘new Middle Ages’ was developed by a number of Russian thinkers including Nikolai Berdyaev, who penned the eponymous essay ‘The New Middle Ages’ (1924). However, the concept’s breakthrough came after the publication of the famous essay ‘The Coming Dark Age’ (1973) by Roberto Vacca, written amidst the oil crisis of that year. It has become the conceptual source for a number of cinematic masterpieces of the post-apocalyptic genre. The popularity of the concept of the ‘new Middle Ages’ has been strongly influenced by Umberto Eco’s bestseller The Name of the Rose (1980) and his theoretical treatise Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages (1994). 3 See Katerina Klark, ‘Imperskoe vozvyshennoe v sovetskoi kul’ture vtoroi poloviny 1930–kh godov’, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 95 (2009): 58–80, and Katerina Clark, Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931–1941 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011). 4 On ‘Russia’s conservative turn’, which occurred in 2012 when Vladimir Putin was re-elected as Russia’s president, see Maria Engström, ‘Contemporary Russian Messianism and New Russian Foreign Policy’, Contemporary Security Policy 35, no. 3 (2014): 356–79. 5 Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, ‘What is Metamodernism’, Notes on Metamodernism, 15 July 2010. 6 On metamodernism in contemporary global politics and culture, see Hanzi Freinacht, ‘Metamodern Art, Culture and Politics’, Metamoderna, 11 January 2015, and Seth Abramson, ‘Ten Basic Principles of Metamodernism’, Huffington Post, 27 April 2015. 7 See Marlène Laruelle, ‘The Izborsky Club, or the New Conservative Avant-Garde in Russia’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (2016): 626–44. 8 For more on Prokhanov, see Chapter 12 by Edith Clowes. 9 Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Gagarin – russkaia ikona’, Zavtra, 6 April 2011. 10 See Engström, ‘Contemporary Russian Messianism’. 11 On Nikolai Fedorov and Russian Cosmism, see Michael Hagemeister, ‘Russian Cosmism in the 1920s and Today’, in Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (ed.), The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 185–202; George M. Young, The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and his Followers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).


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12 Ivan Okhlobystin, ‘Doktrina 77’, Pravoslavie i mir, 13 September 2011. 13 For more on conservative SF’s take on the Strugatsky brothers, see Chapter 5 by Mikhail Suslov. 14 Those technocratic and patriarchal powers have various names and shapes in Strugatsky’s novels. For instance, in Disquiet from 1990 (Беспокойство, the initial version of Snail on the Slope / Улитка на склоне, 1965) we meet ‘thieves’, malformed humans covered with scales. Thanks to their complete freedom, the ‘thieves’ are the only ones who can resist the totalitarian force of the Forest’s eco-sisterhood. 15 Boris Mezhuev, ‘The Secret of the “Noon Universe” ’, Gefter, 28 November 2012. 16 Konstantin Frumkin, ‘Bessmertie: strannaia tema russkoi kultury’, Novyi mir 4 (2012). 17 Maksim Kalashnikov (a pseudonym used by Vladimir Kucherenko, b. 1961) is one the leading conservative journalists in contemporary Russia and the ideologist of a neo-Soviet Empire. He is the author of several utopian works, e.g. The Broken Sword of the Empire (1998) and Towards the USSR 2.0 (2003). 18 Maksim Kalashnikov, ‘Kosmicheskii smysl rysskoi istorii’, Zavtra, 30 May 2012. 19 ‘Manifest strategicheskogo obshchestvennogo dvizhenia “Rossia 2045” ’. 20 Dmitry Itskov, ‘U nas est’ shans izmenit’ khod istorii vsego chelovechestva. Otkrytoe pis’mo prezidentu Rossii V.V. Putinu’, Rossia 2045, 10 May 2012. 21 On the space narrative in Soviet popular culture, see Andrew Thomas, Kul’tura kosmosa: The Russian Popular Culture of Space Exploration (Boca Raton, FL:, 2011); James T. Andrews and Asif A. Siddiqi (eds), Into the Cosmos: Space Exploration and Soviet Culture (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). 22 The exhibition was organized as part of the Year of Italian Culture in Russia and Russian Culture in Italy, and was timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the first manned flight into space. The exhibition was planned as a dialogue between Russian philosophers, scholars and scientists of the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, and artists of the early twentyfirst century. 23 Boris Groys, ‘Russkii kosmism: biopolitika bessmertia’, in Russkii kosmism: Antologiia (Moscow: Ad Marginem Press, 2015), pp. 6–29. 24 See Furkat Palvanzade, ‘Fabriki po voskresheniiu: Anton Vidokle i Arsenii Zhiliaev o russkom kosmizme’,, 5 April 2016; Arsenii Zhiliaev, ‘Factories of Resurrection: Interview with Anton Vidokle’, e-flux 71 (2016). 25 See the Arsenii Zhiliaev official website: 26 Artemy Troitsky cited on the blog 44100Hz, Electronic music in Russia. 27 See Maria Engström, ‘Apollo against Black Square: Conservative Futurism in Contemporary Russia’, in Günter Berghaus (ed.), International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, vol. 6 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016), pp. 328–53.

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28 Groys, ‘Russkii kosmism: biopolitika bessmertia’, pp. 13–14. 29 The same metaphor of order and rationality is a constant in Putin’s rhetoric, which has gradually led to the formation of appropriate conservative state aesthetics. See Maria Engström, ‘The New Russian Renaissance’, Intersection: Russia/Europe/World, 4 April 2017. 30 Beliaev-Gintovt cited in Marina Oblacheva, ‘Novonovosibirsk’, Doktrina. Aleksei Beliaev-Gintovt’s official site (2001). 31 For detailed analysis of Beliaev-Gintovt’s work, see Maria Engström, ‘Neo-cosmism, Empire, and Contemporary Russian Art: Aleksei BeliaevGintovt’, in Vlad Strukov and Helena Goscilo (eds), Russian Aviation, Space Flight and Visual Culture (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), pp. 135–65. 32 The term ‘telluric’ got a wider recognition in Russia after Vladimir Sorokin’s novel Telluria (2013) was published. See Chapter 14 by Mark Lipovetsky. 33 Anton Chumak, ‘Granitsy’, Okno v Donbass, 24 October 2015. 34 Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Novorossiia – rozhdennaya v ogne’, Izvestia, 12 May 2014. 35 Andrei Arkhangelskii, ‘Zachem nam Gagarin?’, Ogonek, 15 April 2007. 36 See Per-Arne Bodin, Language, Canonization and Holy Foolishness: Studies in Postsoviet Russian Culture and the Orthodox Tradition (Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2009). 37 ‘The absolute peculiarity of Russia is having absolutely nothing that is peculiar’; Groys, Avantgardet och samlingens logik, p. 254. 38 Groys, Avantgardet och samlingens logik, p. 254. 39 Aleksandr Bikbov, ‘Iz entsiklopedii muzei prevrashchaetsia v prezentatsionnuiu ploshchadku’, Colta, 23 March 2016; Ilya Budraitskis, ‘Contradictions in Russian Cultural Politics: Conservatism as an Instrument of Neoliberalism’, Lefteast, 12 September 2017.



Lazarus on the Ark: Heterotopias in the Novels of Vladimir Sharov and Evgenii Vodolazkin Muireann Maguire

Introduction Although written more than twenty years apart, Vladimir Sharov’s novel Before and During (Do i vo vremia, 1993) and Evgenii Vodolazkin’s The Aviator (Aviator, 2016) invite mutual comparison on a multitude of levels. Both plots pertain to the late- and post-Soviet genre of fantastic realism often called ‘magical historicism’;1 both authors survey twentiethcentury history with emphasis upon the roots of revolution and terror in Russia; and their writings share key themes, including the resurrection of the body, the miraculous prolongation of life, and the nature of memory and memorialization. Each novel flirts with that long-running sub-genre of Russian literature, the hospital ward novel (or novella); and, on a formal level, they both exploit embedded narratives, multiple narrators and open endings. While neither plot belongs squarely in the canon of Russian utopian/dystopian fiction, both are intertextual with it. By revisiting themes of human perfectibility and spiritual redemption from an ironic, post-utopian perspective, these novels weigh the costs of cultural hubris and historical discontinuity. Utopias and dystopias typically present a warning against (or, equally, a plea for) radical change. By allegorizing the traumatic effects and ultimate futility of such transformations, Sharov and Vodolazkin create alternative visions that are heterotopian rather than utopian. Heterotopian fiction does not create ideal worlds; rather, it encourages us to challenge the recent past and immediate present of the world we actually inhabit. This chapter will use the concept of heterotopia, as expressed by Foucault, to explore how Sharov’s novels (including Before and During and its precursor The Rehearsals (Repetitsii, 1990)) and Vodolazkin’s The Aviator bear witness to historical trauma, while opening new perspectives on the present. 81


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Heterotopia: an ‘effectively enacted utopia’ The story worlds of Before and During and The Aviator are clearly remote from utopia (eu-topia), where this term is defined as a portrait of ideal civilization.2 Aspects of both novels are unambiguously dystopian, especially their depiction of Soviet psychiatric wards and Stalin-era Gulags, respectively. Nor are they set, despite grotesque and fantastic elements, in an unreality so extreme that it qualifies as u-topia (nowhere); each narrative unfolds in a recognizable, and indeed almost contemporary, version of urban Russia. Vodolazkin’s The Aviator opens in early 1999 in the ward of an élite medical clinic near St Petersburg; subsequent action transpires in that city and, briefly, in Munich. Sharov’s narrator vividly recreates the physical experience of traversing outer Moscow in October 1965: From the metro I followed a diagonal path, as instructed, across wasteland and unfenced building sites; the path was well-used and the previous night’s snowfall so well-trodden that here and there it had turned to ice. You couldn’t imagine anyone living here: foundation pits and uneven piles of concrete slabs immediately gave way to vegetable depots, garages, warehouses. The once navigable Yauza flowed nearby, the railway line passed right through . . .3

Although the plotline of Before and During will subsequently diverge into less familiar settings (like Germaine de Staël’s estate near Tambov, or the uncanny dementia ward where the narrator is soon confined), its framing narrative is here firmly established in a simultaneously familiar and banal urban location. Similarly in The Aviator, Vodolazkin’s narrator-protagonist is re-established in the same St Petersburg apartment which he occupied after 1918. His description of it also emphasizes sensory details: I walked from room to room. Everything was completely different – the floors, the doors, the window-frames. Even the old furniture, specially purchased prior to my installation, was different. I turned on the kitchen tap: the sound of the water was entirely different. In the ’20s, the tapwater had drummed loudly on the iron basin; now it no longer drummed. Nor was the basin made of iron. Only the area of the rooms remained the same as before, and I couldn’t even be quite sure of that.4

Yet the reader should not be lulled by this vivid ordinariness. Soon, in both novels, the fantastic erupts into the mundane. Alyosha, the narrator of Before and During, admits himself to a psychiatric clinic-cum-dementia ward in a

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dilapidated Moscow hospital where he joins a posse of absurdly anachronistic inmates, from Nikolai Semenovich Ifraimov – the superannuated survivor of a Soviet institution for geniuses – to Nikolai Fedorov, the eccentric theorist of material resurrection, and Fedorov’s lover Madame de Staël, the author and intellectual. Guided by Ifraimov, Alyosha embarks on a project to earn back God’s love by recording the memories of senile fellow inmates in a Memorial Book modelled conceptually on the inventory of his victims made by a repentant Ivan the Terrible on his deathbed.5 The Aviator’s narrator, Innokentii Platonov, emerges in Dr Geiger’s private clinic from an extended coma. As his memory gradually returns, he learns that he is the only survivor of a series of secret experiments, commissioned by Stalin, which involved cryofreezing live prisoners in order to explore the limits of human lifespan. Revived and scrupulously nurtured by Geiger, Platonov reconstitutes his old life as fully as possible in late Yeltsin-era Russia, even beginning a relationship with Nastia, the granddaughter, namesake and lookalike of his former fiancée. Geiger instructs Innokentii to keep a diary, hoping that self-writing will restore his sense of identity. Like Sharov’s Memorial Book, Innokentii’s diary soon expands far beyond his individual experience. Wherever possible, he tries to re-embody the past as tangible matter, whether by meeting his few living acquaintances (including an intransigently vicious camp commander), by tracing in archives the written records of his own life and of those linked to it, or even by exhuming an old friend’s body from a graveyard. Neither Alyosha’s Memorial Book, nor Innokentii’s literalization of memory, heralds a happy conclusion. Alyosha’s God remains silent; and oblivion, briefly denied its prey, soon begins erasing both Innokentii’s memory and Innokentii himself. By describing the collapse or failure of previous utopian models – the secret school for geniuses, the cryogenics clinic, the Soviet social and political experiment – both novels uncompromisingly debunk the very notion of utopia. This position is typical of Russian postmodernist authors: Bodin speculates that ‘[a]fter the Soviet experience it is perhaps not possible to produce a utopia on the basis of Russian societal material . . . Perhaps utopias are in general a dead genre, hence the satire, irony, and grotesque that characterizes them all.’6 Epshtein has coined the term ‘ambi-utopia’ to describe the ‘controversial’ utopian prose of writers like Andrei Platonov and others, whose imagination splices optimistic visions with ‘horrifying images of human degradation and atrocity’.7 Following Epshtein, Bashkatova classifies as ‘ambiutopias’ the various Soviet futures described in Vladimir Sorokin’s Telluria (Telluria, 2013),8 Viktor Pelevin’s S.N.U.F.F. (2011) and even Vodolazkin’s Laurus (Lavr, 2014), a fable of virtue and degradation set in medieval Russia. Yet Before and During and The Aviator cannot be classed as ambi-utopias; they


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offer neither unambiguously good characters, nor utopian communities to offset the misery they portray. Both narratives are intrinsically postlapsarian. There is, however, a third literary concept, the heterotopia, often applied to readings of postmodern and speculative fictions. It offers ‘a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted’.9 The essential reality of heterotopias, coupled with the simultaneity of different places and times within one location, invites an informed consciousness and a facility for diachronic thought that would appeal to academic historians. Sharov and Vodolazkin are both specialists in Russian history (Sharov’s doctorate was on the historiography of the reign of Ivan IV and the Time of Troubles; Vodolazkin is a medievalist, whose academic career was inspired by his mentor, the Gulag survivor and academician Dmitry Likhachev). The remainder of this chapter will discuss how the concept of heterotopia facilitates interpretation of Before and During and The Aviator. Foucault left two definitions of heterotopia: a simple, primarily linguistic one, in his preface to The Order of Things (1966), and a more involved, six-part elaboration of the concept, originally delivered in a 1967 lecture (published only in 1984). In the preface, Foucault suggested that the perfection (albeit unreal and unattainable) suggested by utopias ‘afford[s] consolation’ to the reader; heterotopia, on the other hand, is profoundly disturbing because the incongruity of its attributes, inhabitants or properties is so extreme that the reader’s imagination fails to ‘define a common locus beneath them all’ (original italics).10 Where imagination fails, language also hesitates: this is why Foucault insists that ‘heterotopias (such as those to be found so often in Borges) desiccate speech, stop words in their tracks, contest the very possibility of grammar at its source; they dissolve our myths and sterilize the lyricism of our sentences’.11 This exhaustion of language also recalls the symptoms of aphasia; sufferers struggle vainly to arrange objects in coherent patterns or articulate understandable words. I quote this passage at length since this definition of heterotopia will be relevant to Sharov’s and Vodolazkin’s thematic of intellectual degeneration: But no sooner have they [the patterns] been adumbrated than all these groupings dissolve again, for the field of identity that sustains them, however limited it may be, is still too wide not to be unstable; and so the sick mind continues to infinity, creating groups then dispersing them again, heaping up diverse similarities, destroying those that seem clearest, splitting up things that are identical, superimposing different criteria, frenziedly beginning all over again, becoming more and more disturbed, and teetering finally on the brink of anxiety.12

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As we will see, this passage more or less scripts the cognitive decline of both Sharov’s narrator and Vodolazkin’s hero. A year later, in his 1967 lecture, Foucault’s own adumbration of heterotopia had become much more positive – and more complicated. He now emphasized that heterotopias currently exist in the real world, proposing numerous examples: notably, brothels, colonies and ships. No heterotopia could instantiate a single reality, or ‘site’; it simultaneously realized all possible sites. This was why heterotopias could ‘represent, contest, and invert’ cultural artefacts and values. From this central definition of heterotopia as a site of collision and superimposition, Foucault evolved six descriptive principles, which I will list briefly here. The first of these was typological: the use, in ‘socalled primitive societies’, of ‘crisis heterotopias’ to contain individuals undergoing some transformative experience (such as menstruation, puberty or parturition).13 Foucault speculates that the boarding school was, in its prime, a modern manifestation of this kind of heterotopia, since it isolated adolescent males during a transitional stage of their lives. Today, however, crisis heterotopias are disappearing, to be replaced by ‘heterotopias of deviation’, permanent or temporary sites of containment for individuals considered deviant from the social norm. This category ranges from the incontinent old to the disobedient young. Foucault’s second principle is that a single heterotopia may change its function with time and alterations in social expectations. Thirdly, a heterotopia may juxtapose in one place ‘several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible’ (this definition includes theatres, cinemas and even gardens – any site that can successively represent different settings).14 Fourthly, heterotopias may disrupt the flow of time by superimposing multiple ‘slices of time’ onto the awareness of a single individual (heterochrony), creating a sense of ‘quasi-eternity in which [that individual’s] permanent lot is dissolution and disappearance’.15 (This seems to hark back to Foucault’s original definition of heterotopias as destructive and aphasic.) A fifth quality of heterotopias is their simultaneous capacity to include and exclude; entrance is selective, and sometimes only initiates are allowed to enter. Finally, and particularly importantly for fictional heterotopias, they reflect (possibly by embodying the opposite) some aspect of the real world. They may compensate for external deficiencies by emphasizing their own small-scale perfection. This list offers multiple convergences with Sharov’s and Vodolazkin’s fiction, and the remainder of this chapter will focus on their novels in relation to two of its aspects: heterotopias of crisis and deviation, and heterochrony. Sharov’s second novel, The Rehearsals, introduced themes which he revisited in Before and During. To a greater degree than its successor, this novel functions as a case study of heterotopia. The Rehearsals’ frame narrator, a


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contemporary historian, purchases a collection of original Old Believer manuscripts, which turn out to be a diary (written in Breton) by a travelling player called Jacques de Sertain, who drifted into Russia by way of Poland in the mid-1600s. Patriarch Nikon invited de Sertain to his monastery at New Jerusalem to direct a mystery play, a mass re-enactment of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. While Christ’s role went unfilled (instead, the actors responded intuitively to the empty space where Christ would be), a mixture of monks, local peasants and converted Jews were cast as the Apostles, Jews and Romans. After steadily overcoming almost insuperable obstacles – de Sertain’s initial lack of Russian, the monks’ and peasants’ distrust of foreigners, the Orthodox ban on theatrical spectacles, the absence of trained actors, and de Sertain’s own homesickness and distrust of Nikon – the play was almost fully rehearsed when, in 1666, the Patriarch was abruptly demoted and exiled. De Sertain and his troupe of actors, after dedicating their lives for years to the play, were imprisoned for heresy and eventually banished to Siberia. On finally reaching their designated place of exile, the actors decided to maintain the rehearsals indefinitely by living permanently in character, and even passing on their roles to their children. The group divides into mutually congenial, ethnically distinct tribes – Christians, Jews and Romans – with the Twelve Apostles acting as village elders. Soon the actors resettle in an even more remote location, encircled by bog, where they found a new village, Mshanniki. The play continues to be rehearsed, but never performed, for over two centuries until the Russian Civil War. This community, defined by and coterminous with its miraculous play, is clearly a heterotopia in all the senses of Foucault’s definition. It was first conceived and rehearsed in the monastic site known as New Jerusalem – itself a heterotopia because of Nikon’s attempt to transform Russian provincial geography into the sacral space of the Holy Land, and because as a monastic settlement it acts as a heterotopia of crisis. As the players travel from New Jerusalem to their eventual home in Mshanniki, they inhabit their own heterotopia; wherever they dwell, they superimpose the biblical topography of Jerusalem onto reality. The settlement of Mshanniki is also, in official perception, a heterotopia of deviation (as a prison camp for exiles) which alters its function over time, as external society changes. Although formed as a place of exile for Nikon’s religious apostates, it later becomes a sectarian community of farmers and hunters, and finally (in Soviet times) an internment camp for political prisoners, where the play continues to be rehearsed with camp inmates under the guise of a propaganda exercise about ‘Christ the Counter-Revolutionary’. Mshanniki is intrinsically heterochronous because its inhabitants attempt to impose biblical time upon the present, and indeed to abolish time completely: the play’s final performance will initiate

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the utopian end-time, by provoking the Second Coming of Christ. De Sertain speculates that Nikon’s unacknowledged goal is one that is by definition heterochronous: ‘to unite the life of the past with the life of the present’.16 Heterochrony also occurs in the frame narrative when Misha, the translator who renders de Sertain’s Breton manuscript in modern Russian, begins to read de Sertain’s involuntary journey into Nikon’s New Jerusalem and later into Siberian exile as a mirroring of his own father’s trajectory, as a French communist, from political work in European Russia to death in a Siberian Gulag. The heterotopia of Mshanniki also fulfils Foucault’s fifth descriptor; only certain individuals are allowed to participate in the mystery play’s rehearsals, whether by right of birth or because the original actors have been killed. As, over time, more people are born than there are roles for actors, a large reserve of surplus citizens builds up. These ‘Children of Abel’ (‘avelity’) are excluded from the heterotopia because they lack roles in the miraculous play. Some leave the community to build lives in the external world; those who return, or whose descendants return, never escape the stigma of desertion, even if they receive roles in the drama. Meanwhile, the community meets Foucault’s sixth descriptor in at least two ways: first, by its utopian ambition to effect the Second Coming of Christ on Earth by fulfilling the highest standards of Christianity and Judaism respectively; and second, by continuing to abide rigorously by de Sertain’s directions in their rehearsals. Thus Mshanniki reflects, or attempts to reflect, the best aspects of early Christian society, much like the well-ordered Jesuit colonies Foucault identifies as heterotopic in his lecture. However, darker aspects soon appear: religious persecution and genocide. Both the Jews and Christians periodically wonder why the play never succeeds in its aim; why Christ never comes. This self-querying triggers cycles of genocide during which Christians massacre Jews, or Jews harass and kill Christians in order to incite reciprocal mistreatment. Both parties sincerely believe that only the annihilation of the Jews will permit Christ’s return (a messianic justification that will recur in Before and During). Thus the Mshanniki heterotopia mirrors some of the darkest trends in recent Soviet history at work: pogroms, collaboration in Nazi atrocities, the genocides ordered by Stalin (both the Jews and the Apostles manipulate the latter in order to sustain their private conflict). Yet, until the final cycle of violence in the 1930s, genocide is never total, because the Jews and Christians always stop short of mutual destruction. Surviving Jews flee persecution; the Christians follow, confident of prompt capture; the drawn-out chase exhausts both Jews and Christians until both sides are decimated; and the circularity of the Siberian tundra returns both fugitives and hunters to Mshanniki, reconciled. Others are promoted into the roles vacated by the killings; and


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rehearsals begin again, until the next cycle of genocide a few generations later.17 The Rehearsals is thus faithful to all the characteristics of Foucauldian heterotopia: it is a narrative about a socially distinct community which combines different times, identities and sites into one, which serves successively different purposes for external society and which finally operates as a model of specific aspects of Russian history. Sharov’s later novel Before and During makes for a less symmetrical study of heterotopia because numerous plotlines and narrative arcs stray beyond the narrative core, set on the dementia ward of a Moscow hospital. Similarly, although Vodolazkin’s The Aviator begins and (almost) ends in hospital clinics, the narrative’s many spatial settings extend beyond a single, heterotopic site. The next sections show how both novels’ reliance on clinical settings can be interpreted in terms of Foucault’s ‘heterotopias of crisis and deviance’.

Crisis and deviation: clinic, prison and ward Foucault emphasizes that the ‘heterotopia of crisis’ and the ‘heterotopia of deviance’ are mutually liminal: spaces set aside for processing crises may transform into reservations for the deviant, as social standards evolve. Appropriately for this study, Foucault’s examples of this transformation are ‘rest homes . . . psychiatric hospitals . . . prisons, and one should perhaps add retirement homes . . . since, after all, old age is a crisis, but is also a deviation’.18 All three of the books discussed here utilize the trope of the prison, the hospital ward or both (within the same site). Sharov’s Before and During is largely set within a Moscow clinic presided over by Dr Kronfeld, who tests experimental drugs to treat early-onset dementia. The building functioned from 1922 to 1932 as a boarding school for gifted children, later became a rest home for elderly Soviet politicians and bureaucrats and finally a clinic for anyone, old or young, suffering incipient dementia. This places the novel within Russian ‘ward literature’, a sub-genre which describes the mental and physical suffering of those confined in hospital wards and psychiatric clinics (including those of prison hospitals, which presupposes a double confinement). Many works within this sub-genre, notably Chekhov’s novella ‘Ward No.  6’ (‘Palata nomer shest’, 1892) and Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward (Rakovyi korpus, 1968/1990), are traditionally read as allegories for Russia’s socio-political conditions. In most fictions of this type, critics consider the ward to be a dystopian microcosm of the nation; hence, in Solzhenitsyn’s novel, the cancer metastasizing in the characters’ bodies may represent the cancer of Stalinism devouring Soviet society from within.19 In Chekhov’s

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story, the moral universes of the psychiatric ward and the external world grow confused as Dr Gromov, the narrator, becomes sensitized to society’s inhumanity (and thus progressively more socially dysfunctional). Sharov’s first novel, In Their Footsteps (Sled v sled, 1988), also exploited the psychiatric ward topos; here, even more obviously than in Chekhov or Solzhenitsyn, the hospital environment becomes (through the distorted vision of one inmate, and the collusion of others) an anachronistic microcosm of nineteenthcentury political conspiracy. Despite the explosion of criticism it provoked from Novyi Mir’s editors, Before and During was not intended as a critique of the present day or as historical realism.20 Indeed, it distinguishes itself from its predecessors in ward literature by its brilliantly inventive and often grotesque distortions of history. Among a bizarre selection of senescent geniuses and elderly officials, we encounter the philosopher Fedorov, with his wife Germaine de Staël (who has given birth to herself twice) and their three idiot sons (the lovers of the clinic’s sexually athletic nurses). After Alyosha, the narrator, is admitted to the dementia ward, he attends lectures given by the eleven aged survivors of the Bolsheviks’ original Institute for National Genius (ING). But Ifraimov, the most senior former prodigy, explains that the Institute’s initial understanding of ‘genius’ was inseparable from abnormality or even disease: In the last decades of the nineteenth century the lives of every Russian genius and their closest blood relatives were studied in detail . . . Genius, it turned out, was inextricably bound up with one or other form of mental pathology. In contrast to the Germans, the Russians were not prepared to part with their geniuses even for the sake of the mental health of the nation; on the contrary, in Russia both the government and society agreed that . . . only by begetting geniuses did the people justify its existence.21

Geniuses are antithetical to stable societies because, like madmen, they reject ‘our laws, our norms, our entire universe’.22 When confined in a madhouse, they dismantle and recreate society by their own terms and values. HEURO, an idealistic fin de siècle committee of Russian intellectuals, had argued from these findings that the only way for Russia to purify itself, and thus lead the world through the coming apocalyptic struggle, would be to multiply its population of geniuses exponentially. HEURO recommended achieving this goal by maximizing the conditions for mental pathology – hence the onslaught of war, revolution, famine and persecution in Russia (which, Ifraimov suggests, did succeed in boosting the quantity of geniuses). However, Stalin’s government soon disowned HEURO’s eschatological fanaticism; hence, after 1932, the


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Institute for Natural Genius declined quietly into a dementia ward. But the presence of Fedorov and de Staël has revitalized the ward’s nostalgia for apocalypse. Fedorov, casting himself as Noah, believes that the destruction by a second Flood is imminent. The New Age can only begin, he believes, once the unfaithful and unworthy have been culled. Thus he and de Staël, aided by Ifraimov and the narrator, trick the other old men into leaving the building at night for certain death in a snowstorm. But Fedorov’s faith is not justified by events; the novel ends without any revelation or transformation. This aporetic conclusion makes sense when we realize that Sharov’s target is not history but historiography, and specifically, how Russian thinkers (up to the present day) conceptualize historical change. He aims to critique the ‘chronic and crippling Russian impatience with gradualist theories of human social evolution’.23 The portraits of Byzantine doublethink and Machiavellian subterfuge in both The Rehearsals and Before and During attack the binary and absolutist philosophical attitudes which Sharov considers ubiquitous in Russian history. Before and During should not, therefore, be read (like, for example, Chekhov’s Ward No. 6) as a polemic against Russian social norms. Instead, using Foucault’s final definition of heterotopia as a reflection or perfection of a single aspect of our society, the institute for geniuses (and later dementia ward) realizes a specific trait of Russian character (here, pathological genius) developed to an extreme. Sharov’s ward begins as both a heterotopia of crisis (a kind of boarding school) and a heterotopia of deviance (a ward for geniuses, neurological deviants). Over time, it becomes merely a heterotopia of deviance – a rest home, most of whose inhabitants are senile. But in the final chapters, the ward transforms again into a heterotopia of crisis, because the inmates are undergoing cathartic experiences – whether memorialization in the narrator’s book, fornication with de Staël or (like Fedorov and the narrator) preparation for an apocalyptic deluge. Vodolazkin’s The Aviator features two kinds of ward: Dr Geiger’s clinic, where the narrator-hero Innokentii is first resurrected and later treated and monitored; and Professor Muromtsev’s cryogenic laboratory on the prison island of Solovki, where Innokentii was frozen during the 1930s. It also, briefly, includes a neurological clinic in Munich (similar to Dr Kronfeld’s ward), where Innokentii trials and rejects treatment for his mysterious neural degeneration. The two types of ward are, technically, crisis heterotopias (because they house individuals undergoing formative experiences). More importantly for Vodolazkin’s narrative, they act as transitional spaces which allow access to disparate times and spaces. While in Dr Geiger’s ward, Innokentii’s memories – and diary entries – randomly connect past and present, mingling his deductions about the present day with vignettes from the first three decades of the century. Professor Muromtsev’s ward is also a

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contradictory space, for different reasons. It is known as the LAZAR (ЛАЗАРЬ ), not primarily because of the Russian word lazaret (‘infirmary’), but as an acronym of the Russian phrase ‘Laboratory for Refrigeration and Regeneration’.24 Although it is located on one of the Solovki Islands, part of one of Soviet Russia’s most desolate and physically exacting prison camps, it initially makes a benign impression: I woke up in the infirmary (lazaret). Not in that dilapidated barracks, where I had been earlier, but in a clean, bright room. Everything – the floor, the ceiling, the table, chairs, bed – was white, and so I calmly imagined that after the beating on Sekirka I had gone straight to Heaven.25

Even the inmates of the LAZAR, and of the other special laboratories, present a different aspect from common prisoners: ‘When they stepped off their boat they gave the impression of being fortunate, at least by camp standards: wellfed, well-equipped and (I had learned to be adept at telling this) not beaten.’26 These inmates are, inevitably, known as lazary (Lazaruses). The irony of the name Lazarus is that there will be no resurrection for any of these prisoners.27 As Professor Muromtsev tells Innokentii, each patient has only two options, each of which leads to death. If Innokentii participates in the cryogenics trials at the LAZAR, he will at least die well fed and comfortable, and after an interval of several months spent regaining strength (in order to be frozen at peak health). Dr Muromtsev kills his patients as humanely as possible: he discreetly administers sedatives before the procedure, although this means defying Stalin’s orders to freeze conscious men. Thus Muromstev’s clinic is a transitional space for the elect among prisoners, a crisis heterotopia set within a greater heterotopia of deviance (the prison camp). This transition is between life and death: as Innokentii reflects, ‘My transfer to eternity was to take place at Solovki.’28 The LAZAR clinic is the gateway to eternity; it is also the hinge on which the narrative turns. After Innokentii recovers his memories up to his decision to become a Lazarus, the narrative point of view switches from one exclusive perspective (Innokentii’s) to three alternating voices: Innokentii, his lover Nastya and Dr Geiger. The Aviator is not pure ‘ward literature’; but through its representation of the clinic, and in particular the secret clinic in Russia’s far North, it pertains to what might be called the ‘polar plot’ in Russian speculative fiction, particularly postmodernist writing. In all of these stories, a closed society at the North or South Pole (usually the North) becomes either a warning, or a salvation myth, for Soviet reality. The earliest examples of this genre include Valerii Briusov’s Republic of the Southern Cross (1905), an ironic dystopian fable, and Vladimir Obruchev’s Plutoniia (1915) and Sannikov Land (Zemlia Sannikova, 1924);


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both the latter are ‘lost world’ stories rather than utopias per se. Soviet science fiction like Grigorii Grebnev’s Arktaniia (1938), and various stories by Aleksandr Beliaev, actively create utopia-on-ice by transforming the Pole. Concurrent real-life efforts to explore and even tame the frozen North, such as Otto Schmidt’s numerous Arctic expeditions (including the Cheliuskin voyage of 1933–4), were also duly reflected in polar adventure fiction, like Veniamin Kaverin’s Two Captains (Dva kapitana, 1944).29 In post-Soviet literature, however, the polar topos has become associated with the post-traumatic genre of magical historicism, not least because of the thematic overlap between the popular state-endorsed fictional theme of Soviet citizens conquering the Arctic, and the mass state-enforced fictionalization of real Soviet citizens’ lives and deaths in the Gulags.30 In this particular sub-genre, the outbound journey of polar discovery and colonization reverses flow, becoming a plot of uncanny polar return upon the Russian heartland. People – or their frozen remains – and objects emerge from the Siberian ice to re-engage with contemporary Russian society, not always benignly. An early example is Andrei Platonov’s The Ether Tract (Efirnyi trakt, 1927); more recent polar plots include Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy (2006), where ice extracted from a comet crashed in the tundra transforms humans into superior beings, and Dmitry Bykov’s Justification (Opravdanie, 2001), which imagines a secret army of circumpolar supermen formed from the most enduring Gulag inmates.31 The Aviator’s narrator fits into this sequence as the sole survivor of a secret, utopian experiment who may bring unknown benefits or insights to contemporary society as he ‘returns’ from his polar heterotopia (i.e. from the frozen state in which Dr Geiger found him). But, in keeping with the postutopian irony of Sorokin and Bykov, Innokentii’s miraculous resurrection proves to be a false dawn. Post-Soviet Russia can find no better use for his status than endorsing frozen food on television; his combination of anachronistic honesty and naivety cost him government patronage. Ultimately, even Innokentii’s renewed lease on life – and his painstakingly regained consciousness – are threatened by a mysterious and unstoppable degenerative process. The special status conferred by the heterotopia of the clinic (suspension between life and death; access to different times) cannot be sustained indefinitely in daily life. The consequences of living in heterotopia are examined in the next section.

Heterochronicity and simultaneity: memory and time Foucault’s fourth principle of heterotopias, heterochronicity (the simultaneity or accumulation of time), hints at dangerous implications for individual

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minds. Of his three examples of heterochronies – the cemetery, the museum and library, and the fairground – the first is the most relevant to Vodolazkin’s and Sharov’s fictional worlds. In particular, the cemetery exposes the individual observer to ‘a quasi-eternity in which her permanent lot is dissolution and disappearance’.32 The novels discussed here also construct heterochronies, which accumulate time (by linking disparate periods) but also aim to annihilate it (through death or apocalypse). Each of Sharov’s novels interconnects historical periods: in The Rehearsals, historians attempt to reconstruct seventeenth-century Russia through documents, and seventeenth-century sectarians strive to live like Galilean peasants. In Before and During, individuals destroy or subvert the process of time by living extraordinarily prolonged lives (like Fedorov) or successively giving birth to themselves (like Madame de Staël).33 At the same time, however, both novels share a plotline that hinges on the abolition of time through the Second Coming of Christ. In The Rehearsals, this will supposedly be effected by de Sertain’s mystery play; in Before and During, by the agency of Fedorov-Noah. Neither plot, as we have seen, successfully abolishes time, thus questioning the authenticity of each philosophical project. But time can also be abolished by short-circuiting the perceptive faculties, thus killing it within the human brain: both the narrators of Before and During and The Aviator are afflicted with an inexorable cognitive malfunction which may be, in a strictly medical sense, heterotopic. Gordon notes that the medical definition of ‘heterotopia’ implies the loss, or displacement, of brain tissue; as our narratives show, even the psychological effects of heterotopia and heterochrony prove ultimately fatal.34 In Before and During, the narrator enters the dementia ward because of a degenerative neurological condition. After a concussion caused part of his brain to atrophy, he suffers irregular memory lapses, often regaining consciousness in prison or in hospital. Each episode leaves him progressively weaker. His only possible outcome, unless Dr Kronfeld’s pills work a miracle, is ‘senility, and soon’; premature dementia followed by oblivion. He inhabits a world where time has become both limited (by the imminent prospect of death) and interrupted (by his condition). Memory was my sore spot and I feared only that which was directly linked to it . . . I increasingly valued that which had already happened, which I had already lived through. Memory had become the centre of my world, and I would lose it so quickly, in a flash, that it resembled nothing so much as death. Death was waiting behind me, not in front of me, and almost instinctively I too set off in that direction – back, to the past.35


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This turn towards memory generates the narrative: Alyosha records memories of his own and others’ lives (including his fellow inmates on the ward) in the hope of purchasing salvation from God at the price of personal oblivion. Even if he is doomed to an early death, he reasons that by sacrificing his remaining time, and memory, to recording the traces of others, he can obtain divine forgiveness for everyone. Another spell of amnesia, however, undermines his belief. He falls asleep during a conversation, remains unconscious for over a month and a half, and remembers nothing of the intervening time. People who live smooth, day-to-day lives rarely notice change. After all, change accumulates like drops . . . Their life has only one beginning and only one end . . . [But for amnesiacs like Alyosha] existence is sharply circumscribed by our illness, divided into autonomous parts, and we don’t even try to fill in the gaps, we don’t even pretend that nothing has happened.36

After this final episode, Alyosha describes the pervasive ‘fear’ experienced on the ward. The chaotic, unstructured histories of Fedorov, Ifraimov and the other inmates are now reflected in Alyosha’s unstable, episodic perception of time: the cost for inhabiting multiple narrative times, as he does, is permanent displacement from one’s own timeline. His troubled, almost paranoid state recalls Foucault’s portrait of the aphasic patient, attempting unsuccessfully to colour-code skeins of wool in orderly categories. Heterotopia, Foucault suggests, is fundamentally disorderly; it defies categorization, exceeds limits and overruns boundaries. As a result, description – and language – become impossible. On the narrative level, Alyosha’s memory – and his Memorial Book – fail because they are founded on a limited, naive belief in personal salvation; Fedorov’s hopes also fail because they rely on messianic and absolutist thought. Innokentii suffers partial amnesia at the beginning of The Aviator; his memories remain disjointed until he recalls his death on Solovki – although he deliberately refrains from remembering his lifelong secret, the murder he committed to avenge his fiancée’s father. Innokentii never directly recalls this murder: instead, the memory is intuited, and vicariously recalled, by Nastya and Dr Geiger, now co-narrators and fellow curators of his past life. In the first and longest section of the book, Innokentii steadily accumulates time, in the form of memories. His quest to make sense of his past, to somehow synchronize it with the present, reaches its apotheosis in the scene where he gains access to a cemetery in order to exhume the decayed, but still recognizable, body of a family friend he last saw in 1905: Terentyi Osipovich, a visitor who kindly invites the child Innokentii not to be afraid, ‘to come without trembling’ (‘idi bestrepetno’).37 In 1905, Innokentii screamed and fled

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from Terentyi Osipovich, dismayed by the man’s shiny, skull-like pate; by 1999, he goes to extraordinary lengths to find him. There was no need for force; the coffin-lid rose easily . . . In the flickering light of the projector above, the remains of a man were visible. That man was Terentyi Osipovich. I knew him immediately. Grey hairs, clinging close to his skull. A formal jacket, barely touched by decay. He was very much as he had been in life. His nose, it is true, was gone, and instead of his eyes there were two black gaps, but as far as the rest went, Terentyi Osipovich resembled himself. For an instant I expected him to summon me to come without trembling, but then I noticed that he had no mouth.38

Innokentii repeatedly likens himself to Lazarus, who was resurrected after four days in the tomb and went on to be a Christian bishop. For what purpose was he, Innokentii, resurrected? The only reason he can find is that he should bear witness to the atrocities of the past. Just when Innokentii reaches a cathartic point in his recollection of his past, fully remembering his crime, his Gulag experiences, and reconnecting with his childhood, a brain scan reveals catastrophic vascular degeneration in his spinal cord and brain tissue. Dr Geiger reluctantly diagnoses a degenerative syndrome that will reduce him to paraplegia and dementia before killing him. Innokentii’s need to make sense of his life – to bear witness – becomes all the more acute when confronted by the apparent futility of ephemeral resurrection. His collaborative diary, and his determination to rediscover and revisit all the extant details and artefacts of his past, directly recall three other memorial projects. Both Evgenii Vodolazkin and Yuri Dmitriev, and the latter’s organization, Memorial, have worked to locate and revisit the mass graves of Gulag victims, while preserving and publishing their fragmented records for posterity. Alyosha’s Memorial Book is a bargain with God, the preservation of others’ memories in return for personal salvation. It is modelled, as mentioned above, on Ivan IV’s Memorial Book of the Disgraced (Sinodik opal’nykh), which was not in itself anomalous; in 1548, the second year of the Tsar’s reign, he required the placing of a sinodik, or memorial book, in every cathedral in Russia, commemorating the souls of all Orthodox subjects ‘from henceforth and even unto the end of the world’.39 The unusual quality of the Book of the Disgraced was that it specifically commemorated unclean souls who had died unnatural deaths by violence. These were souls who were considered to be neither in heaven nor hell, and who could therefore exert a malign influence on the Tsar’s own soul and the fate of the Russian nation.40 Catholics might call this place Purgatory; Foucault would call it heterotopia. The dead of the Gulags, recalled by Innokentii, and


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the senile old men of Alyosha’s ward, queuing up to tell their stories, are therefore both trapped in a heterotopic state where time has truly been abolished: the only way to free them is by recording and remembering their stories. Linear memory is the enemy of heterotopia: the maintenance of categories and lists, whether in a diary or a Memorial Book, defeats death.

Conclusion: narratives of trauma and flight Ultimately, Sharov’s and Vodolazkin’s fictions have a common function as post-traumatic prose. Whether we classify them as magical historicism, ‘novelphantasmagorias’ (as many Russian critics like to write of Sharov) or deluded histories (as Sharov’s detractors insist), these novels share a commitment to exhume and re-examine Russia’s Soviet and even pre-revolutionary past, like Vodolazkin’s Innokentii revisiting his childhood friend’s corpse. Precisely because these novels are post-traumatic fictions, revisiting the darkest parts of Russia’s recent past, heterotopia offers a particularly apposite approach. Heterotopia is the homeland of trauma survivors. Their present is constantly invaded by the past; yet neither language nor memory can be trusted to provide objective categories or frame rational responses. The trauma survivor occupies a fragmented, episodic world that may resemble the condition of Foucault’s aphasiacs, Vodolazkin’s resurrected corpse or Sharov’s amnesiac. Fictional heterotopias, by allowing different states, times and places to coexist, yet also by creating sites of containment for the most terrifying or destructive elements (hence the centrality of the ward motif to both novels), enable traumatic experiences to be explored, although they may never be categorized or assimilated. As Luckhurst asserts, survivors often indulge in ‘the manic production of retrospective narratives that seek to explicate the trauma’ which they have experienced.41 Sharov’s and Vodolazkin’s ahistoricism and heterochrony, which Walsh calls ‘allohistorical’, or Etkind ‘magical historicist’, may be explained as a function of deferred, even vicarious trauma; but nonetheless, of trauma. The second reason for a heterotopic reading of postmodern prose is the confluence between theory and actuality. Russian society is, to a considerable degree, heterotopic. This is not merely because of the paradoxical vastness and liminality of its spaces, nor the proliferation of Gulags, prisons, mental hospitals and other places of containment in Soviet society. On a conceptual level, Russian (and particularly, Soviet) society often compelled its members to simultaneously perceive, or function, on two opposing levels, or to obey at least two opposing rules, in order to be admitted into conventional discourse. The sectarians in Sharov’s Rehearsals exemplify this practice, as they persecute

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Jewish members who are not, in fact, ethnically Jews, yet assiduously emulate Jewish doctrine. In Before and During, Ifraimov offers a yet more Byzantine allegory of doublethink, alleging that the Apostles Peter and Paul were in fact Orthodox Jews who invented and promulgated Christianity as an elaborate deception to prevent Jews from following a false prophet into heresy. Similarly, much of The Aviator resists the conventional boundaries of parable or satire; heterotopia, and its implications, are a better way of unlocking the novel’s messages. In a brief but quintessential example from an early section, Innokentii, still recuperating in Geiger’s clinic, recalls an incident from a childhood holiday in Karelia. He was sharing a room with his cousin and playmate Seva. As the darkness of the Finnish forests settled around their cabin, Seva fretted that a giant was watching the boys through a window. Innokentii instructed his cousin to go to sleep. Yet despite his denial, he too saw the giant. ‘You asleep already?’ Seva asked in a whisper. ‘No,’ I answered, ‘but I’m trying to.’ ‘I saw a giant outside the window,’ Seva pointed to the window on the opposite side from the sea. ‘That’s a pine tree. Go to sleep.’ A few minutes later Seva’s breathing was loud and regular. I looked at the window Seva had pointed out. And I saw the giant.42

Much later in life, Seva (now a fervent Bolshevik and NKVD captain) will ‘unsee’, or refuse to recognize, his cousin, for fear of being exposed as the family member of a Solovki prisoner.43 From courtesy, Platonov also ‘unsees’ their relationship. The childhood incident of the giant in the forest is proleptic of this later, darker interaction. The pine tree is and is not a giant; the boys are young enough to inhabit a transitional heterotopia, where trees can become monsters at night (but where monsters, viewed with the right degree of rationality, also become trees). This double-sightedness is consciously employed by both cousins in the heterotopia of Stalinist society, where two different identities can be simultaneously true: they are and are not cousins; they do and do not recognize each other. Foucault ends his 1967 lecture on heterotopias with the lines, ‘The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.’44 In Before and During, both Ifraimov and Fedorov refer to the dementia ward as ‘the Ark’ – the most intrinsically heterotopic of all vessels, given its diverse cargo and its mysterious transit between corrupted and pure states of being. As we have seen, Sharov leaves the eventual landing place of Fedorov’s Ark a mystery. The Aviator substitutes Vodolazkin’s central


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metaphor of artificial flight for the heterotopia of the ship. The young Innokentii admires amateur pilots at St Petersburg’s Komendantskii airfield; one day he meets one of his heroes, Aviator Frolov, before a flight. Soviet Russia would later share Innokentii’s pride in the prestige (and propaganda value) of aerial prowess, exemplified by the eight-engine aeroplane Maksim Gorky. Yet, tragically, the Maksim Gorky crashed in May 1935 – just a day after the French pilot and journalist Antoine de St-Exupéry had written it up for Paris-Soir.45 The wreck of the famous Soviet propaganda craft is prefigured by Frolov’s tragic crash, which Innokentii witnesses, just after meeting him. Vodolazkin’s fictional pilot’s death may echo the fatal 1910 crash at Komendantskii of Lev Matsievich, one of the earliest Russian aviators. As in Aleksandr Blok’s 1912 poem ‘The Aviator’ (‘Aviator’), which informs Vodolazkin’s text, the utopian state of flight is literally and figuratively crushed as the plane hits the ground. The Aviator ends with Innokentii in mid-air, aboard a plane which seems certain to crash-land. Ultimately, he is trapped in heterotopia. Like Schrödinger’s notorious cat, he is neither dead nor alive; neither on land, nor in the air. Even his child, conceived with Nastia, remains unborn, threatened by unknown complications. Innokentii remains on his craft, suspended between arrival and departure, like Sharov’s characters trapped on the Ark of Before and During, waiting for a flood to bear them away. There can be no resolution, because there are no words left to describe it. In heterotopia, language is the price we pay for dreams.

Notes 1 Alexander Etkind defines ‘magical historicism’ as ‘[a]llegorical constructions of the uncanny, the monstrous, and the corporeal’ which metonymically transfigure traumatic elements of the historical past in prose fiction. See Alexander Etkind, Warped Mourning: Stories of the Undead in the Land of the Unburied (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), p. 236. Etkind discusses Sharov’s magical historicism in detail on pp. 229–32. 2 In her Perfect Worlds: Utopian Fiction in China and the West (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011), Douwe Fokkema uses the term ‘eutopian’ to distinguish what she calls ‘positive utopias’ from their dystopian alternatives (p. 16). See pp. 301–20 for her discussion of twentieth-century Russian utopian fiction. 3 Vladimir Sharov, Before and During, trans. Oliver Ready (Sawtry, UK: Dedalus, 2014), p. 7. This translation is based on the 2009 Russian edition of Do i vo vremia (Moscow: Arsis Books, 2009); the first edition appeared in Novyi mir in 1993.

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4 Evgenii Vodolazkin, Aviator (Moscow: ACT, 2016), p. 152. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from Russian are my own. 5 In 1583, after infamously killing his own son and heir, Tsar Ivan IV ordered a compilation of a Sinodik opal’nykh, or a list of all his subjects who suffered unnatural deaths, including executions ordered by the Tsar and his oprichnina. One might also recall the contemporary historian Yuri Dmitriev’s compilation of The Karelian Book of Memory (2002) after discovering the mass graves of Gulag inmates and reburying (and tracing the life stories of) many thousands of them. 6 Per-Arne Bodin, ‘The Russian Language in Contemporary Conservative Dystopias’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (2016): 579–88 (p. 587). 7 Mikhail Epshtein, Pre-Dictionary: Experiments in Verbal Creativity (www., 2011), p. 73. The ambi-utopia is essentially a Russian variant of ‘the ambiguous utopias’ Fokkema identifies in the narratives of Ursula Le Guin, Michel Houllebecq and J. M. G. Le Clézio, where one’s perception of utopia is relative to one’s social position. See Fokkema, Perfect Worlds, pp. 383–98. 8 For more on Telluria, see Chapter 14 by Mark Lipovetsky. 9 Michel Foucault, ‘Of other spaces: utopias and heterotopias’, trans. J. Miskowiec, Diacritics 16, no. 1 (1986): 22–7. The text cited here is available at 10 Michel Foucault, ‘Preface’, in M. Foucault, The Order of Things (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. xvi–xxvi (p. xix). 11 Foucault, ‘Preface’, pp. xvi–xxvi (p. xix). 12 Foucault, ‘Preface’, p. xx. 13 Foucault, ‘Of other spaces’. 14 Foucault, ‘Of other spaces’, p. 6. 15 Foucault, ‘Of other spaces’, p. 6. 16 Vladimir Sharov, Repetitsii (Moscow: Arsis, 2009), p. 79. 17 Sharov’s engagement with genocide is unusually explicit in the context of speculative fiction; as Joan Gordon argues in ‘Utopia, genocide and the other’, in V. Hollinger and J. Gordon (eds), Edging into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), pp. 204–16, this theme is relatively rare. 18 Foucault, ‘Of other spaces’. 19 For detailed discussion of the political symbolism of disease in Cancer Ward and Aleksandr Vek’s, see Polly Jones, ‘Diagnosing the Stalinist sickness: images of illness in Aleksandr Bek and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’, Modern Language Review 111, no. 4 (2016): 1085–112. For a chronologically wider context, see Jeffrey Meyer’s ‘Cancer Ward and the literature of disease’, Twentieth Century Literature 29, no. 1 (1983): 54–68. Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor makes the point that ‘insanity is the current vehicle of our secular myth of self-transcendence’ (Illness as Metaphor (London: Penguin, 2002), p. 36). The definitive work on the symbolism of mental illness in Russian literature remains to be written.


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20 See Vladimir Sharov, ‘Ia ne chuvstvuiu sebia ni uchitelem, ni prorokom’, Druzhba narodov 8 (2004): 114–22. Before and During was necessarily Sharov’s final publication with Novyi mir; all his subsequent novels were serialized in Znamia. On the polemic with the Novyi mir critics, see Harry Walsh, ‘The microcosmography of Russian cultural myths in Vladimir Sharov’s Allohistorical Novels’, Slavic and East European Journal 46, no. 3 (2002): 565–85 (p. 566), and the original response to Before and During by Sergei Kostyrko and Irina Rodnianskaia, ‘Sor iz izby: Vokrug romana Vladimira Sharova Do i vo vremia’, Novyi mir 5 (1993): 186–9. 21 Sharov, Before and During, p. 74. 22 Sharov, Before and During, p. 76. 23 Walsh, ‘The microcosmography of Russian cultural myths’, p. 574. 24 Vodolazkin, The Aviator, p. 207. 25 Vodolazkin, The Aviator, p. 206. 26 Vodolazkin, The Aviator, p. 207. 27 Sharov’s later metafictional novel featuring Stalin’s henchman Lazar Kaganovich, The Resurrection of Lazarus (Voskreshenie Lazaria, 2002), also plays with this trope of biblical resurrection. 28 Vodolazkin, The Aviator, p. 216. 29 For more on Schmidt and other Soviet Arctic explorers, see John McCannon, Red Arctic: Polar Exploration and the Myth of the North in the Soviet Union, 1932–1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). 30 A well-known example of the latter would be the endorsements of the White Sea (Belomor) Canal (built with convict labour), which were contributed by Mikhail Zoshchenko, Valentin Kataev, Maksim Gorky and others in a 1934 Soviet publication. For more on this, see Cynthia A. Ruder, Making History for Stalin: The Story of the Belomor Canal (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1998). 31 See Etkind, Warped Mourning, pp. 226–9, for discussion of Sorokin’s and Bykov’s ‘polar plots’ as magical historicism. 32 Foucault, ‘Of other spaces’. 33 The theme of autonomous rebirth also occurs in The Aviator, when the narrator wonders whether his fiancée Anastasia may have been ‘resurrected’, or at least continued, in her eponymous granddaughter Nastia, making the two women ‘a single life, purposefully created for me out of two different lives’ (p. 287). 34 I am indebted to Joan Gordon’s article, ‘Hybridity, Heterotopia, and Mateship in China Miéville’s “Perdido Street Station” ’, Science Fiction Studies 30, no. 3 (2003): 456–76, for pointing out that ‘heterotopia’ also has a physiological context (p. 464). For a medical definition of heterotopic tissue in the brain, see Gerald E. Gaull, Biology of Brain Dysfunction, vol. 3 (New York: Plenum, 1975), pp. 411–12. 35 Sharov, Before and During, pp. 14–15. 36 Sharov, Before and During, p. 306. 37 Vodolazkin, The Aviator, pp. 27–8.

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38 Vodolazkin, The Aviator, pp. 325–6. 39 Cited in Irina V. Dergacheva, ‘Toward a Literary History of the Ancient Russian Synodikon from the Fifteenth Through the Seventeenth Centuries’, Russian Studies in History 41, no. 3 (2002): 11–31 (p. 19). 40 On this subject, see Andrei Bulychev ‘The Liturgical Commemoration of Orthodox Christians Killed During the Oprichnina (Sixteenth to Early Eighteenth Centuries)’, Russian Studies in History 53, no. 1 (2014): 42–67. 41 Roger Luckhurst, The Trauma Question (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2008), p. 79. 42 Vodolazkin, The Aviator, pp. 25–6. 43 Vodolazkin, The Aviator, pp. 259–60. 44 Foucault, ‘Of other spaces’. 45 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Un sens à la vie (Paris: Gallimard, 1956), pp. 64–8.


Part Two





Conservative Science Fiction in Contemporary Russian Literature and Politics1 Mikhail Suslov

Introduction On 15 December 2015, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, then the chair of the PR department of the Moscow Patriarchate, invited three writers of fantastic literature, Dmitry Volodikhin, Eduard Gevorkian and Sergei Chekmaev, to his show Vremia i Vechnost’ aired on the religious TV channel Spas.2 All three of the guests, as well as the show’s anchor – Chaplin is also known as a writer of post-apocalyptic dystopia Masho i medvedi3 – represent the conservative mainstream of the post-Soviet fantastic literature. This mainstream is informed by fear rather than hope, imperial fantasies of Russia’s geopolitical ascendance rather than prospects of universal peace, ressentiment towards the global ‘West’ rather than a spirit of internationalism and cosmopolitanism, a drive to restore the past rather than create the future, and a dystopian rather than utopian vision of the future. Conservative fantastic literature is idiosyncratically connected with the Soviet-era belief in the transformative power of rational planning, and at the same time displays a remarkable convergence of fantastic literature and the state-sponsored political mainstream. The approach adopted for this chapter views fantastic literature through the prism of the history of ideas. This means that the stylistic specificities of this genre are under the radar of present research, which instead focuses on the manifestations of socio-political ideals in literary works. By extension, this research is insensitive towards the terminological differences between ‘utopian fiction’, ‘fantasy literature’, ‘speculative literature’, ‘science fiction’ (hereafter ‘SF’) and so on. These terms are used interchangeably, and here they all indicate a fiction narrative, which explicitly or implicitly4 describes a utopian society. Contrary to conventional wisdom, utopia is seen here not as a petrified model of a ‘perfect society’, which may look like a dystopia to 105


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others. Instead, we approach utopia as a procedural attitude to a better, alternative world. For this study, a utopia is a planned attempt to change the status quo in order to establish a better world order. A utopia, thus, always has two aspects: 1) rational planning 2) of social change.5 This understanding highlights tense relations between utopianism and conservatism. The latter does not necessarily oppose any changes: it opposes some kind of social changes, seen as inorganic, artificial, imposed from above, rationally ordered and planned, rather than growing naturally from below.6 This is precisely where the difference between the two is unsurmountable. However, the very idea of a conservative utopia does not always sound like an oxymoron. Karl Mannheim was the first to point out the possibility of speaking about conservative utopias in the modern world, in which ‘all that is solid is melting in the air’, and in which there is an inevitable gap between the conservative ideal and the reality. In this world, when conservatism denies the necessity of coping with this unstoppable tidal wave of changes and proposes a rollback and revolutionary restoration of an imaginable ‘golden age’ of the past, it becomes utopian.7 The element of revolutionary restauration, regeneration or palingenesis is hardwired into the ideology of conservative revolution and resonates loudly in fascism.8 This is especially the case in countries like Russia, lying on the periphery of the Western world, which had already undergone sweeping Westernization in the past and whose society has turned inorganic by default. In this context, conservatism is thinkable only as a rationally planned project for the radical reversion to ‘organicness’. With a degree of exaggeration, one may claim that any conservative project in Russia turns into utopia. Indeed, the unholy alliance between utopia and conservatism is not something completely unheard of or unique. In late imperial Russia and later on in émigré circles, there were a few intellectuals, often with good connections in the political establishment, who entertained similar conservative fantasies about a future Russia. Suffice to mention Sergei Sharapov, a journalist who maintained a love–hate relationship with Sergei Witte and who developed literary political fantasies in the spirit of neo-Slavophilism.9 Russia’s historical experience as a peripheral Westernized empire equipped its intellectual life to fantasize about a restoration of authenticity and an awareness of geopolitical enemies – two staple ingredients in the bowl of conservative utopias. These Slavophile themes moved steadily from the margins of ideological life into the centre of public debate in the past two decades. Conservatism has emerged as Russia’s official ideology, leaning on moral panics around religious and sacral objects, anti-Westernism, militarism and the suffocation of oppositional voices.10 At the same time, the core group of conservative SF writers began to define its task as precisely ‘conservative revolution’, which would restore

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traditional values while not stopping technological development.11 In the past few years, the ascendance of imperialistic and militaristic SF in Russia has also drawn some scholarly attention.12 Conservative fantastic literature condenses emotions, visions and ideas that are hovering in Putin’s Russia. Geopolitical trauma of the collapse of the Soviet Union and experiences of (imaginary) non-recognition by the ‘constitutive Other’13 – the West – sensitized the audience to great-power fantasies and anti-Western attitudes.14 Conservative SF became a common political language in which the political elite and the grassroots can talk to each other about Russia’s future greatness and providential role on the international arena. Typical fantastic scenarios of Russia’s impending comeback to the global leadership are conceived as regeneration of something imprudently lost in the past, be it the Soviet technological strength, or imperialera rootedness in the Orthodox belief. Conservative SF is mass literature for entertainment. Its typical reader is usually identified as a ‘private security guard’: a relatively low-income young man with plenty of free time.15 This genre, however, extends beyond this niche and engages in multiple ways with the mainstream postmodernist literature. Such writers as Dmitry Bykov, Vladimir Sorokin and Viktor Pelevin address the problems that are central to conservative SF: total mediatization of everyday life (Pelevin’s S.N.U.F.F., 2011), restauration of monarchy and a return to political archaism (Sorokin’s A Day of Oprichnik, 2006), a dialectics of progress and regress (Sorokin’s Telluria, 2013),16 and the search for national authenticity (Bykov’s Zh.D., 2006).17 However, stylistically, conservative SF is the opposite of postmodernist literature: it is deadly serious and almost devoid of irony and language games.18 Conservative SF also stages political discussions of universal pertinence, transcending the temporal and spatial borders of Putin’s regime. Conservative SF posits the question of whether Western-style liberal-oriented globalization offers the most rewarding, humane, economically effective and ecological society. The answer suggested by this literature is an unequivocal ‘No’. It is less clear what is the proffered alternative, and as far as we can determine in this chapter, it seems to be a society grounded in the principles of conservative communitarianism and radical multi-culturalism, implying, among other things, a repudiation of the normative global world order.19 Instead, the writers in question envisage a humanity divided into a few isolated Grossräume and grounded in some kind of imaginary inherent traditionalism and civilizational uniqueness. If it is true that utopias are good at fixing as yet uncertain and unstable emergent social formations,20 then we have to take the tidal wave of conservative utopias seriously as a harbinger of alternatives to liberal ‘hegemony’.


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SF networks and hybrid SF SF literature, which enjoyed a relatively high status and popularity – especially among the intelligentsia – in the Soviet Union, has generally retained that position up to the present. The nomination lists for ROSKON-2017, the Russian convention for science fiction, included 801 novels.21 According to other sources, no fewer than 700 book titles in fantastic genres were published each year in the 2010s.22 The post-Soviet market for SF is typified by shrinking print runs (compensated by the proliferation of e-books and access to pirated copies on the internet) and a growing number of titles. Readers’ interest in science fiction appears to be quite stable. In the 1990s, 15% preferred this genre to all other genres, whereas according to sociological research, 32% of respondents bought at least one SF book during the previous year.23 More recent pollsters have found that 9% of those readers prefer SF to all other genres, but since the questionnaire is not the same as in the 1990s, offering more options,24 the results are not comparable. At the same time, recent studies show that 26% of young people, aged sixteen to twenty-five, prefer SF to other types of literature.25 Similarly, the fandom and entire infrastructure of SF literary production is visible and active; for example, ROSKON-2014 hosted some 10,000 participants, including 200 writers and experts.26 At the same time, it is safe to say that only a handful of the most popular and well-branded authors enjoy lucrative incomes, selling more than 50,000 copies per year.27 The vast majority of published books have print runs of around 2,000 copies, and naturally their authors need to have additional sources of income.28 In many cases a second job is often connected to the state – the largest employer in Russia.Writers of SF, conservative ideologists and spin doctors (polittekhnologi, political consultants) coalesce in think tanks sponsored by the Presidential Administration. The SF books which these authors continue to produce might be called ‘hybrid literature’, whose purpose is to present a palpable, easy to grasp, picture of a particular political project. ‘Hybrid literature’ might also include commercial components and nonliterary creative elements, such as films, video games, organized fandoms and so on. A case in point here is the SF literary series ‘Etnogenez’ (2009–15). This project was driven by former State Duma deputy Konstantin Rykov, a member of the pro-government United Russia Party and an ardent promoter of antiWestern and patriotic rhetoric. Etnogenez hosted a few dozen authors, mostly known for their conservative views (such as Kirill Benediktov, Igor Alimov and Iurii Burnosov29), and included audio-books and browser video games in their range of products. One of these video games is, a MMORPG game launched in 2014, which offers a vision of Ukraine engulfed by chaos, civil war and NATO troops. As the very name of the project ‘Etnogenez’ suggests, the

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bottom-line idea of the series is connected to the theory of ‘ethnogenesis’ by Lev Gumilev, an iconic figure in nationalistic and conservative Russian circles.30 We can safely assume that ‘Etnogenez’ was run under the auspices of the Kremlin, and more specifically the deputy head of the Presidential Administration, with a fairly straightforward political agenda. At the same time, it was intended to be a commercially successful endeavour, but in spite of its non-literary additions, it relied mainly on fantastic literature, conceived initially as a succession of SF books, written by many renowned authors in this genre. Another example of hybrid literature is a series of edited volumes assembled by Sergei Chekmaev (often in partnership with Dmitry Volodikhin) and published as part of the ‘Close Range Social Science Fiction’ series.31 These books include the likes of Pitiless Tolerance (2012), Liberal Apocalypse (2013), Imperium (2013), (2014), Russian Arctic (2015), Russian Empire 2.0 (2016), Russian Frontier (2018) and A Coronation Day (2018). The preface to Liberal Apocalypse describes the book as an exploration of ‘liberal tendencies’ taken to their absurd and terrifying extremes, which includes the ‘horrors of globalization, losing of the national identity, spiritless world of material [values], substitution of traditional values by artificially created [ones]’.32 Conservative writers have dubbed this dystopian sub-genre ‘liber-punk’.33 Some of these volumes were published with financial support from the pro-government foundation Interaction of Civilizations, whose mission is to ‘promote moral foundations for non-conflictual interaction among civilizations’.34 The foundation has connections with the arch-conservative Russian People’s Council and the Synodal PR Department of the Moscow Patriarchate. Most contributors to these books belong to the conservative SF club Bastion. It was the initiative of Dmitry Volodikhin in 1999, and its first convention, Bastkon, was held in 2001. Bastion not only produces fiction books but also non-fiction manifestos and policy papers promoting such values as imperial order, traditionalism, Orthodox fundamentalism, anti-globalization, imperial revanchism and monarchism. Its leader has recently resurfaced as a man of the political establishment. In 2012, Volodikhin became associated with Nikita Mikhalkov, acting as a co-editor of his journal Svoi and in 2014 he was appointed as an advisor to the head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Research (RISI) think tank, bringing with him some of his fellow SF writers. RISI was created in the 1990s but became prominent after 2012, when the Kremlin’s new chief ideologist, Viacheslav Volodin, was anxious to provide greater ideological legitimacy for Putin’s third term in power in the face of a wave of protests in the winter of 2011–12. At that time, RISI supplied the Presidential Administration with White Guardist Orthodox traditionalism. In one interview in a monarchist newspaper, Volodikhin intimated that monarchists had to reach out to those in power, because, he argued, it was an opportune moment.35


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Volodikhin is also an influential intellectual in Orthodox circles. He is a member of the dissertation jury on theology, and a member of the board of advisors for the Patriarch’s Literary Prize. This grew out of his regular participation in the patriotic and Orthodox pseudo-NGO All-Russian People’s Assembly, headed by Patriarch Kirill. Volodikhin was nominated for the Patriarch’s Literary Prize in 2013, 2015 and 2017.36 Reciprocally, former head of the External Relations Department of the Patriarchate, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, received one of the Bastkon prizes for a SF short story, written under a pen name Aron Schemaier. On other occasions, Volodikhin cooperated with Vitalii Kaplan and Father Georgii Belodurov, the author of SF novels under the pen name Georgii Letitskii. In January 2017, however, the monarchist leadership of RISI changed, and Volodikhin found a new home for his talents in the monarchist Society for Historical Education, the ‘Two-headed Eagle’, sponsored and chaired by the Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, who was implicated in the Donbas rebellion.37 Sergei Kirienko, the new principal ideologist of the regime, has his own relationship with SF through Roman Zlotnikov, the author of imperial fiction. His selling point is ‘imperial sublimity’, with few references to Orthodoxy and the Russian nation, which is very much in tune with the outlook of today’s technocrats. It has been reported that Kirienko is a religious reader of Zlotnikov’s prose,38 while Zlotnikov himself is a frequent guest at Bastion events and a collaborator in many of Volodikhin’s literary projects. The Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Research (ISEPI) is another think tank that caters to the needs of the Presidential Administration. It hosts the internet newspaper Vzgliad and the analytical webpage ‘Political conservatism’, previously edited by Konstantin Rykov and Kirill Benediktov, both renowned authors of SF. ISEPI was established in 2012 as a successor to Gleb Pavlovskii’s Foundation for Effective Politics.39 The new institute, staffed by former and present employees of the Presidential Administration, was designed as a pro-government think tank vested with the macro-task of supporting the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2016–18. Its publishing outlets are especially vocal in ridiculing the migrant policies of the EU and in supporting Western rightists and ‘migrantophobes’.40 Soon after launching the Political Conservatism project, Benediktov issued a programmatic essay on ‘conservative utopianism’, whose purpose was to dissociate utopianism and SF from progressivism and to emphasize the longestablished tradition of Russian conservative fantasizing, drawing on the examples of Vladimir Odoevskii, Petr Krasnov and the like.41 Political Conservatism enlisted the support of Sergei Luk’ianenko, the most popular writer of Russian-language SF today42 and someone renowned for his pronouncedly conservative worldview. In an interview with Vitalii

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Kaplan, editor of the Orthodox youth journal Foma and also an SF author, Luk’ianenko cautioned against experimentations in IT technologies, and biological experimentation with human bodies, because of his premonition that a new society would have different, probably less humane, ethics, which would be ‘unusual and troublesome [neprivychnaia i nepriiatnaia] for us’.43 Reading Luk’ianenko’s invectives against the West, one experiences a sort of ideological déjà vu. His comments about degeneration, decrepitude, deChristianization or the formalism of the West are like reading the Slavophileopinion journalism of the 1840s. The punchline to this interview sounds another familiar note, referring to the necessity to foster . . . traditional values . . . If there are many people with [a] firm moral position in society . . . then we will need no strict juridical regulations of what should be regulated by human souls only. We have to prepare kids to live not in a ‘brave new world’, but simply to live in [this] world.44

By striking this note, Luk’ianenko exposes the ideological grounds of paradoxical Russian conservatism: it is essentially about the unacceptability of any externally imposed limits or projects for future development – although this ideology is itself an externally imposed project. All in all, we can talk about a whole galaxy of conservative SF writers who have established overlapping networks around think tanks supported by the Presidential Administration. The latter even toyed with the idea of launching a literary prize for SF writers interested primarily in optimistic futurism about Russia and Russia’s role in the exploration of outer space.45 Many of the writers of conservative SF, if not influential in, are at least well known to the Presidential Administration and the Moscow Patriarchate. ISEPI is ideologically more inclusive, with a slant towards nationalism and relative isolationism and acceptance of Soviet achievements as an important component of today’s ‘Russian-ness’. Many of its intellectuals might be identified as ‘young conservatives’ or mladokonservatory, whereas Bastion with its institutional umbrellas is better known for its more marginal agenda of ‘White Guardism’, a decisive repudiation of the Soviet period, and pronounced monarchism.

Engaging with the Strugatsky brothers The majority of the writers of conservative SF belong to the generation born in the 1960s, who grew up in the late Soviet Union and were traumatized by


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its collapse and economic difficulties of the 1990s. For most of them, SF writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky were literally their teachers (as in the case of Viacheslav Rybakov and Eduard Gevorkian) or at least those who significantly shaped their personality, scope of interests, literary style and ideological agenda. Today, the Strugatskys continue to be in the top ranking of writers of fantastic literature,46 thus serious engagement with them is a cardinal feature of post-Soviet SF. The Strugatskys, however, could not be easily appropriated by writers with a conservative agenda because the renowned brothers had a halo of liberalism and dissidence. Arkady’s daughter was married to Egor Gaidar, a liberal reformer of the 1990s and arch-enemy of all conservatives, while Boris developed a friendly correspondence with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a political prisoner from 2005 to 2013. So, for conservative SF writers, the Strugatskys are not only a formative influence but also a challenge. One recent biography of the Strugatskys was authored by Dmitry Volodikhin and his like-minded colleague Gennadii Prashkevich,47 while one of the leaders of the ‘young conservatives’ in the mid-2000s, Boris Mezhuev, penned a series of essays about the brothers. Film director Konstantin Lopushanskii (using a script co-authored with fellow conservative Viacheslav Rybakov) cinematized the Strugatskys’ The Ugly Swans in 2006. Drawing upon these examples, this section discusses how conservative SF makes sense of and reinterprets the key ideas and metaphors found in the books of the Strugatskys. The most resonating theme in the Strugatskys’ books is the encounter between a more developed and a less developed civilization. The importance of this theme becomes all the more obvious when we understand it as a projection of Russia’s actual troubled historical experience with the West. In fact, one could argue that the main thrust of Russian fantastic literature throughout its entire history is – somewhat counterintuitively – rooted in the Slavophile–Westernizers controversy.48 Over time, the Strugatsky brothers developed deep moral and existential doubts about what they called ‘progressorism’ – the idea that a superior, advanced society can (and should) interfere to improve (or ‘progress’) a more backward society.49 However, it took the Strugatskys’ followers in post-Soviet Russia to radicalize these doubts and transmogrify them into an unequivocal ‘No’ to what they perceive as violent Westernization. In Volodikhin’s and Gennadii Prashkevich’s account, ‘progressorism’ in the Strugatskys’ Hard to Be a God is associated with the negation of traditionalism characteristic of the Russian liberal intelligentsia as a whole. Biographers point to the fact that eventually, ‘progressorism’ leads to the ‘democracy for export’ policies of Western countries.50 Even in terms of style, today’s conservative SF is engaged in a protracted dispute with the Strugatsky brothers. Dmitry Volodikhin identifies his

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positive ideal as ‘Russian Victorianism’, drawing heavily on the historical experience of the late imperial period. Specifically, he characterized this style as depiction of ‘patriarchal, benevolent despotism’.51 In his space operas, Russia emerges as a powerful militaristic empire, an absolute monarchy, where the Orthodox Church plays a decisive role. This is the world, whose make-up resembles Japanese steam-punk, in which neatly dressed military officers, having received blessings from a chaplain, throw their space battleships, bearing imperial insignia, into a deadly fight for hegemony in the Galaxy.52 In a sense, this world is a complete repudiation of the Strugatskys’ imperial theme. If the Soviet masters of SF consistently ridiculed the boorish admiration of militarism and empire (e.g. in Paren’ iz preispodnei (A Kid from Hell), 1974), conservative eu-topia eagerly aestheticizes imperial sublimity.53 A more sophisticated interpretation of ‘progressorism’ has been offered by Viacheslav Rybakov’s analysis of the enigmatic book The Snail on a Slope (1966). The novel depicts a dystopian world of the Forest, where a ‘race’ of moronic and brainless aboriginals dwell, constantly harassed and eventually exterminated by a superior‘race’of Amazons who procreate by parthenogenesis, and these two groups are in their turn supervised by a rational and bureaucratic ‘Administration’.54 The Strugatskys’ moral indignation at this situation is expressed in the words of the protagonist: ‘What do I care if Hopalong [one of the locals] is a pebble in the millstones of their progress? . . . I’ll do everything I can to stop those millstones.’55 Taking this as a point of departure, Rybakov quickly moves from an ethical dilemma about the costs of progress, towards a decisive repudiation of progress itself, embodied by the Amazons. The latter group, he argues, are worse than just ‘underdeveloped’; they are highly unnatural, lifeless hybrids56 – an embodiment of the West in Rybakov’s mental world. For Rybakov, the West cultivates sickly deviations while propagating them as signs of progress, so that new humans grow up as wretched creatures who ‘cannot make love because they need stimulants and dildos, cannot give birth because they need in-vitro fertilization, cannot even die because they need euthanasia . . . Is this progress?’57 Comparing this kind of progress to cancer, and calling for it to be cut out, Rybakov weaves together anti-Westernism, civilizational essentialism and a host of organic metaphors, characteristic of romantic nationalism (e.g. Slavophilism). Echoing the speculation of midnineteenth-century intellectuals like Ivan Kireevskii,58 Rybakov maintains that each country has its own future; when in the 1990s Russia tried a ‘foreign future’, it was immediately rejected by the very fabric of Russian life and culture, just like a body rejects an implanted organ.59 The Strugatsky brothers almost certainly had no geopolitical metaphors in their minds, so it is all the more striking that their present followers are able to identify a fantastic plot


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with ethical implications as a metaphor of the geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the West. Boris Mezhuev, one of the leading conservative intellectuals of the ISEPI milieu, came up with an original interpretation of Obitaemyi ostrov (Inhabited Island, 1971, translated into English as Prisoners of War, 1977). Mezhuev departs from the standard view of the Strugatskys as exemplary Soviet dissidents, and mounts a scathing attack on them, blaming them for not being dissident enough. In brief, the novel’s storyline describes a totalitarian order on a faraway planet, maintained by extensive propaganda and psychological manipulation of the planet’s population. The instant reaction of the protagonist from the Earth is a determination to destroy this horrendous regime at all costs. At some point, however, he encounters an agent of a superior galactic civilization, working on the planet under deep cover. The agent is likewise disgusted by the regime but he understands that its violent destruction would cause even greater pain to the people, and fights against the revolutionary plans of the Earthling. Mezhuev argues that here the Strugatsky brothers were expressing the ideal of the ‘Enlightened authoritarianism’ of the liberal intelligentsia, which in spite of its iconoclasm and opposition has always dreamt of building a strategic partnership with the despotic state. In Mezhuev’s view, this is precisely the idea of ‘progressorism’ driven to its extreme. On Russian soil, he argues,‘progressorism’ always ends up in the violence of the Westernized elite against the uncivilized grassroots. ‘The sin of the Strugatsky brothers, professed Mezhuev, was their idealization of the external foreign control’ over the aboriginals.60 He further mentions that reading the Strugatskys in the 1990s opened his eyes to the pernicious worldview of the liberal reformers of this period, who – until Putin consolidated his power – dreamt of a liberal dictatorship and worked on transforming Russia into a powerless deposit of natural resources for the global West.61 Again, as in the example of Rybakov, an innocent space-opera plotline has acquired a new life as a commentary on geopolitics and Russia’s national ‘true self’ much in line with Slavophile ideology. Konstantin Lopushanskii, known internationally for his apocalyptic SF film Letters from a Dead Man (1986), and Viacheslav Rybakov provide us with another example of how the Strugatsky brothers were reinterpreted the conservative SF writers. Gadkie lebedi (Ugly Swans, 1967) is a story about some unknown creatures, ‘slimies’ (mokretsy), characterized by superior intelligence and knowledge and who work as teachers in a boarding school and train kids to be like them. By doing so, they cause uproar from the people, who feel humiliated by the fact that their children willingly abandon them for strangers and their suspicious teachings. In the Strugatskys’ story, humans are unpleasant, egoistic and petty bourgeois, but the reader nevertheless gets an ambivalent impression that in spite of the superiority of the slimies –

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including moral superiority – the situation itself is morally corrupt. This is because benevolent aliens inadvertently devalue the very existence of human beings, nullify all the achievements of the human race and even rob humans of their own children.62 The story could be seen as a moral dilemma about ‘progressors’, but Lopushanskii and Rybakov push it one step further. In the film of the same title (2006), the viewers’ sympathy is decisively tilted towards the slimies, who in the book are rendered as ugly and deformed, but sport stylish black gowns in the cinematic version. In another deviation from the book, the slimies master esoteric spiritual skills, like levitation, and the thread of the film is their (failed) attempt to make themselves understandable to humans. Again in contrast to the book, the film ends with an air strike, carried out by the humans against the boarding school, which evidently kills the aliens.63 The protagonist saves the kids, but they subsequently suffer a severe mental breakdown because their unlimited horizons of cognition and development, opened up by the slimies, were foreclosed by their return to the world of humans, where they are treated with sedatives in a mental ward. The episode of the air strike reminds us of the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, and the entire story acquires a new resonance for the anti-Western agenda of conservative SF. The parallel which emerges before us is one between the spiritually and morally superior but geopolitically weak ‘Russian civilization’ and the violent ways of the global West, which instils conformity, cherishes reverence for bare materialism and avarice, and nurtures myths about its civilizing mission on the planet.

Orthodox SF: anamnesis and nemesis Religious themes do not necessarily dominate the plotline in SF but they do constitute an important part of the narrative’s background in many postSoviet fantastic books. This religious element is important in the fiction of Sergei Luk’ianenko, Viacheslav Rybakov, Andrei Stoliarov, Vadim Panov, Dalia Truskinovskaia and dozens of others. In this section, however, we will focus on a few selected SF stories that are directly and predominantly influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church. They are fantastic narratives authored by priests or by laypeople close to the Church, whose motivation is primarily religious and whose prose constitutes a specific sub-genre of Orthodox science fiction.64 It should be noted that Orthodoxy and science fiction are strange bedfellows. The authoritative Father Seraphim (Rose) linked science fiction to occultism and argued that the emergence of this genre in the twentieth century signalled a fading away of Christian values and a Christian worldview.65 Vitalii Kaplan reminds us of the Orthodox view of world history: ‘Globally, the history of this


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world does not lead us to the bright future, simply because of the inevitability of Apocalypse and the Last Judgement.’66 Furthermore, according to the Orthodox Church, human nature is essentially corrupt due to original sin and therefore humans can neither conceive what the better world order is nor successfully implement it in their lives. It also means that the very pursuit of a better life in this world is simply pointless, because our task on Earth is to transform our souls, not social institutions.67 The key point of this section is precisely that Orthodox SF avoids moral dilemmas as a central driving force of the narrative. Instead, these stories focus on three interrelated problems: 1) remembering/forgetting; 2) belonging/betrayal; and 3) friend/enemy. One of the central literary devices of conservative SF is anamnesis, or the protagonist’s recall of half-forgotten connections to her ‘real’ context, more often than not to a religious tradition. Anamnesis functions as literally ‘remembering’, that is returning to a community to which a hero once belonged,68 and this return is staged as a decisive salutary act, through which the protagonist overcomes challenges and regenerates to a new, better life. In religious SF, anamnesis comes down to recollecting prayers from one’s childhood, to transforming the abstract knowledge about Orthodox Christianity into active participation in the religious community, that is to ‘churchizing’ (votserkovlenie). It should be noted that a vast majority of Russians (around 75%) identify themselves with Orthodoxy as cultural tradition, but only a relatively insignificant number (c. 2–4%) is actually practising Orthodox believers (votserkovlennye). In such a society, the Church’s mission changes from informing ignorant people about religion to convincing people who already know much about various faiths but adhere to none in particular. This type of missionary activism is akin to anamnesis and re-membering: the flock is waking up to its half-forgotten and displaced religious roots. Iuliia Voznesenskaia’s fiction illustrates this kind of anamnesis. Voznesenskaia was a dissident activist under the Soviet regime. In 1980 she emigrated to Germany, where she developed conservative and religious views and gained fame as a writer of ‘Orthodox fantasy’ novels. In 2011 she was nominated for the Patriarch’s Literary Prize. In her book Moi posmertnye prikliucheniia (2001), the protagonist dies and passes through a series of ordeals on her way to God’s throne. In one of the ordeals, she almost fails, because demons have produced evidence of her sins of pride, to which she apparently has no counter pleas. She feels the demons sticking to her body and dragging her into hell. In this desperate moment, I tried to pray, but I could not recollect how to do so and to whom shall I pray. Then I strained my failing conscience and tried to imagine the

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icon of [the] Mother of God of Kazan in our flat in Moscow. Once my husband bought it on an occasion . . . and hung it just in order to embellish the interior, nobody prayed in front of it. I tried to bring up the face of [the] Mother of God in my memory and silently called to her: ‘Help me, please, Mother of God.’69

By so doing, the protagonist vanquished the demons and set herself back on the right track towards the heavenly kingdom. This episode succinctly condenses the Church’s master narrative of the need to ‘churchize’ the people: an icon, appreciated as an artistic sign of cultural belonging to a certain religious tradition, should be rediscovered as a sacred object of veneration and communication with God. This is what the protagonist did: having renounced her secular habits in a heartbeat, she struggled to recollect and to reconnect with religious practice and community. As the narrative evolves, the protagonist still ends up in hell, but the hellishness of this hell is not manifested in the medieval brutality of elaborate tortures, but through the inability of its inhabitants to recollect that there is a God and a heaven and to imagine a place different from their present dreary abode. However, with the help of her guardian angel, who drops communion bread (the host) for her from time to time, she gradually returns to her senses, recollects the prayers and moves into the higher circles of hell, where people remember about God and live religious lives, unmolested by demons. In The Way of Cassandra (2002) and its sequel, Lancelot’s Pilgrimage (2004), Voznesenskaia returns to the plotline of anamnesis once again and fleshes it out in entertaining adventure stories in a dystopian and apocalyptic setting. Not dissimilar to Vladimir Solov’ev’s apocalyptic narrative in Three Talks (1899), the story portrays the last days of the world when Antichrist has come to power in the West and ousts religion and traditional morality from society. In accordance with the mythology of politicized Orthodoxy, the Russian Empire remains impregnable to such evil deeds. The heroes of both books are fully embedded into the society of Antichrist, and live thoughtless lives in the virtual space. However, when they are accidentally prodded into leaving their comfort zones, they wake up to the boundless evil of the world in which they have to live. Then the memory about their Christian past or someone who keeps such memories serves as their lodestar in their perilous travel through the world of natural catastrophes and demonic works. The protagonists redefine their place in society and their group of friends, and in spatial terms, the narrative boils down to a journey from the place where enemies dwell, to a peaceful harbour inhabited by friends – the last remaining Christians.70 Another example of anamnesis in religious SF comes from the space opera The Ziggurat by Iurii Maksimov, the priest. It tells us about an interplanetary


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journey from the Earth to a technologically advanced civilization (which turns out to be the descendant of the ancient earthly people of Sumer), which traded its free will to demons in exchange for thorough knowledge about the universe. Demons literally possess almost everyone on that planet, and they are also installed in the minds of the space travellers with one notable exception. The protagonist of Russian origin appears to be conspicuously unsusceptible to the dark forces, and after a laborious recollection of his past life he discovers that the only reason for his invulnerability is the fact that he had been baptized in childhood. Armed with this knowledge, he baptizes his companions and embarks on life as an ardent neophyte, ready to fight demons across the whole planet. Again, as in Voznesenskaia’s narrative, a formal and half-forgotten sign of belonging to a religious tradition (baptism) is recollected and reinterpreted as the most important event in his life.71 The tragic moral dilemma, the earmark of classic Russian literature, is alien to post-Soviet conservative SF. The racial overtones to the ‘friends/enemies’ divide in conservative SF is explored by Victor Shnirelman,72 but in most cases, the narratives are driven by the territorial move between the camps of the ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’. The geopolitics of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ is preceded by the procedure of re-membering who are the real friends and foes of the protagonist. It is characteristic that the very idea of Orthodox SF becomes possible precisely when and as long as the universal enemy in the Christian worldview – demons – become territorialized.73 The global empire of Antichrist in the books of Iuliia Voznesenskaia, or a planet captured and possessed by demons in Iurii Maksimov’s novel, are salient examples of how the universal enemy of universalist utopias acquires specific locality and enables us to draw a distinctive line between ‘good friends’ and ‘bad enemies’. Geopolitization of moral and religious problems was employed as early as the 1990s by Iurii Petukhov in his series of fantastic essays about besoplanetiane – demon extraterrestrials. The narrative in this and analogous cases is built on a plotline of the penetration of borders, for example the assumption that besoplanetiane infiltrate our world or that agents of the West are looking for a newborn Antichrist in the territory of the Russian Empire. The problem of the borderline separating ‘us’ from ‘them’ was recently explored in Russkii frontir (The Russian Frontier, 2018), edited by Dmitry Volodikhin and Sergei Chekmaev. In an introductory essay, Volodikhin defines the main theme of the book as the dynamic and unstoppable expansion of the imaginary future Russian Empire in space, ideology and culture. He concludes the piece with a catchy phrase: ‘our borders in the future is the farewell to the borders’.74 Yet, with more careful consideration it becomes clear that conservative SF requires borders, because spatialized ‘friend/enemy’ distinctions are hardwired into the very logic of this ideological project. Irina Irtenina seems to understand this quite well.

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Irtenina had been Volodikhin’s comrade in arms, associated first with RISI and now with the society Two-Headed Eagle. She wrote a fairly bleak Orthodox SF novel, Belyi krest (The White Cross), in which she was remarkably outspoken in her reflections and comments. In 2005 she penned a literary manifesto of sorts for Orthodox SF, arguing that its task was to establish the ‘front line’ not inside an individual (fighting with her own sins and passions), but inside the international world, contaminated by the gangrene of antiChristianity.75 Continuing this train of thought, Irtenina mourned that Russia (in 2005) ‘has no “official”, clearly designated and recognized enemies’, and urged the need for such in order to ‘keep Russia in shape’. The ideology behind these words is the same trivial political Orthodoxy familiar to the panoply of Russian religious ideologues, who want to see Russia as a Katechon, a powerful political empire, providing humanity with the ‘infrastructure of salvation’ in the face of the impending reign of Antichrist.76 In Belyi krest, however, Irtenina contemplates a more sophisticated interpretation of the ‘friend/enemy’ dialectic. The narrative itself is a bunch of weird and unreadable fantasies about future catastrophes, with the basic premise of the Russian Orthodox Empire standing up to the degenerate West. In the end she says that the Orthodox Empire serves the forces of good as long as it maintains the border with the external evil (in this case, the West). However, when the Orthodox Empire prevails (as it should, by the very nature of things, because God helps it!) and embraces the entire world, there will be no inside and outside. This means that the Orthodox Empire will also absorb the evil and ‘start to serve the darkness’.77 This ingenious and tantalizing remark, unfortunately, remains underdeveloped, but it reveals that Irtenina is self-reflective about the logic of Orthodox utopia, which by necessity produces geopolitical enemies.

Conclusion Classic European utopias, associated with the names of Thomas More and Tommaso Campanella, offered a fixed model of the perfect society and contemplated the possibility of a rationally planned society. A new generation of utopias was born in the midst of triumphalist capitalism in the second half of the nineteenth century. In these ‘modern utopias’, unlike the classic ones, the social ideal is ‘kinetic and not static’.78 Modern utopias are basically the roadmaps for reform, and their political message shows the necessity of mastering and channelling the otherwise chaotic and unstoppable processes of endless change. Finally, today utopias have to grapple with another serious political challenge: the problem of social heterogeneity. As one can easily


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observe, contrary to the classic utopian fantasies, the world is not becoming more monolithic and unanimous. By contrast, it is becoming increasingly plural. Does this mean the utopian hope is forlorn? Sensitized by the criticism of great anti-utopian writers as well as by the genocidal policies of totalitarian regimes, today’s utopian thinkers are faced by the almost impossible task of contemplating a better society, in which differences are not repressed but fostered. The purposefulness of society, the mastery of social change and the inclusion of difference – these were the historical tasks of utopian imagination since More’s eponymous Utopia. This research is inspired by the conviction that utopia actually can and must fulfil the third task and embrace plurality. Conservative SF does not repudiate the three pillars of post-Renaissance Western utopianism, but it engages with them in a specific and ambiguous way. In this sense, conservative SF is not a sidetrack to the highway of utopian thinking. Like it or not, it stands at the forefront of contemporary utopian pursuits. Even in its alliance with pro-government think tanks, conservative SF exhibits the growing relevance of utopianism to political decision-making. Its ideal implies the purposeful and radical transformation of society in compliance with classical and modern utopianism. Unlike the former, however, the conservative utopian ideal takes one step back in its refusal to let difference inside. Instead, it geopoliticizes, or territorializes, the difference. The ‘Other’ here is expelled from the ‘inside’ and identified with a geopolitical enemy. The vast majority of plotlines in conservative SF deal specifically with an external enemy and its agents inside ‘us’. This is indeed a dangerous way to cope with the difference (see Table 5.1). Table 5.1 Historico-ideological iterations of utopianism


Challenge (opposite assumption)


Classic utopia

Modern utopia Post-modern utopia

Conservative utopia

Purposeful (orderly) society Society is just ‘out there’ (people cannot control it)

Mastery over Inclusion of social change difference

Communitarian, geopolitical

Society develops Society develops Society develops according to towards towards its own greater globalized, design and homogeneity multicultural laws liberal world order Thomas More’s William Morris Kim Stanley Russian conservative Utopia News from Robinson’s SF (1516) Nowhere Mars Trilogy (1890) (1992–6)

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Notes 1 I would like to thank Per-Arne Bodin and Yvonne Howell for their very useful comments on the earlier version of this chapter. 2 ‘Vechnost’ i vremia’, 17 December 2015, watch?v=WzB0nuILtpA. It is remarkable that in 2013 Father Vsevolod produced a TV programme with two other SF writers, Roman Zlotnikov and Vadim Panov. They discussed whether ‘fantastic literature can construct the future’; 3 Aron Shemaier [Vsevolod Chaplin], ‘Masho i medvedi’, in Sergei Chekmaev (ed.), Sem’ (Moscow: Eksmo, 2014). 4 For example, a description of the dystopian world ‘apophatically’ hints at the positive ideal proposed by its author. 5 This theorization is grounded in the ‘Limerick school’ of studies of utopianism. See, inter alia, Ruth Levitas, ‘The Imaginary Reconstruction of Society: Utopia as Method’, in Tom Moylan and Raffaella Baccolini (eds), Utopia Method Vision: The Use Value of Social Dreaming (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007); Tom Moylan, ‘To Stay with Dreamers: On the Use Value of Utopia’, Irish Review 34 (2006); Tom Moylan and Raffaella Baccolini, ‘Introduction: Utopias as Method’, in Tom Moylan and Raffaella Baccolini (eds), Utopia Method Vision: The Use Value of Social Dreaming (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007). 6 Noël O’Sullivan, Conservatism (London: St Martin’s Press, 1976), p. 12; Michael Freeden, Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 332. 7 Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1976). The possibility of a conservative utopia was further explicated in Andrzej Walicki’s book The Slavophile Controversy: History of a Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth-Century Russian Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975). 8 For example, Roger Griffin, Fascism: Critical Concepts in Political Science (London: Routledge, 2004), vol. 1. 9 On Sharapov and his ideological milieu, see Mikhail Suslov, ‘Slavophilism Is True Liberalism: The Political Utopia of S. F. Sharapov (1855–1911)’, Russian History 38, no. 2 (2011). 10 On the ‘conservative turn’, see Gulnaz Sharafutdinova, ‘The Pussy Riot Affair and Putin’s Démarche from Sovereign Democracy to Sovereign Morality’, Nationalities Papers 42, no. 4 (2014); Elena Stepanova, ‘ “The Spiritual and Moral Foundation of Civilization in Every Nation for Thousands of Years”: The Traditional Values Discourse in Russia’, Politics, Religion and Ideology 16, no. 2–3 (2015); Jardar Østbø, ‘Securitizing “Spiritual-Moral” Values in Russia’, Post-Soviet Affairs 33, no. 3 (2017); Mikhail Suslov and Dmitry Uzlaner (eds), Contemporary Russian Conservatism: Problems, Paradoxes and Perspectives (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2019). 11 ‘My u sebia doma: Kruglyi stol’, Spetsnaz Rossii 1 (2005).


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12 Mikhail Suslov, ‘Of Planets and Trenches: Imperial Science Fiction in Contemporary Russia’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (October 2016): 562–78; Patrice Lajoye, ‘La tentation totalitariste dans la SF russe actuelle’, Galaxies 33 (2015): 111–14; V. Mart’ianov and L. Fishman, Rossiia v poiskakh utopii: Ot moral’nogo kollapsa k moral’noi revoliutsii (Moscow: Ves’ mir, 2010); M. Iudanova, Krizis kul’tury v sovremennoi russkoiazychnoi fantastike. PhD dissertation (Moscow, 2012). See also Maria Galina’s chapter in this volume. 13 Cf. Ayse Zarakol, After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Andrei Tsygankov, Russia and the West from Alexander to Putin: Honor in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 14 For more on this, see Suslov, ‘Of Planets and Trenches’, pp. 562–78. 15 M. Cherniak, ‘Fantastika kak aktual’noe chtenie’, Bibliotechnoe delo 16 (31 August 2013): 3. See also Birgit Menzel, ‘Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature’, in Stephen Lovell and Birgit Menzel (eds), Reading for Entertainment in Contemporary Russia: Post-Soviet Popular Literature in Historical Perspective (Munich: Sagner, 2005), pp. 118–19. 16 On Telluria, see Chapter 14 by Mark Lipovetsky. 17 On Zh.D., see Chapter 13 by Sofya Khagi. 18 The salient exception is Viacheslav Rybakov and Igor Alimov’s book series Eurasian Symphony, which is beyond the parameters of this chapter. Eurasian Symphony exemplifies the possibility of playing with conservative ideals ironically and at the same time earnestly supporting them. For more on this, see Mikhail Suslov, ‘Eurasian Symphony: Geopolitics and Utopia in Post-Soviet Alternative History’, in M. Bassin and G. Pozo (eds), The Politics of Eurasianism: Identity, Popular Culture and Russia’s Foreign Policy (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017). 19 For a critical account of such radical multiculturalism see, for example, Jüergen Habermas, ‘Secularism’s Crisis of Faith: Notes on a Post-Secular Society’, New Perspectives Quarterly 25 (2008): 17–25. 20 Matthew Beaumont, Utopia Ltd: Ideologies of Social Dreaming in England, 1870–1900 (Leiden: Brill, 2005). 21 Andrei Pervushin, ‘Problemy nauchnoi fantastiki v Rossii: Mnimye i real’nye’, Troitskii variant 225 (28 March 2017), problemy-sci-fi-v-rossii/. 22 Cf. Vladimir Obruchev’s observation in his Facebook post of 23 September 2018, tn__=%2CdC-R-R&eid=ARBEwetdnms3U1GQuttw86XKyh5j7GqEy9Vugc ymA6RaNNI5MLdc1HTzZOIJTFwKooMihhnO1ra9Qu0p&hc_ref=ARTSZ BcJWezPrRU51h8QMAyIJyDO6WkKOYIRDNYX1Ko9Aui95Q8Ooxbsqyi5 siyQfOE&fref=nf. Vladimir Obruchev is the editor of the popular science department at Eksmo, the foremost publisher of SF. See also V. Berezin, ‘Fantastika’, Knizhnoe obozrenie 52 (22 December 2008), and M. Cherniak, ‘Fantastika kak aktual’noe chtenie’, 4.

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23 Natalia Zorkaia, ‘Tendentsii v chtenii rossiian v 90-e gody: Na materiale oprosov VTsIOM 1992–1997’, Monitoring obshchestvennogo mneniia 35, no. 3 (1998), 24 ‘Samye chitaemye v Rossii knigi po zhanram’, lists/other/reading-russia. 25 V. Belov and V. Gromova, ‘Sovremennye chitatel’skie predpochteniia podrostkov i iunoshestva’, Bibliotekovedenie 1 (2014), article/n/sovremennye-chitatelskie-predpochteniya-podrostkov-iyunoshestva. Note also that 34% of all teenagers and 19% of the entire population prefer SF over all other genres; A. Stepanova and V. Ialysheva, ‘Chtenie: issledovatel’skaia deiatel’nost’ rossiiskikh bibliotek’, Chtenie v bibliotekakh Rossii 7 (2007): 8–27. 26 ‘Post-reliz konferentsii Roskon’ (2014), Roskon, news/2014-04-02/. 27 There are ten to fifteen writers whose royalties reach up to US$60,000 per book. The average royalty per book is US$2,000. See Elena Luk’ianova, ‘Mir spasut mutanty’, Argumenty i fakty – Ufa, 15 May 2013; personal correspondence with Iuliia Andreeva, 12 April 2014; Chapter 2 by Maria Galina. 28 Luk’ianova, ‘Mir spasut mutanty’; personal correspondence with Iuliia Andreeva, 12 April 2014; Pavel Vinogradov and Tat’iana Alekseeva, ‘Zhizn’ posle Strugatskikh’, Nevskoe vremia, 6 February 2014. 29 See also the pages of these intellectuals on ‘Political conservatism’:;; author/benediktov. 30 Irina Kotkina and Mark Bassin, ‘ “Ethnogenez” Eurasian Science Fiction Project: Bio-politics and Ethno-Vitalism in Contemporary Russian Geopolitics’, Utopian Studies 27, no. 1 (2016): 53–77. On Gumilev, see Mark Bassin, The Gumilev Mystique, Biopolitics, Eurasianism, and the Construction of Community in Modern Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016). 31 The term ‘close range science fiction’ (fantastika blizhnego pritsela) comes from a trend in Soviet SF of the 1940s–early 1950s which focused on the relatively near future, technological accomplishments and as few fantastic assumptions as possible. It was associated with the Stalinist mandate to limit the genre of science fiction to socially useful fantasies illustrating technological progress and social goals that might be achieved in the ‘close range’ or ‘near horizons’. It is noteworthy that the rebooting of the term serves the same purpose: to limit the iconoclastic potential of the genre and highlight its usefulness for the pragmatic goals of the state. I thank Yvonne Howell for drawing my attention to this remarkable parallel. 32 Sergei Chekmaev and Roman Silant’ev, ‘Preface’, in S. Chekmaev (ed.) Liberal’nyi apokalipsis (Moscow: Eksmo, 2013), chekmaev_sergey/liberalniy_apokalipsis.html#0.


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33 The term was invented around 2005 and propagated by the community until 2017. Participants included Dmitry Volodikhin and Konstantin Krylov. See Sergei Chuprinin, Russkaia literature segodnia: Zhizn’ po poniatiiam (Moscow: Vremia, 2007). 34 ‘Nashi tseli i zadachi’, 35 For example ‘[I suggest that Russian monarchists] would more often communicate their opinion to the political elite. It is neither deaf, nor stupid. At some point it can earnestly respond.’ Dmitry Volodikhin, ‘Chuvstvo monarkhii razlito v narode’, 36 See the webpage of the prize: In 2011, Iuliia Voznesenskaia was nominated (her books are discussed later in the chapter). 37 Volodikhin’s closest circle included Sergei Sizarev, Sergei Chekmaev, Gleb Eliseev and Eduard Gevorkian. Occasionally Volodikhin’s events and book projects are attended by Elena Khaetskaia, Aleks Gromov, Oleg Divov, Aleksandr Tiurin and a few dozen other less renowned SF writers. 38 Roman Zlotnikov, ‘Vozrozhdenie Rossii kak imperii’, 16 February 2016, See also 39 For more on pro-Kremlin think tanks, see Marlène Laruelle, ‘Inside and Around the Kremlin’s Black Box: The New Nationalist Think-Tanks in Russia’, Stockholm Paper, October 2009, images/stories/isdp-main-pdf/2009_laruelle_inside-and-around-thekremlins-black-box.pdf. 40 See, for example, his recent interview with another conservative SF writer, Igor Shengal’ts, 14 November 2017, 41 Kirill Benediktov, ‘V poiskakh konservativnoi utopii’, 16 May 2014, https:// 42 See the ranking on The brothers Strugatsky and Stephen King are placed second and third respectively. 43 ‘Dozor budushchego Sergeia Luk’ianenko’, 8 July 2015, http://www. 44 ‘Dozor budushchego Sergeia Luk’ianenko’. At various points in time ISEPI gave the floor to other writers of SF, such as Dmitry Volodikhin, Elena Chudinova, Mikhail Kharitonov (Konstantin Krylov), Fedor Berezin, Oleg Divov, Igor Shengal’z, Gleb Eliseev, Roman Zlotnikov and Konstantin Rykov. 45 ‘Gosudarstvo material’no podderzhit pisatelei-fantastov’ (2012), http://www. 46 Their masterpieces continue to deliver a guaranteed profit to publishing houses (e.g. Hard to Be a God has been reprinted fifty-seven times; Monday Begins on Saturday, forty-nine). Calculation is based on information provided by the website

Conservative Science Fiction in Contemporary Russian Literature


47 Dmitry Volodikhin and Gennadii Prashkevich, Brat’ia Strugatskie (Moscow: Molodaia Gvardiia, 2017). 48 For Russian utopian fiction before 1917, see Mikhail Suslov, ‘Po tu storonu imperii: Prostranstvennye konfiguratsii identichnostei v rossiiskikh literaturnykh utopiiakh rubezha 19–20 vv.’, Ab Imperio 4 (2011): 325–56. 49 Mark Lipovetsky discussed the idea of ‘progressorism’ from the perspective of colonial studies at the conference ‘Radiant Futures: Russian Fantasy and Science’ (New York University, Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, 2016), . 50 These authors contend that in the 1960s, when the Strugatsky brothers were writing Hard to Be a God and The Snail on a Slope, they voiced the same concerns, which discomfits conservative intellectuals in post-Soviet Russia, and only later on did the Strugatskys adopt a more liberal and Westernized viewpoint. 51 ‘Patriarkhal’nyi, blagodushnyi despotizm’. See Dmitry Volodikhin, ‘Viktorianskaia Rossiia’, in P. Sviatenkov et al., Politicheskoe pravoslavie: Strategicheskii zhurnal no. 2 (Moscow: APN, 2006), p. 252. 52 Cf. Konstantin Frumkin, ‘Imperii i spetssluzhby v fantastike’, Svobodnaia mysl’ – XXI vek 2 (2004): 76–83. 53 Volodikhin utilized this ideal in his own SF novels, such as Konkistador (2004). Aleksandr Zorich (the pen name for Dmitry Gordievskii and Iana Botsman) developed a similar style in the book series Zavtra voina (2003–8). A recent example of ‘Russian Victorianism’ is Elena Chudinova’s alternative history fantasy The Victors (Pobediteli, 2017). Here, Chudinova fleshes out the idea of ‘benevolent despotism’ in her imaginary imperial Russia of the 1980s, presenting the refined conversations of aristocrats, their ornate ways of eating delicate food, and the atmosphere of sparsely populated Moscow of one-storeyed suburbs and gardens. 54 One interpretation connects this plotline with the historical experience of genocides in the twentieth century. See Yvonne Howell, Apocalyptic Realism: The Science Fiction of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (New York: Lang, 1994), pp. 129–38. See also Maria Engström’s chapter in this volume. 55 Translated from the Russian by Alan Meyers (Strugatsky, 1980). The same monologue by Kandid, the protagonist of the novel, is the central focus of Brat’ia Strugatskie by Volodikhin and Prashkevich. Volodikhin draws parallels between this indictment of inhumane progress and the position of late imperial Russian conservatives such as Konstantin Leont’ev, who claimed that ‘in order not to rot, Russia must be frozen’; Konstantin Leont’ev, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow: V. M. Sablin, 1912–13), vol. 7, p. 124. 56 One can add that they are female; the Strugatsky brothers’ repugnance of women’s rule should be very much to the liking of Rybakov, for whom gynaecocracy represents repulsive Western-style feminism. See Diana Greene, ‘Male and Female in The Snail on the Slope by the Strugatsky Brothers’, MFS Modern Fiction Studies 32, no. 1 (1986): 97–108. 57 From the correspondence of 5 October 2015.


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58 In his famous article ‘A Survey of Today’s State of the [Russian] Literature’ he offered the metaphor of the Western Enlightenment in Russia as a flower, torn from its roots and planted on a foreign soil – a flower that is going to wither and at the same time block the growth of ‘native’ plants; Ivan Kireevskii, ‘Obozrenie sovremennogo sostoianiia literatury’ (1845), in Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 2-kh tomakh (Moscow: Koshelev, 1861), vol. 1. 59 The TV show Noch’ na piatom, 2 October 2010, video85732658_169798829. 60 Boris Mezhuev, ‘Povest’ o prosveshchennom avtoritarizme i gor’kikh plodakh reformy’, 30 August 2016, 61 Cf. Leonid Fishman’s interpretation of the Strugatskys’ world as a deadlock of ‘total humanism’; Leonid Fishman, Kartina budushchego u rossiiskikh fantastov (Lipetsk: n.p., 2008), p. 24. 62 Cf. ‘They [the slimies] dismiss their lesser developed human brothers as one dismisses small children from a meaningful discussion . . .’; Howell, Apocalyptic Realism, p. 111. 63 For example, closer to the end (1:26), one of the slimies regrets that they have not had enough time to allow humans to understand them. ‘I am sure, we could have been understood. Your kids have well understood us.’ This scene makes the audience feel sympathy for the slimies, doomed to perish because of the human inability to understand them and because of violent xenophobia. Volodikhin and Prashkevich also praised the cinematographic version of Ugly Swans, regarding this very quotation as the essence of the film’s message (Volodikhin and Prashkevich, Brat’ia Strugatskie). 64 For more on religious SF, see Chapter 7 by Anastasia Mitrofanova. 65 Seraphim (Rose), Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future (Platina, CA: St Herman Press, 1975). 66 Vitalii Kaplan, ‘Svetloe budushchee’ (2004), html. 67 For ruminations on the subject of Orthodox SF by the late Father Daniil Sysoev, see his ‘Pravoslavie i fantastika: Granitsy i perspektivy’, https:// 68 Cf. ‘The simultaneously collective and “connective” bonding nature of memory is expressed with particular clarity in the English-language words re-membering and re-collecting.’ See Jan Assmann and Rodney Livingstone, Religion and Cultural Memory (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006), p. 11. 69 Iuliia Voznesenskaia, Moi posmertnye prikliucheniia (Moscow: Veche, 2017 /2001). 70 Iuliia Voznesenskaia, Put’ Kassandry, ili Prikliucheniia s makaronami, 3rd edn (Moscow: Lepta-Press, 2005); Iuliia Voznesenskaia, Palomnichestvo Lanselota, 2nd edn (Moscow: Lepta-Press, 2004). On Voznesenskaia’s ‘Orthodox

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71 72 73

74 75


77 78


fantasy’, see Tatiana Khoruzhenko, Russkoe fentezi: Na puti k metazhanru. PhD dissertation (Yekaterinburg: UrFU, 2015). Iurii Maksimov, Zikkurat (Moscow: AST, 2008). Victor Shnirelman, Ariiskii mif v sovremennom mire (Moscow: NLO, 2015), vol. 1, pp. 208–71. See also Chapter 8 in this volume. Utopia by its etymology – ‘u/eu+topos’ – implies a specific territorial order. For more on the spatial organization of the utopian imagination, see Chapter 13 by Sofya Khagi. Dmitry Volodikhin, ‘Geografiia budushchego’, in Dmitry Volodikhin and Sergei Chekmaev (eds), Russkii frontir (Moscow: Izd-vo ‘E’, 2018), p. 8. ‘Liniia fronta prokhodit uzhe ne stol’ko vnutri lichnosti . . . skol’ko vnutri mirovogo soobshchestva, porazhennogo gangrenoi antikhristianstva.’ See Irina Irtenina, ‘Imperativ budushchego, ili Kak nam obustroit’ pravoslavnyi literaturnyi masskul’t (na primere fantastiki)’ (2005), book/519182/?page=1. Cf. ‘The powerful White Empire [a reference to White Guardism and Orthodoxy, but also probably to the racial whiteness] . . . partakes in the clash of civilizations and withstands the pressure of the darkness, slowly but unstoppably moving on the world.’ See Irina Irtenina, ‘My vedem partizanskuiu voinu protiv antikhristovoi ideologii’, http://www.lepta-kniga. ru/ncd-5-11-45-1/cafe.html. On ‘political Orthodoxy’, see, among others, Anastasia Mitrofanova, The Politicization of Russian Orthodoxy: Actors and Ideas (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2005). Irina Irtenina, Belyi krest (Moscow: Lepta, 2006). H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia, ed. Mark R. Hillegas (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967), p. 75.



Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia Andrei Rogatchevski

Eduard Limonov (real name Savenko, b. 1943) is a controversial yet influential Russian author and politician with considerable experience of life as an underground poet in the USSR in the late 1960s–early 1970s, and as an exile in the West (mostly the USA and France) in the mid-1970s–early 1990s.1 Having ‘dismissed democracy as little more than window dressing for unaccountable corporate powers that dominated Western politics’,2 he returned to Russia after the collapse of the USSR to pursue an anti-capitalist and nationalist agenda, chiefly by non-parliamentary means. Together with the countercultural philosopher Aleksandr Dugin,3 in 1993 Limonov co-founded the extremist National Bolshevik Party (NBP). At its height, it numbered over 50,000 very active and highly visible members, was banned in 2007 and subsequently regrouped under a new name, The Other Russia.4 According to one literary critic, shortly before the 2007 ban, almost every Russian fiction writer, not to mention journalists, . . . wrote about the NBP. Every fifth author knew the NBP material well. Every third described the NBP with either envy or admiration. Or with interest bordering on bewilderment; sometimes even with malice. Former and current NBP members wrote fiction too – imitating Limonov and about Limonov.5

Given Limonov’s widespread popularity (or notoriety, as some would prefer to call it), it would be interesting to examine, albeit briefly, his views of what is wrong with society in Russia and elsewhere, and how these wrongs should be righted. It is undeniable that Limonov’s personal prospects of gaining political office by conventional means look rather slim at present. He is already in his mid-seventies, and although the Other Russia’s latest, seventh, Congress took place as recently as 22 September 2018, the party has been denied official registration and has boycotted elections for quite some time. 129


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Still, Limonov’s ideas about reforming Russia may well catch on regardless, and it cannot be ruled out that the country, and the rest of the world, will have to live with them sooner or later.6 Limonov and the NBP/Other Russia members have repeatedly demonstrated that they are keen to implement these ideas, by force of arms and beyond Russias’s borders if necessary. Thus, in 2001–3, Limonov served time in various Russian penitentiaries for gun running with a view to inciting separatism among Russian speakers in Northern Kazakhstan (Limonov’s biographer characterizes this goal as ‘seemingly Utopian’).7 In spring 2015, the media reported the formation of a military detachment called the People’s Republic of Kharkov, made up solely of Other Russia volunteers, who took part in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, planning to ‘liberate’ Kharkiv (where Limonov grew up) from Kyiv rule and turn eastern Ukraine into a ‘Utopian state’.8 I would like to present and discuss the NBP/Other Russia leader’s thoughts on what such a state should be like and where and how it could be established.9 The key works in this respect are Limonov’s Drugaia Rossiia (The Other Russia, 2003, still awaiting translation into foreign languages) and its earlier companion volume, Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii (The Disciplinary Sanatorium, 1992; translated into French as Le grand hospice occidental in 1993 and reissued in 2016). Both appear to be central to Limonov’s take on the topic of an ideal society (or its opposite, as one seems hardly possible without the implied other).10 Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii strives to explain the demise of the USSR in terms of the claim that in its final stages, Soviet society was not that different from the capitalist society it had sought to replace. Drugaia Rossiia describes what Limonov believes to be a genuine alternative to both capitalism and communism, encapsulating his own personal vision of Russia’s (and possibly the world’s) most desirable future. Both Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii and Drugaia Rossiia are often classified as nonfiction. I intend to question this categorization. Typically, throughout his sizeable, chiefly narcissistic output, Limonov blends fact and fiction to attract maximum attention to his own persona by recourse to, and for the sake of, self-promotion and self-aggrandisement. Thus, the American translation of his debut novel, It’s Me, Eddie (1983), was subtitled ‘a fictional memoir’ – an open admission that its autobiographical first-person narrative was at times playing fast and loose with real-life events. This set the pattern for many of Limonov’s subsequent books, including his so-called non-fiction, which is sometimes fantastical to such a degree that it seems stranger than many authors’ fiction. Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii and Drugaia Rossiia are no exception, in my view. Both titles will be summarized and analysed here, in an attempt to unpick, contextualize and interpret their (anti-)utopian components, as well as identify the books’ genre. Limonov’s other works will also be cited or referred to, as and when necessary.

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


Readers are kindly requested to exercise patience while familiarizing themselves with Limonov’s (anti-)utopian thought. It consists of many different strands which join together in something that simultaneously amounts to both a coherent whole and a kind of mental chaos. It would be presumptuous to expect that Limonov’s (and my) readers are familiar with all the ingredients that infuse Limonov’s cocktail-like (anti-)utopian vision. To account for these ingredients, it seems imperative to resort to more expert quotes than usual, working on the premise that an expert view of a particular topic does not require much polemicizing or rephrasing. Also, more often than not, Limonov’s combination of the ingredients in question may appear irrational, puzzling and off-putting, making it difficult to state with any certainty whether he is serious about his pronouncements on Russia’s future. The reader would be well advised to remember at all times that analysing Limonov’s (anti-)utopianism is a challenging and not always fruitful task.

Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii Partially inspired by George Orwell’s 1984,11 Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii refuses to accept the traditional broad Marxist/Leninist distinction between capitalist and socialist (communist) societies, especially when it comes to the means of state control over its citizens.12 Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii argues that there exist, in recent history, two principal types of state coercion: 1) the old, or hard (such as Nazi Germany and the USSR under Stalin); and 2) the new, or soft (represented by liberal democracies, as well as transitional states, both Western and Eastern).13 In its extreme manifestation, the first category is typified by labour/death camps, and the second, by what Limonov terms ‘disciplinary sanatoriums’. According to Limonov, all countries in the second category have certain key things in common, especially in relation to their economies. These countries’ goals consist of ‘production and productivity’, which is measured by the same criterion of ‘gross national product’, or GNP. Their value is judged by their ‘earning capacity’. Their task is an ‘incessant development of productive forces’, achieved by the means of ‘increases in labour efficiency’, which are ruthlessly monitored by the statistics-savvy ‘management’.14 Fierce competition between the Western and the Eastern sanatorium blocs necessitates claims that one is better than the other, yet those who move from one to another discover that all sanatoriums are ‘virtually identical’15 (here, presumably, Limonov refers to his own experience). The sanatoriums’ occupants include patients (i.e. the population); the medical staff of all ranks, including male nurses with large muscles to keep the patients subdued (i.e. the administrators, the army and the police); and


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entertainers to look after the patients’ cultural needs (i.e. the intellectuals and the media).16 The medical personnel employ a variety of methods to keep patients in check, such as providing them with false objectives (e.g. a pursuit of material wealth) and fostering images of their enemy (e.g. communists and Islamists); reminding patients that the plight of others can be even worse than theirs (e.g. via images of the poor in Africa and the victims of Auschwitz); instilling in patients a fear of economic crisis and unemployment, and of not doing as well as, or better than, their next-door neighbours. People’s natural laziness and inertia also play a role in their submissiveness.17 The ‘worst possible crime in the sanatorium’18 is perpetrated by the socalled agitated patients, or vozbuzhdaiushchiesia. They claim that they have been cured, express doubts about the medical personnel’s actions (e.g. they bring accusations of corruption), demand changes to the regime and sometimes even attack personnel physically. Otherwise, no real opposition to the personnel is evident: professional unions, left-wing parties and even extremist organizations do not question the basic principles of the sanatorium civilization (i.e. prosperity and progress), but only fight for a fairer distribution of wealth. A self-educated thinker without a university degree, Limonov uses Marxian terminology in his analysis, already considered somewhat old-fashioned when Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii was first published19 (even though such terminology is not entirely unfashionable today).20 For example, Limonov, who was probably influenced by Marx as early as his school years in the USSR,21 displays a limited awareness of academic discourse on post-industrial society.22 However, engaging in a scholarly polemic is not his intention. The picture Limonov paints is meant to appeal to those who are even less trained in modern methods of social analysis than he is – those who feel like second-class citizens no matter where they live, belonging to, or being on the brink of filling, the ranks of the vozbuzhdaiushchiesia. It is hardly coincidental that one reviewer of the book’s French translation referred to Limonov as ‘a philosopher for the skinheads’.23 Yet skinheads, probably more than most, also need a positive goal to move towards. If late Soviet and transitional societies are not much of an alternative to modern-day capitalism, what is?

Drugaia Rossiia The answer is provided in Drugaia Rossiia, written ten years after Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii. The book’s title suggests an NBP manifesto of sorts, and has subsequently been used as the party’s new name. The book opens with an epigraph from Nikolai Chernyshevskii’s famous novel about and for Russian revolutionaries, Chto delat’? (What Is to Be Done,

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


1863). The novel contains utopian elements in the form of a character’s dreams; according to Lenin and Prince Kropotkin, Chto delat’? became a revelation and provided a set of ideological and behavioural guidelines for the radical youth of the final fifty years of the Russian monarchy. Written in jail (just like Chernyshevskii’s novel),24 Drugaia Rossiia (published in several editions of, on average, 3,000–10,000 copies each, which is quite reasonable for Russian non-fiction these days, with free online versions of the book also available)25 is meant to be a set of lectures to NBP members, discussing various aspects of its programme. The book consists of twenty-five sections describing what should be abandoned by, and pursued in, the new Russian state if/when it comes into being. The things to abandon include family responsibilities (‘family is a schooling in cowardice’);26 traditional education (on the whole, Limonov finds it useless; for him, school smacks of jail, as its aim is to ‘suppress natural human instincts, e.g. intrinsic aggression’);27 and economic goals (‘a change of ownership . . . would not alter the basic human condition’,28 says Limonov; ‘socialism and capitalism are Siamese twins’;29 ‘an efficient form of ownership’,30 whatever that means, and ‘freedom from mechanical labour’31 are required instead).32 Despite its Chernyshevskii opening, Drugaia Rossiia predicts that Russian nineteenth-century high culture will not survive in the society of the future either. ‘We are what we read,’ Limonov appears to be claiming: ‘Russia is a backward . . . state precisely because it has been consuming Chekhov, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dostoevsky in high doses’, which ‘subconsciously instils . . . a XIXcentury outlook’.33 Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Cherry Orchard illustrate a human trait (the inability to act resolutely) that Limonov finds unacceptable: the first play’s characters ‘always wait for something, rant and never go to Moscow . . . [while] the cherry orchard should have been burnt to the ground in the first minutes of the first act’.34 In fact, given that ‘all [recent] cultural, philosophical and political discoveries passed Russia by’,35 Russian national customs (which Limonov refers to by using the Arabic word adat, or habits) ought to be discarded altogether.36 Moreover, Russian territory – cities in particular37 – must be vacated (‘Frozen Russia has been seized by the paws of unimaginative obtuse administrators, poor in spirit. Russia should be left behind’).38 A move to the countryside, and to new territories (presumably the Russian-speaking areas of Kazakhstan),39 is advocated in order to establish a new civilization of nomad warriors. An accelerated nation-building is envisaged, by means of special selection and intensive procreation with the help of polygamy, promiscuity and anti-abortionism; women’s chief role, before they reach thirty-five years of age, is to have at least four children.


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The children will be educated in a new way, combining creative writing lessons with military exercises, under a guru’s guidance; there will also be ‘history manuals to fuse us together’40 and a kind of religion with Death as a possible new God (implying that you only live once and the opportunity should not be wasted). The preferred social structure will consist of armed communes with common property and common sexual partners, ruled by the Council of Communes. As its ‘chief occupation’,41 the population will be engaged in party activism.

The sources and component parts of Limonov’s vision of the future (I): National Bolshevism, the avant-garde and fascism Limonov’s picture of Russia’s desirable future is provocatively devastating. The roots of his vision are multiple and eclectic, combining tendencies that do not often fit together, such as radical innovation and anti-modernity, and result in a kind of retrofuturism, that is, a version of the future which foresees a return to certain features of the past.42 The most obvious place to start explaining Limonov’s idiosyncratic fusion of contradictory elements is the ideology and history of the National Bolshevik movement, a movement synonymous with but not equivalent to Limonov’s NBP, forming some of the party’s historical substratum. The movement emerged in Weimar Germany, where the multiplicity of crises threw the traditional concerns of ‘left’ and ‘right’ into disorder; the right struggled to assert itself on the ‘social question’ as the only hope for the creation of a ‘true’ nationalism; the left, faced with intractable patriotic chauvinism, found itself forced to grapple with the question of the nation’.43

As a result of a series of initiatives, led by Karl Radek, a ‘meeting of extremes . . . a rapprochement between German nationalism and Russian Communism’44 was meant to take place but ‘could never quite become real’.45 Nonetheless, the phenomenon of so-called Beefsteaks (‘Nazis who were “brown on the outside and red on the inside” ’)46 duly emerged. Ernst Niekisch’s National Bolshevik Resistance movement (Widerstandsbewegung) adopted an ‘emblem consisting of a Prussian eagle [apparently as a tribute to Otto von Bismarck who had advocated an alliance with Russia], a sword, a hammer and a sickle’.47 The German Communist Party’s (KPD) posters

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


appeared, ‘on which the Soviet star found itself next to the swastika’.48 National Bolshevik alliances, such as Otto Strasser’s Black Front (a 1930 splinter from the NSDAP) and Karl O. Paetel’s group, proclaimed that they were ‘nationalistic and socialistic in spirit, martial and rustic in form and völkisch in essence’ and that ‘urbanism, liberalism and parliamentarianism were the elements of decay to be rooted out’.49 In a parallel development, the Russian émigré thinker Nikolai Ustrialov borrowed the German National Bolshevik moniker to describe a widespread sentiment in support of holding the Russian ‘state in high esteem as a value in itself, irrespective of who was governing it at a given moment’.50 Therefore, even communists could be supported if the purpose of their governance was ‘to save the country from disintegration, to preserve its independence and territorial integrity’.51 Like others of a similar persuasion, Ustrialov returned from exile to the Soviet Union in 1935 to become part of the intellectual elite. Even though Ustrialov himself died during Stalin’s purges soon afterwards, National Bolshevism provided the official Soviet doctrine with ‘a peculiar form of Marxist-Leninist etatism that fused the pursuit of communist ideals with more statist ambitions reminiscent of tsarist “Great Power” [velikoderzhavnye] traditions’.52 The National Bolsheviks survived Stalin, individually or in small groups, mostly expressing dissent with various aspects of the CPSU line, whatever that was. Suffice to mention the so-called Fetisov group, which objected to criticism of Stalin’s personality cult and advocated ‘an improvement of Soviet power structures to favour the interests of Russian people’,53 thus conjoining dictatorship and democracy; or Gennadii Shimanov, an occasional contributor to the Russian-language dissident journal Veche featuring ‘National Bolshevik ideas’,54 who developed his own brand of what Mikhail Suslov calls a ‘fundamentalist Utopia’55 (based on an amalgam of Orthodox Christianity and Communist rule). During the post-Soviet transition, when comparisons were drawn between the Russian Federation and Weimar Germany (because of the dramatic changes in the mode of governance, the loss of territory and mounting economic troubles that were common to both countries), Russian National Bolshevism morphed into ‘the so-called Red–Brown alliance of neo-Communists and right-wing nationalists . . . [which] also included a significant component of “Whites” who favoured returning to a monarchy’.56 In 1992, the two most conspicuous figures in this alliance, which initially took the form of the Russian National Congress (Russkii natsional’nyi sobor), were the prominent Communist Party apparatchik Gennady Ziuganov and the nationalist ex-KGB General Aleksandr Sterligov, together forging a third way of sorts, that is, an alternative to both ‘communist internationalism and cosmopolitan democracy’.57


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Such was the background to the emergence of Limonov’s and Dugin’s NBP, which boosted the idea of a Nationalist–Communist partnership with renewed radical impetus. ‘Order no. 1 to Create the National-Bolshevik Front’, issued by Limonov and Dugin on 1 May 1993 and heralding the establishment of the NBP, defined National Bolshevism as a unity of social and national resistance in their most radical forms. It is noteworthy that all varieties of National Bolshevism known to this day appear to have one thing in common, namely the effort to synthesize seemingly incompatible tendencies, for example left- and right-wing political and ideological values, a practice succinctly described in the Comte de Lautréamont’s Chants de Maldoror (1869) as ‘the chance juxtaposition of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table’.58 This quote has been canonized by Surrealists like André Breton and Max Ernst and has influenced members of the Situationist International. Not surprisingly, bearing in mind his origins as an avant-garde poet, Limonov also uses the phrase (applying it to politics)59 and recommends Lautréamont as essential reading for ‘the NBP’s young geniuses’.60 Limonov claims that National Bolshevism is ‘the most avant-garde political movement in the world’,61 but the movement’s avant-gardism may also owe a partial debt to fascism.62 The NBP’s eclecticism is not unlike the eclectic style of fascism, which ‘incorporated elements of competing ideologies that fascist rhetoric ostensibly repudiated. Herein lay the essential paradox of fascism: its ability to embody social and political opposites, to be at once elitist and populist, traditionalist and avant-garde.’63 One particular defining feature of fascism that seems relevant to Drugaia Rossiia, with its insistence on the necessity of going backwards in order to go forwards, is the palingenetic myth of rebirth, ‘occurring after a period of perceived decadence’.64 The myth posits that a modern society in an acute phase of decay may reinvent itself by means of a more or less forceful eschatological reset taking it back to an early stage of cyclical development, in order to annihilate the causes and features of decay and start building a better world afresh.65 Limonov’s NBP co-founder Dugin is understood to be a vocal proponent of this myth,66 which must have influenced Limonov, among others. Like Limonov, Dugin also asserts that the future lies in the past,67 and should be hastened by means of the so-called Conservative Revolution, that is, revolutionary actions that will push society backwards, to a long-gone Golden Age, rather than forwards.68 That is why Limonov’s utopia is a regressive one that takes Russia back from the industrial to the militant society (in Herbert Spencer’s terms, the former society type favouring peace, and the latter, favouring war and preceding the industrial society chronologically).69 Curiously, however, the move away from modernity does not automatically imply a rejection of

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


advanced technology. As Limonov elaborates in another publication that partially functions as a detailed commentary on Drugaia Rossiia, his ideas should not be interpreted as a . . . sermon against scientific progress and a struggle against clever and handy technological achievements. No. We’ll be developing internet and genetics, as well as new, superior forms of television. Television and internet will be linking armed communes together into a united civilisation of free citizens.70

This retrofuturistic trait may well have something to do with a ‘nostalgia for preindustrial societies and an attraction to advanced technology’,71 coexisting simultaneously and intrinsic to the fascist milieu. It is significant, however, that Limonov’s preferred alternative to the ills of urbanism72 is not a ‘peasant rooted in native soul’,73 as some German National Bolsheviks would have it, but a nomad warrior. Why is this so? Limonov is undoubtedly aware of the Russian village prose writers’ movement of the 1950s–1980s,74 which idealized rustic life and peasants, as opposed to cities and city dwellers, and aimed ‘to liberate the complex cultural worth of the agrarian folk from the facile stereotypes and contempt of an inhumane, thoroughly modern ruling class’.75 The movement has been called an ‘oppositionist quest for authentic values’ and even (as if in consonance with the spirit of Dugin’s work) a ‘traditionalist counter-revolution’,76 yet Limonov seems to choose not to align with it. This can be explained by his desire to appear more radical than his predecessors and to go where the village prose writers have perhaps only hinted they could,77 as well as to reflect his personal experience as a warmongering ex-émigré78 with a claim to several citizenships and no fixed place of abode. Besides, Limonov’s preference for nomads over peasants may well stem from ’the exotic mythology of avant-garde Scythianism’,79 intimately linked with the Russian Futurists’ penchant for Asia (epitomized by Velimir Khlebnikov) and shaped to some extent by their wish to overcome the influence of the Western avant-garde. Prompted by this desire, the Futurists asserted that the Russian avant-garde was an heir not only to Russian folk art but also to the art of the Scythians80 – the nomadic warrior tribes that in the eighth–second centuries bc dominated the territory between today’s Kazakhstan and the Black Sea. Russian Symbolists – such as Aleksandr Blok, Andrei Belyi and others – also paid a tribute to the Scythians as the barbarian saviours of modern culture, which needed purification by cataclysm. Selected Symbolist authors, who subsequently formed the wider-based, if short-lived, post-revolutionary Scythianist movement, drew a parallel between Scythia and Russia, and


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portrayed the Scythians as a welcome threat and alternative to Western civilization.81 In a similar vein, Limonov envisages a return to a militarized nomadic lifestyle, and addresses his Russian compatriots as ‘Scythians’.82

The sources and component parts of Limonov’s vision of the future (II): Eurasianism, millenarianism and the New Chronology However, equating Russians and Scythians is somewhat problematic, as the latter spoke Iranian dialects and were assimilated by other (non-Slavonic) tribes by the third century ad. The audacious co-opting of the Scythians into the Russian lineage may look perplexing, especially now that we know a lot more about them than we did a century ago. Yet it is indicative of a larger issue: that of Russia’s multi-ethnicity presenting a constant challenge to Russian nationalists and Russian rulers.83 The NBP tries to rise to this challenge by defining Russianness inclusively, through . . . neither blood nor creed. A Russian person is someone who considers Russian language, culture and history his or her native; has shed and is ready to shed his/her and other people’s blood in the name of Russia alone; and cannot imagine [belonging to] any other nation and Motherland.84

Among prominent NBP members, there have been Jews (e.g. Vladimir Linderman, Limonov’s sometime second-in-command), Tatars (Pavel Zarifullin), Gypsies (Artur Petrov) and even blacks (Aijo Beness). The NBP’s emphasis on loyalty to the Russian imperial state, regardless of its citizens’ actual ethnic origin,85 finds some support in the Eurasianist doctrine espoused by the post-revolutionary émigré Nikolai Trubetskoy and given a new lease of life in late Soviet and post-Soviet Russia.86 Eurasianists ‘rejected the idea of a Slavic cultural type, and postulated instead the existence of a Eurasian civilisation, based on two ethnic elements – eastern Slavs and Turks’.87 The Eurasian land mass – with an emphasis on Asia, not Western Europe, as Russia’s key natural ally – has been seen by Eurasianists as the cradle of a multi-ethnic civilization, which took the form, among others, of the Mongol Empire in thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the Russian Empire later (the Soviet period included). The neo-Eurasianist ethnologist Lev Gumilev has stated that ethnic entities in their development go through stages similar to a lifecycle, that

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


is, birth, growing up, maturity and death (which may or may not be followed by a rebirth).88 The NBP leadership, familiar with Gumilev’s theories (which resonate harmoniously with the NBP’s trademark palingenetic mythmaking), believes that the demise of the USSR signified the death of the Russian nation but that a new nation will emerge in place of the deceased one, and that the NBP has a role to play in its formation. In 1998, an NBP newspaper in Latvia, General’naia liniia (The General Line), ran an article which concluded its summary of Gumilev’s theory of ethnogenesis thus: [Old] ethnicity does not disappear without a trace. In its place emerges a small group of like-minded people, united by the same goal, wanting nothing for themselves, ready to sacrifice everything for a common cause. These people become the core of a new nation while gathering together the remnants of the old one . . . Our party has to become such a group. The NBP should become the centre of a new Eurasian unity and weld the peoples of Russia together. This is our goal. We should strive not for an ethnic purity, as primitive nationalists do, but for a creation of a new ethnic entity on the territory of Eurasia.89

For the NBP, therefore, Eurasia remains a regenerative source for the next version of Russian/Eurasian civilization, with the Mongol Horde (and its forerunner, Scythia) as a model state to aspire to.90 To quote Limonov, the Other Russia’s ‘armed commune can be called “The State of Eurasia”. The dreams of the 1930s’ Eurasianists will thus come true.’91 The NBP’s fascination with national rebirth is closely connected to revolutionary eschatology,92 which regularly finds its expression in millenarianism, ‘a vision of disaster followed by a new world’.93 Here is the gist of the millenarian narrative in its religious form: The world is dominated by an evil, tyrannous power of boundless destructiveness – a power moreover which is imagined not as simply human but as demonic. The tyranny of that power will become more and more outrageous, the sufferings of its victims more and more intolerable – until suddenly the hour will strike when the Saints of God are able to rise up and overthrow it. Then the Saints themselves, the chosen, holy people who hitherto have groaned under the oppressor’s heel, shall in their turn inherit dominion over the whole earth. This will be the culmination of history; the Kingdom of the Saints will not only surpass in glory all previous kingdoms, it will have no successors.94


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In secular times, millenarian beliefs have been found to underpin, to a substantial degree, both the Nazi and the Bolshevik movements, which temporarily succeeded in forging political regimes that were millenarian in essence,95 aspiring to establish Nazism or communism everywhere they could reach, for as long as humanly possible. Although Limonov does not seem to harbour plans for world domination, he has expressed the hope that the NBP would come to power, both in Russia and in Ukraine, propelled by the armed conflict in Donbas96 – an ambitious goal, to say the least. Furthermore, the NBP’s 1994 programme envisioned the building of an empire from Vladivostok to Gibraltar as the party’s global goal. As for sainthood, NBP members may convincingly pass themselves off as martyrs, if not saints: many of them died a violent death in suspicious circumstances, while many more suffered as a result of their so-called ‘direct actions’ (such as the 2004 seizure of the Moscow offices of the Russian Healthcare Ministry in protest against switching from benefits-in-kind to cash payments), when given prison sentences that often seemed harsh.97 As far as millenarian sects proper are concerned, Limonov retells with considerable enthusiasm, and as an inspirational example, the stories of the Dulcinian movement of 1300–7 (which gave vent to ‘a millenarianism as revolutionary and as militant as any to be found’)98 and the Anabaptists’ Münster Rebellion of 1534–5.99 One feature of the latter – ‘turning women into common property’ (obobshchestvleny zhenshchiny)100 – attracted Limonov’s particular admiration, as he believes that ‘the introduction of obligatory promiscuity would considerably enhance the quality of life’101 and the promise of free love would attract quite a few recruits to his party ranks.102 However, in actual fact, the Münster commune introduced polygamy, not promiscuity, and only because many immigrants, lured to Münster by the hope of escaping poverty, left their wives behind, so that in the town there were ‘at least three times as many women of marriageable age as there were men’.103 What followed can hardly be described as sexual comfort or an improvement in the quality of life: A law was made by which all women under a certain age had to marry, whether they wanted to or not. Since there were very few unmarried men this meant that very many women were legally obliged to accept the role of second or third or fourth wife . . . Many of the established wives at once began to quarrel with the strange women who had suddenly entered their households.104

The misrepresentation of the ‘sexual revolution of the Middle Ages’105 is not the only fault with Limonov’s version of what went on in the Münster

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


commune. For example, Limonov refers to one of the rebellion’s leaders, John of Leiden, as an actor, although he was in fact an apprentice tailor who liked dabbling in theatre; Limonov also claims that John of Leiden was executed in 1534, but that event happened in 1536. Moreover, Limonov asserts that Karl Kautsky ‘ignored the Münster commune in his monumental history of socialism’,106 whereas there is a sizeable section devoted to the Anabaptists in the first part of the first volume of Vorläufer des neueren Sozialismus (1895), within the Die Geschichte des Sozialismus in Einzeldarstellungen series, edited by Kautsky. Perhaps such mistakes can be attributed to the fact that Limonov wrote about the Münster rebellion while in prison, and therefore unable to double-check his sources. Upon a closer examination, however, Limonov’s approach to history as a whole might be characterized as, at best, cavalier. He welcomes with open arms the so-called New Chronology of the mathematicians Anatoly Fomenko and Gleb Nosovskii, as well as some of Lev Gumilev’s findings.107 Fomenko and Nosovskii have been assessing the inconsistencies in the poorly documented areas of mankind’s history by recourse to astronomical data and statistical analyses. The duo has come to the conclusion that ‘ancient and early modern times were one and the same’108 and that confused historical records often mistook one geographical location for another. According to their analysis, Christ was crucified at the end of eleventh century ad; the New Testament was written before the Old; the Crusaders sought to liberate Constantinople, not Jerusalem; the Mongol-Tatar invasion of Russia in thirteenth–fifteenth centuries ad did not take place – and so on.109 To some of his detractors (i.e. conventional historians), Fomenko is known as ‘ “the terminator”, because so many accepted periods, events and personalities are expunged from his version of the past’.110 As far as Russia is concerned, Fomenko and Nosovskii in particular deny the validity of the Normanist theory, which claims that Russian statehood was introduced to Russia by the Vikings. According to Fomenko and Nosovskii, many episodes in the standard account of early to late medieval Russian history were fabrications by foreign scholars in the employ of the Romanov dynasty (which had usurped parts of the Russian Horde in seventeenth century). The mathematicians also posit that ‘Tatars and Russians were one and the same mighty horde that had conquered the ancient world’,111 with Russia-Scythia being an earlier form of this horde (in tenth–eleventh century or so). Scythians and Mongols, as well as Ukrainians (not to mention quite a few other tribes and nations), have all apparently been part of this Russian Horde, too. Gumilev also maintained that ‘Russia was not a by-product of the European West but a symbiosis of many peoples, who enjoyed a special relationship with . . . a territory that extended over a vast area of Eurasia’,


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while ‘Nestor, the chronicler responsible for the tale about Viking rulers of Kiev Rus’, was plainly mistaken’.112 It is easy to see why such hypotheses would thrill Limonov,113 both as a Russian nationalist (and therefore an antiNormanist, since the Normanist theory allegedly puts Russian independence and self-responsibility in doubt) and someone who has declared that he is part-Tatar.114 On a more general note, Limonov has to embrace Fomenko/Nosovskii’s and Gumilev’s narratives because they have ‘proved therapeutic to those Russians seeking to come to terms with or struggle against the loss of empire that accompanied the Soviet collapse’,115 by challenging the standard historical accounts of many nationalities before the tenth century ad (Fomenko/ Nosovskii) and by appealing to the Russian nationalist ego when dealing with almost any historical period since then (both Fomenko/Nosovskii and Gumilev).116 As for the New Chronology’s dismissal of hundreds if not thousands of years of historical events, it probably appeals to Limonov the autodidact because of the opportunity to impress on his arguably even less systematically educated target audience that conventional history classes are worth very little, and to usher in not only a utopian but also a uchronic picture of the world. Finally, the New Chronology’s time warps provide fertile ground for Limonov’s retrofuturism. He confesses to dreaming about the universal introduction of the New Chronology by decree, once the world revolution is underway.117

The target audience and the genre Thought up as a form of outsider’s pipedream revenge, in order to relaunch the Russian national project from scratch, allowing other outsiders to find a place of importance in a reconstituted society,118 this vision seems primarily targeted at disaffected younger men between the ages of fourteen and thirtyfive, whose readiness to die for a cause is more important than their numbers.119 The Other Russia project is also likely to appeal to such individuals’ sexual drive and violent instincts (without much thought for the consequences). It also provides the promise of early and rapid gains in status and experience (an upward social mobility to challenge the ‘dictatorship of the middle-aged’,120 as Limonov puts it). Like most utopian schemes, the project does not look particularly workable. Let us briefly consider just one of its aspects, the temporal-spatial. According to a recent opinion poll, only an estimated 17% of Russians under thirty years of age would prefer to live in a different time (3% of whom would like to live in the future, 6% in the Soviet period and 1% in the Middle Ages),

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


even though approximately 35% would prefer to live in a different, often bigger not smaller, locality (8% of these would like to leave Russia for a different country).121 Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that city dwellers (currently 74% of the Russian population), lacking the necessary skills to survive in the Russian countryside with its unforgiving winter (up to 60% of Russian territory can be classified as ‘the North’), would relocate to a rural location voluntarily on a permanent basis. Kazakhstan has been proposed by Limonov as the Other Russia’s potential place of rebirth because of its vast underpopulated terrain, comparatively milder climate (promising a thriving agriculture) and common RussoKazakh Eurasian past.122 Yet for most Russians, Kazakhstan is hardly the place to move to in search of a better life (leaving aside the issue of whether they would even be welcome there). According to one well-informed source, the out-migration in Kazakhstan currently exceeds the in-migration, and it is mostly Russian speakers who are inclined to leave the country, while it is mostly ethnic Kazakhs who opt for repatriation.123 It appears that, if ever realized, Limonov’s utopia may well turn into a considerable problem for its inhabitants, as has been the case with some utopias in the past. When interviewing Limonov, an otherwise sympathetic journalist summed up many readers’ attitude to the Other Russia: ‘I don’t think I would wish to live in it.’124 Even a large number of NBP members ‘did not appreciate [Drugaia Rossiia’s] experimentality in the slightest’.125 How seriously are we supposed to treat this utopia, though, given that Limonov himself denies that he is a utopianist?126 Limonov is an inveterate urbanite, who is hard to imagine as either a ploughman or an archer on horseback, yet he advocates a rural, nomadic and militarized lifestyle. His self-proclaimed preference for Russia as an empire127 clashes spectacularly with his demand to dismantle most if not all state structures,128 and results in a peculiar self-contradictory and impracticable form of statist anarchism (one cannot have an empire without a state). According to one perceptive observer, Limonov, ‘while declaring his revolutionary goal to be the building of a National Bolshevik empire, has developed a scenario of truly anarchist liquidation of existing sociopolitical institutions, exceeding in his nihilism even Bakunin himself (who at least did not suggest “closing” cities and living like “aboriginal tribes”)’.129 The discrepancies in Limonov’s declarations seem highly ironic in their ambivalence. It is also impossible to take seriously Limonov’s statement that Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii is ‘more felicitous, more interesting . . . more direct, cleverer, more powerful and explains everything better’130 than The Society of the Spectacle (1967) by the leading Situationist Guy Debord. Contrary to


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii’s chief line of argument, anyone who had direct experience of both Western capitalism and Russian/Soviet socialism knows full well how different the two worlds were. To pretend otherwise is either silly or facetious. Yet what else are we to expect from someone who one day defines the NBP as ‘the most left-wing among the right-wing parties and the most right-wing of the left-wing parties’,131 and on another announces that the NBP is a misnomer, because it does not fully reflect what the party stands for?132 Such frivolity in dealing with important matters makes one suspect that at least some of Limonov’s so-called non-fiction, and in particular Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii and Drugaia Rossiia, has been written in the genre of mockumentary.133 Among the highlights of this genre, in existence since at least the 1950s, are the Belgian film Man Bites Dog (1992, directed by Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde) about a documentary film crew following a serial killer; the Russian First on the Moon (2005, Aleksei Fedorchenko) about a successful secret Soviet space mission in the 1930s; and the German This Ain’t California (2012, Marten Persiel) about GDR skateboarders who are all impersonated by actors following an invented script in front of the unsuspecting audience. Such films rely on genuine or imitated archival footage; on supposedly real people reminiscing about or commenting on the supposedly real events; and on observational cinema, supposedly following real people in the midst of whatever they do. Thus a realization by the viewer that it has all been staged and that s/he is being misled and poked fun at arrives very late, if ever. In the case of Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii and Drugaia Rossiia, Limonov’s fiction is disguised as non-fiction because the adopted popular scholarship mode arguably makes his fantasies look more outrageous than they would have been in a conventional fictional form. His anti-utopia is disguised as utopia because it is much more provocative to depict a future Dark Age through rose-tinted spectacles. His multiple inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies, deliberate or not – as well as the constant vainglorious invocation of household names and the concepts of thinkers and doers, such as Marx, Bakunin and Orwell, who Limonov insists he is superior to134 – only add further to the sense of outrageousness, which appears to be generated quite deliberately. What is the purpose of such a (pseudo-)intellectual provocation? As Limonov himself said of Drugaia Rossiia, ‘this is a pretext to give people an opportunity to think outside the box [myslit’ i ne zamykat’sia]’135 – and, it might be added, to generate even more controversial self-publicity for Limonov.

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


Notes 1 For more on Limonov, see, for example, Andrei Rogatchevski, A Biographical and Critical Study of Russian Writer Eduard Limonov (Lewiston, NY and Lampeter, Ceredigion, 2003); Emmanuel Carrère, Limonov: A Novel (London: Allen Lane, 2014); and Andrei Balkanskii [Dmitriev], Eduard Limonov (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2017). 2 Martin A. Lee, The Beast Reawakens (London: Little, Brown and Company, 1997), p. 313. 3 On Dugin, see, for example, Alexander Höllwerth, Das sakrale eurasische Imperium des Aleksandr Dugin: Eine Diskursanalyse zum postsowjetischen russischen Rechtsextremismus (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2007). Dugin left the NBP in 1998 to form his own ‘Eurasia’ movement (reorganized into a political party in 2012), and to become, in the fulness of time, a valued Kremlin adviser. His writings from the NBP period have helped to define and express the party’s platform and vision, and arguably remain relevant for the party stance to this day. 4 On the NBP history, see, for example, Stephen D. Shenfield, Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (Armonk, NY and London: M. E. Sharpe, 2001), pp. 190–220; Andrei Rogatchevski, ‘The National Bolshevik Party (1993–2001): A Brief Timeline’, New Zealand Slavonic Journal 41 (2007): 90–112; and [Aleksandr Averin], Kratkii kurs istorii natsbolov (National Bolsheviks: A Concise History) (Moscow: n.p., 2016). 5 Viktor Toporov, ‘Natsbol’ (National Pain), 13 May 2006, columns/2006/5/13/33436.html. All translations are mine, unless stated otherwise. 6 The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in February–March 2014 may serve as an indication that the process of fulfilment of the NBP aspirations has already begun. As early as August 1999, on Ukrainian Independence Day, fifteen NBP members took control of the tower at the Sailors’ Club in Sebastopol to adorn it with the slogan ‘Sebastopol is a Russian city’. This widely reported event allowed Limonov to claim on 10 March 2014 that Putin’s actions in Crimea had followed the NBP lead; see Eduard Limonov, Kiev kaput: Iarostnaia kniga (Kiev Breaks: A Book of Anger) (Moscow: Tsentrpoligraf, 2015), p. 100. 7 Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, p. 166. 8 ‘Limonovtsy sozdali na Donbasse batal’on, kotoryi dolzhen “osvobodit” Khar’kovskuiu oblast’ (The Limonovians Formed a Batallion in Donbas to ‘Liberate’ the Kharkov Region), 1 April 2015, world/01apr2015/hnr.html. As Limonov put it in his blog of 3 March 2015, ‘we had all hoped for the emergence of a territory of justice, a land where there would be no Evil’, On the failure of the Other Russia members to achieve their political objectives in Eastern Ukraine, see Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, pp. 315–18;







The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

and Ilya Azar, ‘Puteshestvie natsbolov k Putinu i obratno’ (The NBP’s Journey to Putin and Back), 15 March 2017, articles/2017/03/12/71752. It is nevertheless known that the sometime prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Borodai, is an NBP sympathizer, who has published articles in the party newspaper Limonka (see Limonov, Kiev kaput, p. 215), while the so-called ‘People’s Governor of Donеtsk Region’ and head of the Donbass People’s Militia, Pavel Gubarev, has been influenced by Limonov’s writings and actions (Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, p. 293). In March 2016, owing to deteriorating health, Limonov transferred his duties as party chairman to a temporary triumvirate of Aleksandr Averin, Aleksei Volynets and Andrei Dmitriev. However, Limonov retained the chairmanship of the party’s executive committee and remains the party’s informal chief ideologue. See Eduard Limonov, ‘Obrashchenie k lichnomu sostavu partii “Drugaia Rossiia” ’ (An Appeal to the Other Russia members), 26 March 2016, On at least one occasion, Limonov even used the word ‘utopia’ to describe what he believed to be the exact opposite: ‘By increasing the production output and the number of inventions, the so-called advanced countries (the golden billion, i.e. Europe, the US and several non-European lands) have achieved the desirable and glorified goal: a Utopia was established. Utopia has settled on the planet since the 1970s, approximately. A high-quality Utopia’; Eduard Limonov, Eresi (Heresies) (Moscow: Amfora, 2008), p. 21. Limonov continues, ‘It’s time to step beyond Utopia. Human life has been improving long enough. We need to stop’ (Limonov, Eresi, p. 21). What he probably meant to say is that he would like to suggest an unconventional utopia of his own. Elsewhere, Limonov calls 1984 ‘unconvincing’, and Orwell a ‘renegade’ for his rejection of left-wing ideals that he had espoused previously. See Eduard Limonov, Sviashchennye monstry (Sacred Monsters) (Moscow: AdMarginem, 2003), pp. 138–9. In his 1992 essay ‘Krushenie mifov’ (The Collapse of the Myths), Limonov’s sometime agent and publisher Aleksandr Shatalov claims that, if ‘Orwell’s novels were a warning against the threat of a newly wrought totalitarianism in the Soviet Union, Limonov’s response to Orwell . . . “Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii” . . . indicates that in the present day Russia could fear the same threat from America’; Lisa Ryoko Wakamiya, Locating Exiled Writers in Contemporary Russian Literature: Exiles at Home (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 137. In Limonov’s own words, the second category encompasses ‘Europe and its . . . colonies (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Israel)’ (Eduard Limonov, Ubiistvo chasovogo (The Murder of a Sentinel) (Moscow: Molodaia Gvardiia, 1993), p. 194), as well as Japan; the Warsaw Pact bloc is also included as the aforementioned countries’ ‘twin-brother’ (Limonov, Ubiistvo chasovogo, p. 193).

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


14 See Limonov, Ubiistvo chasovogo, p. 196. 15 Limonov, Ubiistvo chasovogo, p. 195. 16 Limonov believes that, nowadays, workers’ psychology is not very different from that of the bourgeoisie, hence class distinctions are almost irrelevant in the above classification. 17 Limonov’s novel 316, punkt ‘V’ (316, Clause ‘C’) – begun in 1982 in Paris and completed in 1997 in Moscow – is set in 2015 in New York and partly influenced, it seems, by Richard Fleischer’s 1973 dystopian film Soylent Green. Limonov’s novel depicts an American society undermined by dwindling resources, overpopulation and the spiraling costs of the welfare system to such an extent that in 2011 it passes a law making obligatory the extermination of all citizens over sixty-five years of age (unless the state accords them special privileges for distinguished service). Remarkably, most people concerned submit to the law without much resistance. As Limonov declares in another book, humans ‘are not helpless creatures with a head of state or a government minister as their guardian. And if they are such creatures, they’d better disappear, as in my anti-Utopian 316, Clause “C” ’ (Limonov, Eresi, p. 23). 18 Limonov, Ubiistvo chasovogo, p. 195. 19 The book was reissued several times in print runs ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 copies. For its free online version, see, for instance, http://modernlib. ru/books/limonov_eduard/disciplinarniy_sanatoriy/read. 20 See Stuart Jeffries, ‘Why Marxism Is on the Rise Again’, Guardian, 4 July 2012, 21 Limonov’s view of Marx is inconsistent. On the one hand, he calls Marx ‘not a revolutionary but [merely] a person writing about revolution’, who ‘would not have become an Idol without Lenin[’s actions]’. See Eduard Limonov, Titany (Titans) (Moscow: Ad Marginem, 2014), pp. 114, 119. On the other hand, Marx for him is ‘super-modern’, ‘ahead of his time’. See Eduard Limonov, Neo-bol’shevizm: Otkazhetsia li Putin ot liberal-demokratii? (Neo-Bolshevism: Will Putin Reject Liberal Democracy?) (Moscow: Algoritm, 2014), pp. 35–7. 22 See, for example, Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (London: Basic Books, 1974). To be fair, though, Marx is not Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii’s sole point of reference. According to Lisa Ryoko Wakamiya, ‘much of Disciplinary Sanatorium . . . is clearly intended as an elaboration of Friedrich Nietzsche’s thesis that “the meaning of all culture is the reduction of the beast of prey ‘man’ to a tame and civilized animal” ’ (Wakamiya, Locating Exiled Writers, p. 139). 23 Michel Polac, quoted in Limonov’s book about the Lefortovo prison in Moscow, V plenu u mertvetsov (A Captive of the Dead) (Moscow: Ul’tra. Kul’tura, 2002), p. 257. 24 In the accused’s final word at his 2003 trial for gun running, Limonov compared his own plight to that of Chernyshevskii, who was sentenced in 1864 for inciting the overthrow of the Russian monarchy. See Aleksandr


25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

33 34 35 36 37 38 39

40 41 42

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Voznesenskii and Evgenii Lesin, ‘Chernyshevskii nashego vremeni’ (A Chernyshevskii for Our Time), Nezavisimaia gazeta, 20 February 2003, See, for example, Eduard Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia (Moscow: Ultra. Kul’tura, 2003), p. 14. Limonov’s party becomes an alternative to family. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 25. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 165. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 167. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 174. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 177. Limonov’s 2012 presidential programme (he wanted to run for the Russian presidency but was denied registration as a candidate) mentions taxing the rich and capping food prices as solutions to Russia’s economic problems; see Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 85. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 88. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 86. ‘Our [Russian] self-perception should be reconsidered in its entirety’ (Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 76). ‘The ruined cities are more beautiful than the functioning ones’ (Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 194). Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 9. It is near the Kazakhstan border, in the Altai mountains, that Limonov and several other NBP members were arrested in April 2001 under suspicion of fomenting an armed rebellion, in a joint operation by the FSB and the KNB, the Kazakh Committee for National Security. Furthermore, Limonov’s 2012 presidential programme mentions moving the Russian capital to southern Siberia. He is not alone in his desire to downgrade Moscow. For example, in a BBC Russian Service interview of August 2013, the ex-Moscow mayor Gavriil Popov, of all people, suggested moving the capital to either the Volga region or the Urals. See Iuliia Ochetova, ‘Gavriil Popov: “Naval’nogo dopustili na vybory radi iavki” ’ (Gavriil Popov: ‘Naval’nyi Was Allowed to Run for Office to Increase the Turnout’), 31 August 2013, russian/russia/2013/08/130830_popov_ex_mayor_interview. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 145. Limonov’s favourite historians are Anatoly Fomenko and Gleb Nosovskii, whose New Chronology will be discussed later. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, pp. 21–2. Cf. ‘Liberals have been thinking of me lately as a kind of retro-person who defends old ideas. It is exactly the other way around. It is them who have come with old ideas. They defend discoloured liberalism, which is barely alive . . . Liberals see me as a kind of champion of the past. In fact, I am a champion of the future, while it is them who belong to the past’ (Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, pp. 338–9).

Othering Russia: Eduard Limonov’s Retrofuturistic (Anti-)Utopia


43 Timothy S. Brown, Weimar Radicals: Nazis and Communists Between Authenticity and Performance (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009), p. 150. 44 Klemens von Klemperer, ‘Towards a Fourth Reich? The History of National Bolshevism in Germany’, Review of Politics 13, no. 2 (1951): 191. 45 Von Klemperer, ‘Towards a Fourth Reich?’, p. 205. 46 Brown, Weimar Radicals, p. 2. 47 Von Klemperer, ‘Towards a Fourth Reich?’, p. 200. Cf. the first party flag of Limonov’s and Dugin’s National Bolsheviks, which merged both Nazi and Communist visual imagery (a red field with a white circle at its centre, containing a hammer and sickle instead of a swastika). The NBP salute is ‘half-Nazi (raised arm), half-Communist (balled fist)’ (Carrére, Limonov, p. 8). 48 Abraham Ascher and Guenter Lewy, ‘National Bolshevism in Weimar Germany – Alliance of Political Extremes Against Democracy’, Social Research 23, no. 4 (1956): 469. 49 Ascher and Lewy, ‘National Bolshevism in Weimar Germany’, pp. 474–5. 50 Sergei Utechin, Russian Political Thought: A Concise History (London: Praeger, 1964), p. 254. 51 Utechin, Russian Political Thought, p. 254. 52 David Brandenberger, National Bolshevism: Stalinist Mass Culture and the Formation of Modern Russian National Identity, 1931–1956 (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 6. 53 Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, p. 31. The group’s core was established in the mid-1950s at the Institute of Complex Transport Problems in Moscow and included Aleksandr Fetisov and Mikhail Antonov. In 1968, they and two other individuals were committed to spells in different psychiatric clinics for anti-Soviet agitation. 54 Lee, The Beast Reawakens, p. 318. 55 See Mikhail Suslov, ‘The Fundamentalist Utopia of Gennadii Shimanov from the 1960s-1980s’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 17, no. 4 (2009): 324–49. Shimanov had to undergo psychiatric treatment in 1962 and a further psychiatric assessment in 1969. For more on the National Bolshevism of Shimanov and the Fetisov group, see the first chapter of Andrei Dmitriev’s Natsional-patrioty v dvizhenii inakomysliashchikh (Patriotic Nationalists in the [Soviet] Dissident Movement) (St Petersburg: n.p., 2001), 34756.php. 56 Lee, The Beast Reawakens, p. 311. 57 Aleksandr Ianov, Posle El’tsina: ‘Veimarskaia’ Rossiia (After Yeltsin: ‘Weimar’ Russia) (Moscow: KRUK, 1995), p. 173. 58 Comte de Lautréamont, Maldoror and Poems (London: Penguin, 1978), p. 217. 59 See Eduard Limonov, ‘Kak prekrasno!’ (How Wonderful!), 8 March 2014, 60 Limonov, Sviashchennye monstry, p. 296. For Dugin’s appreciation of Lautréamont, see Aleksandr Dugin, Tampliery proletariata: Natsional-


61 62

63 64





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bol’shevizm i initsiatsiia (Proletarian Knights Templar: National Bolshevism and Initiation) (Moscow: Arktogeia, 1997), pp. 235–42. Lee, The Beast Reawakens, p. 314. Used here as a generic term for authoritarian, right-wing nationalistic ideologies and forms of social organization and governance. On Dugin as an adept apologist for fascism, see Andreas Umland, ‘Fashist li doctor Dugin? Nekotorye otvety Aleksandra Gel’evicha’ (Is Dr Dugin a Fascist? Selected Answers by Aleksandr Gel’evich), 20 July 2007, material/society/365031.html. For his part, Limonov has this to say about fascism: ‘The swastika has no chance in our country . . . We lost so many people in the war with Germany that we are immune to it’ (Lee, The Beast Reawakens, p. 314). Such statements, however, should not be taken literally. An expert on neo-fascism explains, ‘The legacy of World War Two rendered National Socialist ideas and practices untenable in Russia, if they were readily identifiable as such; to make much headway, they would have to be introduced through the back door, so to speak, using a different vocabulary. Under the circumstances, a National Bolshevik movement has a greater chance of success than an outright neo-Nazi undertaking’ (Lee, The Beast Reawakens, 329). Lee, The Beast Reawakens, p. 10. Roger Griffin, ‘The Palingenetic Political Community: Rethinking the Legitimation of Totalitarian Regimes in Inter-War Europe’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 3, no. 3 (2002): 36. Cf. also, ‘The mythos of national rebirth was germane to fascism’ (Lee, The Beast Reawakens, p. 9). Russia’s history, mythologically defined by a cyclical alteration of interdependent zeniths and nadirs (Russia as a Great Power and the so-called Time of Troubles respectively), makes it especially conducive to the myth of rebirth. See Bo Petersson, ‘Master of the House – Putin, the Presidency and Political Myth in Russia’, Baltic Rim Economies 3 (2011): 36. See Anton Shekhovtsov, ‘The Palingenetic Thrust of Russian NeoEurasianism: Ideas of Rebirth in Aleksandr Dugin’s Worldview’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 9, no. 4 (2008): 491–506. See, for instance, Edith W. Clowes, Russia on the Edge: Imagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 2011), p. 57. See, for example, Aleksandr Dugin’s Konets sveta: Eskhatologiia i traditsiia (The End of the World: Eschatology and Traditionalism) (Moscow: Arktogeia, 1997) and Konservativnaia revoliutsiia (The Conservative Revolution) (Moscow: Arktogeia, 1994), as well as James D. Heiser, ‘The American Empire Should Be Destroyed’: Alexander Dugin and the Perils of Immanentized Eschatology (Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 2014). For Dugin, even utopian socialists were ‘representatives of a special kind of mystical messianism, who heralded the return of the Golden Age. Practically all of them came from esoteric societies, reigned by the spirit of radical mysticism, eschatology and apocalyptical forebodings . . . Utopian socialists applied the

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69 70 71 72

73 74

75 76 77

78 79

80 81



84 85


[Golden Age] motif to social reality and added social and political features to it’ (Dugin, Tampliery proletariata, p. 13). For more, see, for example, Paul Shuurman, ‘Herbert Spencer and the Paradox of War’, Intellectual History Review 26, no. 4 (2016): 519–35. Limonov, Neo-bol’shevism, p. 92. Lee, The Beast Reawakens, pp. 10–11. Cf. cities ‘suggest inequality and the lack of freedom . . . they are a completely unceremonious modern version of slavery . . . centres of pollution and assassination of the planet, ecologically speaking’ (Limonov, Neo-bol’shevizm, p. 45). Ascher and Lewy, ‘National Bolshevism in Weimar Germany’, p. 476. For more on it, see David C. Gillespie, Valentin Rasputin and Soviet Russian Village Prose (London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 1986), and Kathleen Parthé, Russian Village Prose: The Radiant Past (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992). Dale E. Peterson, ‘Solzhenitsyn Back in the USSR: Anti-Modernism in Contemporary Soviet Prose’, Berkshire Review 16 (1981): 67. Peterson, ‘Solzhenitsyn Back in the USSR’, pp. 66, 70. Cf. an observation that the work of village prose writers exudes ‘the aroma of an archaic tribalism . . . One suspects that the Scythians may be coming once again’ (Peterson, ‘Solzhenitsyn Back in the USSR’, p. 77). Cf. ‘For Limonov, war was life at its peak’ (Lee, The Beast Reawakens, p. 312). Stanislav Savitskii, ‘Budetliane i nemtsy’ (Futurists vs Germans), Die Welt der Slaven 63, no. 2 (2018): 301. I am deeply grateful to Dr Savitskii for an opportunity to read his article before its publication. Savitskii, ‘Budetliane i nemtsy’, p. 303. See Ekaterina Bobrinskaya, ‘Scythianism in Early Twentieth-century Russian Culture and the Scythian Theme in Russian Futurism’, Art in Translation 8, no. 2 (2016): 137–68. See, for example, Eduard Limonov’s blogs ‘O, sootechestvenniki! O, skify, o, pechenegi!’ (Oh, My Compatriots, Scythians and Pechenegs), 27 December 2013,; and ‘O skify, moi rodnye skify!’ (Oh Scythians, My Fellow Scythians!), 14 August 2016, For Limonov’s appreciation of Blok and Khlebnikov, see Limonov, Sviashchennye monstry, pp. 38–45, 163–9. Cf. ‘Peoples of the USSR should have been tirelessly mixed, physically, for a hundred years, to create a unified Soviet ethnos . . . Had the Bolsheviks started doing this in the first year of the revolution, they would have accomplished the task in seventy years’ time. Instead, they encouraged the differences, to each their own’ (Limonov, Neo-bol’shevizm, pp. 18–19). See ‘Programma NBP ot 1994 g’. (The NBP Programme of 1994), http:// In the case of Limonov and the NBP, ‘we are dealing with the classical Russian imperialist view accepting the thriving ethnic and cultural


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

complexity but rejecting separatist creativity (gosudarstvennoe tvorchestvo) within the imperial borders’ (Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, p. 278). 86 For more on Eurasianism, see, for example, Stefan Wiederkehr, Die eurasische Bewegung: Wissenschaft und Politik in der russischen Emigration der Zwischenkriegszeit und im postsowjetischen Russland (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2007); and Marlène Laruelle, Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire, trans. Mischa Gabowitsch (Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). 87 See Utechin, Russian Political Thought, p. 256. 88 See, for example, L. N. Gumilev, Etnogenez i biosfera zemli (Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere) (Moscow: TOO Mishel’ i ko, 1993); and Mark Bassin, The Gumilev Mystique: Biopolitics, Eurasianism and the Construction of Community in Modern Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016). 89 ‘Eti liudi stanoviatsia iadrom novogo naroda’ (These People Become the Core of a New Nation), General’naia liniia (Riga) 4 (1998). 90 Cf. ‘Together, the [future] communes can be called the Horde’ (Limonov, Neo-bol’shevizm, p. 92). 91 Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 10. 92 Cf. Limonov on the Russia of the 1990s: ‘We are a ruined country, a country that is dying. Only a national revolution can save us’ (Lee, The Beast Reawakens, p. 313). 93 John Gray, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (London: Allen Lane, 2007), p. 66. 94 Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (London: Pimlico, 1993), p. 21. 95 See, for example, Robert Rhodes James, The Hitler Movement: A Modern Millenarian Revolution (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1980); and Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017). 96 See Limonov, Kiev kaput, p. 44. 97 For a full list of those killed and/or convicted, see [Averin], Kratkii kurs, pp. 11–30, 56–69. For a selected list of ‘direct actions’, see [Averin], Kratkii kurs, pp. 31–54. 98 Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, pp. 110–11. 99 See Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, pp. 116–30. Limonov’s general stance with regard to modern-day sects is benevolent, too. He sees in them the NBP’s potential allies in the struggle against the repressive powers-that-be, which ‘do not differentiate between religious and political dissent. For the authorities, all of us are organized groups of outcast criminals’ (Limonov, Neo-bol’shevizm, p. 69). 100 Limonov, Sviashchennye monstry, p. 112. 101 Limonov, Sviashchennye monstry, p. 113. 102 Cf., a certain type of individual ‘would fight for the destruction of families and the establishment of a new sexual and public collective, a commune.

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103 104 105 106 107 108


110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118


120 121 122 123


125 126


For a high sexual comfort . . . The revolutionary nature of people’s desire for sexual comfort should not be underestimated. It is more important than the right to work’ (Limonov, Neo-bol’shevizm, p. 31). Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, p. 269. Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, p. 270. Limonov, Sviashchennye monstry, p. 109. Limonov, Sviashchennye monstry, p. 109. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 33. Konstantin Sheiko and Stephen Brown, History as Therapy: Alternative History and National Imaginings in Russia, 1991–2014 (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2014), p. 79. See also the chapters by Go Koshino and Maria Galina. See, for example, G. V. Nosovskii and A. T. Fomenko, Rekonstruktsiia vseobshchei istorii (Novaia khronologiia) (Universal History Reconsidered: A New Chronology) (Moscow: n.p., 2000). Sheiko and Brown, History as Therapy, p. 74. Sheiko and Brown, History as Therapy, p. 79. Sheiko and Brown, History as Therapy, p. 146. See, for example, his Eresi, pp. 103–23. See Eduard Limonov, ‘Otvet i vopros’ (An Answer and a Question), 17 May 2009, Sheiko and Brown, History as Therapy, p. 213. See, for example, L. N. Gumilev, Ot Rusi do Rossii (From Rus’ to Russia) (Moscow: Svarog i K, 1995). See Limonov, Sviashchennye monstry, p. 220. Limonov believes that a certain type of individual would fight ‘for social mobility. So that everyone who’s fourteen, fifteen or twenty years old and a nobody today, would in a short space of time achieve everything’ (Limonov, Neo-bol’shevizm, p. 32). Currently, this age/gender group forms about 15% of the Russian population; how many of them are disaffected is not easy to determine, though. Limonov, Drugaia Rossiia, p. 163. See the results of a FOM opinion poll, published on 28 September 2016, See Limonov, Eresi, pp. 140–8. See Tat’iana Kiseleva, ‘60% russkoiazychnogo naseleniia Kazakhstana – potentsial’nye migranty – politolog’ (A Political Scientist: 60% of Kazakhstan’s Russian Speakers are Potential Out-Migrants), 2 March 2017, See Sergei Shargunov et al., ‘So skepsisom k literature’ (Sceptical Towards Fiction), 17 July 2003, html. Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, p. 156. See Limonov, Neo-bol’shevizm, p. 220.


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127 Cf. ‘For historical reasons, because of how it was formed, Russia is doomed to exist as an empire, or not to exist at all’ (Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, p. 341). 128 Cf. ‘State as an edifice [gosudarstvennoe obrazovanie] should be destroyed, because it is a medieval social construction randomly gathering different groups of people on the same territory and condemning them to perennial conflicts’ (Limonov, Eresi, p. 153). 129 Vladimir Sapon, ‘Apostles of the “Other Russia”: Mikhail Bakunin and Eduard Limonov on Paths of Radical Social Transformation’, Russian Politics and Law: A Journal of Translations 43, no. 6 (2005): 59. For Limonov’s critical summary of Bakunin’s life (devoid of any engagement with Bakunin’s ideas), see Limonov, Titany, pp. 121–39. 130 Balkanskii, Eduard Limonov, pp. 333–4. 131 Eduard Limonov, ‘Pereiti pustyniu’ (To Cross a Desert), Limonka 45 (1996): 2. Does this make the NBP centrist in the extreme? 132 See E. Kutlovskaia, ‘Eduard Limonov: “My posylaem signaly bunta” ’ (Eduard Limonov: ‘We Are Sending the Signals of Rebellion’), Iskusstvo kino 9 (2004): 61. 133 For more on the meaning of this term, originating from the film industry (where it signifies a work of fiction disguised as a documentary, with a parodic or satirical intent), see Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight, Faking It: Mock-documentary and the Subversion of Factuality (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2001), pp. 54, 73, 188. 134 Limonov may well be suffering from a God complex. When watching a dress rehearsal of Zakhar Prilepin and Kirill Serebrennikov’s 2011 play Otmorozki (Nutters), about the NBP, at the Moscow Art Theatre School, Limonov declared that he felt like the Creator (Bog-otets) must have felt after creating the universe, because creating the NBP was Limonov’s responsibility; see Eduard Limonov, Apologiia chukchei: Moi knigi, moi voiny, moi zhenshchiny (In Defence of the Chukchi: My Books, My Wars, My Women) (Moscow: AST, 2013), pp. 503–4. 135 See Shargunov et al., ‘So skepsisom’.


Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia Anastasia Mitrofanova

Introduction This chapter is dedicated to one of the most outstanding authors in postSoviet science fiction. Iana Zavatskaia (or Jana Zawackaja, in the German transcription) was born in 1970 in Leningrad, but grew up in Chelyabinsk. In 1993 her family emigrated to Germany. According to the information available, Zavatskaia currently works as a nurse in a retirement home, and is both a Catholic1 and a member of the KPD (German Communist Party).2 Apart from science fiction, Zavatskaia authors short texts about palliative care for patients with dementia. In her blog, she claims that she does not want to be a professional writer, because this would mean – in Marxist terms – alienation of her labour.3 Iana Zavatskaia belongs to the community of non-professional writers producing what they call ‘communist science fiction’. In my opinion, the main idea behind this project is to show that technological progress must be accompanied (if not preceded) by equivalent social and moral progress. In fact, numerous other books ‘about the future’ demonstrate how archaic social institutions and morals coexist with scientific and technological advances. Velimir Doloev’s critical review of the ‘conservative SF’ volume Pitiless Tolerance leaves the impression that communist authors consciously oppose the reactionary trend in contemporary Russian SF.4 Like Zavatskaia, communist SF authors do not expect money for their publications. This literature is mostly published on the web, or is occasionally financed through internet fundraising. In my opinion, this strengthens their position by providing more scope for free ideological expression. At the same time, these writers lack the necessary motivation to make their works entertaining, or (sometimes) even readable, which makes them easy targets for literary criticism.5 The social profile of the readership of this SF is not clear, but based on commentaries I can only conclude that these are educated people with more than positive attitude to communism and little devotion to the established forms of religion. 155


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There are, at the moment, six issues of a ‘communist SF’ almanac, Buinyi brodiaga (Runagate Rampant), published since 2013 and in which Zavatskaia has placed several short stories (in 2017, the book Chronicles of the World Commune was an offshoot of the almanac); a LiveJournal community, ‘Communist science fiction’, in which she is a participant;6 the book There is a Future (2013), to which she has contributed; and USSR-2061 – a literary competition that in 2017 resulted in a volume of short stories.7 Apart from identifying with communism, Zavatskaia also presents herself as a feminist and a supporter of liberation theology (LT). Liberation theology, also known as ‘progressive Catholicism’ or ‘Christian Marxism’, emerged in the 1960s – mostly in Latin America, but also in other parts of the Catholic world (Graham Greene, a renowned British Catholic writer, was a follower of LT). Its basic idea is that only a socialist revolution seen as a religious act is able to put an end to exploitation and overcome poverty. Some liberation theologians have organized so-called basic Christian communities (CEBs, communidades eclesiales de base) – groups of the underprivileged headed by a layman or (occasionally) a nun. Initially created to ensure catechization, these communities soon started to perform multiple social functions (health care, housing, etc.), and eventually became the first stages of political protest by the destitute. In some cases (such as in Chile, Nicaragua and Peru), they also joined underground resistance or guerilla movements. It is no surprise that liberation theology has been characterized by permanent conflict between lay radicals and some ordinary clerics on one side and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church on the other.8 Zavatskaia is more a web, or Samizdat, author, with only four of her novels published on paper (Lyceum, Invisible Thread, Emigrant from Anzora and Cold Zone), not counting short stories in SF anthologies. Her unprinted texts are ‘fluid’: the author continuously changes them; earlier versions are preserved in web libraries; some texts look incomplete and have unresolved inner contradictions; and several novels have alternative titles. The novels are just part of a broader output which includes the author’s blog and her commentaries on electronically published texts. Zavatskaia admits that sometimes her writing is influenced by readers’ questions and even includes quotes from their commentaries. There are also a number of unpublished texts that cover other facets of Zavatskaia’s worlds. All Zavatskaia’s texts contain utopian elements, but in this chapter I will focus on three cycles of novels: Deitros (four novels), Kvirin Stories (two novels) and Sagon Wars (three novels). This chapter aims to demonstrate that genuine utopian novels are still produced by authors writing in the Russian language. A genuine utopia presupposes that its author has a serious intention to construct an ideal

Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia


society. For most post-Soviet SF writers, description of a utopian system is either a mask for an anti-utopia, a satirical criticism through stiob,9 which means an ironical overidentification with a particular ideal. They forget about social and moral development, representing (pseudo-)ideal societies as combining technological advances with pre-modern social relations and morality. On the surface, Zavatskaia seems to be one of many contemporary Russophone sci-fi writers who claim to continue the tradition of Soviet science fiction, represented by Ivan Efremov and the Strugatsky brothers. There is, however, an important distinction. Other writers mostly use themes from the classics to produce parodies and ironic stiob. This is particularly evident in the work of the Strugatskys, as well as in Sergey Lukianenko’s popular novels Specter and Stars are Cold Toys, but the most striking example is Mikhail Kharitonov’s novella Rubidium.10 The latter represents a juxtaposition of the Strugatskys’ world, their characters and stylistic methods. In contrast, Iana Zavatskaia neither parodies the classics nor ironically distorts them, but rather (like the classical Soviet writers) is serious in her desire to imagine an ideal future – a communist society (without private ownership of the means of production) based on Christian moral foundation. Nevertheless, she is not a representative of a specific ideological stream of ‘Orthodox Communism’, with its support of archaic values and institutions (which I have written about elsewhere)11 and which continues the trend of underground conservatism of the Soviet era.12 This interpretation of communism substitutes geopolitics and nationalist sentiment for Marxist class analysis. It can be found in the books of Aleksandr Prokhanov, who writes not so much science fiction but rather something close to ‘magical realism’, based on the proposition that the battle between Good and Evil is being conducted at the level of this world.13 Although Prokhanov does not always vocally support conservative values, Zavatskaia does not share his patriotic worldview. In her blog she openly admits that her patriotism is not territorial, but rather signifies devotion to the socialist system.14 Since writing utopias about the communist future was taboo in the Soviet Union, such stories appeared in the disguise of science fiction.15 Often it was manifested as a description of an ideal society as envisaged by a contemporary, but without any explanation as to how such a system should be put into practice. For example, in the novels of Kir Bulychev, communist society simply emerges ex nihilo; people inexplicably become ethically superior.16 More serious utopianists, like the Strugatskys and Efremov, ruminated about the need to build a new person with just as much diligence as in building new socio-political institutions. One of the reasons that post-Soviet SF has so few genuine utopias is that authors gave up on the idea of a new person, while ‘the old person’ is able to ruin any ideal society. Zavatskaia is unique, because she


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returned to the topic of a new person and of the need to counter the old person, represented by the philistines (meshchanstvo, obyvateli). It is worth mentioning that the idea of a new person (‘man’), has Christian origins. For example, Orthodox theology identifies ‘the old man’ (vetkhii chelovek) as our egotistic self devoured by sins and passions. A Christian ascetic is needed to renounce the old man within and to become the ‘new man’, that is, a deified person who emulates the image of God. This is referred to in the Epistle of Paul to the Colossians: ‘Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him’ (Col. 3.9-10, KJV). This Christian concept was borrowed by many social reformers, because by focusing on the individual they were able to make morality and social institutions catch up with scientific and technological progress. Apart from her serious approach to the matter of an ideal society, there are other characteristics that make Zavatskaia in many ways an outstanding author, who deserves special attention. First, she doesn’t simply write encapsulated novels, each with its own heroes, plots and clear-cut boundaries. She offers her reader the chance to go beyond the gated territories of books and to enrich their vision with what remains unwritten and unpublished. Her worlds are broader than books, and this willingness and ability to create new worlds is particularly noted and valued by her readers. Zavatskaia considers Ivan Efremov – the only Soviet SF writer who managed to create a holistic world of the communist future, described in its smallest details – to be her literary predecessor and mentor. Like Efremov, Zavatskaia invents names, words, toponyms for her worlds: Trima, bikr, kvensan, estarg, Vers, emmendar, shling and so on. Without learning this newspeak, reading her novels is hard work – but the language is essential to create these worlds of her own. Second, Zavatskaia is unique in the sphere of what may broadly be called ‘religious science fiction’. She doesn’t simply represent the state of religious life in a given society, but deliberately constructs several socio-political systems based on religious ideologies. Religion is the main factor influencing human lives in her worlds. However, Zavatskaia does not produce religious SF of the kind supplied, for instance, by the Christian right in America (The Left Behind series of novels, etc.).17 In Russia, similar literature is currently published by Orthodox authors, such as the late Iuliia Voznesenskaia, Archpriest Aleksandr Torik and Natalia Irtenina.18 Unlike these writers, Zavatskaia is not bound by dogma and she is not ‘conservative’: her novels do not propagate family values and the like. In her blog, she speaks very sceptically about the classical post-war nuclear family, condemns the patriarchal system and expresses support for LGBT rights.19 The last point

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seems to be a distinctive feature of communist SF, contrasting it with the conservative opinions of mainstream writers. For example, in Velimir Doloev’s novel about the communist revolution of the twenty-first century, Flowers Grow through Bones, the heroine has sexual relations with another woman, but no one around them expresses any concerns.20 In the fourth Deitros book, Zavatskaia describes a Mass performed clandestinely by a priest, in which a drug addict and two gay women participate – ‘the wretched of the earth’, in the words of the author. Nevertheless, Zavatskaia did write at least one novel with a conservative Christian trend: Lyceum. It was a product of her time as a practising Catholic, a period when she also ‘used to have a strong wish to become Orthodox’.21 Lyceum was released by the Orthodox publishing house Lepta as part of its Missionary novel series (which also featured Voznesenskaia and Irtenina), labelled as ‘fantastic action’. Zavatskaia is now sceptical about her work from those years, acknowledging that ‘many readers of Lyceum have long ago [become] disappointed in me’.22 Third, Zavatskaia belongs to none of the genres existing in post-Soviet SF. She does not write alternative history nor dream about the future greatness of Russia. Generally speaking, she is not interested in geopolitical fantasies. Her purpose is not to provide geopolitical revanche for Russia – at least, on paper – but to enunciate universal principles that would enable the progressive development of humanity towards a society close to the author’s ideal. This is a unique stance, since geopolitical thinking, combined with a rejection of universalism and the paradigm of progress, has become the ideological foundation of contemporary Russian socio-political science fiction.23 This distinctiveness is, most likely, determined by the author’s unorthodox worldview, uniting Marxist and Catholic universalism. Zavatskaia is the only Russian author who writes about Marxist utopias (not even communist SF writers do so), and no Catholics produce this kind of literature in the Russian language.24 Against this background of literary isolation, a lot of novelistic material originates from the author’s personal experiences. The reader easily recognizes some details of Soviet everyday life (e.g. girls examining a Western shopping catalogue) or the impressions of a recent immigrant in Germany. The Cross of the Empire – the first novel of Sagon Wars cycle – might be defined as an autobiographical work. The author narrates her own (and her generation’s) ideological quest: from disappointment in the Soviet system, to active antiSovietism and, finally, back to Sovietism. Psychological collisions are repeated from novel to novel: the central heroines (the author’s alter egos, bearing some variation of her name) are involved in prolonged conflicts with their husbands, which evidently reflect a similar relationship in the author’s life.


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Brief descriptions of churches that exist in Zavatskaia’s worlds are also based on personal impressions of a Catholic living in Germany. These churches, technically speaking, revanche not Catholic (they are not subordinate to the Pope, nor does he even know about them), but their everyday practices have a Catholic flavour. There are also recognizable literary influences in the novels of Zavatskaia, the most important of them will be considered below. In general, her books are part of the Soviet SF tradition, which historically included very few elements of fantasy (except, perhaps, those of Olga Larionova). The appearance of fantasy characters (a local version of Jedi knights with lightsabers) in the third novel of the Sagon Wars cycle immediately provokes suspicion; it is no surprise that they are eventually exposed as the agents of a hostile civilization. Like most Soviet and post-Soviet SF writers, Zavatskaia is enormously influenced by Western science fiction of the 1950s–1980s. Indeed, all contemporary SF literature in the Russian language is derived from authors such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Harry Harrison, Robert Sheckley, et al. Such influences are sometimes well hidden and at other times very pronounced. Occasionally, in long and boring descriptions of battles, Zavatskaia is clearly influenced by low quality SF books and films, also known as ‘fantastic action’ – a post-Soviet variation of the Western space opera. She also utilizes the traditions of other genres of Soviet literature, specifically detective and spy stories and the educational novel, the Bildungsroman. Some characters look as if they have been lifted from the adventure books of the 1930s–1970s, or are, at the least, elaborate – but recognizable – stylizations. There are also cinematic and televisual influences of the same kind: the author has admitted that one of the characters from Deitros cycle, Professor Kiba, was a ‘hybrid’ of two heroes from the famous Soviet TV series Seventeen Moments of Spring, namely Professor Pleischner and Pastor Schlag.25 Referring to a noble inquisitor from The Cross of the Empire, Zavatskaia noted in her blog that ‘it is a recognizable type of man, an ideal man from the USSR of the 30s; stern, but fair; harsh to enemies, and immensely tender and indulgent to the beloved one’.26 One can also detect in Zavatskaia’s novels hallmark Soviet stories for the younger generation about child and adolescent friendship and about school life. Finally, there is the visible impact of various anti-utopian novels of the twentieth century – especially in Emigrant from Anzora. The narrator in this novel is a standard anti-utopian character, continuously describing and explaining his everyday routines for the convenience of the reader. Nothing like this can be found in other novels: characters are involved into countless activities, but they neither describe unfamiliar realities nor explain them to the reader.

Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia


Forerunning societies: Edoli and Deitros The Cross of the Empire, a novel regarded by the author as her best book,27 is dedicated to the forerunning society that preceded the formation of the ideal one. Another variation of this society is described in the Deitros cycle. The author characterizes these societies as ‘war communism’.28 They are blueprints for utopia, which professed the correct Christian and communist ideals, but failed to implement them effectively. These collapsed societies demonstrate to the reader that formulating a socio-political ideal is not enough: there must be effective methods devised to make it real. In The Cross of the Empire, the planet Edoli is divided between two states: a theocratic and communist empire ruled by Christian clerics; and Skanti, a godless capitalist plutocracy. (This may seem like a geopolitical image, but it is not. There is no conflict between these states over territories or resources; it is rather a clash of antagonistic socioeconomic systems.) Christianity was accidentally brought to Edoli from Earth by the future Saint Kvirinus, a fourth-century missionary to Gallia, who had been saved from martyrdom by a space expedition. From that time, Edoli has had its own Church, which in many respects resembles the Roman Catholic Church (for example, the clergy are required to be celibate). However, the Church of Edoli (as well as the Churches of Deitros and Kvirin in the other novels) is not subject to the equivalent of papal rule. In fact, it is unclear how it is administered, though a conciliary system is most likely (something that failed in the Roman Catholic Church in the fifteenth century). Eventually, a theocratic (or rather, hierocratic) empire emerged, where mundane authorities are guided and controlled by Christian monastic orders. All senior secular administrators are obliged to join ‘third orders’ for lay people. The empire resembles the USSR, with Christianity and the Church substituted for the Communist Party and Marxist-Leninist ideology. However, in many respects this empire has stricter rules than the Soviet Union and looks more like an average nineteenth-century socialist utopia or a typical anti-utopia of the twentieth century. In accordance with communist doctrine, the imperial economy is nonmonetary: there is no private property, while food and other goods are distributed by the state on the basis of merit. To ensure total ideological conformity, the empire practises collective childrearing. Children are taken from their families and educated at boarding schools, where corporal punishment is frequently used. Confession is obligatory, as well as fasting (on fast days, the centralized system of food distribution simply provides no meat). An Inquisition oversees all citizens’ activities, and has the right to use torture. In accordance with Christian ideals, all people are expected to


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practise celibacy before marriage; divorce does not exist. However, this society is not patriarchal, and women are fully equal to men. Practising astrology, witchcraft or any other form of occultism is against the law. All publications are subject to censorship. A similar society exists on the planet of Deitros (in the Deitros cycle), with all people supervised by a local variation of the holy inquisition. In the first novel, the heroine, Keita (the daughter of a man from Deitros and a terrestrial woman), reads a book about the sociopolitical system of her father’s native planet: Total authoritarianism reigned in schools, with children educated in harsh environments; they were being constantly harshly punished and supervised in order to observe the principles of the true Christian faith. Anyway, adults were also under supervision. In Deitros there was such a special service – Defense of Faith; in their language it was called Vers (while in Latin, probably, it would be called inquisition).29

Heretical beliefs could lead to capital punishment, and in the second novel Keita reads a report from a theological commission, which resulted in an accusation of heresy against a monk: Hmm, the accusations are not so awful. ‘Showing not enough respect to the historical Church,’ ‘Thinking that beliefs of various nations, such as the Kilnians, deserve study and respect,’ ‘Putting too much emphasis on the human, not on the Divine’ . . .30

Based on these observations, the cleric was executed by firing squad. Both the empire of Edoli and Deitros are societies, directing most of their energy to achieving their religious ideals. Both are also in a state of permanent warfare: the empire counterbalances capitalist Skanti, while Deitros struggles with the evil planet of Daraiia in order to protect Earth (because the incarnation of God occurred on our planet). These societies demand that every citizen sacrifice her or his private comfort to higher goals. At the same time, not much attention is paid to the upbringing of the individual – and herein, as the reader will eventually discern, lie the roots of these societies’ inevitable collapse. The empire of Edoli is shown in different phases of its history. At the beginning, it is approximately at the stage the Soviet Union was at the end of the 1950s. Ideological dogma is still strictly applied, but the younger generation is starting to question what used to be taken for granted. Kris, the heroine of The Cross of the Empire, is disappointed by the total hypocrisy and

Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia


the bleakness of life around her, while her own future is ruined by the rigid rules of the Church: she and her lover are expelled from a medical school because of their premarital sexual relations. The second time we encounter this society is roughly equivalent to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Material life is slowly improving, but shortages of consumer goods still exist and look familiar to anyone who ever lived in a state that had a planned economy: Kris promptly went to the department of textiles and footwear. She needed summer shoes. She still had ration stamps for two pairs; and the old one was already leaky. But shoes fell out of the question immediately: there were no shoes at the distributing facility. Instead, for some reason, warm, winter fur boots were standing in a row.31

The novel convinces us that, in spite of its foundation in the principles of a superior and humane ideology, the empire has chosen the wrong means to ensure people live in accordance with that ideology. Even the most devout Christians and communists feel constrained, having to conceal normal human desires. Even enthusiasts are tired of the unbending ascetic standard and the all-day, all-week straining of human resources. And what about average folk – the philistines (obyvateli, meshchane)? It soon becomes evident that they have inadvertently become the main enemies of this society. Both the empire and Deitros can be and will be destroyed by ordinary people, those who are focused on their private lives and who reject the ideals in favour of material gain. Here Zavatskaia echoes the enduring tradition of Soviet propaganda art directed against the philistines. The reader might be prompted to recall Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poem About some trash (1920–1), in which Marx violently denounces the philistines, represented here by seemingly innocent canary birds: The revolution is tangled up in philistine threads, More terrible than Vrangel is philistine byt, Better To twist off the canaries’ heads – So communism Won’t be struck down by Canaries!32

Our third encounter with the empire of Edoli pictures its complete breakdown. First the Church is separated from the state and later on the whole sociopolitical system mutates and the theocratic empire collapses. Although the


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subversive activity of Skanti contributed to the downfall, the philistines made the tragedy inevitable. This part of the novel is dominated by the spirit of post-Soviet resentment: ‘Where an agitation poster about the conquest of outer space used to be hanging – a crimson cross against black cosmic space and the blue orb of the planet, a space explorer in a space suit – now a poster advertising tights is placed.’33 However, the ideals are not dead. Just before its inglorious end, the empire initiated a space colonization project. The best representatives of society – space explorers, scholars and engineers – were sent to outer space to establish a base on Kvirin, a planet named after the prominent saint. Thus, Kvirin became a haven where Christian and communist values were preserved. The faithful begin a project called ‘Ark’ and depart for Kvirin to establish a society that would avoid the mistakes of the empire and produce a utopia that could be sustained. This finale is standard for the ‘alternative USSR’ trend in communist SF. Deitros faces the same challenge. Initially the problems with philistines were not so pressing, because in the first book of the cycle we learn that the planet was destroyed by a ‘time explosion’ (to be precise, Deitros sacrificed itself to save Earth). The population was exterminated, except those absent at that moment, that is, the warriors, explorers and missionaries – but not the philistines. But in the third book it is revealed that the fatal explosion was probably not the work of their enemy, Daraiia, but was engineered by the elite of Deitros – in order to get rid of the dangerous philistines34 Neither the heroine nor the reader knows if this is true, but the suspicion planted by the author persists, especially in light of Mayakovsky’s poem about twisting off the heads of canaries. Even if Deitros was not destroyed by its monastic elite, the problem of philistines is still acute. The population continues to grow, and not all of them are brave and selfless explorers and warriors; there is already sustained emigration to Daraiia. The author provides no clue as to to how ‘the second Deitros’ is going to resolve the issue. Its future seems obscure and uncertain.

A pragmatic utopia: Kvirin Kvirin is what makes Zavatskaia’s novels different from most of post-Soviet SF. In her blog she explains that it ‘is, so to speak, my utopia, my vision of ideal society’.35 Against the background of numerous dystopian and failed societies, she presents what she considers to be a viable project for an ideal society. Its ruling elite is devoted to ideals, but pragmatic enough to deal with the mundane problems of human psychology.

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Different aspects of life in Kvirin are described in all the novels that comprise the Kvirin Stories and Sagon Wars cycles. A lot of additional information is also provided in the blog. The first thing about Kvirin that strikes newcomers from other planets – such as Landzo from Anzora, or Ilget from Iarna – is that it is a society of nearly unlimited material wealth. Thanks to a number technological innovations that remain undefined, all reasonable material demands of the people can be satisfied.36 Like other societies described by Zavatskaia, Kvirin is involved in an endless conflict with a hostile civilization, in this case one populated by demonic creatures called ‘sagons’. However, Kvirin’s citizens experience no shortages, queues or unfair distribution of goods. Its economy is mixed and money is used mainly as a common denominator to make calculations easier, but it cannot be invested as capital, apart from in small businesses. Kvirin is not a theocracy: the Church is a respected institution but is not part of the governmental system. State and society in Kvirin are not divided.37 Citizens are united in professional guilds, the leaders of which help administer the planet. There is also a democratic network that provides citizens with access to government, though this aspect of life in Kvirin has only ever been mentioned in the blog.38 On Kvirin, one has the freedom to reject Christianity, and there is no inquisition or censorship. In her blog, Zavatskaia provides some additional information about the religious life of Kvirin: a working collective or a family (but not a parish) is considered to be the primary Christian community, with the leader of the collective performing the priestly function, even if that leader is a woman. Communion is just a ‘ritual’, in which non-Christians are allowed to participate. Thus, Christianity in Kvirin is not bound to religious organizations or denominations, perhaps a reflection of how Zavatskaia has been influenced by liberation theology, with its advocacy of basic Christian communities and invectives against hierarchy. Zavatskaia has remarked in her blog that while Kvirin has its origins in the empire of Edoli, it is not an extension of that empire: ‘Edoli was a nymph, from which later a butterfly emerged – Kvirin.’39 Rather, it represents the next stage of development of a Christian state.40 Instead of rigid rules imposed by the Church, an Ethical Code guides this rationally organized technocratic society. This Code permits many things forbidden by the Church, especially in the sphere of sexuality; this aspect of life on Kvirin is never discussed in the novels, but there is useful supplementary material in the blog.41 Kvirin follows not the letter, but the spirit of Christianity. Practically all people know the Gospels and the New Testament by heart, not just those who are members of the Church.42 Zavatskaia’s belief is that this is the only way in which individual morality and social institutions can adapt to technological innovations.


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She suggests that for a utopia to be successful, it should pay attention not so much to refining its institutional structure, but to educating ‘a new person’. This aspect was missing in the earlier societies, with the empire of Edoli using terror to contol its simple people (thus forcing them to pretend and cheat), while Deitros was ‘comfortably’ deprived of all its philistines thanks to the mysterious explosion. In the absence of censorship and an inquisition, however, Kvirin is able to resist both the influence of the philistines and the subversive actions of the sagons. The method was already described in the final pages of The Cross of the Empire: To put it roughly, a specific spiritual atmosphere will be permanently supported on Kvirin . . . people of action, people-explorers, researchers, and scholars, those who strive for great deeds, who want to live for the good of the others, will feel themselves well and comfortable. People who basically want to live for themselves will also have some opportunities . . . It will be permitted to open a café, or a design bureau. It will be permitted to get wealthy. But on Kvirin such people will not feel themselves comfortable.43

The author contends that the empire of Edoli failed (and Deitros may also fail) because it forced its people to live in accordance with the high moral standards of Christianity and communism. This is not the case in Kvirin. Instead, the Information Service controls all flows of information in order to sustain such values as ‘longing for life, passionarity,44 humanism, a wish to have children, contributing to the high prestige of the vitally important military and scholarly professions’.45 If something contrary to these values is detected in the flow of information, it is not censored out, but instead, counter-flows are deliberately created. As a result, only ‘new people’ feel themselves at home. Citizens agree that ‘Kvirin is not a nation. It is a spiritual formation . . . Full freedom of emigration is what guarantees that the new passionary forces continuously inflow to Kvirin from far away, and that those people, who cannot survive in our infoflows, leave.’46 This does not mean that Kvirin gave up the idea of rearing a new person from childhood. Zavatskaia has dedicated many pages to describing its elaborate educational system. Children are not raised collectively, but stay in families to be nurtured not just by their nuclear families but by extended ones, including family friends. There is no corporal punishment and, generally speaking, little coercion in schools. Instead of learning dogma, children are encouraged to develop an exploratory spirit, courage, teamwork skills and so on.

Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia


Those who managed to pass through the education system but remain philistines are not forced to live in accordance with some hierarchical morality. People who care only about their own interests do exist in Kvirin, but they do not present a threat to the system. If such a danger should emerge, then it will be dealt with by a secret Surveillance Service, where predictably the best of society is employed. Societal evolution from Edoli to Kvirin (and from the first Deitros book to the fourth one) follows the author’s own ideological and spiritual evolution. When Zavatskaia was a practising Catholic, she believed in ‘socialism like in the USSR – but also with the Church’.47 In those years the Deitros cycle was being written. Remarking on this, Zavatskaia writes: For several years I had an illusion (generally speaking, similar to what liberation theology teaches) that the Church can, and should liberate the society. In my opinion, the ethical side of communism (not the Marxist economic theory, of course) was fully described in the Gospel. Therefore, in cases of both Deitros, and Edoli (The Cross of the Empire) I tried to envision some sort of Christian socialism.48

As early as the third novel of the Deitros cycle, a representative of the hostile Daraiia articulates understandable anxiety: In Deitros all social life, economy, everything is remodeled with orientation to the Christian commandments. Aren’t the ideals diminished by this? They cannot be implemented unchanged! Being implemented, they become a caricature of themselves!49

The last novel of the series makes evident the author’s disappointment with theocratic systems. Keita, the protagonist, comes to the conclusion that clerics should not rule the state. We don’t know what happens next to Deitros, but its only chance to survive is to be transformed into a variation of Kvirin. (The author acknowledges elsewhere that she would like to connect the two worlds by sending a representative of Deitros to Kvirin.)

Dystopian societies Zavatskaia portrays several types of societies that might be described as dystopian. Their primary function is to inject some dynamism into the story. Utopian societies tend to be stable – and boring. However, Zavatskaia writes SF (even ‘fantastic action’), not religio-political treatises. That is why the good


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societies in her cycles (Deitros, the empire, Kvirin) are surrounded by enemies seeking to destroy them. Furthermore, a detailed description of such hostile societies helps to paint a more comprehensive picture of the ideal sociopolitical system. Daraiia (the main enemy of Deitros) and Skanti (the antagonist of the empire) are based on a free market economy and individualism. They pretend to be democratic, but in fact are ruled by a financial oligarchy. For Zavatskaia, Daraiia is the future of the West stripped of its Christian components.50 ‘Rivalry [konkurentsiia] is the foundation of life in Daraiia. Rivalry in every sphere. They think that it is rivalry that ensures their high standard of living,’ the author writes in the second Deitros book.51 The social hierarchy of Daraiia is based on genetic inequality: the rich are able to provide more genetic upgrades for their children than the poor. The poor and the unemployed receive some social welfare, but only until age sixty. Most of the elderly poor agree to be euthanized, as do wealthy citizens who feel that their lives are empty and useless. Christianity and the Church are outlawed in Daraiia. Descriptions of Skanti are more realistic, and definitely based on the impressions of Soviet immigrants who experienced West Germany in the early 1990s. But the society of Skanti is also based on individualism, hierarchy and interpersonal rivalry. The author stresses that material wealth in Daraiia and Skanti is much higher than in mobilization societies. However, she several times explains that these societies are inhumane because most people there are thrown away by the system (although their minimal material needs are satisfied). ‘Deitros is humane, because there are NO people thrown on the roadside there’, Zavatskaia explains to the reader.52 We learn that people of Daraiia are ‘stripped of grace’: they have lost the ability to create and, presumably, the likeness of God. In a commentary the author mentions that the most horrible feature about Daraiia is that its people renounce the Holy Spirit.53 Another variation of dystopia in the novels by Zavatskaia might be termed ‘barracks communism’. Such a society exists on the planet of Anzora, divided (again) between two polities. The narrator, Landzo (‘Number 218’), lives in the highly militarized collectivist state of Lervena, which permanently anticipates war against the rival state of Beshiora. Lervena superficially resembles both the empire and Deitros. Its economy is non-monetary, nonmarket and centralized. The whole population is obliged to work in factories, most of which produce armaments. People have names, but are officially referred to by numbers. Child rearing and education are collectivized, with children only spending their first year in a family. As Landzo remarks, ‘I do not even know if I have siblings. It seems I had one brother. We were together at primary school. He died later, but I am not absolutely convinced of this.’54

Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia


The male population of the state is narcotized through consumption of a specific drug, ‘sensar’ (which is denied to women because of its harmful impact on children). The people of Lervena have no transcendental beliefs, but venerate Tskharn – their leader and great teacher. Apart from this personality cult, their ideology is based on veneration of the collective and the community: ‘One person means nothing. Only as a part of the Community. Everyone knows it. As an ant. Tskharn said that ants should serve as a great example for the human community.’55 Such aphorisms remind one of Mao Zedong, but everyday life in Lervena also resembles the most negative aspects of life in the Soviet Union between the end of the 1930s and beginning of the 1950s. The whole picture presents a typical anti-utopia of the twentieth century; for example, the drug ‘sensar’ seems to be a replica of Aldous Huxley’s ‘soma’ from Brave New World. In spite of this apparently unattractive picture, the author’s vision of Lervena seems ambivalent. Unlike the plutocracies described earlier, this society has some positive characteristics. Its members are collectivists; in the absence of families, they place a high value on friendship and mutual support. Their ideology includes a particular stance towards the philistines, as one political instructor demonstrates: Philistinism in a broad sense means preferring your private interests to the collective ones. What is a Real Man? It is a Man living in accordance with the Great Goal. Someone ready to sacrifice his life for this Goal at every minute. Nothing is higher, or dearer to him than this Goal. Fortunately, we have this Goal, and it is clear to all of us. It is the Universal Community and the cause of Tskharn, our Great Teacher.56

Eventually it is revealed that Tskharn is a sagon. However, the author is at pains to emphasize the fact that Lervena’s collectivist institutions were not imposed by Tskharn, but were the choice of the people themselves. Even after the banishment of the sagon, the people of Lervena continue a guerilla war against the ‘liberators’ from Kvirin. Zavatskaia emphasizes that they were never under the sagon’s mind control. Generally speaking, the spirit of this civilization is wrong, but the letter is right (or, probably, vice versa). To provide a contrast with Lervena, Zavatskaia describes other worlds that have been invaded and directly controlled by the sagons. On these planets there are no collectivist ideologies, and their economies are based on private property and free-market initiative. This is precisely what makes it easy for the sagons to occupy them. One example is the invasion of the planet Iarna, which begins during a boom in private entrepreneurship. Gradually,


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however, the planetary economy undergoes transformation – and not in a collectivist direction: ‘Economically in Iarna – generally speaking, it happens in different ways – the changes progressed towards monopolization of big capital; the government became completely oligarchic; several people in the country owned the chains of newly-built enterprises; even the army was not purely national any more.’57 The arrival of the army of Kvirin saves Iarna, but on another planet – Inastra – the occupation by the sagons reached its logical conclusion. This invasion was also sparked by free trade, personal enrichment and the fulfilling of all material needs. The end result, however, is catastrophic: ‘The biosphere is nearly brought to its end; the population is kept in labor camps; all large cities are eliminated. The civilization does not exist any more.’58 Under the rule of the sagons, Iarna becomes a recognizably fascist state. All people are expected to join a national paramilitary organization, the ‘Folk System’, and wear black uniforms that bear a golden lightning emblem (resonant of Nazi aesthetics). The ideology includes the patriarchal concept of women’s inferiority. Zavatskaia’s understanding of fascism follows the classical Marxist definition of Georgii Dimitrov that ‘fascism is an open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialistic elements of the financial capital’.59 Based on this definition, Zavatskaia defines her position in the ongoing debate about communism and fascism in Russia: fascism is always and under all conditions worse than any form of communism, even in the case of Lervena-style ‘barracks communism’.

Conclusion In many respects, Zavatskaia is typical of post-Soviet socio-political SF literature. Her novels exhibit the familiar shortcomings: they are imitative in comparison with both Soviet and Western classical science fiction, and, written by a non-professional writer, are often inconsistent, overlong or simply boring. Nevertheless, this literature enjoys relative popularity and definitely has a devoted readership. My explanation is that most of it (including Zavatskaia) is a response to the generational trauma of the USSR’s breakdown and the subsequent transformation of the newly independent countries into second- if not third-class states. This is particularly true with regard to Russia, though this feeling of resentment may be found everywhere in the post-Soviet space (actually, some Russophone writers live in Ukraine, while Sergey Lukianenko began his literary career in Kazakhstan). Attempts to deal with the trauma have led most post-Soviet SF writers into various form of escapism. This escape from reality has resulted, on the

Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia


one hand, in the flourishing of local variations of fantasy, and, on the other hand, in numerous books about the ‘alternative present’, which looks very much like the distant past. The greatest weakness of such literature is that it shows no further development of moral and social institutions, thus limiting the progress to technology. Most SF books in the Russian language describe a future in which people brutally kill each other in space stations. The advantage of the nascent communist SF is that, rejecting the present state of society, it provides an answer, that is attractive to those who believe in social and moral progress, and have no intention to escape ‘back to the future’. Nevertheless, even communist authors present no genuine utopias. At best, they describe ideal socio-political institutions and principles, but provide no clue as to how to achieve them. Utopian visions become possible only as parodies, or satirical stiob. Zavatskaia is probably the only contemporary author who tries to find a method that could deliver the social, and even moral, progress of humankind. Without this type of progress, she suggests, the ideal economic and political institutions will be nothing but a trap in which people are locked. She focuses not on these institutions, but on individual development, on making a ‘new person’. And here her Christian devotion and her communist worldview finally coincide.

Novels refered to in this chapter (years of writing provided by the author) ‘Deitros’ On the Celestial Firmanent (Na tverdi nebesnoi), 2006. Don’t be Afraid, Girl! (Ne boisia, devochka!), also known as About Life, and About Love (Pro zhizn i pro liubov), 2007. Invisible World (Nevidimyi mir), 2008. The New Sky (Novye nebesa), 2009–10. ‘Kvirin Stories’ Thread of Hope (Nit’ nadezhdy), 2006. Emigrant from Anzora (Emigrant s Anzory), 2006. ‘Sagon Wars’ The Cross of the Empire (Krest imperii), 2005–6 Roads (Dorogi), also exists in a slightly different and extended version as Dorogi, part 1, 2003–4. The Ring and the Cross (Kol’tso i krest), also exists as Dorogi, part 2, 2005.


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Notes 1 Zavatskaia’s blog leaves an impression that she is currently not a practising Catholic. However, she remains formally a member of the Catholic Church, i.e., pays the church tax in accordance with German laws. 2 Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands is a minor leftist party founded in 1968 and not represented in the German federal parliament. Before joining the KPD, Zavatskaia was part of a more radical, Stalinist group, the Communist Initiative (Kommunistische Initiative). 3 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Kak preodolet’ otchuzhdenie truda?’, Blau_kraehe, 8 September 2013, 4 Velimir Doloev, ‘Obraz vraga: uzhasy novoi Rossii’, Buinyi brodiaga 1 (2013), SA . 5 An example of such criticism from a leftist author is Aleksandr Tarasov, ‘Kommunizm i fantastika’, 9 January 2014, kommunizm-i-fantastika-7283.html. 6; created in 2007. 7 The project website is 8 See: Thomas C. Bruneau, ‘Brazil: The Catholic Church and Basic Christian Communities’, in Daniel H. Levine (ed.), Religion and Political Conflict in Latin America (Chapel Hill, NC, and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), pp. 106–23. 9 See Mischa Gabowitsch, ‘Fascism as Stiob’, Kultura 4 (2009): 3–8. Stiob is a kind of irony, associated with the Soviet-era political subversiveness. See, for example: Aleksei Yurchak, ‘A Parasite from Outer Space: How Sergei Kurekhin Proved That Lenin Was a Mushroom’, Slavic Review 70, no. 2 (2011): 307–33. 10 Mikhail Kharitonov is the pen name of the prominent Russian nationalist Konstantin Krylov. 11 Anastasia Mitrofanova, The Politicization of Russian Orthodoxy: Actors and Ideas (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2005), pp. 60–6. 12 Mikhail Suslov, ‘The Fundamentalist Utopia of Gennady Shimanov from the 1960s–1980s’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 17, no. 4 (2009): 324–49. 13 Mitrofanova, The Politicization of Russian Orthodoxy, pp. 91–3. On Prokhanov, see Chapter 12 by Edith W. Clowes. 14 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Patriotizm. Vse pobezhali, i ia . . .’ , 2 May 2016, https:// 15 Anastasia Mitrofanova, ‘Communism’, in Alexander N.Chumakov, Ivan I. Mazour and William C. Gay (eds), Global Studies Encyclopedic Dictionary (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2014), pp. 87–9. 16 For more on Kir Bulychev, see Chapter 1 by Go Koshino. 17 Melani McAlister, ‘Prophecy, Politics, and the Popular: The Left Behind Series and Christian Fundamentalism’s New World Order’, South Atlantic Quarterly 102, no. 4 (2003): 773–98.

Religio-political Utopia by Iana Zavatskaia


18 See also Chapter 5 by Mikhail Suslov. 19 See, for example, Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Pogromnaia situatsiia’, 13 October 2012, 20 Velimir Doloev, ‘Tsvety prorastaiut skvoz’ kosti’, 12 December 2016, http:// 21 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Printsipy missionerskoi raboty. Vzgliad izvne’, 25 July 2012, 22 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Mrachnoe’, 3 January 2011, https://blau-kraehe.livejournal. com/74384.html. 23 Mikhail Suslov, ‘Of Planets and Trenches: Imperial Science Fiction in Contemporary Russia’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (2016): 11. 24 Elena Chudinova has a positive view of Catholicism, not being a Catholic; but her ‘alternative history’ novel Pobediteli (the author insists on printing the headline with the letter Yat’, which had been eliminated by the 1918 reform of Russian orthography) is based on a conservative worldview. 25 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Commentary 90 to Novye nebesa’, 17 January 2011, http:// 26 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Krest imperii‘ i nasilie’, 5 August 2012, https://blau-kraehe. 27 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Ekh . . .’, 3 August 2008, https://blau-kraehe.livejournal. com/23345.html. 28 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Commentary 32 to Ne boisya, devochka!’, 30 October 2007, 29 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Na tverdi nebesnoi’, 5 December 2007, j/jenna_k/deitros-1.shtml. 30 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Ne boisia, devochka!’, 5 December 2007, j/jenna_k/deitros-2.shtml. 31 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Krest imperii’, 24 May 2007, edoli.shtml. 32 English translation quoted in accordance with Svetlana Boym, Common Places: Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 1994), p. 34. Byt means ‘everyday routine’. 33 Zavatskaia, ‘Krest imperii’. 34 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Nevidimyi mir’, 5 December 2007, jenna_k/deitros-3.shtml. 35 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Kvirin i khristianstvo’, 25 April 2011, https://blau kraehe. 36 These innovations are, in fact, deus ex machina which ensures the success of Kvirin. There is no doubt that if the Empire of Edoli possessed unlimited material resources, it would most likely survive. 37 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Commentary 73 to Nevidimyi mir’, 19 May 2009, http:// 38 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Ne uderzhalas’, 1 April 2009, https://blau-kraehe.livejournal. com/31390.html. 39 Zavatskaia, ‘Kvirin i khristianstvo’.


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40 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Tserkov’, obshchestvo, raznye miry’, 14 January 2009, https:// 41 Zavatskaia, ‘Tserkov’, obshchestvo, raznye miry’. 42 Zavatskaia, ‘Kvirin i khristianstvo’. 43 Zavatskaia, ‘Krest imperii’. 44 Suslov, ‘Of Planets and Trenches’, pp. 8–9. 45 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Dorogi’, 12 December 2007, dorogi-1.shtml. 46 Zavatskaia, ‘Dorogi’. 47 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Obo mne’, 4 June 2016, https://blau-kraehe.livejournal. com/499834.html#cutid1. 48 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Commentary 47 to Ne boisia, devochka!’, 2 January 2012, 49 Zavatskaia, ‘Nevidimyi mir’. 50 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Commentary 30 to Ne boisia, devochka!’, 27 October 2007, 51 Zavatskaia, ‘Ne boisiya, devochka!’ 52 Iana Zavatskaia. ‘Commentary 7 to Ne boisia, devochka!’, 19 January 2009, 53 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Commentary 16 to Ne boisia, devochka!’, 2 August 2009, 54 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Emigrant s Anzory’, bd/?b=30594&p=1. 55 Zavatskaia, ‘Emigrant s Anzory’. 56 Zavatskaia, ‘Emigrant s Anzory’. 57 Zavatskaia, ‘Dorogi’. 58 Iana Zavatskaia, ‘Koltso i krest’, 12 December 2007, jenna_k/dorogi-2.shtml. 59 ‘Fashizm’, in M.Rozental and P. Iudin (eds), Kratkii filosofskii slovar’ (Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1954), pp. 621–2.


‘Respectable Xenophobia’: Science Fiction, Utopia and Conspiracy Victor Shnirelman

A trajectory of the Russian utopia toward xenophobia In the USSR, a certain kind of approved utopian vision was constantly reinforced in literature and other genres, whereas anti-utopian thought which manifested alarm about the future of humanity was actually banned in the 1930s (Zamiatin’s exile is an evident case). Darko Suvin underlined the antiimperialist and anti-fascist nature of a Soviet science fiction (SF) focused on ‘a catastrophic downfall of the capitalist system and the victory of world revolution’, which was glorified as a cosmic phenomenon.1 Insofar as antiutopian scenarios existed, they were considered to arise out of the conditions of capitalism, which had nothing to do with Soviet life, and it is no accident that Suvin noted a telling contrast between Efremov’s novels and contemporary American ones.2 Therefore the Soviet intellectuals who were interested in anti-utopia had to discuss its problems with reference to the ideas of Western writers.3 Yet, after censorship disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was widely acknowledged that certain Soviet writers (Andrei Platonov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, among others) covered similar topics but discussed them in code language. As it turns out, right-wing science fiction, which viewed reality in terms of ethno-racial struggle, also enjoyed some popularity in the Soviet period.4 This was encouraged by the colonialist and racialist language used by Soviet SF.5 The right-wing literary stream was in particular represented by the almanacs ‘Secrets of the Centuries’ (Tainy vekov) and ‘Along the Roads of Millennia’ (Dorogami tysiacheletii) issued by the Molodaia Gvardia publishing house. It too was subjected to censorship, and therefore Soviet right-wing science fiction focused on glorification of the great ‘Slavic-Aryan ancestors’ as beacons of humanity, rather than on a search for those who were to blame for numerous misfortunes. This historical imagination was popular among nationalists who had been withdrawn from the political sphere and found 175


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their asylum in the literary field.6 From this time onwards, they were able to develop a kind of fiction for promotion of their views, with the help of a skilfully applied code language.7 Some of them even made attempts (though unsuccessful) to promote Western radical right science fiction in the USSR.8 According to literary historian Natalia Kovtun, the ‘village prose’ of the 1970s–1980s represented a ‘memorial phase’ which was occupied by traditionalist writers who were searching for the ‘God-bearing people’ and identified the Golden Age with the patriarchic peasant past.9 Whereas the utopia built by village prose writers took aim at technocentrism and identified the enemy as the individualist philistines, these nationalist writers became more plain-speaking after censorship was abolished in the late 1980s. Henceforward they did all they could to uncover a malign plot, which was linked by some with the Jews, by others with the Freemasons, and by still others with TV.10 In the hands of some fantasy authors, the goal was to stir up fears about some enduring Western plot against Russia.11 This sort of literature blossomed in the post-Soviet period. While it served to express oppositional attitudes in the 1990s, later on it supported the new political line and actively participated in the preparation of the ‘conservative turn’. More often than not its authors were, first, former engineers who had previously worked for the powerful Soviet military-industrial complex, which suffered a drastic decline in the 1990s; and second, retired military staff who could not find a place in the new Russia, where their patriotic stance was not fashionable. As ‘losers’ in the new situation in which they found themselves, these authors sought a footing in the ‘Russian idea’ and vented their frustration and grievances on the Other, who, in their view, were culpable for all the misfortunes of the Russian people. Literary historians usually eschew mass literature due to its lack of artistic merit and the absence of any great names associated with it. Nonetheless, it has enjoyed popularity among the general public for the last twenty to twenty-five years and, evidently, has had an impact on the public attitudes. This was a result of the collapse of the communist utopia, which produced terrible disillusion and undermined the trust of some people, while causing others to become cynical and suspicious about great political projects, and still others fearing for the future of humanity and dreading a possible apocalypse. It is in this environment that the nationalist utopia was shaped, which differed from the traditional one in a number of ways. Now, the conflict between humans and technical progress or a mighty state was replaced by ethnic or racial conflict, and the major actor was the people, a race, state or even civilization rather than a maverick. In Russia this utopia is closely connected with the ‘Russian myth’,12 which uses symbolic language to depict the present period and the future of Russia as well as its enemies.

‘Respectable Xenophobia’


Whereas a traditional anti-utopia is filled with irony, parody and the grotesque, the nationalist counterpart is quite serious about its mission to rescue the people or humanity in general. The authors involved do not simply want to deploy ‘verbal constructions’ that generate meaning within the generic conventions of science fiction (Suvin),13 but rather make claims to something beyond their literary genre – to intervene in the processes of history, engage in ‘political projects’, ‘model reality’ and alter the world.14 To put it another way, utopia is in a dialectical relationship with ideology.15 It is ready for a very hard struggle, with the possibility of heavy losses and catastrophes. That is why, as many scholars have noted, anti-utopia is characterized by eschatological concerns,16 although sometimes it turns into pulp stories, a ‘patriotic nonsense’.17 According to Yannis Stavrakakis, the genre of utopia suffered a crisis at the end of the twentieth century, and ‘the beatific side of fantasy is coupled in utopian constructions with a horrific side, a paranoid need for a stigmatized scapegoat’, hence, ‘Utopia is fed by violence’.18 It is well established that utopia is characterized by absolute harmony and frozen time,19 or to put it another way, with the totality of realization and the ‘end of time’. This task was resolved in the Soviet utopia via re-education and the shaping of the ‘new humans’; yet in the post-Soviet period anti-utopia blossomed, opening the way for stigmatization followed by extermination. Indeed, this is prescribed in the utopian construction – otherwise it cannot work. To be sure, it is impossible to eliminate all the downsides and shortcoming in human society, but a convincing explanation is demanded and no more convenient answer exists for local people than to blame the Other, or the stranger.20 Utopia is not intended for everyone – only some ‘chosen people’ are welcomed there.21 In this context the Other not only provokes reprobation as he/she does not fit into traditional society, but is suspected of plotting against that very society. This causes demonization and dehumanization, which certainly make extermination easier. A connection to real genocides, which are extensively covered by special studies and artistic works, is beyond my scope here. Yet, the idea of total extermination is inherent in utopia, and even more so in anti-utopia, which focuses on various ways this process is advanced. The image of an enemy fits perfectly into the very composition of utopia and allows a highly simplified and, thus, easily understood pattern of a struggle between Good and Evil to emerge, an us-group and a them-group, in which the us-group finally wins a deserved victory through incredible efforts, and the desired harmony is achieved. This conflict has neither spatial nor temporal dimensions within anti-utopia; it can easily be transmitted to the remote past and to the distant future, and it can happen both on the Earth and in the cosmos as well.


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At the same time, the struggle with an enemy is expected to be very difficult, and victory is not predetermined. Defeat is also a possibility, and for nationalist writers just such an unhappy outcome unfolded with the collapse of the USSR and destruction of a former way of life. This resulted in an outburst of eschatological views among these writers in the 1980s and 1990s, when Russian history was envisaged by them as the ‘way to Golgotha’ and when they were attracted by the struggle with ‘Strangers’ (be they the Freemasons or Europe) and obsessed with an image of the coming Antichrist.22 At the same time they did not want to accept defeat, and some chose to depict Russia as a legendary hero, a saviour of humanity.23 These trends were picked up and developed by right-wing science fiction in post-Soviet Russia. Here, the archetypal Other was identified mostly with the Jew, who for centuries had been imagined by Christian tradition as the closest ally of the Antichrist in the approach to the end of time and the apocalypse.24 Within the racial paradigm, the Jew was easily transformed into a malicious enemy of the great Aryans, whose treacherous activity hampered building up a harmonious society.25 By the twentieth century the anti-Semitic tradition had constructed several variations of the malicious Jew, which were fully exploited by right-wing science fiction. The xenophobia that deeply infected post-Soviet society added another element to this phenomenon in Russia. My contention is not that right-wing SF automatically affects the general public, but rather that it reflects the trends manifested in the dynamics of society. That is why it is important to take these trends into account. During the last twenty-five years, xenophobia in Russia has developed in an alarming way.26 While the intensification of anti-Semitism in the late 1980s had led some to fear possible Jewish pogroms, the 1990s saw a shift in public attitudes, with Southerners and migrants becoming the main targets of popular dislike and prejudice.27 Yet, a sharp growth of anti-Semitism was observed in October 1993, and then again in 1998–9. It was a result of the rumours surrounding the turmoil of October 1993, and reflected the unpopular programme of privatization and property redistribution in 1997–8 caused by a struggle between oligarchs. The government was heavily criticized for boosting the power of the oligarchs, while the belief that the ‘Jews are controlling the country’ heightened the tension. Sociologic surveys in March 2000 showed that a third of the respondents expressed negative views of the Jews. An anti-Semitic myth of some ‘New Khazaria’, which allegedly was to replace Russia, began to take shape by the end of the 1990s.28 Thus, a relatively low level of anti-Semitism shown by many sociological surveys cannot prove any stable immunity to be characteristic of Russian citizens. Should the

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political or economic situation radically deteriorate, anti-Semitic tendencies may drastically increase, and there were signs of such a trend in 2017–18.29 For example, the Levada Center opinion poll revealed a new growth of xenophobia including anti-Semitism by summer 2018.30 Anti-Semitism remains at the core of the modern ultra-rightists’ outlook. They still believe that the Jews are at fault for actively promoting multiculturalism and mass immigration in order to discharge some sort of secret mission aimed at undermining the ‘white race’. Yet, the ultra-rightists often give immigrants, primarily from the Caucasus and former Soviet Central Asia, much more attention in their propaganda. While such views bubbled under the surface of society in the 1990s, for example in irregular national-patriotic newspapers and magazines aimed at a limited audience, the two recent decades saw drastic changes. In the early 2000s anti-Semitic fiction attracted certain well-known publishers, and since then they have published and reprinted racist and anti-Semitic science fiction and fantasy literature in volume for a mass audience. The Moscow Book Fair has attracted frequent controversy, with several publishing houses regularly advertising works permeated by a hatred of ‘non-Russians’. These books are written by well-known authors and often receive prestigious awards and prizes. A code language has been created to discuss current issues through the use of historical settings, a familiar characteristic of science fiction.31 A growth in popularity of national-patriotic fantasy was already evident in the late 1980s,32 although it proved to be less innovative. As Boris Dubin has pointed out: The more fantastic novel was built up with respect to a one dimensional hierarchy of power and was constructed by symbols of the highest social level (state, ‘we’, ‘chosen race’), the more secondary epigone literary pieces were, which both a scholar and a reader dealt with.33

Nonetheless, detective novels and science fiction (or frequently a mix of the two) attracted a mass audience from the 1990s on.34 It is this phenomenon that is the focus of this chapter, and in particular my goal is to assess whether contemporary Russian SF reflects general xenophobic trends.

The Russian idea in Vasilii Golovachev’s imagination Science fiction writer Vasilii Golovachev (b. 1948) has chosen a struggle between the forces of Light and Dark as the core of his numerous novels. Having graduated from the Ryazan Radio-engineering Institute, he became a


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development engineer of electronic radio equipment; then, after serving in the army, went on to work for fifteen years at a departmental institute. In 1983 he was enrolled as a member of the USSR Writers’ Union, having commenced his career in fiction while still an engineer. Extraordinarily prolific (with more than forty novels), he was awarded many literary prizes including the ‘Golden helmet’ (2001), the ‘Russian science fiction’ premium (2002), ‘Knight of science fiction’ (2003), ‘Aelita’ (2004), ‘Big RosKon’ (2013), and the ‘Science Fiction Writer Number One’ medal by the ‘Russian Union of Cosmonauts’. In addition, in 2005 he was honoured as the ‘Giant of Science Fiction’. His name was given to a star in the Constellation of the Twins and there is even a club of admirers of his prose. Golovachev’s books are bestsellers, with a total printing run of close to 18 million copies by 2017. He is a favourite author of the Eksmo publishing house, the largest in Russia, which has produced a multi-volume collection of his works. Yet, as one literary critic sardonically noted, the main appeal of his books comes from their racy covers.35 Golovachev’s novels are full of astronauts and space aliens, sorcerers and soothsayers, spies and saboteurs, counter-intelligence and special squad officers, a search for secrets and a fight for the possession of them. Incidentally, his pages are filled with serious men poised for battle, but hardly any women. He is much more interested in armies than in affections. Female characters that appear in his most recent novels are conventional and one-dimensional – indeed they cannot fight as professionally or with such enthusiasm as men do. These features fit perfectly well with the general trend in adventurous and fantasy literature, for which there has been a high demand in post-Soviet Russia.36 Golovachev is proud of his friendship with the staff of the ‘Heroic deed’ (Podvig) magazine, which is closely connected with a number of powerwielding agencies including the Federal Security Agency (FSB). Obviously Golovachev retains contacts in this field, which provide him with information for his novels. He is also sympathetic towards the Russian neo-pagans, who justify his hopes for the future regeneration of Russia. In one interview he acknowledged that he still believes in communism and that all his hopes are with Russia, which is fated to rescue the world.37 A ‘national idea’ is especially noticeable, with all its usual stereotypes, and the author leans to the right rather than to the left. His Good and Evil are very concrete – and national. He also closely follows global and Russian events, and admits that his books are 90% a reflection of reality.38 This, as we will see, includes xenophobic reality. The writer is attracted by ‘Russian fighting’, which is actively promoted by certain modern Russian pagan leaders.39 In addition Golovachev admits to a fascination with esoteric literature. Indeed, esoteric notions such as air, astral, chakra, egregore and meditation are much more common in his novels than the names of pagan gods, including the

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popular pagan trinity of ‘Yav’, Prav’, Nav”.40 Golovachev is sensitive to the public fascination with esoteric views and points out that people seek an ‘extensive knowledge of the remote ancestors’. Moreover, he shares the esoteric idea of fostering or raising up ‘new humans’ or a ‘new race’, which is to replace modern people. In interviews he talks of the ‘advanced people of the twenty first century’ and acknowledges that he views the characters of his novels as the ‘core of embryonic humanity’, a ‘new species of Homo’, which he refers to as ‘guardians’ or the ‘initiated’.41 Evidently, Golovachev has found a prototype of his ‘new race’ in the Slavic neo-pagans. He is fascinated by Slavic paganism and is certainly acquainted with associates of the first leader of the Moscow Pagan Community, Aleksandr K. Belov.42 It is no concidence that in the early 1990s, Golovachev began to follow the development of the sports movement of ‘Radogora’, established by Belov. Subsequently, Golovachev’s novels have featured a principal favourite character who is an expert in martial arts and a bearer of supernatural abilities and who stands alone against infernal forces from some parallel reality.43 Initially, Golovachev focused on a struggle against World Evil in the epoch of Kali-Yuga, and even the American military struggled for justice in his early novels. Yet, very soon the hero figure became more specific and acquired a national face. Subsequently, only Slavic warriors and soothsayers represented Good in Golovachev’s novels. This transformation occurred between 1991 and 1993, when Golovachev – shocked by the dissolution of the USSR and the ethnic conflicts that accompanied it – completed a novel about a struggle between Slavic ‘Rulers’ and Lucifer’s army.44 One of its main components was a Holy Book (the ‘Book of Abyss’ or ‘Book of Vles’),45 described as a ‘body of magic formulas and data . . . coded in an unknown way’. In the novel, the ‘Book of Abyss’ is linked with danger: bloody conflicts and mass illnesses; while Evil is represented by an alliance of Nazis, KGB servicemen and CIA agents. In addition, while talking of numerous civilizations, the author depicts Islam as an anti-human and anti-intellectual factor that inevitably causes a return to savagery. By contrast, an ideal world is represented by ‘Holy Rus”, which is identified with ancient Slavic heroes and early Russian tribes of a pre-Christian time rather than with Russian Orthodoxy. In this novel, the author focuses on combat manoeuvres that were skilfully employed by the legendary Slavic hero Radogor. Golovachev referred to one such set of manoeuvres as a ‘Battle of Radogor’ (Secha Radogora), indicating his knowledge of neo-pagan activity. In one novel after another, Golovachev claims that Russia, ‘bastion of the powers of Light’, is where the fate of the world hangs in the balance. He alleges that ‘the great resurgent Russia was the final mainstay of divine spirituality on


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Earth. The Russian language and culture still preserved the semantic keys of the Hyperborean Culture of Profound Peace.’46 The Forces of Light are associated with resurgent Slavic paganism, which has its own ramified military and educational structures. These organizations work alongside the state ones, some of which are corrupt and serve the enemy forces. Notably, former Spetsnaz of the GRU and national security employees become soothsayers, thereby closely linking paganism to national-patriotic ideology, whose followers are concentrated in the agencies of law enforcement. This is a modern form of paganism, where traditional beliefs and deities intermingle with esoteric notions. Events always unfold against a backdrop of the ancient Arctic homeland and memories of the Hyperborean ancestors, who are thought to have moved 11,000 years ago from the Far North to inhabit the territory of modern Russia.47 The antediluvian Hyperborea is imagined as an empire, its sacred shrine (the grave of the Saviour, ‘keeper of the Slavic clan’) located in the province of Arkhangelsk, that is, close to the Kola Peninsula where modern enthusiasts enjoy searching for traces of a lost civilization. How then does the author portray the battling forces and their active participants? In his novel Vedich (2007) he alleges that the entire leadership of the state, including the national security forces, is enslaved by black wizards (‘konungs’), ‘ministers of the cult of Satan’. The agents of these sorcerers are highly influential in the Russian Orthodox churches as well. In the novel, Russian Orthodoxy is set off against ‘Biblical Christianity’. The latter is presented as a ‘disease’, ostensibly having bent Russian Orthodoxy to its will and imposed foreign ideas and rituals on it, making it believe in an ‘alien god’. The writer claims that this kind of faith is irreconcilable with both IndoEuropean and Slavic culture, the Christian God being a ‘God of social injustice’.48 Russian Orthodox priests are portrayed as weak and meek people incapable of resisting ‘World Evil’, but rather collaborating with criminal agents and creating obstacles to a resurgence of Slavic paganism. Much of this is drawn from the popular ideas of the Russian neo-pagans, merging Russian nationalist dreams with the heritage of Soviet atheist propaganda. Moreover, the popular neo-pagan idea is that Christianity was created by the Jews to deprive the ‘goyim’ of their will and enslave them in order to achieve global supremacy. The enemy forces are confronted by the ‘Knights of the Clan’, former Spetsnaz troops and military counter-intelligence servicemen, well trained in the Slavic martial arts. These are linked to the pagan ‘Clan-loving’ (Rodoliubie) community, have pagan names and are fighting ‘for Russia, for the Clan, for a world without evil’.49 Recalling the author’s acknowledgement that his novels contain many references to the real world, it is noteworthy that Russia today

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is home to many pagan communities which recruit members from the military establishment. With respect to politics, the writer is oriented at an authoritarian leadership rather than a democratic system. The events of Vedich unfold around the young Sergii (pagan name – Svetovid, the Light-seer), who is trained by the soothsayers to become the ‘Uniter and Enlightener of the Russian Clan’. The enemy tries but fails to destroy this hero. The author succumbs to the temptation to include himself in the book as a popular science fiction writer, a ‘protector of the true history of the Slavic clan’ and enemy of ‘fake historic concepts’ that allegedly have been imposed on Russians by ‘foreign scholars’ as far back as the eighteenth century. It is not at all surprising that Golovachev includes the Norman theory among these ‘unpatriotic concepts’, claiming in response that Russia’s direct roots go back to the legendary Hyperborea of the Far North.50 It is uncertain to what extent the writer really believes this. In one of his interviews he depicted the remote Russian ancestors as some ‘Arcts’, inhabitants of the Arctic. He argued that this version of history is no worse than any other story of the origins of humanity, because all these stories are ‘unprovable’.51 As already noted, Golovachev closely monitors national and foreign events, and where these are able to serve his ‘patriotic’ agenda, is quick to include them in his works. In the mid-2000s, for example, he mentioned the ‘orange revolutions’ in Vedich, and, naturally, ascribed them to the machinations of satanic powers.52 The competition between various modern neo-pagan organizations is also reflected in his books, and he openly displays his sympathies and antipathies. For example, he unreservedly condemns ‘Inglivers’ (a thinly veiled reference to the Inglings of Aleksandr Khinevich)53 but supports Predictor (a well-known KOBR concept).54 Golovachev’s novels contain a number of stylistic peculiarities, such as the way he uses abbreviation or his creation of what we might call ‘topsy-turvy’ words. For example, in Vedich the well-known publishing house that Golovachev has been attached to since 1997, Eksmo, becomes ‘Moeks’, while the ‘temples of the One Freedom Brotherhood’, created by the dark forces, are abbreviated as ‘BES’ (which means ‘demon’). The latter wordplay is both a hint at the demonic essence of such organizations and an intimation of their relation to the Freemasons. However, the author does not trust the mass reader to figure this out for himself, and therefore goes on to explain that the satanic powers are faithfully served by the Freemasons’ lodges and the Christian Church. A Russian ‘neo-freemason’ is featured as a member of the ruling body of the Dark powers, and their rituals are frequently described as requiring the use of human blood.55 This is a clear reference to the ‘Judeo-Masonic


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conspiracy’, because according to neo-pagan mythology, the Christian Church is perceived as a secret tool of the Jews. Modern xenophobic rhetoric also plays a part in the novel, with Islam closely related to crime while the ‘indigenous population’ is portrayed as being forced out of commerce, something that aids the enemies of Russia.56 Russian extremism is justified as ‘defensive nationalism’, ‘a reaction of the Russian space itself to the seizing power by ethnically foreign elements which are destroying humanity through all means available’.57 Among the ringleaders of these enemy powers are a Georgian and a Tajik – persons from the Caucasus and Central Asia, former USSR nations and the focus of xenophobic reactions by Russian nationalists. Moreover, the chief priest of the ‘konungs’ appears to be American, and their international community even includes an Australian aboriginal whose features are particularly revolting. Thus, in contrast to Soviet views, Golovachev imagines current international society as being an absolute evil, against which he poses ‘purebred’ Russian knights and soothsayers. Some of his negative characters are quite reminiscent of those races fated to disappear according to the esoteric teachings of Helene Blavatsky. The racist connotations are evident. Another novel develops the same subject: the controversially titled The Non-Russians are Coming, or the Carriers of Death (2009).58 Once again, Russian soothsayers united by the ‘Russian National Order’ (RuNO) foil the criminal intentions of the forces of evil which are plotting world domination. As in Vedich, the Russians are protected by the ‘Union of Slavic Communities’ – a Russian neo-pagan association. In this novel, the racial theme is even more evident: only the Russian knights are depicted with ‘linen hair’, while their enemies are dark-haired. The writer is very inventive in his pursuit of semantic encryption. He gives the leaders of the ‘dark powers’ names which seem strange until read right to left. This method suggests the enemies’ nationality, as this is the way Hebrew is read. Besides, the names themselves prove the point: the priest Tivel turns out to be Levit (Levite, an important officiary in Jewish religious services); the ruler of the world, Harot, is linked to the Torah. Tivel’s full name is Ikus Tupak Tedub Mesv Hampastu Iezad Nechel Tivel, the first four words reading right to left and the fifth one with a change of syllables means ‘All You Herdsmen B*****s would die’, which exposes his real intentions. His servant is Rellik– Killer.59 Finally, one of the functionaries of the ‘Galactic Knesset’ is called Aduy Senechel Di-Zh, easily translated as ‘Judas the Jew’. The rest of the words in his name, as well as Tivel’s and Harot’s, point to them being ‘inhuman’ (‘se ne chel[ovek]’ = ‘this is no [hu]man’). Again, the writer takes no risks regarding the sharpness of his readers, naming the highest ruling body of the evildoers as the ‘Galactic Knesset’;

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one of the secret organizations, the Sanhedrin;60 Harot’s full name, Harot Senechel Si-On (Zion); and one of the most dangerous enemies, Otto Mandel. In short, the enemies of the Russian soothsayers and pagans are directly identified as Jews. Moreover, the Sanhedrin is linked to the ‘Union of Secret Orders’ – another reference to Freemasons. At the end of the novel the Freemasons appear unmasked as the Illuminati battling the Russian knights. The author’s fear of the Judeo-Masonic threat never abandons him, as once again the Jews fight alongside the Freemasons. The intricate wordplay described above is of course also designed to avoid accusations of blatant anti-Semitism. At the same time Golovachev is quite direct in identifying civil rights activists as haters of Russia. Other targets include the former socialist states and many former Soviet republics. Revisiting the theme of the ‘orange revolutions’, the author blames ‘armed gangs’ for inciting these events, acting under the orders of ‘dark powers’.61 Another threat is posed by China, the Chinese allegedly being ‘global locusts’ bent on seizing the land of others. This problem is discussed in racial terms: the yellow race is said to be trying to oust the white.62 The Non-Russians are Coming contains many narrative lines typical of the current xenophobic discourse. For example, it is discovered that enemy forces are about to develop a programme to reduce the birth rate and increase mortality in Russia, while the Russian knights are fighting for the ‘natural dynamic of the Russian super-ethnos’.63 The enemies (the ‘dark powers’) seek to create a distorted value system and impose foreign ideological positions, foreign cultural relations and a foreign lifestyle that is associated with an ‘unhealthy obsession with the internet among the youngsters’.64 The indigenous population of Russia is being actively replaced by newcomers; for example, migrant labourers are depriving the local population of jobs.65 The Russian knights want all ethnicities and nations to live freely in Russia as long as they refrain from committing crimes.66 That is to say, the author clearly expects some of them to be harbouring such ambitions! All these elements, of course, reflect the stereotypes of modern xenophobia. Again, the novel features the motif of Hyperborea, located on the sunken continent of Arctis. The vast knowledge of its inhabitants and their rivalry with Atlantis come into play. The author also mentions the search for traces of Hyperborea on the Kola Peninsula carried on today by enthusiasts (rather than by bona fide archaeologists). Golovachev urges his readers to believe in the reality of Hyperborea and again criticizes the ‘dogmatic scholars’ who dismiss it as pseudo-science. The core subject of the novel is the struggle for the Hyperborean heritage, which is supposed to grant its possessor power over the entire world. Tivel wants to launch the ‘World Axis Vortex’ created by


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the ancient Hyperboreans. Should he succeed, he would become the ruler of the world. However, his search for the key to the vortex is in vain, and a great conflict develops over possession of the key, while, as we have seen, it is the reader who needs a key to decipher the encoded names of the characters and understand the essence of the plot. So, a successful science-fiction writer turns out to be a full-fledged xenophobe and anti-Semite, which would hardly merit writing about were it a singular event. Unfortunately, that is not the case. An entire cohort of writers seek to venerate the heroic deeds of the ‘Slavic Aryans’ of remote times, glorifying their ‘Northern Homeland’ and describing their ‘civilizing work’. The ‘sabotage’ mission of their enemies, described as ‘Southerners’, members of ‘other races’, ‘uncreative nomads’ and the like, is not concealed.67 Actually, this is a Slavicized Nazi myth: the writers who present themselves as ‘original thinkers’, appealing to a ‘unique Russian identity’, are in fact plagiarizing large sections of the ideological heritage of the Nazis.

The trend has changed but the attitude has not In fact, the recent trend in the discourse of Russian racism has been to retreat from anti-Semitism, which is now perceived as a fringe ideology.68 Already in 2005, Russian neoconservatives working on a new ‘Russian Doctrine’ hoped to put an end to the strangely persistent popularity of the so-called ‘JudeoMasonic plot’. However, this effort did not mean the abandonment of xenophobia. Instead, xenophobia was redirected against immigrants, mostly labour migrants, who were perceived to be ‘colonizing the Russian center’.69 This trend influenced Golovachev’s writing, and he shifted his focus to space flights and a struggle with extraterrestrials from faraway, as well as the secret technology governing time travel that allowed people to move from one epoch into another. He has not abandoned his xenophobic attitudes, but they have played a subsidiary role in his recent novels. For example, the novel Non-human Factor (2013) focuses on mighty aliens from another galaxy who want to destroy our universe and eliminate humanity. Muslims collaborate in this enterprise to seize power in continental Europe and the UK,70 while further assistance is provided by a Frenchman, a German and a Chinese. The Earth is defended by Russian counter-intelligence who are portrayed as heroic supermen. Yet, even among them a traitor appears, who proves to be a former Minister of Defence named Valter Serdiukov. The name would have resonated with Russian readers because the novel appeared during the real-life corruption scandal connected with the Minister of Defence, Anatoly Serdiukov.

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Readers encounter a similar scenario – a struggle by Russian Spetsnaz troopers with extraterrestrials – in Landing in the Past (2015). Once again the aliens want to occupy Earth and exploit the achievements of its civilization –for which purpose they plan to get rid of humanity. However, they are confronted by people of the ‘white will’, who live in Eurasia– Russia, and wage a guerilla war against them. The struggle focuses on the management of time, as the aliens attempt to send people back to the time of the dinosaurs. The novel contains racial connotations, with a reference to the Aryan myth favoured by the author. A ‘dying off of the white race’ and a future occupation of the Earth by Africans are both discussed. In this story, the Russians turn out to be the descendants of the ‘Hyperborean race’, with a distinct origin related neither to Africa nor Asia.71 The author recalls a legendary battle between the Hyperboreans and the Atlantians, as well as some Slavic inscriptions recounting the names of pagan temples allegedly discovered in the Egyptian pyramids.72 All this is mentioned only in passing, the author obviously relying on his devoted readers to understand the message. The racial idea is also embedded inthe depiction of the aliens (‘vorrokho’) who appear to be, first, descendants of the Chinese and, second, the bearers of genes which they have inherited from the dinosaurs. That is why they lack human qualities like compassion, a desire for justice and so on.73 Golovachev does not overlook contemporary events in Ukraine either. In line with the discourse prevalent in the non-fictional Russian media, he describes developments in Ukraine as a seizure of power by ‘new barbarians’ and ‘fascists’, whom he compares with the extraterrestrials.74 It is also noteworthy that one of the Spetsnaz fighters apparently gained his extensive military experience as a ‘volunteer’ in Georgia and Syria as well as in Novorossiia.75 In Golovachev’s 2016 novel Atlantarctiс, the core element is a clash between the Hyperboreans and the Atlantians. The novel focuses on a struggle for advanced machinery that can control time (the ‘machinery of time shift’, the ‘Dome of Time’). The machinery is allegedly situated deep in the sea under the Antarctic and is a relic of an ancient civilization discovered by Russian divers. However, the narrative focuses on the military and security men who want to get access to this technological device rather than on archaeologists. The struggle is between those who want the device in order to send most of humanity into the past and rule over the world, and those who want to destroy the machine and thus rescue humanity. The former appear to be the Americans, Western Europeans and Arabs, originating in Atlantis; the latter, Russians from Hyperborea. Both races came to the Earth from space: the former, from the constellation of Sagittarius; the latter, from the constellation of Orion.76 Thus, they have nothing in common, carrying


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different ‘genetic codes’, while additionally Amphibians are depicted as the ancestors of the Atlantis people. Once again Golovachev recalls an earlier war between Hyperborea and Atlantis, one which caused the death of civilization because of a shift in the Earth’s axis.77 A pagan element is also present, with the Russians referring to themselves as the ‘grandchildren of Perun’ near the end of the book.78 Returning to their roots brings them a deserved victory, with the USA gradually losing its power, and a grateful humanity turning away from NATO and rushing into the arms of Russia.79 Furthermore, those roots appear to be pagan rather than Russian Orthodox, and go back to the remote ‘Hyperborean/ Aryan ancestors’. However, Golovachev drops his favourite theme of the struggle between Hyperborea and Atlantis in his most recent novel, The End of Time/Light (2017).80 Yet, he is still obsessed with an enemy that is variously referred to as ‘liberals’, ‘banking clans’, ‘oligarchs’, ‘corrupted bureaucrats’ and, inevitably, ‘strangers’ – mostly Caucasians and Ukrainians. All of them are depicted as a ‘fifth column’ that wants to destroy Russia through selling off its natural resources. They also engage in a plot against the Russian president who is supported by ‘patriots’ of the National Guard, the Union of the Officers and the Front of National Rescue. The novel was written during the summer and autumn of 2016, when Golovachev detected a rift in the relationships of the president and the prime-minister. Observers had noticed tensions between Medvedev and Putin as early as the autumn of 2009,81 and in the following summer 2010 the then Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov has accused Medvedev of being involved in an anti-Putin plot. The upcoming presidential elections made it evident that such an accusation had substance.82 This issue would surface again in the spring of 2017.83 Yet, The End of Time/Light is not just about a dispute – the author reveals an actual plot against the president by the prime-minister with the help of a gang of murderers. Apparently the president was not aware of the plot, a storyline that conjures up the traditional tale of a ‘good tsar’ reining in the greedy ‘boyars’ that is embedded in Russian myth. The gangsters, who serve as guards of the prime-minister, and almost all the negative characters in the novel appear to be either Caucasian or Ukrainian. They are assigned the usual characteristics of cruelty, arrogance, defiance and total disrespect for the local inhabitants. They support each other and are also in close contact with corrupt bureaucrats and policemen. By contrast, it is the ethnic Russians who defend both the president and Russia, and who are affiliated with the military and security agencies (namely the Federal Security Service, the National Guard and the Ministry of

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Defence). They are noble, have initiative and are devoted to an idea of justice and defence of the Motherland, to which they give their primary loyalty before any boss or government department. That is why certain FSS officers challenge their boss when he takes the side of the conspirators. It is significant that, while concluding the novel with a heroic victory for the ‘patriots’ over the ‘traitors’, Golovachev leaves open the issue of the prime-minister’s fate. Evidently, he does not know what the result of the conflict will be and perhaps hands the matter over to his readers to figure out for themselves. Once again, the author uses semantic encryption by changing characters’ names and surnames in places (e.g. Anatoly Dmitrievich instead of Dmitry Anatol’evich), slightly modifying their real surnames (e.g. Bref instead of Gref, Kudris instead of Kudrin) or replacing real surnames with ones that have a slightly different but related meaning (e.g. Badger instead of Bear, Silver instead of Golden), so that the connection will be clear. Only President is given a name that has nothing in common with the original one. All Golovachev’s novels focus on the uncompromising struggle of Russia against innumerable enemies – some of her opponents represent the traditional foe that is the Western world while in other novels the focus is on aliens from distant planets. All these opponents plot against Russia, while the latter appears to have no allies at all, although the author argues that Russia’s cause is that of all of humanity and that it struggles to rescue humankind from a deadly danger. Almost all the positive characters in these novels are military or security men – the patriots who protect the state’s interests. As far as Golovachev is concerned, no other patriots exist in Russia. And because traitors are likely to appear at any time, the novels’ heroes have to be permanently vigilant.84 Another of Golovachev’s themes is that characters become stronger because of the deep roots connecting them to remote ancestors. Slavic paganism is closely connected with the Hyperborean, or Aryan, idea in his imagination, which makes the reader recall the Aryan myth with its fantasies of a sunken Northern continent where a marvellous ancient civilization flourished in the antediluvian period. This context fosters the idea of an eternal confrontation between the Hyperboreans and the people of Atlantis, which in turn explains the contemporary conflict between Russia and the West. In seeking to explain the reasons for such a conflict, Golovachev turns naturally to the issue of race and specifically the incompatibility of the races in question. His conclusion is that biological heritage, or genes, producing radically distinct characteristics among peoples, makes conflict unavoidable. Yet, the author simplifies the matter even further, by reducing the number of races to just two: on the one hand, the Russians, the descendants of the


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Hyperboreans, or Aryans; and on the other hand, all the rest – mostly Americans (though sometimes in collaboration with Western Europeans), Muslims and Chinese. Sometimes these enemies of Russia act independently, but more frequently they act as the agents of evil extraterrestrial forces. As we have noted, Golovachev closely monitors global events and frequently adjusts his attitude accordingly. For example, while initially he was more concerned about the ‘Judeo-Masonic plot’ and the role of migrants in it, now he regards the Americans as the major ‘Evil’. In addition, he has become sentitive to the issue of internal enemies, the ‘fifth column’, which he identifies with liberals, human rights activists and ‘strangers’, while dramatic developments in the Ukraine prompts him to include Ukrainians in that list.

Conclusion: nostalgia for utopia and xenophobia Golovachev is by no means the only one to use science fiction and fantasy for xenophobic propaganda: he has followers, many of whom are influenced by his efforts to make xenophobia a cosmic phenomenon. Recently a new generation author joined the club of writers who produce serial novels. Sergei Tarmashev (b. 1974) is the son of a military officer and has himself served in the Spetsnaz GRU. Since 2008, he has been writing novels in the post-apocalyptic genre. His earliest and most popular work depicts a particular race which imagined itself destined to rule the universe either through eradication or enslavement of the inhabitants of other galaxies. Tarmashev uses familiar, centuries-old anti-Semitic stereotypes to describe this race, such as its aversion to physical labour and appropriation of others’ achievements. He claims that it ingratiates itself with local inhabitants, seizes state power by intrigue and bribery, and finally enslaves the native people. Fostering war between neighbouring galaxies is its favourite strategy, with these naïve neighbours destroying each other, leaving this particular race to exterminate the weakened survivor and gain power. Tarmashev emphasizes that initially this race pretends to be weak and helpless, peaceful but persecuted. The noble indigenous people offer help, after which the enemy race gradually appropriates all financial and economic resources and establishes dominion. The enemy race also advocates democratic and enlightened principles such as equality, justice and human rights, and depicts its opponents as racists, xenophobes and extremists, a strategy designed to undermine the local people and seize power in the galaxy.85 If one replaces the word ‘galaxy’ with ‘state’, and the word ‘race’ with ‘people’, a well known anti-Semitic scenario emerges. Although Tarmashev

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attempts to conceal this purpose, for example by naming leader of this race Quetzalcaatl – a distorted form of ‘Quetzalcoatl’, the well-known Aztec god,– at other times he gives himself away, for example with rule ‘Kill the best of the lowest’,86 which is simply a paraphrase of the Talmudic expression ‘Kill the best of the Goyim’. This expression is often quoted by anti-Semites as evidence of the ‘misanthropic’ nature of the Talmud. In fact, this instruction originated during the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans, when ‘the best of the Goyim’ meant the pagan Roman emperor. This part of the Talmud, therefore, has no relevance to the current time. Chronological symbolism is also telling, with Tarmashev claiming that the race in question had provoked an epoch of bloody wars, which lasted for two million years.87 The ‘epoch‘ was in fact two thousand years, the period of Christianity, when persecution and war was waged against the Jews, not by them. There is one more telling point. It appears that when the race in question attacked the solar system, humans were rescued by the cruiser Russian, led by a skilful warrior.88 Basically, the term ‘humans’ equates to the Russians, and it is no accident that unlike other characters in the novel, all the humans have Russian names. Thus, they are depicted as the age-old adversaries of amalicious race, that is, the Jews. Tarmashev adheres to the idea of a ‘civilizational paradigm’ and believes that each civilization has to follow its own course. At the same time he is sceptical about democracy and thinks that development is impossible without territorial expansion and war. In his view, political pluralism only serves the hatred elite that seizes power and fiercely persecutes the opposition.89 Indeed, one of the chapters is titled ‘An acute attack of democracy’, and tells of a revolt and civil war that gave led to an inter-civilizational conflict.90 Like Golovachev, Tarmashev is sensitive to current events and the public mood. His novel focuses on a conflict between local inhabitants and migrants, and he uses familiar xenophobic rhetoric when accusing the migrants of ‘forcing out the natives’, and blaming the migrants for the civil war that breaks out and for the disintegration of the state.91 Current events in Ukraine are also referred to in a metaphorical manner. The author refers to a ‘less developed civilization’, which experienced unrest for a time and then suddenly decided to shape a single race. Those who did not support this project were called the ‘allies of humans’ and ‘traitors of the race’. This led to civil war and the state cutting off contact with the human community.92 All such novels reflect nostalgia for an ‘ancien régime’ and an ‘empire’, a discomfort with fast and unsought change, an inferiority complex, a fear of ‘degeneration’ and loss of culture, and a view of the past (whatever it means) as alost Golden Age, a period of prosperity and greatness. There is also


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an evident anxiety about and fear of the Other, which manifests itself in a mistrust and wariness of ‘strangers’ as the bearers of chaos and destruction. Where capitalism had once been the target as an ugly and less comfortable society, which should be radically transformed, now it is the stranger who is seen as the key agent of disorder and injustice, the main obstacle to a prosperous and happy life. Russian nationalist writers do not need extraterrestrial aliens to depict this Evil, focusing instead on migrants or non-Russians in general (i.e. certain peoples of the post-Soviet world). Even if space aliens are present, their allies are invariably non-Russians. This phenomenon reflects frustration caused by the disintegration of the USSR and the ethnic tensions that followed. In addition, this stance is provoked by media propaganda that focuses on real or imagined threats from abroad, which has greatly intensified since the Ukrainian revolution of early 2014. Although right-wing science fiction occupies itself with critiques of the current social order, this tends to be aimed at external agents or an internal ‘fifth column’, rather than the imperial and patriarchic order. To put it another way, the former ‘proletarian solidarity’ and ‘internationalism’ have disappeared to be replaced by hegemonic aggressive nationalism and xenophobia aimed at a variety of targets – the West, migrants, the Baltic states, Georgia or Ukraine. Internationalism is perceived in Russian nationalist circles as an absolute evil and part of a dreadful plot against Russia and the Russian people. In view of such ideologues, Russians have to struggle against this ‘world Evil’ though devoid of allies. At the same time they are imagined as the rescuers of some ambiguous humanity, honouring an everending mission. The authors discussed above are not connected with any political parties, yet they have groups of admirers and followers. That is why it seems reasonable to single out a sub-culture of right-wing imperialist, militant and patriarchic science fiction in Russia, which on the one hand reflects popular xenophobiaand on the other hand provokes and sustains further xenophobia. It is worth noting that a careful analysis of Golovachev’s novels reveals a close correlation with the dynamics of public xenophobia. Such moods cannot disappear overnight. They may lie dormant for a time, so we should be wary of the optimistic findings of some sociological surveys. In troubled times this undercurrent will manifest itself in entirely predictable patterns of mass behaviour, from friendly support of xenophobes to open acts of aggression against ‘strangers’, their property, culture and religion. This is similar to the experience of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. There is no reason to think that today’s Russian citizens are immune to this phenomenon, especially since a range of well-known writers are hard at work fostering

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xenophobic and anti-Semitic views in their readers. Moreover, the fantastic narratives about hostile aliens capitalize on the historical memory about struggle with enemies, encroaching on the Russian territory.93 This study demonstrates that some contemporary Russian writers draw their inspiration from Western neo-Nazi and radical right fiction and science fiction of the mid- and late twentieth century (á la Robert A. Heinlein, Wilhelm Landig, Robert Charroux, Miguel Serrano, Jan van Helsing, David Icke and others, some of whose books have been translated and published in Russia).94 Yet, we also face an inversion of the previous norm: now Russia versus America looks like Good versus Evil rather than vice versa; it is the Russians who resist the deadly invaders and who gain the victory; it is the Russians who rescue humanity from annihilation. Whereas American films of the 1950s, in the words of Keith Booker, ‘seemed unable to decide whether our most dangerous enemies were Soviets and other foreigners or American society itself ’,95 Golovachev and his adherents have no doubts at all – the Russians are above suspicion, while the Other is the source of all misfortune. As such, they are part of a significant trend in early twenty-first-century Russian literature towards nationalism, chauvinism and xenophobia,96 a trend enhanced by conspiracy theories which feed on sources such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.97 One can hardly view this literature as just a ‘discursive noise’,98 but rather a conscious political position. Even the seemingly cosmopolitan constructions of such authors reveal their nationalist stance and their desire to scapegoat the Other.99 A similar trash literature, focused on courageous Aryans who struggled against the Untermenschen, was popular in Nazi Germany.100 It is impossible to find anything like this in modern-day Germany101 – but it is abundant in contemporary Russia. This literature contributes to a simplified blackand-white outlook fostered by the mass-media. As a result, the general public is encouraged to believe that there is an eternal conflict between Russia and the West, and a continuous struggle between Russian warriors and foreign enemies, be they Americans, Georgians, Ukrainians or even the Khazars.102 Finally, the type of readers who are fond of this sort of literature is telling. According to surveys, they are not necessarily young people, as one might assume, but more typically are middle-aged men, who, as a rule, had some connections with the military or security services. To put it other way, they are mature people who are suffering from an identity crisis which has emerged in the wake of the dissolution of the USSR. That is why they are searching for a positive national identity103 which, in their view, is fused with a struggle against innumerable enemies.


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Notes 1 Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetic and History of a Literary Genre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979), p. 254. 2 Suvin, Metamorphosis of Science Fiction, p. 268. 3 For example, see Iurii Kagarlitskii, Chto takoe fantastika? (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1974), pp. 265–348; Georgii Shakhnazarov, Kuda idet chelovechestvo: (kriticheskie ocherki nemarksistskikh kontseptsii budushchego) (Moscow: Mysl’, 1985), pp. 10–32; Eduard Batalov, V mire utopii: Piat’ dialogov ob utopii, utopicheskom soznanii i utopicheskikh eksperimentakh (Moscow: Politizat, 1989), pp. 260–91; Viktoriia Chalikova, Utopiia i kul’tura: esse raznykh let, vol. 1 (Moscow: INION, 1992); Viacheslav Shestakov, ‘Evoliutsiia russkoi literaturnoi utopii’, in Vecher v 2217 godu: Utopiia i antiutopiia v Rossii (Moscow: Vlados, 1990), pp. 5–21. To a certain extent this trend survived in the post-Soviet period as well. See Lidiia Iurieva, Russkaia antiutopiia v kontekste mirovoi literatury (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2005); Svetlana Shishkina, Istoki i transformatsii zhanra literaturnoi antiutopii v 20 veke (Ivanovo: IGKhTU, 2009). Certainly studies of the Russian, including post-Soviet, utopia developed during the last twenty-five years. See Boris Lanin, Russkaia literaturnaia antiutopiia (Moscow: Ross. Otkrytyi Un-t, 1993); T. Markova, Sovremennaia proza: konstruktsiia i smysl (V. Makanin, L. Petrushevskaia, V. Pelevin) (Moscow: MGOU, 2003); N. V. Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia vtoroi poloviny 20 veka (Tomsk: n.p., 2005); A. N. Vorob’eva, Russkaia antiutopiia 20 veka v blizhnikh i dal’nikh kontekstakh (Samara: Izd-vo Samarskogo nauchn. tsentra RAN, 2006); O. Nikolaenko and E. Kopach, Sovremennaia russkaia antiutopiia: traditsii novatorstvo (Poltava: OOO ‘Tekhservis’, 2006). 4 For details, see V. A. Shnirelman, Ariiskii mif v sovremennom mire (Moscow: NLO, 2015), vol. 1, pp. 215–24. 5 I. Kukulin, ‘Bespokoinoe ravenstvo: transformatsiia rasovykh i etnitsistkikh diskursov v sovietskoi fantasticheskoi literature, 1928–1989’, in S. I. Zenkin and S. Mussa (eds), Rasovye predstavleniia vo Frantsii i Rossii v XIX-XX vv. (Moscow: RGGU, 2016), pp. 195–224. 6 N. A. Mitrokhin, Russkaia partiia: Dvizhenie russkikh natsionalistov v SSSR, 1953–1985 gody (Moscow: NLO, 2003); Joo Hyung-min, ‘The Soviet origin of Russian chauvinism: voices from below’, Communist and post-Communist Studies 41 (2008): 232–6. 7 V. A. Revich defined this literary stream as ‘zero-literature’. See Vsevolod Revich, Perekrestok utopii (Moscow: IV RAN, 1998), pp. 165, 287–310. 8 M. Kaganskaia, ‘ “Vlesova kniga”: istoriia odnoi fal’shivki’, Evrei i evreiskaia tematika v sovietskikh vostochnoevropeiskikh publikatsiiakh 3–4 (1987): 12–16. 9 Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia, pp. 250–2.

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10 Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia, pp. 256, 262, 349, 375. See also O. Slavnikova, ‘Derevenskaia proza lednikovogo perioda’, Novyi mir 2 (1999): 198–207. 11 T. N. Breeva and L. F. Khabibullina, ‘Russkii mif ’ v slavianskom fentezi (Moscow: n.p., 2016), pp. 75–6. 12 Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia, pp. 19–20; Breeva and Khabibullina, ‘Russkii mif ’ v slavianskom fentezi. 13 Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, pp. 48–53. 14 Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia, p. 527; B. A. Lanin, ‘Voobrazhaemaia Rossia v sovremennoi russkoi antiutopii’, in Mochizuki Tetsuo (ed.), Beyond the Empire: Images of Russia in the Eurasian Cultural Context (Imperiia so storony: obrazy Rossii v evraziiskom kul’turnom kontekste) (Sapporo: Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University, 2008), p. 386. See also Tom Moylan, Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000), pp. 27–8, 67–70, 84–8. 15 Moylan, Scraps of the Untainted Sky, p. 91. 16 Batalov, V mire utopii, pp. 85–9; Lanin, Russkaia literaturnaia antiutopiia, pp. 13–14; Markova, Sovremennaia proza, p. 220; Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia; Nikolaenko and Kopach, Sovremennaia russkaia antiutopiia, p. 8. See also V. P. Shestakov, Eskhatologia i utopiia (Moscow: Vlados, 1995). 17 V. Serdiuchenko, ‘Litpatrioty. Za i protiv’, Postscriptum 2, no. 4 (1996). 18 Y. Stavrakakis, Lacan and the Political (New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 100–1. 19 Lanin, Russkaia literaturnaia antiutopiia, p. 169. 20 Stavrakakis, Lacan and the Political, pp. 100–7. 21 Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia, p. 262. 22 Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia, pp. 319–48, 369–75. See also A. Razuvalova, Pisateli- ‘derevenshchiki’: literatura i konservativnaia ideologia 1970-kh godov (Moscow, 2015), pp. 345–57. 23 Kovtun, Russkaia literaturnaia utopiia, p. 510. 24 For details, see V. A. Shnirelman, ‘Koleno Danovo: eskhatologia i antisemitizm v sovremennoi Rossii’, in V. V. Mochalova (ed.), Nauchnyye trudy po iudaike. Materialy XX Mezhdunar, ezhegod. konf. po iudaike (Moscow: Tsentr Sefer, 2013), pp. 159–76. While studying the ‘Aryan myth’, certain literary critics failed to notice an image of the ‘Semites’ as the major Aryan protagonist. See Breeva and Khabibullina, ‘Russkii mif ’ v slavianskom fentezi. 25 For details, see Shnirelman, Ariiskii mif v sovremennom mire. 26 For details, see Victor Shnirelman, ‘Porog tolerantnosti’: ideologiia i praktika novogo rasizma (Moscow: NLO, 2011), vol. 2, pp. 244–76. 27 James L. Gibson and Marc M. Howard, ‘Russian anti-Semitism and the scapegoating of Jews’, British Journal of Political Science 37, no. 2 (2007): 193–223; L. D. Gudkov, N. Zorkaia, E. Kochergina and E. Lezina, ‘Antisemitizm v




30 31

32 33 34 35 36

37 38 39

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structure massovoi ksenofobii v Rossii: negativnaia identichnost’ i potentsii mobilizatsii’, Vestnik obshchestvennogo mnenia 1–2 (2016): 140–98. V. A. Shnirelman, Khazarskii Mif: Ideologiia politicheskogo radikalizma v Rossii i ego istoki (Moscow: Mosti Kul’tury, 2012), pp. 217–20; V. A. Shnirelman, The Myth of the Khazars and Intellectual Antisemitism in Russia, 1970s–1990s (Jerusalem: Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University, 2002). Victor Shnirelman, ‘Revoliutsiia 1917 g. – zagovor inovertsev i inorodtsev? Eskhatologicheskii vzgliad na russkuiu revoliutsyiu’, Scando-Slavica 64, no. 1 (2018): 64–5, 79–80, 82–3. K. Pipia, ‘Monitoring ksenofobskikh nastroenii’, 27 August 2018,https://www. M. Keith Booker, Monsters, Mushroom Clouds and the Cold War: American Science Fiction and the Roots of Postmodernism, 1946–1964 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001). B. Dubin, Slovo – pis’mo – literatura (Moscow: NLO, 2001), p. 28. Dubin, Slovo – pis’mo – literatura, p. 30. Dubin, Slovo – pis’mo – literatura, pp. 160, 243, 308, 345–7. R. Arbitman, Poedinok krysy s mechtoi: O knigakh, liudiakh i okolo togo (Moscow: Vremia, 2007), pp. 303–7. Dubin, Slovo – pis’mo – literatura, pp. 218–42; B. Vitenberg, ‘Igry korrektirovshchikov (Zametki na poliakh ‘al’ternativnykh’ istorii)’, Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie 66 (2004): 281–93; O. P. Krinitsyna, Slavianskie fentezi v sovremennom literaturnom protsesse: poetika, transformatsiia, retseptsiia: Avtoreferat na soiskanie uchenoi stepeni kandidata filologicheskikh nauk (Perm: n.p., 2011); M. P. Abasheva and O. P. Krinitsyna, ‘Problematika natsional’noi identichnosti v slavianskikh fentezi’, Vestnik Tomskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta: Sektsia: Filologia 332 (March 2010): 7–10; M. P. Abasheva, ‘Slavianskie fentezi: psevdoistoriia, mifogeografiia, kvaziideologiia’, in I. L. Savkina, M. A. Cherniak and L. A. Nazarova (eds), Kul’t-tovary-XXI: revizia tsennostei (masskul’tura i ee potrebiteli) (Yekaterinburg: n.p., 2012), pp. 105–15; E. A. Safron, ‘Slavianskaia fentezi’: fol’klorno-mifologicheskie aspekty semantiki. Avtoreferat na soiskanie uchenoi stepeni kandidata filologicheskikh nauk (Petrozavodsk: n.p., 2012); V. Iashin, ‘Patrioticheskoe i kosmopoliticheskoe v russkom neoiazychestve (na primere motiva utrachennoi prarodiny)’, in O. K. Shimanskaia (ed.), Religii Rossii: problemy sotsial’nogo sluzhenia i patrioticheskogo vospitania (Nizhny Novgorod: Nizhegorodskii gos. lingv. un-t., 2014), pp. 79–89. E. Skobeleva and Vasilii Golovachev, ‘Moi knigi – na 90% real’nost’, December 2003, For contemporary Russian paganism, see V. A. Shnirelman, Russkoe Rodnoverie: Neoiazychestvo i natsionalizm v sovremennoi Rossii (Moscow: BBI, 2012); Kaarina Aitamurto, Paganism, Traditionalism, Nationalism: Narratives of Russian Rodnoverie (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016).

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40 This trinity was invented by the author of the faked Book of Vles. See Victor Shnirelman, Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism (Jerusalem: Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University, 1998). 41 N. Kolesnikova, ‘Monolog o budushchem’, Goroskop 12 (1996); O. Boiara, ‘Khraniteli zabytykh traditsii’, Literaturnaia Rossia, 17 July 1998, p. 6; O. Boiara, ‘Chelovek boia’, Knizhnoe obozrenie, 8 September 1998, pp. 14–15. 42 For Belov and his historical views, see Aitamurto, Paganism, Traditionalism, Nationalism, p. 39; Victor Shnirelman, ‘Obsessed with culture: a cultural impetus of Russian Neo-pagans’, in Kathryn Rountree (ed.), Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism and Paganism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), p. 96; Victor Shnirelman, ‘How to become the “Slavic Aryans”: The founders of Russian neo-paganism and their ambitions’, in Alexandra Cotofana and James M. Nyce (eds), Religion and Magic in Socialist and Post-Socialist Contexts I: Historic and Ethnographic Case Studies of Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, and Alternative Spirituality (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2017), pp. 82–3. 43 O. Garanina, ‘Zapreshchennaia real’nost’, Literaturnaia Rossia, 24 May 1996, p. 5. 44 V. Golovachev, ‘Ten’ Liutseferova kryla’, in V. Golovachev, Izbrannye proizvedenia, 7 (Nizhny Novgorod: Floks, 1994). Later on Golovachev republished the novel, but under a different title. See V. Golovachev, Virus t’my, ili poslannik (Moscow: Eksmo, 1996). 45 For the faked Book of Vles, see Shnirelman, Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism. 46 V. Golovachev, Vedich (Moscow: Eksmo, 2007), p. 241. 47 For the Aryan myth in contemporary Russia, see Victor Shnirelman, ‘Russian response: archaeology, Russian nationalism and Arctic homeland’, in Philip L. Kohl, Mara Kozelsky and Nachman Ben-Yehuda (eds), Selective Remembrance: Archaeology in the Construction, Commemoration, and Consecration of National Pasts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 31–70; Victor Shnirelman, ‘Hyperborea: Arctic myth of the contemporary Russian radical nationalists’, Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics 8, no. 2 (2014): 121–38; Shnirelman, Ariiskii mif v sovremennom mire. 48 Golovachev, Vedich, p. 21. 49 Golovachev, Vedich, p. 19. 50 Golovachev, Vedich, pp. 49, 158. 51 Boiara, ‘Chelovek boia’. Evidently the writer-engineer is not only unaware of archaeological studies, but does not want to know about them. 52 Golovachev, Vedich, pp. 71–2. 53 For Khinevich, see Shnirelman, ‘How to become the “Slavic Aryans” ’, pp. 89–91. 54 For details, see E. L. Moroz, Istoria ‘Mertvoi vody’ – ot strashnoi skazki k bol’shoi politike: Politicheskoe neoiazychestvo v postsovietskoi Rossii (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2005). ‘KOBR’ is the abbreviation for ‘Concept of Social Security of


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60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76

77 78 79 80


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Russia’, an umbrella term for a series of anonymous publications, characterized by conspirology, nationalism, anti-Westernism and respect for the KGB and FSB. Golovachev, Vedich, pp. 114–15, 241–3. Golovachev, Vedich, pp. 59, 115. Golovachev, Vedich, p. 214. V. Golovachev, Ne russkie idut, ili nositeli smerti (Moscow: Eksmo, 2009). This was a nickname of Vasilii Stepanov from the Spartak football fan team ‘Gladiators’. See G. Tumanov, ‘Spustivshiesia s tribun’, 27 July 2015, https:// The Sanhedrin was an assembly of judges that functioned up to c. ad 425. Later on, Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to restore it, but failed. Golovachev, Ne russkie idut, p. 68. Golovachev, Ne russkie idut, pp. 143–4. Golovachev, Ne russkie idut, pp. 27, 32. Golovachev, Ne russkie idut, pp. 39, 344. Golovachev, Ne russkie idut, p. 169. Golovachev, Ne russkie idut, p. 33. For details, see Shnirelman, Ariiskii mif v sovremennom mire, 1, pp. 208–529. Gudkov et al., ‘Antisemitizm v structure massovoi ksenofobii v Rossii’, pp. 140–98. O. A. Platonov (ed.), Russkaia doktrina (Moscow: n.p., 2016), pp. 847–57, 969–70. V. Golovachev, Nechelovecheskii factor (Moscow: Eksmo, 2013), p. 197. V. Golovachev, Desant v proshloe (Moscow: Eksmo, 2015), pp. 45, 48. Golovachev, Desant v proshloe, p. 181. Golovachev, Desant v proshloe, pp. 266, 291–2. Golovachev, Desant v proshloe, p. 174. Golovachev, Desant v proshloe, p. 260. V. Golovachev, Atlantarktida (Moscow: Eksmo, 2016), pp. 329–30. The constellation of Orion plays a key role within the occult Aryan myth, which presents it as the centre of the Galaxy with a significant influence on the Earth. For example, see V. Khachatrian, Proekt ‘Orion’: istoria kak laboratoria tsivilizatsii. Ariistvo. Vsemirny soiuz (Moscow: TAKhO SV, 2005). Golovachev, Atlantarktida, pp. 303–4, 354. Golovachev, Atlantarktida, p. 372. Golovachev, Atlantarktida, p. 180. V. Golovachev, Konets sveta (Moscow: Eksmo, 2017). The novel has a tricky title, which means both the end of time (i.e. end of the world) and the end of light. Actually, the book focuses onthe discovery of a new weapon which destroys a human being by transforming him/her into a ray of light. ‘Inopressa proanalizirovala statiu i vystuplenie Medvedeva: on brosil vyzov vlasti Putina’, 16 September 2009, vizov.html.

‘Respectable Xenophobia’


82 M. Zygar, Vsia kremlevskaia rat’ (Moscow: Intellektualnaia Literatura, 2016), pp. 229, 239–40. 83 K. Gaaze, ‘Veselaia kampania: kak Kreml’ gotovotsia k 2018 godu’, 15 March 2017, from=newsfeed&utm_source=news_feed; ‘Eksperty prokommentirovali vozmozhnuiu otstavku Dmitriia Medvedeva’, 21 March 2017, http://kick. media/?p=article&pid=35356&utm_term=directadvert_649737; E. Kuznetsova and I. Sidorkova, ‘Politologi nazvali glavnye riski dlia prezidentskoi kampanii Putina’, 24 March 2017, 7e77179f4?from=newsfeed; T. Stanovaia, Premierskii pas’ians. Kak prezidentskie vybory stanoviatsia bor’boi za post predsedatelia pravitel’stva, 27 March 2017, Oekl4TnprMyIsInQiOiJBbWlDY0RTaEJBZjFSS2dVSFAxNkpjb1lGYXllM1dn Uk5UQ0doSlZsMFwvWUdsQUExdVhUaTFOQlBzdkZwK0ZieTRMdTNjdFR 6NkpIZGwwUXh1aUtwVlg2YXBXdjBCNlRleWN6Mk9jc0taUHJ2SUhlRFRIO TNOcDhvdEZQcVA0dzQifQ%3D%3D; K. Gaaze, Premier-minister i ego sotsial’nyi sloi. Chto ne tak s Dmitriem Medvedevym, 30 March 2017, http://; V. Markova, ‘Derzhitsia tol’ko Putin’, Eksperty rasskazali, zhdat’ li otstavki Medvedeva’, 27 April 2017, http://www. 84 This feature also relates Golovachev’s novels to post-Soviet national-patriotic literature. See Dubin, Slovo – pis’mo – literatura, p. 252. 85 S. S. Tarmashev, Drevnii: Vtorzhenie (Moscow: Populyarnaya literatura, 2015), pp. 8–16. Tarmashev’s interest in race relations is no accident. His interviews reveal his racialist view of humanity, 86 Tarmashev, Drevnii, p. 26. 87 Tarmashev, Drevnii, p. 122. 88 Tarmashev, Drevnii, p. 97. 89 Tarmashev, Drevnii, pp. 153–87. 90 Tarmashev, Drevnii, pp. 293–4. 91 Tarmashev, Drevnii, pp. 227–8. 92 Tarmashev, Drevnii, pp. 290–1. 93 J. V. Wertsch, Voices of Collective Remembering (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 93–4. 94 See, for example, Booker, Monsters, Mushroom Clouds and the Cold War; Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity (New York: NYU Press, 2002); Michael Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Joseph E. Lowndes, From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), pp. 140–54. 95 Booker, Monsters, Mushroom Clouds and the Cold War, p. 114. 96 S. L’vovskii, ‘Eto zoologia’, 12 April 2002, lvov.html; I. Kukulin and M. Lipovetsky, ‘Postsovietskaia kritika i novyi status


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literatury v Rossii’, in E. Dobrenko and G. Tikhonova (eds), Istoriia russkoi literaturnoi kritiki sovetskoi i postsovetskoi epokh (Moscow: NLO, 2011), pp. 696–7, 708–14. 97 Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, p. 36. 98 For example, see Abasheva, ‘Slavianskie fentezi’, p. 112. 99 Iashin, ‘Patrioticheskoe i kosmopoliticheskoe’, pp. 79–89; Shnirelman, ‘Obsessed with culture’. 100 J. Hermand, Old Dreams of a New Reich: Volkisch Utopias and National Socialism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992). 101 Arbitman, Poedinok krysy s mechtoi, p. 367. 102 A. Arkhangel’skii, Strashnye fOshYsty i zhutkie zhYdy. Mifologii tret’ego sroka (St Petersburg: Amfora, 2008), p. 118. 103 Krinitsyna, Slavianskie fentezi, p. 18.

Part Three





Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias Per-Arne Bodin

The Russian language is one of the most important identity-generating elements in post-Soviet Russia.1 Its role is underscored by the Russian state both in the cultural policy programme adopted in 2014 and through several normative language laws. A number of literary utopias and dystopias thematize this official view of language,2 but in this chapter I want instead to examine another, kindred issue, namely the unexpected role played by the Orthodox Church’s liturgical language – Church Slavonic – in Russian liberal linguistic dystopias and conservative language utopias. The aim of the chapter is to demonstrate and analyse the use of one unique conservative and deeply traditional element in Russian cultural tradition in post-Soviet discourse. This matter may help explain the role of language in utopias and dystopias and enhance our understanding of the political and ideological processes taking place in today’s Russia. By linguistic dystopia I mean a depiction of a future ‘that turns human perfectibility on its head by pessimistically extrapolating contemporary social trends into oppressive and terrifying societies’,3 and in which the dysfunctionality or power potential of language is thematized and operationalized by either the narrator, various characters in the novel, or the reader.4 Linguistic utopias refer to texts where language is used in the opposite way; that is, as a positive element in a description of an imagined and better future. My focus will be on how this development is mirrored in Russian politics and society in the dystopias or utopias of contemporary Russian authors through the use of or allusions to Church Slavonic or even more through the special role of this language in Russian cultural history. Language plays a fundamental role in earlier dystopias such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s 1984 (1949) and Andrei Platonov’s Kotlovan (The Foundation Pit) (1930). As the Brazilian scholar of dystopias Ildney Cavalcanti aptly puts it, all ‘futuristic dystopias are stories about language’. More recent examples include China Miéville’s novel Embassytown 203


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(2011), in which a speaker must utter two words simultaneously in order to communicate with those in power. Individuals who are capable of this feat because they have two mouths are genetically engineered linguist twins known as ‘Ambassadors’, bred solely for this purpose. Another such work is Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet (2012), in which all children are dangerous because their language is toxic, and a third is the Italian writer Sebastiano Vassalli’s novel 3012: L’anno del profeta (1995), which depicts a future in which the only languages that exist any longer are airport English and neo-Russian.5 Many contemporary Russian writers thematize the use of language in general and especially the use of Russian. These are mostly the same authors which will be discussed here but in relation to Church Slavonic, but I will also add two other significant examples: Maksim Kononenko’s Den’ otlichnika (2008) and Valerii Votrin’s Logoped (2012), the latter discussed by Ingunn Lunde in the present book. The question dealt with here is of special interest in that Church Slavonic is no longer used for ordinary communication but is a sacred language employed only in the Orthodox liturgy, and it has very different cultural connotations than, for example, Latin in the Catholic context. This, I think, introduces an intriguing complication into the study of the role of language in utopias and dystopias.

The status of Church Slavonic in Russian culture Some background will be needed to understand and analyse this very special use of language in dystopian and utopian texts. Church Slavonic is still the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church and has practically a sacred status, representing the conservation of tradition and community with Slavic Orthodox brethren in the Orthodox Slavic world. Thus any advocacy to replace Church Slavonic with the Russian vernacular encounters very strong ideological resistance within the Church. As a liturgical language, Russian is considered heretical; both Baptists and Catholics after Vatican II use it in their divine services. The liturgical use of vernacular Russian is moreover regarded as distinctly Soviet, because it was introduced by the obnovlentsy, the breakaway pro-regime faction of the Church formed in the early 1920s. Church Slavonic has profoundly influenced the Russian literary language. In contrast to classical Greek and Latin, however, from the eighteenth century on it has not been viewed as a language of high culture. On the contrary, it is sometimes associated with poorly educated seminary priests. If peasants did learn to read, it was often in Church Slavonic and not in Russian, which further contributed to the low status of the former among intellectuals. The

Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias


nineteenth-century Slavophiles read the Bible mostly in French. Insofar as certain characteristic lexical features of Church Slavonic are completely integrated into standard literary Russian, they signal a higher stylistic register. However, the non-standard use of Church Slavonicisms outside of the religious sphere somewhat paradoxically signals the opposite, that is, a low stylistic register.6 It is this contrast, in addition to the fact that Church Slavonic has a strong antiquated flavour, that has become significant in today’s literature. Used in utopias/dystopias it can thus have both a stylistic function and signal a pursuit of the archaic. The Church, with some justification, describes Church Slavonic as the language of dissidents and martyrs, since as part of the general persecution of Orthodoxy and religion, instruction was forbidden during the Soviet period both in schools and in institutions of higher education. Teaching and research in universities were camouflaged as courses in language history or Old Russian. Church Slavonic printing plates were destroyed and had to be remanufactured during glasnost’. When the first liturgical books appeared in the late Soviet period they were printed in Russian characters – the so called grazhdanskii shrift, or ‘civil typeface’ – or were copies corrected by hand and photographically reproduced. To summarize the outcome of the Soviet period, the language had suffered a serious domain loss, being used solely in the divine services of the Russian Orthodox Church and in private prayers, in the latter case almost always learnt by heart. In the current debate, Russian as a liturgical language connotes a modernity that is alien to the Orthodox Church. Church Slavonic is viewed as a pure and spiritual language compared with Russian, which has been corrupted by so many English loan words and by obscenities, or mat. The independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church that has severed its ties to Moscow is open to holding services in Ukrainian, while the Moscow Patriarchate Church in Ukraine condemns all attempts to conduct the divine service in that language. As one Ukrainian commentator puts it, Church Slavonic is associated with the Russian Empire and therefore has ‘imperialistic-great power connotations’ (‘имперско-великодержавные коннотации’).7 Parishes that have switched to the use of Ukrainian have been condemned by the Metropolitan Onufrii, the leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Kiev. The use of Church Slavonic has become a new political issue in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and the use of Ukrainian is understood as aimed estranging the two countries from each other: After all, it is obvious that depriving the fraternal churches of Russia and Ukraine of a common language of worship will definitively consolidate


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the attempt to dismember and divide the single Russian nation that is now taking place before our very eyes.8

Thus Church Slavonic is a sensitive topic in Russia. A while ago a group of scholars attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the academy to strip Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinskii of his PhD, noting, among other things, that in his dissertation Problems of Objectivity in the Illumination of Russian History from the Second Half of the 15th to 17th Centuries he incorrectly maintained that the Orthodox Slavs had historically used Russian (and not Church Slavonic) as a liturgical language.9 This is a rather common Russian way of appropriating the heritage common to all Slavs. The state does not seem to be taking any firm stand in this conflict between the languages.10 Church Slavonic is still not a university subject. In one 2005 article, a professor at the University of Novgorod, Aleksandr Motorin, discussed the future role of Church Slavonic. If the language disappears, he warned, Russia will perish: However, the Western liberal-capitalist crazes that have replaced the communist attitudes that were likewise borrowed from Western thinkers are also morally foreign to Russia. And today our people once again confront the need to make a conscious choice: either to return to their spiritual and moral origins, that is, also to resurrect knowledge of Church Slavonic on all levels of popular education, or to tempt fate to the very end as we helplessly witness our own destruction.11

This is, so to speak, the extremist position – that is, if Church Slavonic is lost as the liturgical language, Russia is lost as well. Liberal critics argue that it is absurd that all other Christians except Russians, who are forced to use Church Slavonic, can hear the word of God in their own language. This is of course an exaggeration, since the Georgians and the Greeks, for example, face the same situation. In 2011 the Church published the draft of a special programme dealing with the status of Church Slavonic that suggested some minor changes to it in the new millennium. It met with a firestorm of criticism and had to be withdrawn. The language is frozen in its present form.12 My intention in this chapter, then, is to examine the use of Church Slavonic in post-Soviet Russian utopias and dystopias against the background of these complicated and sometimes conflicting contexts. How are Church Slavonic elements used, and what role is allotted to the language in these works? As we will see, Church Slavonic can be employed to express a lack of education and backwardness on the one hand, but on the other, it can represent archaic purity and a way to confront both Soviet atheism and Western liberalism.

Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias


Church Slavonic as an element in dystopias In the writings of the four best-known Russian dystopians, Church Slavonic functions as a stylistic device or a motif. In Tatiana Tolstaia’s novel Kys’ (The Slynx) from 2000, the chapter titles seem at first glance to be the names of the letters in Church Slavonic, but in fact what we find is a distorted list, a mixture of the Russian and Church Slavonic alphabets: ‘i-kratkoe’ (й), which is one chapter title, did not originally exist in the Slavonic alphabet, and there is no Latin ‘i’ in the Russian one, but both serve as chapter headings and provide some of the archaic flavour of the novel, in which Russia has regressed to the Middle Ages. The name of one of the letters is ‘ukaz’, which does not exist but challenges and makes fun of the whole idea of numbering the chapters in this way. Thus here Church Slavonic has nothing to do with the language itself, but is merely used to mark an archaic element in Russian culture and its regression to the Middle Ages. In a later Russian novel, Evgenii Vodolazkin’s Lavr (Laurus) from 2012, in contrast, the chapter titles are correctly used with numbers in the Church Slavonic alphabet which are equipped with a little hook on all the letters to indicate that they also have a numerical value. The dystopian world created in Kys’ is deculturized in every way, and the erroneous use of the Church Slavonic alphabet makes this world even more barbarous. The presence of Church Slavonic is marked in Viktor Pelevin’s 2006 novel Empire V, where it constitutes a Gothic element associated with vampires and the hero’s entrance into their world: Запомнилась комната, окованная золотыми пластинами с надписями на церковнославянском – когда я проходил сквозь нее, у меня возникло чувство, что я внутри старообрядческого сейфа. В другой комнате меня поразил золотой павлин с изумрудными глазами и истлевшим хвостом.13 I remember one room lined with sheets of gold inscribed in Church Slavonic: as I passed through it I felt as though I were inside a safe of treasures belonging to an Old Believers’ sect. In another room, my eye was caught by a gold peacock with emerald-green eyes and a rotting tail.14

The German scholar Renate Lachmann has noted that Old Believers were a motif of horror and fright in the nineteenth-century Russian novel.15 Here it is the Old Believers in combination with Church Slavonic that acquire such a connotation of another and horrifying space. In this case, however, they are seen from an ironic distance, as is the vampire theme itself in the novel.


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

In S.N.U.F.F. (2011), another of Pelevin’s dystopias, the setting is somewhere in the vicinity of Siberia some hundreds of years in the future, after nuclear war and climate change have apparently decimated the global population. The survivors are stratified into an underclass known as Orks (the word is based on the Orcs in Tolkien and the word ‘urka’ in Russian prison slang meaning ‘criminal’) and a privileged minority who live in Big Byz, a sort of fancy space station floating in the atmosphere. The languages spoken in the two realms are given much attention. Church English – a future language that humorously alludes to Church Slavonic – is used in Big Byz: ‘The state language is Church English, but High Russian is also used’.16 In Urk, something called Upper Mid-Siberian with an admixture of Ukrainian is spoken. Urk is certainly also a distortion of ‘Ukraine’. The grammar of this language is similar to that of Church Slavonic, which has at least five past tense forms. Pelevin is playing with the complex verb forms in Church Slavonic: Это были времена всеобщего упадка и деградации, поэтому верхнесреднесибирский придумывали обкуренные халтурщики-мигранты с берегов Черного моря, зарплату которым, как было принято в Ацтлане, выдавали веществами. Они исповедовали культ Второго Машиаха и в память о нем сочинили верхне-среднесибирский на базе украинского с идишизмами, – но зачем-то (возможно, под действием веществ) пристегнули к нему очень сложную грамматику, блуждающий твердый знак и семь прошедших времен. А когда придумывали фонетическую систему, добавили «уканье» – видимо, ничего другого в голову не пришло.17 Those were times of universal decline and degradation, so Upper MidSiberian was invented by moonlighting migrant dopeheads from the shores of the Black Sea, who were paid, following the custom in Aztlan, in narcotic substances. They were members of the cult of the Second Mashiah, and in remembrance of him they based Upper Mid-Siberian on Ukrainian, larded with yiddishisms, but for some reason or other (possibly under the influence of those substances), they tacked on an extremely complicated grammar, an erratically wandering hard consonant sign and seven past tenses. And when they thought up the phonetics, they threw in an aberrant vowel reduction from ‘o’ to ‘u’ – apparently they couldn’t think of anything better.18

Examples of a conjugation of the verb ‘ibati’, ‘fuck’, are given in a mock Church Slavonic aorist form, a past tense that does not exist in Russian. Church

Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias


English, which examples show is a kind of English, also has Church Slavonic traits. As the narrator from Big Byz notes: Урки, особенно городские, которые каждой клеткой впитывают нашу культуру и во всем ориентируются на нас, уже много веков называют себя на церковноанглийский манер орками, как бы преувеличенно «окая». Для них это способ выразить протест против авторитарной деспотии и подчеркнуть свой цивилизационный выбор.19 Urks, especially the urban Urks, who absorb our culture through every pore of the skin and try to follow our lead in just about everything, have called themselves Orks, after the Church English manner, for centuries, deliberately exaggerating the ‘o’ sound. For them it’s a way of expressing their protest against authoritarian despotism and emphasizing their own civilizational preference.20

In Russian, ‘o’ in an unstressed position is pronounced as ‘a’, but that is not the case in Church Slavonic. These allusions to Church Slavonic and different sorts of language planning, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine already before the second Maidan, the humorous mingling of Big Byz (that is, Byzantium) and Big Biz are used to characterize an absurd and hopelessly dysfunctional new world. The societies described are highly mediatized and the narrator is in charge of a kind of deadly drone or killer robot, while the two countries are engaged in meaningless wars with each other. There is no value system, and different contemporary liberal and conservative discourses are inextricably mixed. The parody of language debates and language planning is a part of what can be seen as an irreparable discourse meltdown. The use of Church Slavonic elements shows a dystopian society with meaningless values and meaningless languages created out of fragments of Church Slavonic. Yet another of the liberal authors, Vladimir Sorokin, uses extensive passages containing Church Slavonic in his novels. Den’ Oprichnika (Day of the Oprichnik) is set in a dystopian society that has returned to the times and customs of Ivan the Terrible and the oprichniki, his brutal security forces. In that society, cursing and foreign words are forbidden. The novel was written in 2006, before laws banning such language were passed in the real Russia of 2014. These elements are absent from the text, which is an invented autobiographic description of one day in the life of the oprichnik Khomiaga. Church Slavonic is used, however, as in the following tirade launched by Khomiaga against the liberals, as strong as any curse with the use of foul language:


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Иуда! Движением перста удаляю от себя бледную рожу нашего либерала. Гнусны они, яко червие, стервой падалью себя пропитающее. Мягкотелость, извилистость, ненасытность, слепота – вот что роднит их с червием презренным. От оного отличны либералы наши токмо вельмиречивостью, коей, яко ядом и гноем смердящим, брызжут они вокруг себя . . .21 The Judas! With a touch of my finger I remove the pale face of the liberal from my sight. Vile are they, like unto the wirme, nourishing itself on carrion-offal. Flabbiness, sinuosity, gluttony, blindness – by all this they are rendered kindred to the despised wirme. From suchlike they may be distinguished only by the eloquencie that they splatter about themselves . . .22

The text is in fact not written in pure Church Slavonic, but merely borrows from it words such as ‘perst’ instead of ‘palets’ for finger, or ‘iako’ instead of ‘kak’ for ‘as’, and uses and overuses the participle constructions so beloved in Church Slavonic. In Sorokin’s 2013 novel Telluria, which takes place in the middle of our century in different imagined future countries situated in the territories of Europe and the former Soviet Union, he similarly inserts passages in Church Slavonic in one of the chapters about Moskovia: Аще взыщет государев топ-менеджер во славу КПСС и всех святых для счастья народа и токмо по воле Божьей, по велению мирового империализма, по хотению просвещенного сатанизма, по горению православного патриотизма . . . за доллары и за евро, за смартфоны седьмого поколения, за вертикаль власти и за надлежащее хранение общака.23 If the Sovereign’s top manager should so demand, God’s reward for the honour of the CP USSR and all the saints, for the happiness of the people and only in accordance with God’s will, and by the order of world imperialism, by the desire of enlightened Satanism, according to the burning desire of Orthodox patriotism . . . for dollars and euros, for seventh-generation smart phones, for the power vertical and appropriate stewardship of the criminal slush fund. [My translation; PAB]

In this text as well, there are archaic markers such as ‘ashche’ for ‘if ’, ‘tokmo’ for ‘only’, and so on. Emphatically Church Slavonic, in a Russian context these words are perceived as comic. The societies described by Sorokin are utterly absurd, dystopian and dysfunctional.

Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias


Church Slavonic is mentioned in Dmitry Bykov’s 2006 novel ZhD to underscore the absurdity of a future Russia in which nationalists have seized power and intend to establish a khanate and introduce Church Slavonic as the written language.24 As in Sorokin’s novel, mixing these elements with Sovietisms makes a very ludicrous impression. We can note a slightly distorted allusion to one of the leading and perhaps most spectacular conservative ideologues, Aleksandr Dugin, to whom I will return later: – А я не думаю, что тут может быть окончательная победа. Разве что вы надумаете устроить себе наконец какой-нибудь русский Каганат и все уедете восвояси, с евразийцем Дудугиным во главе . . . – Ага. Возродим русский иврит, на котором говорило наше несчастное северное племя . . . – Что-нибудь вроде церковнославянского. Представляешь себе государство, где все говорят на церковнославянском? Газеты выходят . . .25 – And I don’t think that there can be any final victory. Unless you decide to at last establish for yourself some sort of Russian khaganate or other and you all leave home, led by the Eurasian Dudugin . . . – Yeah. Let’s revive the Russian Hebrew spoken by our unhappy northern tribe . . . – Something like Church Slavonic. Can you imagine a state where everyone speaks Church Slavonic? The newspapers will be published in that language . . .26

The very notion of a conservative utopia is ridiculed here. The idea that Church Slavonic could play this role in a new utopian society is absurd and serves to reject this language as a component of any such vision. In addition, here it is allotted a function that it lacks, namely the expression of contemporary political reality. Church Slavonic is used by all these authors to demonstrate the narrowness of the conservative understanding of geographic space and the absurdity of an outdated ideology returning somehow in the future. In all these examples, Church Slavonic alludes to or is perhaps even directly influenced by the mix of Russian and Church Slavonic that characterized the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century language of the seminary exemplified, for example, by Nikolai Leskov’s ‘Akafist materi Kukuruze’ (‘Akathist to Mother Corn’).27 This type of humour, so-called parodia sacra, dates to the Middle Ages. The comical effect derives from the use of Church Slavonic to refer to modern or everyday phenomena for which


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the language is entirely unsuited. This seminarial language was much parodied in the humorous poetry of the nineteenth century, especially among radical authors.28 This use of Church Slavonic has in recent years been strengthened by the development of an invented internet language known as ‘boiarskii iazyk’ (‘boyar language’), which is the deliberate antithesis of what was earlier known as ‘olbanskii iazyk’ (‘Olbanian language’) or ‘iazyk padonkov’ (‘language of the riffraff ’). It consists of comical or satirical Church Slavonic translations of markedly colloquial modern Russian words and/or Anglicisms: thus ‘username’ becomes ‘имярек’, GTFO equals ‘изыди’, LOL equals ‘СВГ’ (Смeюсь вельми гласно, I am laughing very loudly). Here the use of Church Slavonic and its nod toward the archaic is an example of ‘stiob’ – a post-Soviet rhetorical topos referring to utterances that are intended to be at once humorous and serious, thereby concealing their true meaning.29 This is another mocking use of Church Slavonic as an imagined language of the future. The function of Church Slavonic has also been given more prominence through the creation of a Slavic Language project on Wikipedia. Although it appears to be a serious undertaking on the part of its authors, it will be construed as ridiculing the Church Slavonic tradition. One example is the Wikipedia article on President Putin.30 Despite its evidently serious intent, however, the initiative ultimately mocks the prospect of using Church Slavonic in the future. The fact that the language lacks the vocabulary to deal with modern phenomena comically underscores the hollowness and impossibility of the conservative project. Church Slavonic in all these cases demonstrates a view of a future Russia that is narrow in ideas or in geographic scope.

The use of Church Slavonic in conservative utopias The use of Church Slavonic also plays a role in the reactionary political reality of today’s Russia. As Elena Chebankova has noted, conservatives generally do not write utopias, so we should pay special attention to the very special impact of those they do create.31 In contrast to the liberals, supporters of empire praise the language but use it only in direct quotations of biblical texts, prayers and hymns, not to describe their utopias. The risk of appearing ridiculous is all too obvious. Instead, Church Slavonic is included in their grandiose plans for the language of the future. Let’s take a look at three prominent figures: Mikhail Iur’ev, Aleksandr Dugin and Aleksandr Prokhanov.

Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias


One extravagant conservative utopia that any reasonable reader will regard as a dystopia is Mikhail Iur’ev’s The Third Empire: Russia as it Ought to be (Tret’ia imperiia: Rossiia, kotoraia dolzhna byt’) (2007). Iur’ev is ex-Deputy Speaker of the State Duma and today a successful businessman. His book, which also seems to have literary pretensions, presents a future vision of Russia in 2053, when the Russian Empire has conquered all of Europe and order is maintained by the oprichniki, just as in Sorokin’s novel. In a format typical of the utopian genre, the future society is depicted through the eyes of a stranger, in this case a visiting American student. Giving the narration to someone other than the author himself lends the work a certain fictionality. After Russia’s victory in a world war, in 2053 Russian is the only official language not only there but also throughout conquered Europe. Iur’ev condemns all liberal thought in Russian history. He still wants to reform the Orthodox Church to permit bishops to marry, but he also devotes some attention to the question of Church Slavonic, which he feels must be preserved but still reformed: In addition to allowing a married episcopate, [these reforms] concerned the language of worship – there could be no question of switching to Russian, but at the same time it was necessary to solve a problem, since most of the parishioners did not understand the sacred texts. As a result, the old liturgical language was of course preserved, but under the Moscow Patriarchate it was decided to create a commission for the improvement of the Church Slavonic language, by analogy with the same commission on the Russian language at the Russian Academy of Sciences.32

According to the map envisioned by the leader of so-called New Eurasianism, Aleksandr Dugin, Russia should orient itself politically and culturally to the East. Dugin associates himself with a movement in the 1920s among Russian emigrés, who wanted Russia to seek its future in close contact with Asia and maintained that there was a fundamental contradiction between the United States and the United Kingdom, on the one hand, and the rest of Europe on the other. Dugin has stated that Russia is unthinkable without the empire, and Church Slavonic is clearly part of his utopian Eurasian project: It seems to me that Church Slavonic is not the past, but the future. This language, which was to a significant degree created artificially through calques from Greek, has brought us Slavs the enormous wealth of a theological and philosophical heritage. I think that it still remains for us to understand it.33


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

His view is contrary to the theory of so-called ‘intellectual silence’, the idea that the lack of knowledge of Greek and Latin fatally impacted the development of thinking in Old Russia.34 What Dugin is proposing is not that the language be used outside the Church, but that studying it will give profound intellectual content to the future Russia. In another context he associates Church Slavonic with a view of the future as the New Middle Ages. Alluding to Nikolai Berdyaev’s book by that name, he declares: The Middle Ages, it turns out, are not behind us but still ahead. In this sense Berdyaev’s proposal in The New Middle Ages is not reactionary nostalgia but the only realistic and socially responsible program for future modernization. In this sense the study of Ancient Greek, Church Slavonic, and religious instruction can be the most important instrument for the modernization of Russian education.35

Church Slavonic will be an important component in the creation of this new utopian Middle Ages. Like Bykov in his novel, Dugin compares Church Slavonic with Hebrew, but he does not on that account mean that it should become a spoken language. It will instead purify the Russian language, which cannot survive unless knowledge of Church Slavonic is revived: Without restoring Church Slavonic we cannot save our native Russian language. Only that which is the most essential, the most genuine, is capable of helping us today in the difficult task of shaping the national idea. And here the problem of language is at the very centre. From without we are being attacked by globalist Internet English – a wretched parody of a lightweight version of English in which the younger generation is beginning to twitter. And within as well Russian is disintegrating before our very eyes.36

This is the same argument we encountered in Motorin’s article quoted above. As for the opinion of Aleksandr Prokhanov, the most famous of these thinkers, the language has to do with the community of the Slavic peoples, and as a parallel he points to the success of Stalin’s geopolitical project in uniting the Slavic countries. In a lecture on ‘Church Slavonic and the Fate of Slavdom’ (‘Tserkovnoslavianskii iazyk i sud’by slavianstva’) he accuses Bulgaria of betraying the Slavic community by joining NATO and the EU. He goes on to claim that perhaps Jesus’ native language was not Aramaic but Church Slavonic, although he admits that the thought is heretical.37 Thus in his view the language acquires international political and messianic functions. He also argues that it is the language of Christianity in preference to all

Church Slavonic in Russian Dystopias and Utopias


others. The Slavic space becomes a Christian universal one with an angelic language; Russian is the worldly tongue, that is the infernal language of profanity, a terrible filth. Prokhanov’s newspaper Zavtra (Tomorrow) recently carried an article by Mikhail Kil’diashov about the chronotope of empire that attempts to explain the imperial component of language itself. Church Slavonic is otherwise most often portrayed in general terms and without any examples or descriptions of its grammar, of which most of these thinkers are probably ignorant: It is no coincidence that Church Slavonic, from which Russian has so deeply drunk, as from a life-giving spring, has preserved four past and future tenses that divide earthly and heavenly time.38

According to Kil’diashov, the aorist (past) tense, which in Old Church Slavonic provided an alternative to the simple (imperfect) past tense, served to express a kind of eternal temporality – a past with no fixed duration. There is in fact a special temporal system in Church Slavonic that includes the aorist past tense, which does not exist in modern Russian. Kil’diashov’s article in Zavtra allots it a sacred meaning, something which follows a trend in the discourse of the exclusiveness of Church Slavonic far back into Russian cultural history.39 Kil’diashov quotes a poem by Prokhanov himself about the resurrection of a new empire dedicated to Izborsk.40 Я воскрешу былые времена Погибших царств и рухнувших империй. I will resurrect earlier times Of perished realms and ruined empires.

As in Prohkhanov’s case, the new empire featured in the article is utterly utopian and utterly cosmic. It is based on the same sort of reasoning about the role of grammar that we encountered in our reading of Pelevin’s novel S.N.U.F.F., except that now in one way or another it is meant to be taken seriously. Kil’diashov’s claim that the aorist is a sacred tense fits a pattern of argument in earlier polemics on Church Slavonic. Although the language plays a distinctly positive role in conservative utopias, no one seems to be interested in extending its use beyond the Church. According to conservative thinkers, what is exploited as a lodestar for the future is the worldview and theology contained within its innermost essence. Church Slavonic is difficult to use in


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

geopolitical terms, but it suits different conservative utopias. What these thinkers try to find is some sort of Orthodox ideology embedded in the language – for example, in its grammar – which can help guide the creation of a conservative utopia in the near or distant future. Neither of these conservative thinkers appears to care about the internal debate on the continued existence, concrete implementation or teaching of the language. For the Church, it is either a foundation and heavenly resource, or a linguistic prison. Liberal writers treat it as a stylistic device for satirizing conservative or reactionary trends in Russian society, while for conservative thinkers it represents a vague vision in a distant future utopia and a striving for a new Slav–Orthodox unity. Perhaps it is simply an empty label that merely signals or expresses a desire to recreate the past and isolate the Russia of the future, or it may be some sort of ‘linguistic stiob’ used both by the liberals and the conservatives in the same half-humorous, half-serious way. All the examples discussed above show a complicated contradictory and sometimes even traumatic relationship to Russia’s cultural past. The dystopias of the liberal writers and the utopias of the conservative ones are in the end very similar, and the use of Church Slavonic is as absurd in the one camp as in the other. There is a quite separate debate going on which reflects a deep concern for Church Slavonic as a part of the cultural heritage and the problem of comprehensibility, but it concerns a different issue in Russian culture.41 The language seems to function well in rituals and in the old and new traditions of church chants as devotional and aesthetic artefacts. All parties in the conflict agree on the beauty of the liturgy created by past generations. The problem lies in the heavy ideological use to which the language has been put in today’s Russia.

Notes 1 A key unifying role in the historical creation of the multinational Russian people is played by the Russian language and Great Russian culture (Osnovy Gosudarstvennoi kul’turnoi politiki; The Foundations of State Cultural Policy), 2 Per-Arne Bodin, ‘Two Languages and Three Empires: About the Discourse on Russian and Church Slavonic in Today’s Russia’, in From Orientalism to Postcoloniality (Huddinge: Södertörns högskola, 2008), pp. 57–67. 3 David W. Sisk, Transformations of Language in Modern Dystopias (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997), p. 2. 4 Per-Arne Bodin, ‘The Russian Language in Contemporary Conservative Dystopias’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (October 2016): 579–88.

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5 Per-Arne Bodin, ‘The Russian Language in Contemporary Conservative Dystopias’, p. 579. 6 A. G. Kravetskii and A. G. Pletneva, Кistorii tserkovnoslavianskogo iazyka v Rossii XIX–XX v. (Moscow: Iazyki russkoi kul’tury, 2001); Brian P. Bennett, Religion and Language in Post-Soviet Russia (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011), p. 41. 7 ‘Ukrainskii tserkovnoslavianskii iazyk: mudrost’ v ottenkakh’, http://gazeta. ottenkah.html. 8 Mitropolit Kievskii Onufrii, ‘Bogosluzhebnyi iazyk Ukrainskoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi –eto iazyk tserkovnoslavianskiiu’, 402/. 9 ‘Pretenzii uchenykh k “dissertatsii” ministra kul’tury Medinskogo’, http:// 10 Vladimir Putin, ‘Drevnerusskii budem izuchat’?’, 2016/10/06/vladimir_putin_drevnerusskij_budem_izuchat/. 11 Aleksandr Motorin, ‘Tserkovnoslavianskii iazyk: kartina mira’, http://www. 12 ‘Proekt dokumenta ‘Tserkovnoslavianskii iazyk v zhizni Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi XXI veka’, 13 Viktor Pelevin, Empire ‘V’: Ampir ‘V’ (Moscow: Eksmo, 2006), p. 148. 14 Viktor Pelevin, Empire V: The Prince of Hamlet, trans. Anthony Phillips (London: Gollancz, 2016), p. 226. 15 Renate Lachmann, Erzählte Phantastik: zu Phantasiegeschichte und Semantik phantastischer Texte (Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2002). 16 Viktor Pelevin, S.N.U.F.F., trans. Andrew Bromfield (London: Gollancz, 2015), p. 54. 17 Viktor Pelevin, S.N.U.F.F.: Utopiia (Moscow: Eksmo, 2012), p. 17. 18 Pelevin, S.N.U.F.F., trans. Andrew Bromfield, pp. 21–2. 19 Pelevin, S.N.U.F.F.: Utopiia, p. 52. 20 Pelevin, S.N.U.F.F.: Utopiia, p. 15. 21 Vladimir Sorokin, Den' oprichnika (Moscow: Zakharov, 2006), p. 26. 22 M. F. Kevin Platt, ‘Dress-up Games with Russian History’, http://www. I am using Platt’s translation in this case. 23 Vladimir Sorokin, Telluria, 24 On Dmitry Bykov, see Sofya Khagi’s chapter. 25 Dmitry L’vovich Bykov, Zhd: Poėma (Moscow: Vagrius, 2006), p. 153. 26 Dmitry L’vovich Bykov, Living Souls (Richmond: Alma Books, 2010). The passage is missing in the translation. 27 N. S. Leskov, ‘Pecherskie antiki. (Otryvki iz iunosheskikh vospominanii)’, in N. S. Leskov, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 7 (Moscow: GIKHL, 1958), p. 137. 28 On this use of the Akathistos hymn, see Per-Arne Bodin, Eternity and Time: Studies in Russian Literature and the Orthodox Tradition (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2007), pp. 95–109.


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29 Lipovetsky discusses this double use of ‘stiob’ in Mark Naumovich Lipovetsky, Paralogii: Transformatsii: (Post)modernistskogo diskursa v russkoi kul’ture 1920–2000-kh godov (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2008), p. 503. 30Владимиръ_Поутинъ. 31 Elena Chebankova, ‘Contemporary Russian Conservatism’, Post-Soviet Affairs 32, no. 1 (2016): 28–54. 32 Mikhail Iur’ev, ‘Tret’ia Imperiia: Rossia kak dolzhna byt’, www2/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/das_dritte_reich_russland.pdf. 33 Mitropolit Ilarion, ‘Pravoslavnoi tserkvi vsegda byl prisushch zdorovyi konservatizm’, 34 For this discussion, see Francis Thomson, ‘The intellectual silence of Early Russia’, in The Reception of Byzantine Culture in Medieval Russia (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1999), pp. 1–14. 35 Aleksandr Dugin, ‘V poiskakh temnogo Logosa’, content/dugin-v-poiskah-temnogo-logosa. 36 ‘O Traditsii, Bol’shoi Igre i Nashem Puti rasskazhet Dugin v subbotu na telekanale SPAS’, Iazykovyi kanon, http://evrazia. org/news/4; id=3689. 37александр-проханов/. 38 Mikhail Kil’diashov, ‘Khronotop imperii’, 39 Per-Arne Bodin, Language, Canonization and Holy Foolishness: Studies in Postsoviet Russian Culture and the Orthodox Tradition (Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2009), p. 20–2. 40 See Chapter 12 by Edith W. Clowes. 41 For example, Kravetskii and Pletneva, Kistorii tserkovnoslavianskogo iazyka v Rossii XIX–XX v.; Bennett, Religion and Language in post-Soviet Russia.


Contested Utopias: Language Ideologies in Valerii Votrin’s Logoped Ingunn Lunde

Introduction Literary utopia can be understood as a way of posing a question, testing a theory or mirroring a trend. Through the creation of an artistic ‘what if ’ scenario, the author of utopian fiction invites his or her readers to reflect critically on certain tendencies in contemporary society. As far as such tendencies are negative, represent social fears or political threats, we have to do with various kinds of dystopian fiction. It is perhaps not surprising that many dystopias foreground the role of language. As the main means of human communication, language is obviously central to any utopian or dystopian society; but language’s prominence as a main concern of dystopia is probably due to its close ties to power structures, ideologies and identities. Totalitarian discourse, censorship, cultural policies, language legislation, norms and standards, but also linguistic resistance and revolt are among the topics that dystopian fiction can treat in playful, satirical or philosophical ways. The dystopian novel has become a highly popular genre in post-Soviet Russian prose, the real boom arriving with the turn of the twenty-first century.1 A number of contemporary dystopian novels focus on language, among them Tat’iana Tolstaia’s Kys’ (The Slynx, 1999), Aleksandr Prokhanov’s Politolog (The Political Consultant, 2005), Vladimir Sorokin’s Den’ oprichnika (Day of the Oprichnik, 2006), Maksim Kononenko’s parody of Sorokin, Den’ otlichnika (Day of the High Achiever, 2008) and Viktor Pelevin’s S.N.U.F.F. (2011).2 In this chapter, I will focus on Valerii Votrin’s novel Logoped (The Speech Therapist, 2012), which portrays an imagined society where different language ideologies are juxtaposed. Whereas Votrin’s novel is perhaps best characterized as a dystopian text, the different ‘visions’ of the ideal form and role of language in society may be seen as contested linguistic utopias that mirror – in a playful, satirical way – certain topics and trends in the 219


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post-Soviet Russian language debate. Before we embark upon the analysis of Votrin’s novel, however, let us briefly review the major linguistic issues subject to contestation and debate in post-Soviet society.

The language debate in post-Soviet Russia Since the turn of the century, public debates on language in Russia have increasingly focused on the need to ‘protect’ the language. The background for this can be found in the processes of ‘vernacularization’ that characterize late and post-Soviet sociolinguistic change,3 reflected ‘in the aspiration to allow previously “blocked” linguistic features, styles and genres to “pass the filter” into domains that have been the preserves of standardness’.4 With perestroika, glasnost ’ and the subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union, shifting linguistic ideologies contributed to a questioning of the authority of the standard language. As a result, a strong tendency of norm relaxation could be observed – that is, the use and acceptance of non-standard linguistic elements such as swear words or slang – in official speech culture, in the mass media and other written genres, including literature, and, with the advent of new media technology, in digital genres.5 In the late 1980s, the shift in linguistic ideologies was closely linked to transformations in the political and social domains, which again had an impact on the nature of sociolinguistic change. Gorbachev’s politics of glasnost ’ made it possible to discuss things formerly forbidden, to do so in language that had hitherto been considered unsuitable for the public sphere and to question the meaning of ideologically charged words. Boundaries between different spheres of speech, firmly consolidated by official regulation during the Soviet period, were seriously challenged, while the abolition of censorship in virtually all areas of official language usage led to a stylistic and lexical diversity unheard of before. In public speaking, a transition took place from a linguistic culture dominated by prepared texts and adherence to strict norms overseen by state control to a culture open to spontaneous speech and verbal unpredictability. The new linguistic trends became even more apparent after the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991, which also led to a massive influx of words from English, the language of globalization, accompanied by a dissemination of ‘internal’ loans from various non-standard varieties of Russian, such as jargon, slang or verbal profanity (mat). Due to the ideologization of language culture in the Soviet era, language had not been discussed in public to the same extent as in the debates that arose in the late 1980s and 1990s. Parallel to the developments that became central topics in the language debates – loan words, non-standard varieties,

Contested Utopias


norms and regulations – the attitude towards language as something that could and ought to be discussed also changed. Moreover, in the time that has passed since the late perestroika years, the debates themselves have developed. During perestroika and the early post-Soviet years, the new linguistic situation was largely welcomed as reflecting society’s recently won freedom, and was responded to with a general celebration of verbal diversity and spontaneous speech. Changes in the language culture were hailed as signs of ‘democratization’ and ‘liberalization’. However, as the rigorous probing of the limits of acceptable language escalated, calls for the articulation of new norms, or the adherence to old ones, gradually became more vociferous. Towards the end of the 1990s, issues of language legislation and regulation began to dominate the discussions of language culture, with purist tendencies coming to the fore. At the same time, questions of language culture and language cultivation tended to be linked to broader issues of national identity, cultural legacy or ethical standards.6 The 2000s have seen a number of state-initiated language programmes and legislative proposals targeted at language regulation, the most recent of which have also entered the realms of literature and art. The much-debated ‘Law on the Russian Language’ of 2005 is a key text in this regard, while recent prohibitive laws, such as the ban on profanity in art (2014), the fourth successive renewal for 2016–20 of the Federal targeted programme ‘Russian language’ and the emphasis on ‘the role of the Russian language’ in various governmental policy documents, indicate both that language cultivation is of concern to the authorities and that there is an ideological conviction that language can in fact be regulated through political initiatives. Russian writers have long been accorded a special role in the context of the language question. The classics of Russian literature served as models in standard language education and maintenance, and there has been a tradition of collecting and publishing statements by professional writers on linguistic matters.7 In this chapter, I take an alternative look at the role of writers, and of fiction, in the language debates, examining not the writers’ statements about language, but the ways in which linguistic attitudes and ideas are expressed in their literary work. The linguistic condition of post-Soviet Russian society, I contend, provides a background against which every literary ‘utterance’ – every text – may be read and interpreted. Sociolinguistic change – linguistic change as well as changes in society’s life with language, including linguistic reflexivity – may have an impact on how language is represented, used or thematized in a given literary text, thus allowing us to read the literary work as a reflection of, or even contribution to, the language debate itself.8


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Questions concerning language legislation, linguistic ideologies and, more broadly, language and power, are, in fact, central to a number of recent Russian novels. Let us turn now to a close reading of Valerii Votrin’s Logoped, a novel where questions about linguistic policies and language legislation are intertwined with issues concerning identity and power structures in particularly interesting ways. Valerii Votrin (b. 1974) lives in Bath in the UK and has published, since his debut in 1995, a number of stories and three novels: Zhalitvoslov (The Book of Prayers and Complaints, 2007), Poslednii magog (The Last Magog, 2009) and Logoped.

The Speech Therapist The Speech Therapist portrays a dystopian society governed by strict orthoepic laws: a set of rules for pronunciation meant to preserve the standard language. The sanctioned standard language is constantly challenged by the vernacular spoken by most people, and labelled variously rodnaia rech’ (vernacular), razgovornaia rech’ (colloquial speech) or narodnyi iazyk (popular language). As I will try to show, Votrin responds to the language question on at least two levels: first, he plays with central concepts in the public language debates, stretching their potential and experimenting with ‘extreme versions’ of notions such as variants, norms or purity; and second, he treats the language issue on a philosophical level, questioning both the overt and hidden interrelationships between language and power, and language and identity. The orthoepic laws of The Speech Therapist are supplemented by all the essential ingredients of a repressive society, in particular with regard to language use: there is censorship (logopedicheskaia tsenzura), state institutions linked to speech cultivation (raionnaia logopedicheskaia kommisiia, Uprava, Glavnyi Logoped, Sovet logopedov), a whole army of speech therapists, speechimproving institutes and speech correctors (recheispravitel’nye instituty, recheispraviteli), and a speech therapy police (logopedicheskaia militsiia or lomilitsiia). Within this world, we follow the fate of two protagonists. Speech therapist Iurii Petrovich Rozhnov is a liberal member of the speech therapy commission that tests the speech standards of people called to work for the party. If the candidates do not pass the examination, they are sent off to speech-improving institutes from where many, rather than improving their speech, return as nemtyri (‘mutes’). Journalist Lev Pavlovich Zablukaev comes from a family of teachers, but has an ardent wish to become a speech therapist (a profession one is born into). He publishes fierce articles on speech culture and speech cultivation and takes a particular interest in unsuccessful ‘candidates’ (those

Contested Utopias


tested by Rozhnov and his like), investigating the stories of those who return from the speech-improving institutes as broken people. After a brief involvement with the lingvari, one of the two main opposition groups in the country (each with their own linguistic ideology), he is arrested and exiled, but continues to write articles for the émigré press on the need for speech cultivation. Meanwhile, there are stark tensions within the different factions of power in the society portrayed. There are the lingvari and the tarabary – both opposition groups – but even the speech therapists are divided among themselves: there are liberals and conservatives. Liberal-minded speech therapists like Rozhnov eventually help to uncover the cruelties committed by the speech correctors, and begin to advocate the need for reforms. Just as with the perestroika programme of the late 1980s, the reforms, however, lead to the break-up of the state. The government is overthrown and a coalition of opposition movements seizes power. Behind all this, there lurks a mysterious, frightening, and in the end, triumphant creature, reminiscent of the ‘slynx’ of Tat’iana Tolstaia’s Kys’ (The Slynx, 2000). Votrin’s creature is no ‘slynx’, however: its name is Iazyk – Language or Tongue.9 I will structure my analysis of the novel along the lines of three readings: (1) ‘a mirror of the language debates’; (2) ‘the Language’s point of view’; and (3), ‘Votrin’s poetics of destabilisation’.10

A mirror of the language debates Linguistic ideologies, speech cultivation and the role of the state in such matters define the main focus of Votrin’s novel. In addition to highlighting the topic of language legislation and control, the book also plays with central concepts that we can recognize from the public debate on language in postSoviet Russian society, from the conservatives’ focus on the preservation (sokhranenie) and purity (chistota) of language, or the ‘discourse of threat’, in Lara Ryazanova-Clarke’s words,11 warnings of damage and contamination (porcha, zasorenie iazyka), to the more liberal-minded language mavens speaking of the natural and necessary development (razvitie) and the liberalization of language (liberalizatsiia/svoboda iazyka). For example, every session of the speech therapy commission begins with the solemn declaration of the speech therapist’s oath: ‘I, . . . promise to observe the purity of language and follow the sacred norms in an exemplary way . . .’ (12).12 The conception of ‘sacred norms’ is the institutionalized one, nurtured already in the schools for speech therapy students, where they sing hymns to the various sounds and their corresponding orthoepic norms. In fact, their attitude to the norms is what distinguishes the ruling elite from the people:


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

‘The speech therapists became guardians of the norms from the very moment when people stopped paying attention to the norms. The salvation of language now depends on us [i.e. the speech therapists], only on us. For the people are not with us. The people are against us!’ (63). The different viewpoints regarding the status of linguistic norms are illustrated by the narrative perspective: the chapters that tell of Rozhnov, the reform-friendly speech therapist, are entitled in a way that reflects the vernacular, or popular speech, with spellings such as Glava pelvaia (‘first chapter’) instead of pervaia; tlet’ia (‘third’) instead of tret’ia; and shed’maia (‘seventh’) instead of sed’maia. Chapters that tell of Zablukaev, the conservative guardian of the standard language, are labelled vtoraia, chetvertaia, piataia (‘second’, ‘fourth’, ‘fifth’), in full accordance with standard norms. The chapter headings will have given the reader an idea about the characteristics of popular speech, but let us look at them now in more detail. The novel starts out by describing two major ‘errors’, the pronunciation of ‘r’ as ‘l’ – as in poliadok (for poriadok ‘order’) – and the inability to pronounce fricatives and affricates like ‘sh’, ‘zh’, ‘ch’ or ‘shch’ (pronounced like ‘s’, ‘z’ or ‘f ’). After a while, we are introduced to new types of error: ‘d’ for ‘r’ and ‘v’ for ‘r’. Towards the end, the various errors are compounded, occurring more and more frequently in conjunction with one another. Here are the triumphant words of Parin, a representative of one of the new parties in power, to Rozhnov: ‘– That’s it! We tear the cover of the false language off our names, things and words! Now people and things are called by their real names!’ ‘– But what about the norms?’ – Rozhnov protested faintly, but Parin responded, furiously spitting saliva: ‘There are no old falsе rotten norms any more! The freedom of language is the freedom of the people! Where have you been lately, comrade?!’ 21513

Rozhnov is shocked by the style of speech of the new authorities. And ‘the new language’ is not just a problem for Rozhnov, it turns out. People speak with so many deviations from the standard norms that they no longer understand each other. The language question has become a political problem and Rozhnov is invited to the ministry to discuss the matter during a special session ‘on language’. Rozhnov gives his advice, but it becomes clear to him when speaking that his speech – standard Russian in accordance with the norms – is no longer comprehensible to the people around him. He acts out, in a way, the repeatedly voiced concern of many language mavens of the late 1990s and early 2000s, that the dominant tendencies in contemporary Russian language culture – the huge influx of foreign loanwords and the

Contested Utopias


spread of non-standard varieties – would lead, in the end, to a situation where people would no longer understand each other. We see how Votrin challenges central concepts in the language debates, stretching their potential and experimenting playfully with ‘extreme versions’ of notions such as variants, norms or purity. So far, however, we have dealt with such concepts mainly from the point of view of language legislators, language mavens and ordinary language users. What is truly original in the novel is the role played by language itself.

The point of view of language There is a third main protagonist in Votrin’s The Speech Therapist, a mysterious creature by the name of Iazyk, which becomes intertwined with the lives of both Rozhnov and Zablukaev. While the portrayal of society, its people, groups and factions, is from the point of view of humans and (human) linguistic ideologies, the introduction of Iazyk introduces the point of view of Language itself. The ‘liberalization of language’ – a catchphrase, we recall, of the language debates of the 1990s – is interpreted quite literally as the liberation of a frightening creature that lurks around outside windows in the dark and acquires ever more grotesque features. For Iazyk, norms are just a disturbing hindrance to the free flow of language, or the Rule of Language. Iazyk makes its first appearance early in the novel as a friendly creature in Rozhnov’s dream. It appears in the form of letters that surround and caress Rozhnov like kittens. Rozhnov offers it milk and feels safe and protected. He likes to think that Iazyk knows about his efforts to expose the wrongdoings of the speech correctors and that he paves the way for it, sets it free: ‘Yuri Petrovich was certain that the wrath of Language wouldn’t touch him’ (8). It takes a while before Rozhnov understands that he needs to surrender totally to Language, in order not to disturb it. More often than not, moreover, the ‘gaze of Language’ is not approving, but threatening. There is much talk about the ‘wrath of language’, as in the stories that Zablukaev gathers about the unsuccessful party candidates. It is Iubin, Zablukaev’s main informant, that explains the true goal of Language to Zablukaev: – ‘It’s language, Leva, Language! You don’t speak it yourself, do you?’ – ‘Why shouldn’t I? Of course I do!’ – ‘Oh no, you speak according to the books. And it doesn’t like that. It likes it when everyone speaks it.’ (43)

Iazyk is here identified with the popular language spoken by the people.


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From Zablukaev’s perspective, the popular language is a result of corruption. His choice of terms reflects his view of the state of the language, which he paraphrases as lzheiazyk (a ‘false language’), durnoe porozhdenie negramotnogo plebsa (a ‘bad creation of the illiterate plebs’) and psevdoiazyk (a ‘pseudolanguage’). The image of Iazyk becomes, for him, a frightening creature which acquires, towards the end of the novel, truly grotesque dimensions: There it was, Language. It was impossible to describe. It was all swirling, glimmering and changing its shape . . . It ruled. It bowed his shapeless head over the country, watched, listened, subdued. Below it scurried tiny little people, but they were almost impossible to see. It itself was them. And it couldn’t speak. Yes, Zablukaev immediately realized that Language was mute. (205)

While Zablukaev is able to withstand the evil gaze of Iazyk, he is, paradoxically, convinced that were he to die, it would be by ‘a word from the old books’: For some incomprehensible reason he knew that he could be killed only by a word – a sharp, honed one. And it would not be one from the popular language – this pseudolanguage was far too fluid – no, this word would need to be taken from the old books. Yes, only there would it be possible to find a word, piercing as a dart, a word with a terrifying destructive power, a hammerhead word, a chisel word, a bludgeon word. (161–2)

Zablukaev gives up his dream of becoming a speech therapist and decides to return to ‘post-revolutionary’ Russia and become a teacher. When he returns, he is in fact killed as soon as he steps out of the train. We learn of this when Rozhnov and his wife, a day later, are expelled from the country as ‘enemies of the language’. As they arrive at the train station, Rozhnov’s glance is caught by the new signboards, featuring spellings such as Bivetnye kashshy (‘Ticket counter’) instead of Biletnye kassy; Lestolan (‘Restoran’) instead of Restoran; Gavety i vulnaly (‘Newspapers and journals’) instead of Gazety i zhurnaly: And then Rozhnov freezes on the spot. What a delusion! From the corner of his eye he notices that in between other neon signboards there are some glowing letters, that should not, that cannot be there. Among the miserable mutilated words, shines one word – an untouched, genuine,

Contested Utopias


all-powerful word from the old books, and a terrifying meaning pours out of it. (241)

They learn from the guard that the day before, another fellow who had stared at the same signboards had fallen down dead as if shot. It was Zablukaev, hit by the all-powerful word. ‘A kind of teacher he was . . .’ (Uchiteliska kakoi-to), says the guard. Rozhnov replies, ‘Not a teacher . . . A speech therapist. A true speech therapist’ (241). Rozhnov and Zablukaev never meet, although their paths cross when the material about the fate of the ‘mutes’, gathered by Zablukaev and confiscated by the secret police, comes to light as Rozhnov prepares his final blow against the speech correctors, a process that gets out of control and leads to great turmoil and the eventual overthrow of the authorities. In this way, Zablukaev, just like Rozhnov, contributes unwillingly to the upheaval; one ends up dead, the other is expelled from the country. The triumphant one is Iazyk. Once the train has left and the platform is deserted, it starts to move as ‘a huge, horned shadow’: ‘Slowly, as if stretching, it stands up and looks behind the departed train, and then, when its lights are hidden from sight, it rises in satisfaction and dissolves over the city’ (242). The fates of both Rozhnov and Zablukaev may leave the reader puzzled. While Rozhnov is initially in favour of reforms, once the process takes off, it is clear that perestroika leads to disintegration, that is, the process has gone way too far. When he returns to the ministry, warning against linguistic anarchy and propagating the need for norms after all, it is equally clear that, as a hero of yesterday, he has arrived too late. But why is Zablukaev killed by a word ‘from the old books’, associated with the correct, or standard, language? In Zablukaev’s own explanation, only such a word is powerful enough to kill, an idea that plays in a bizarre manner on the traditional logocentricity of Russian culture. The irony of his death is also, however, part of a pattern of destabilization at work in the novel, that renders all concepts, positions and ideologies ambiguous.

Votrin’s poetics of destabilization Votrin’s treatment of the language question in The Speech Therapist destabilizes a number of terms, conceptions and ideological notions. From early on we sense a blurring of borderlines between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ in the question of language cultivation. The speech therapist Rozhnov, whose task it is to maintain the standard language, is very liberal in his language attitudes and understanding of norms: ‘[L]anguage must evolve without any


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control. If the people speak this way, it has to be like this’ (8–9). ‘It is you who makes the word correct – your pronunciation’ (15). The linguistic varieties themselves are also destabilized, or change connotations. As a result of Zablukaev’s rhetorical persuasion in his articles promoting the ‘correct language’, speaking in this manner becomes a fashion among young people in the émigré society, which is dominated by the tarabary, that is, speakers of the popular language. ‘Order’ – poriadok – is a catchword throughout the novel, but is mostly spelled and pronounced poliadok (apart from by Rozhnov’s parrot, who pronounces it in a grotesquely hypercorrect version: ‘– Orrrrder! Orrrder! – Lomual’d cried out joyfully’ (6).14 Its opposite, proizvol – ‘lawlessness’ – appears in the correct spelling. Also, we should not forget that, to the reader, the ‘correct’ speech is the unmarked standard Russian, while for most of the inhabitants of this country, it is not. In the eyes of the reader, the ‘natural’, popular speech (narodnaia rech’) comes through as not only flawed and imperfect, but rather infantile, as is evident from publication titles such as Olfoglafiia: inoi vzgliad na problemu (instead of Orfografiia . . .) or party names like Istinno-Nadodnoe Delo (instead of Narodnoe). On the ideological level, the linguistic conservatives are depicted initially as repressive and totalitarian in their outlook, whereas later, when the proponents of reform and popular language come to power, they turn out to be just as brutal and unscrupulous as their predecessors. Rozhnov warns the new authorities, ‘We are on the verge of language’s demise, comrades’ (231). A moment later, however, he starts speaking with numerous errors, until his speech turns into completely incomprehensible gibberish: – ‘Comrade Kovopen’kin,’15 – Rozhnov hammered on to him while listening to his own voice with disgust, – ‘I don’t argue against the significance of your address. But you must understand that the main thing now is the language. You need to understand that the country cannot develop independently of the language. We have to fight for its purity.’ ‘God, what I am saying!’ he thought in horror. ‘What’s happening to me?’ (237)16

He wants to convince the authorities of the need for linguistic control, but loses control over his own speech: he becomes a nemtyr’ himself. He opened his mouth in order to warn Konopel’kin, to distract him, to let him know urgently about the need to introduce linguistic control, but

Contested Utopias


incoherent grunting rushed out of his mouth. Rozhnov’s tongue did not obey him. He tried to pronounce words, but his tongue did not obey him. – ‘Ugh! Ugh!’ – Rozhnov roared horror-stricken. He understood that retribution had befallen him. His language had left him. Muteness had struck him in retribution. It seemed as if he had suffered a stroke. From wild terror Rozhnov ‘ugh-ed’ even loader. He called for Iroshnikov,17 whose customary voice of reason and calm were as necessary to him as air: – ‘Khafa! Saza! Bafa! Tasa!’ (237)18

We see in these examples how the protagonists move in and out of linguistic ideologies and practices, and in and out of different relationships to the personification of Language, before the title of the novel, finally, shifts its reference from Rozhnov to Zablukaev, who is designated by Rozhnov to be ‘the true speech therapist’, having just been killed by ‘the evil word’ of the language he believed in.

Language and identity: concluding remarks On the surface, The Speech Therapist is quite explicit and straightforward in its treatment of central ideas and concepts of the language debates in general, and language policy in particular. As we have seen, however, there is a certain irony at work in the book, expressed by means of a poetics of ambiguity and destabilization, which makes the novel stand out as a sophisticated discussion of current conceptions of norms, language and linguistic ideologies. It is easy to read Votrin’s The Speech Therapist as a political allegory of the perestroika years and subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union. After the ‘revolution’, there is a need to handle the past, a classic question in posttotalitarian societies: ‘The most dangerous thing is to keep the history secret, to silence its honest voice’ (145). The focus on language and the context of contested linguistic utopias, meanwhile, allow Votrin to pose a number of more specific questions related to the post-totalitarian condition. The close connection between language and power is emphasized in the very structure of the quasi-totalitarian state, where language legislation is seen as the foundation of the state, and later in the break-up and democratization of both state and language. The representation of Language as an acting figure in its own right may be interpreted on several levels. It acts out the ‘liberalization of language’ mantra in a grotesque manner (reminiscent of Vladimir Sorokin’s radical


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materialization of metaphors),19 but it is also a playful response to the typical assurances expressed in the language debates by linguists and other language professionals (even writers), that the language is strong enough to take care of itself.20 Furthermore, it turns the institutional view on norms and language legislation on its head, by introducing the radical perspective of language itself on these matters: norms are just a hindrance to the free flow of language. By implication, it also questions the legitimacy of the ruling power with reference to the significant role played by linguistic regulation in society. The topic of language and power is further highlighted through the issue of language ideologies. From the outset, linguistic ideologies are represented as being related to groups, rather than to individuals. The topic of variation, for example, is treated in relation to various groups or factions, or to types of people, who react differently; popular speech is spoken by the abstract notion of narod (‘the people’), and so on. Most vividly, the tension between individuals and ideologies comes to the fore in Zablukaev’s stories about the ‘mutes’. Since the manuscript was confiscated by the authorities before Zablukaev emigrated, he must evoke the individual stories from memory when he intends to use them in his writings about speech cultivation for the émigré press. It turns out that he can remember only the facts, and not the individuals and their particular speech habits: He was able to recall a large number of the stories from the lost collection about the mutes. He published a few of them, the most important ones in his view, but added that these publications based on memory lacked the main thing: the language. Zablukaev’s tenacious memory had retained the facts, retained the outline and the story, but the language . . . – Zablukaev couldn’t remember the speech characteristics of the storytellers, and therefore all the stories lost individuality. (162–3)

A similar flash of insight occurs in the complex relationship between language, power and identity in Rozhnov’s personal dealings with the language. At the beginning of the novel, he has a habit of thinking in popular language and speaking in correct language: he adheres to the rules set by the authorities and is himself part of the monitoring and control system. Later, he makes a conscious decision to speak (his moderated version of) the popular language, before, again, he switches back to the correct language towards the end of the novel. The pivotal moment is the scene in the ministry, where he discovers his name on a paper spelled as Iulii Lozhnov. –‘Excuse me,’ – began Rozhnov and returned to the table. – ‘What is it?’

Contested Utopias


– ‘Here there’s written “Lozhnov”. That’s an error of some kind, my surname is Rozhnov.’ An unpleasant smile appeared on the face of Parin. – ‘No error at all. You had that name earlier, under the old regime. This is how you’re called under the new one. Now that’s your real surname.’ (214–15)21

Struck by this attack on his own identity, he decides to abandon popular speech, as becomes apparent in a dialogue with his wife: – ‘What is it, Iulochka?’ – she moved back. – ‘But you talked that way yourself!’ – I’m not Iulochka!’ – Rozhnov continued to roar. – ‘Enough of this rubbish in my house! From now on – only the pure, correct language!’ (216).22 In the end, Rozhnov gives up popular speech because of the problematic link between language and power. Formerly a firm believer in the linguistic utopia of popular speech, he realizes that he cannot speak the language of those now in power, who are burning books, persecuting people who speak the correct language, and changing the names of people in order to conform to the new norms. Whereas to Rozhnov, the question of language and language cultivation was initially a pragmatic question of complying with the speech practices of the majority, it now becomes a personal decision linked to identity and moral convictions, rather than to abstract notions of power and ideology. The Speech Therapist may be read as an artistic interpretation of one of the catchphrases in the language debates of the 1990s, the ‘democratization of language’. In Votrin’s dystopian world, a philosophical perspective goes hand in hand with grotesque devices, questioning the legitimacy of power structures that get involved in linguistic regulation.

Notes 1 See Mattias Ågren, Phantoms of a Future Past: A Study of Contemporary Russian Anti-Utopian Novels (Stockholm Studies in Russian Literature 43) (Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2014), p. 3; Eliot Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, in Evgeny Dobrenko and Mark Lipovetsky (eds), Russian Literature Since 1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 86–103. 2 For a discussion of the role of language in Kononenko, Prokhanov and a couple of other recent Russian conservative dystopias, see Per-Arne Bodin, ‘The Russian language in contemporary conservative dystopias’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (2016): 579–88. For an analysis of Tolstaia’s novel, see Ingunn Lunde, Language on Display: Writers, Fiction and Linguistic Culture








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in Post-Soviet Russia (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 137–66. The theme of language in utopian/dystopian literature is, of course, not confined to Russian works. For studies of the role of language in non-Russian utopias and related genres, see, for example, Walter E. Meyers, Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980); David W. Sisk, Transformations of Language in Modern Dystopias (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997); Dunja M. Mohr, ‘ “The tower of babble”: The role and function of fictive languages in utopian and dystopian fiction’, in Ralph Pordzik (ed.), Futurescapes: Space in Utopian and Science Fiction Discourses (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009), pp. 225–48. The concept of ‘sociolinguistic change’ seeks to bring together the study of linguistic and social change, seeing these as ‘mutually constitutive processes’. This implies the study of changes in language and in society, but also the study of changes in the relationship between language and society. See Jannis Androutsopoulos, ‘Mediatization and sociolinguistic change: Key concepts, research traditions, open issues’, in Jannis Androutsopoulos (ed.), Mediatization and Sociolinguistic Change (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2014), p. 5. Nikolas Coupland, ‘Sociolinguistic change, vernacularization and broadcast British media’, in Jannis Androutsopoulos (ed.), Mediatization and Sociolinguistic Change (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2014), p. 87. Post-Soviet language culture and (socio)linguistic change have been studied quite extensively over the last couple of decades. See, among others, Larissa Ryazanova-Clarke and Terence Wade (eds), The Russian Language Today (London and New York: Routledge; 1999); Leonid Krysin (ed.), Russkii iazyk segodnia, vols 1–5 (Moscow: Azbukovnik, 2000–12); Ingunn Lunde and Tine Roesen (eds), Landslide of the Norm: Language Culture in Post-Soviet Russia, Slavica Bergensia 6 (Bergen: Department of Foreign Languages, 2006); Ingunn Lunde and Martin Paulsen (eds), From Poets to Padonki: Linguistic Authority and Norm Negotiation in Modern Russian Culture, Slavica Bergensia 9 (Bergen: Department of Foreign Languages, 2009); Michael S. Gorham, Ingunn Lunde and Martin Paulsen (eds), Digital Russia: The Language, Culture and Politics of New Media Communication (London: Routledge, 2014); Michael S. Gorham, After Newspeak: Language Culture and Politics in Russia from Gorbachev to Putin (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 2014). See, e.g., Gorham, After Newspeak, pp. 98–132; Lara Ryazanova-Clarke, ‘ “The crystallization of structures”: Linguistic culture in Putin’s Russia’, in Ingunn Lunde and Tine Roesen (eds), Landslide of the Norm, pp. 31–63. A tradition that has continued after the dissolution of the Soviet Union; see Ingunn Lunde, ‘Pisateli o iazyke: Contemporary Russian writers on the language question’, Russian Language Journal 58 (2008): 3–18. For an in-depth analysis of the role of writers, and of fiction, in post-Soviet language culture, see Lunde, Language on Display.

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9 Iazyk can mean both ‘language’ and ‘tongue’ as an organ of speech. This double meaning is relevant for the novel’s focus on spoken language; also, it clearly comes into play in some of the descriptions of the physical forms and movements of this creature, especially towards the end of the novel. In the quoted passages that follow, I have chosen ‘Language’ as the main translation of Iazyk, but invite the reader to keep the broader meaning of the Russian word in mind. 10 The following analysis is a revised and abridged version of my section on Valerii Votrin in Language on Display, pp. 167–78, 186–8. 11 Ryazanova-Clarke, ‘The crystallization’, p. 34. 12 Quotations are taken from Valerii Votrin, Logoped (Moscow: NLO, 2012), with page references in parentheses. Translations are my own. 13 Words in the ‘popular language’, i.e. deviating from the norm, are marked by italics. I give the original in endnotes in this and further quotations where linguistic features are essential. – Вот! Мы слываем покловы лзивого языка с насих имен, весей и слов! Тепель люди и веси называются своими истинными именами!//– Но, позвольте, а нормы? – слабо возразить [sic] Рожнов, но Парин в ответ, плюясь бешеной слюной, закричал://– Нет больсе никаких сталых лзивых плогнивсих нолм! Свобода языка – свобода налода! Где вы были в последнее влемя, товались?! 14 – Порррядок! Порррядок! – радостно вопит Ломуальд. 15 Konopel’kin (the correct form) is one of the presenters in the session ‘on language’. 16 – Товались Ковопенькин, – втолковывал ему Рожнов, с ужасом слыша свой голос, – я ве ошполяю вазнофть басего доквата. До вы доздны бонядь, фто сейфяз гвавдое – явык. Пойбите, фто ствада де мовет вазвиваться вде явыка. Мы доздны бовоться ва его фястоту.//«Боже, что я говорю! – в ужасе думал он. – Что со мной?» 17 Sasha Iroshnikov is Rozhnov’s friend from the lyceum days. 18 Он раскрыл рот, чтобы предупредить Конопелькина, отвлечь его, срочно поведать о необходимости ввести языковой контроль, но из его рта вырвалось бессвязное мычание. Язык не слушался Рожнова. Он пытался выговорить слова, но язык его не слушался.//– Ы! Ы! – в ужасе мычал Рожнов.//Он понял, что его постигла кара. Язык его оставил. В наказание его поразила немота. Кажется, с ним случился удар. От дикого страха Рожнов замычал еще сильнее. Он звал Ирошникова, всегдашние рассудочность, спокойствие того были нужны ему как воздух://– Хафа! Саза! Бафа! Таса! A moment later, Rozhnov is woken up at home by his wife, who asks if he has had a bad dream; it remains unclear where the ‘session on language’ becomes a ‘real nightmare’. 19 Cf. Dirk Uffellmann, ‘Led tronulsia: the overlapping periods in Vladimir Sorokin’s work from the materialization of metaphors to fantastic substantialism’, in Ingunn Lunde and Tine Roesen (eds), Landslide of the Norm, pp. 82–107.


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20 See Lunde, ‘Pisateli o iazyke’, pp. 9–11. 21 – Простите, – начал Рожнов, возвращаясь к столу.//– Сто такое?//– Вот здесь написано: «Ложнов». Это какая-то ошибка, моя фамилия Рожнов. На лице Парина появилась неприятная улыбка.//– Никакой осибки нет. Это ланьсе вы так назывались, пли сталом лезиме. А так будете называться пли новом. Это тепель васа настоясяя фамилия. 22 – Ты сто, Юлочка? – попятилась она. – Ты зе сам так говолил!//– Я не Юлочка! – продолжал бушевать Рожнов. – Все, с этой дрянью у меня в доме покончено! Отныне – только чистый правильный язык!


‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary: Russophone Migrants in the UK in the Work of Michael Idov and Andrei Ostalsky Lara Ryazanova-Clarke

Introduction The last two decades have seen an unprecedented influx of Russian migrants to the UK and an intensive formation of Russophone communities and networks. London currently presents one of the central hubs for Russian-speaking migration, being home for about 350,000 of the approximately half a million who have settled across the UK.1 Along with an expansion of Russian-speaking diasporic groups there has been an intensification of the artistic reflection on what it means to be a Russian migrant abroad in the UK. In both Russia and Britain, a plethora of literature, fiction and documentary television shows and travel genres have emerged, producing rich imaginaries of Russian-speaking Britain. This chapter examines how the Russian-speaking presence in London is imagined, and how the subjectivities of Russian speakers are performed, through the prism of linguistic representations occurring in two fiction works – the television series Londongrad, scripted by Mikhail Idov, and Andrei Ostalsky’s novel Angliiskaia Taina (An English Mystery). Idov and Ostalsky make especially curious cases for such an exploration as they represent, in both their biographies and work, ex-territorial Russian writing. They themselves present an image of ‘global Russians’: Russian-speaking writers and cultural figures who reside primarily outside the Russian Federation, they extensively portray the deterritorialized, transnational Russian-speaking person in their works. Examining the linguistic representations of ‘Londongrad’ as a fictional, imaginative and ultimately utopian space of a Russian presence, the chapter assesses the linguistic geographies of Russian speakers in London.

Michael Idov and Andrei Ostalsky Both Idov and Ostalsky were born in the Soviet Union, have a journalistic background and are cosmopolitan, bilingual Russian-English writers of 235


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

fiction. Having settled in the UK more than twenty years ago, Andrei Ostalsky shares his time between Russia and the UK and is equally well integrated into the Russophone and Anglophone media worlds. Born in 1953, he began his career as a Soviet foreign correspondent specializing in the Middle East, working at the TASS News Agency. Gorbachev’s perestroika saw him become editor of the Izvestia foreign desk and launch a partnership project with the Financial Times, the Financial Izvestia. Having moved to the UK, Ostalsky served as Editor-in-Chief of the BBC Russian Service from 2001 to 2009 and has written for numerous media outlets including The Independent, Russia in Global Affairs, The Economist, The Sunday Telegraph as well as Russian-based The New Times. In addition, he has spoken regularly on the Russian version of Radio Liberty and run a column on its website.2 While Ostalsky’s journalism is bilingual, his fiction prose and writing in other genres –popular science fiction,3 travel writing and fictionalized guidebooks describing life in England and Spain – are decidedly in Russian and published by Russian publishers. Michael Idov (real name Mikhail Markovich Zilberman) belongs to a younger generation of linguistically dexterous and geographically mobile ‘hybrid’ emigrant authors whose writings cannot be located in one geographical place.4 A Latvian Russophone born in 1976, he was educated and began his career in the United States and currently lives between Moscow and Berlin. Idov manifestly highlights his hyphenated and trans-cultural identity, calling himself ‘an American writer who writes Russian films’.5 His writing is a masterclass of bilingualism – unlike Ostalsky, he has written bestselling novels in both Russian and English and self-translated his fiction.6 In English, he was an award-winning contributor to The New York Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and Foreign Policy, while in Russian he wrote for Bol’shoi Gorod, Kommersant and Snob. Idov’s fame among middle-class cosmopolitan Russians sky rocketed in 2012–14 when he edited the Russian iteration of GQ, the American journal for men. His engagement with film is more of a Russian affair, which began in 2011 when he was commissioned to write a script for the film Dukhless-2 (Soulless-2), a sequel to Sergei Minaev’s bestseller. The film was a huge boxoffice success and was followed by yet another triumphant undertaking – the first season of the twenty-eight-episode television series Londongrad.

The linguistic imaginary The concept of the imaginary in the sense of cultural beliefs and models has received growing attention in anthropology and social theory.7 It is based

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


on the premise that in the era of globalization, the world has entered a stage in which imagination as a social practice plays an increasingly augmented role in social lives. According to Arjun Appadurai, the transnational imaginary rests on the triad of the mechanically reproduced image, the Andersonian imagined community and the imaginaire of French social philosophy – ‘a constructed process of social landscape of collective aspirations’.8 The imaginary today is a global mass-mediated phenomenon, spurred on by transnational migration processes. Proposed by Appadurai, the metaphor of the flow is a useful frame for understanding and describing not only the movement of people, goods and capital but also global cultural movements of semiotic structures, scripts, images and discourses.9 At the centre of the global cultural flows is the production of transnational subjectivity, which is constructed, conveyed and negotiated through linguistic and discursive means. Acknowledgement of the crucial role of language in the processes of globalization has given rise to the broadening of understanding of the imaginary by exploring it from a sociolinguistic perspective. Among other things, a concept of the Russian linguistic imaginary has been developed in relation to, on the one hand, the use of language in the construction of imaginary notions, such as identity, community and belonging, and, on the other hand, a metalinguistic discourse, that is, opinions and beliefs about language itself.10 Examining the use of language in monologues and dialogues occurring in fiction, as well as the depictions of and stances emerging from language practices and metalinguistic discussions, allows us to establish the role that language plays in the formation of the flows of the cultural imaginary in all three senses of Appadurai’s triad. In the case of Idov and Ostalsky’s work, the mechanism of the cultural flow creation is the Russian fictional language, that is, a second-level representational interactional medium and at the same time an ideological construct which both produces and reproduces portrayals and concepts of the Russian-speaking migrant selves and community. Kay Richardson points out that there is congruence between subjectivities residing in socially situated text and talk and subjectivities located in fictional forms containing the mediated and representational language.11 Moreover, drawing a boundary between non-fictional and fictional linguistic representations can be tenuous and rather arbitrary. For example, Erving Goffman, the author of the idea of the ‘dramatized society’, maintains that all first-order speakers perform various multiple roles in social interaction not dissimilar to theatrical roles, and stage-manage everyday conversations.12 Others, such as Deborah Tannen, argue that both representations share strategies usually viewed as literary or poetic.13 Finally, sharing social coding and linguistic calibration for


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interpersonal effect is a feature of both realms in the use of language. As Richardson puts it: Social encounters are not just events in the realization of story structures, but also moments in the characters’ relationships with one another. Characters can be shown to adjust their modes of expression depending on whom they are talking to . . . and [are] more or less in control of how the interaction unfolds and of the outcomes that result from it. These displays are crafted . . . from the same resources that are generally available to language users.14

Arguably, the linguistic imaginary is often linked to utopian thought.15 The utopian dimension appears during periods of significant social transformation, be it the age of modernity or a change of the world order towards transnational configurations. As Benedict Anderson’s theory of the imagined community demonstrates, the style of imagining a nation as a homogenous linguistic community is ‘strongly utopian’.16 Moreover, when nations break down and social changes occur, people use utopia to reinvent communities anew.17 This is also true when conceptions of linguistic subcommunities come to the fore – they still, according to Mary Pratt, are imagined in a utopian manner as separate isolated and linguistically homogenous groups in which ‘one readily discerns nostalgia for the lost totality of the larger community’.18 How would the transnational situation of a diasporic linguistic subcommunity – such as Russian speakers in the UK – affect the utopian homogeneity Anderson and Pratt are talking about? The transnational imaginary disturbs the linguistic utopia of the previously predominant notion of linguistic community understood as the sovereign, horizontal and monolingual comradeship of a nation.19 Consequently, this dynamic brings to bear a tension between the entrapment of the territorial state,20 still lingering in diasporic subcommunities, and the condition of multilingualism and superdiversity established among many contemporary transnational groups. The spaces where super-diverse cosmopolitan communities thrive are urban contact zones where multiple and fragmented linguistic resources meet and form complex assemblages and various hybrids and blends.21 So, how do Idov and Ostalsky attend to or resolve this tension? What are the spaces of the UK’s de-territorialized Russian-speaking subjectivities and communities that emerge from the two authors’ work? How are languages and Russian-speaking practices represented and to what extent are Russian speakers shown as integral to London’s super-diverse community? Finally, as they depart from the national Russophone utopia, do the depictions of their encounters, both

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


within the Russian-speaking community and in the contact zones, produce new utopias?

The two ‘Londongrads’ In Idov’s own description, Londongrad is ‘a fast-paced picaresque – half comedy, half thriller – about a brilliant, anarchic Oxford dropout [Mikhail] and his Muscovite rich-girl sidekick [Alisa] who work as fixers in London’.22 The couple establish a company named ‘Londongrad’, which focuses on attending to the various problems of Russian-speaking neophyte Londoners, such as meeting a child at the airport, sitting a college exam instead of rich but talentless students or extracting numerous Russians out of prison. The company grows, absorbing the dedicated Lada driver Stepan, a wastrel playboy son of the oligarch Oleg and a whizz-kid hacker Alexandra, all of whom get entangled in a myriad of tricks, deceptions and impersonations – the legally questionable means that the team chose to use for their ends. In Ostalsky’s novel The English Mystery, the protagonist Sasha (Sashok) Tutov also gets himself into a criminal mix-up. He is a Russian married to a young English woman, Anna-Maria. Sashok and his wife live together with his in-laws in Folkestone, Kent, from where he commutes by train to London to his report-writing job at a media company under his hated boss Mr Singh. Sashok’s adventures begin when he has a brush with the Russian mafia at London’s St Pancras railway station, where he encounters a man ‘dressed like a clown’, ‘like a crude parody of a Russian – as if he has just escaped from the film set of one of those “Doctor Zhivagos” ’.23 Events that follow an inadvertent exchange of briefcases with the strange-looking Russian almost cost Sashok both his job and marriage, but finally all is resolved and the shares, mistakenly inserted in the mafia suitcase, result in Sashok becoming the happy owner of the media company he had worked for as a humble pen-pusher. From the Londongrad series, London emerges as a natural location for the ‘global Russians’ jet set. Russophone dwellers in London have neither a longing for their homeland24 nor a desire to integrate into British city life: they would rather integrate it into themselves. Idov defines his series as ‘quietly revolutionary’ because it does not ‘treat emigration as a soul-mangling calamity’. Admittedly, the objective of the script writer was to make . . . the first Russian TV series to feature globally integrated Russians and not to make a big deal out of it one way or another: it’s not about being


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homesick, or trying to find one’s way in a strange place. No one here is wholly defined by the circumstance of living outside of Russia – it’s just a circumstance, like any other.25

Idov depicts London as a comfortable place which provides a pleasant backdrop for Russians to work, play and enjoy their global mobility – constantly flying between Russia and the UK despite holding, as we are told, fake passports and visas. His ‘Londongradians’ are self-sufficient and confident inhabitants of London spaces as they transform these into a Russian-speaking territory so that London could be mistaken for some affluent areas of Moscow. The British account for virtually none of the central characters in the series and simply form a homogenous group of stereotypes alongside which members of the Russian community socialize with their compatriots, visit Russian restaurants, high octane parties and concerts, book Russian prostitutes, recruit Russian nannies and play football among themselves. When they have any trouble with the law – which seems to be a daily occurrence – this is taken care of by Russian lawyers and fixers. In contrast, Ostalsky’s novel portrays London as an abode alien and hostile for a Russian. The protagonist Tutov is a recognizable feeble-hearted mumbling Russian intelligent,26 who constantly ponders about Englishness and aspires to join the English middle class, but for whom the enigmatic British life poses constant irritating challenges. Despite his name originating from the spatial pronoun тут (‘here’), pointing to his local belonging and despite having lived in the UK for several years, he has developed little of what could be defined as a hybrid transnational identity. His journeys are local rather than global and are limited to the Folkestone–London commuter railway, his whole British existence circumscribed by the day-return train ticket. Sashok perceives his new compatriots as foreign mysterious entities, and his cross-cultural encounters with the in-laws, his travelling companions and his boss Mr Singh (who represents multicultural London) puzzle him, urging him to mentally translate their linguistic practices and behaviour into familiar Russian habitus. The unfamiliarity of Britishness is pitted against the Russian characters, among whom gangsters and money launderers involve Sashok in their criminal games while a provincial tarty temptress despatched by the gang to ensnare Sashok in a honey trap easily achieves her goal.

Speaking Russian in Londongrad The linguistic soundscape of the Londongrad series is designed with a good deal of sophistication and panache. Being bilingual, with part of the dialogue

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


performed in English and part in Russian, the show establishes a quirky transnational space in which languages and speakers appear to amalgamate, forming some sort of Russo-English hybrid. Russian, however, is dominant in the show: the Russophone characters communicate in Russian while both their British counterparts’ English and the English of Russo-British dialogues are dubbed. Except for a few words at the beginning of dialogues to mark the speakers’ linguistic belonging, English remains subdued and inaudible and is maintained in the show simply as a form of cultural colouring, a reminder of the ‘other shores’ on which the story takes place. Code-switching occurs frequently and seamlessly as the characters’ Russian moves smoothly to the voiceover Russian and back again, contributing to the perception that the linguistic fabric of the series is a fluid and almost indistinguishable Russian-English continuum. Despite the veneer of full bilingualism at the general level of the show’s soundscape, many Russophone Londoners are actually described as monolingual, for whom English-speaking is not among their daily practices. In fact, poor English skills or no English at all are an established norm of the Russophone community. Furthermore, a lack of linguistic prowess is not a handicap for them in any way and certainly not something that detracts from the cosy existence of life in the Russian-speaking bubble of the plush , elite boroughs of London. In one of his interlude monologues, Misha assesses the linguistic skills of the ‘Londongrad’ community, calculating that only 10% of them speak English fluently, and indicates the degree of their linguistic integration by parodying their attempts at English phrases. Using an exaggerated Russian accent, he ironizes that they only know how to say ‘How much?’ and ‘This is not good’, thus defining their collective image as trivial and ignorant consumers with a superiority complex. In addition, with a note of sarcasm, Misha points out that it is the linguistic desperation to speak the понятный язык (understandable language) that throws the ‘Londogradians’ into the arms of Russian compatriot groups organized and controlled by Russian Consulate officials: Only 10% of this crowd speak English confidently. The rest are adapted at the level of ‘how much, this is not good’. And so they have to socialise with the so called Russian community for which special occasions are hanging out at their own Russian embassy. One could hardly think of more miserable events but what cannot be done for the sake of chatting in an understandable language about who [the pop singer] Pugacheva will marry next.27 Episode 23

Away from Kensington and Mayfair, the life of the less glamorous members of the Russophone community is equally unaffected by their lack of English


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language skills. For example, speaking no English seems to have little effect on the character Stepan, a Lada driver from the provincial town of Riazan, certainly not on his ability to get work, first as a Heathrow airport-based private taxi driver and later on as the company chauffeur for ‘Londongrad’. He is forced to learn English by his unlikely Russian lawyer friend Boris Brikman on pain of the loss of access to his beloved Lada, but Stepan is convinced that learning English is a cruel punishment imposed on him and an extravagant waste of time. We see in the contrast between the show’s bilingual soundscape and the narratives related to poor English skills among the Russian-speaking community how two, seemingly utopian, images of ‘Londongrad’ clash and compete. On the one hand, there is the impression of a bilingual RussoEnglish world in which all communities’ participants understand each other and seamlessly communicate, creating a convivial transnational linguoscape in which the choice of language becomes backgrounded and virtually irrelevant. But this linguistic continuity and interchangeability is utopian as it is no more than a special effect created at the meta level of the series with the help of elaborate dubbing and sound engineering. Beyond that, on London’s streets, evidence of Russian-English bilingual communication exists only in a small number of scenes. On the other hand, the representation of ‘Londongradians’ in the show offers another utopia – an escapist and comfortable self-indulgent Russophone world that needs neither dubbing nor translation, a world in which integration, linguistic sharing and crosscultural communication are remote from the needs of its inhabitants. Yet another utopian avenue is followed in depicting Russian in its capacity as a post-Soviet lingua franca which produces the semantics of unity of a Russophone community connected by its shared Soviet memories. Idov highlights that Russian has a special purchase as a lingua franca among migrants from various former Soviet states and attributes value to the wider post-Soviet supra-ethnic Russian-speaking commonalities – something that David Laitin identifies as the ‘conglomerate identity’.28 Laitin explains that the conglomerate identity is ‘a category of membership that is a common denominator among a set of identity groups that share some characteristics that are distinct from those in the dominant society in which they live’.29 Describing the Russianspeaking community in London, Misha struggles to find a politically correct stance while vacillating between an imperial and conglomerate position: ‘The point is that here they use the imperial term “Russians” for Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians, Estonians and other former USSR neighbours. But to count Russian Russians -- there are about 400,000’30 (Episode 23). While in this example the character decries the imperial view common to ‘Londongradians’, which categorizes Ukrainians, Belarussians and Estonians

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


as Russians, he nevertheless borrows the imperial term from that discourse, subscribing in the same sentence to the wider category of ‘Russians’ from which he singles out a sub-type of ‘Russian Russians’. Further on, he completely collapses Russians and Russian-speakers, moving fully into the ‘imperial’ discourse when he claims that, ‘According to various calculations, the number of Russians in London is around a million,’31 when referring to Russian speakers of various backgrounds. Misha’s blurred vision demonstrates that clarifying who owns the Russian language in ‘Londongrad’ is a complex undertaking. People who arrive from non-Russian post-Soviet states and who speak different varieties of Russian are represented in the series as having a shared memory of the Soviet Union and a shared sense of common belonging and language-based solidarity. As Ronald Suny argues, despite manifesting the qualities of empire, the Soviet state was also ‘able to lay the foundations of an affective community, a supraethnic bond between various nationalities and the Soviet enterprise as a whole’, emotions that have lingered on after the empire had collapsed.32 In this case, the Russian language works as a unifying cultural maker evoking the memory of an affective community and triggering a new affective closeness in those subscribing to a stake in the Soviet identity. The show highlights that some London dwellers form a coherent Russian-speaking sub-community in which they orient themselves to a common Soviet background while forming transnational alliances and networks in which current symbolic and political borders are easily cut across. This strand of Londongrad’s utopian imagination is developed in the plotline of the relationship between the Latvian surgeon Maya, who is expelled from her job at an NHS hospital because her Latvian qualifications were invalid in the UK, and the ‘Londongrad’ chauffer Stepan. They are both middle aged and have lived a large part of their lives in the Soviet Union, an experience that underpins their talk in Russian about their past, their children and their loneliness and which colours their communication in the hues of a shared solidarity and empathy. The two unlikely kindred spirits, Maya and Stepan, linger together in Maya’s Soviet-style tiny and congested London kitchen over tea with Latvian cakes, thus domesticating this London space as a manifestation of their affective community of an imagined Soviet multinationalism. Maya’s Russian is strongly accented but her natural colloquial intonation and unaffected turn of phrase represent her sincerity and frankness, and in this way, her linguistic otherness is at the same time emphasized and backgrounded. Despite using different varieties of Russian, Maya and Stepan are therefore shown as sharing a resource which connects rather than differentiates them, rendering their interaction intracommunal rather than hyper-diverse, cross-cultural or transnational.


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Socially varied Russian Solidarity and community-building is just one side of the portrayal of speaking Russian in London: ‘the understandable language’ may mean a shared patrimony and unifying code. In other depictions, both authors foreground the non-homogeneity and variability of Russian linguistic resources to establish hierarchies. The utopian fraternity of London’s Russophone linguistic community breaks when both authors expose that community’s social stratification – at that moment, the common code fractures, and dialects and variants come to the fore to emphasize the divergent linguistic zones. In The English Mystery, for example, Sashok’s encounter with the Russian gangster Benik starts with an exchange not only of briefcases but also language codes. The dialogue is a conflict between Sashok’s polite, taboo-observing English-Russian bilingualism and Benik’s crude vernacular Russian. The criminal performs ‘gangster talk’, addresses Tutov in an informal register accompanied by an unpleasant grin of criminal provenance, shocking Sahok with his familiarity and rudeness both of expression and gesture: ‘ “C’mon, choose which one you like more, do not stand like a spare wick,” – said the man in a vest in Russian and chuckled unpleasantly.’33 On hearing Russian, Sashok somewhat loses his linguo-cultural bearings, and his first impulse is to reply not in his mother tongue but in English, which for the moment seems to him a safer and more dignified choice. As is his habit, he mentally translates the English phrase into Russian for himself (and presumably for the readers), but does not say it aloud to the unknown Russian, probably aware of the mismatch of their linguistic repertoires. Furthermore, Sashok’s inability to utter a Russian obscenity that comes to mind prevents any possibility of speaking the same code with his compatriot, and rules out their Russian communication altogether: ‘He opened his mouth expecting to say “What do you think you’re doing?” . . . But the only Russian expression that came to his mind was, unexpectedly, obscene, and Sashok suppressed the urge because he never swore.’34 Thus, through careful linguistic orchestration of this scene, Ostalsky replicates the difference in the varieties of Russian spoken by the characters to indicate the characters’ social incompatibility despite speaking the common Russian language. The author seems to emphasize that a common deterritorialized Russian language is not necessarily the basis for sharing a diasporic identity. In Londongrad, the Russian language variation is similarly used to fracture linguistic unity and mark social distinction. This may be seen, for example, in the tongue-in-cheek depiction of how a typical London-based Russophone family approaches the task of choosing a Russian-speaking nanny in episode

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


18. We learn that the upper crust of ‘Londongradians’ are prepared to invest heavily in policing the correctness and ‘purity’ of their offspring’s Russian. The criteria for selection of a nanny, explained in Misha’s monologue, reveals the purist language policy of the the vain parents in order to cultivate a high ‘quality’ of Russian in their children, which will in turn increase the parents’ prestige and cultural capital. This commitment includes protection of their children’s language from ‘provincial’ and ‘uneducated’ Russian variants, which a nanny hired without due linguistic diligence risks passing on to the children. Among the dangers named are, for example, Shokan’e – the Southern local pronunciation of что (what) as [Sho], and the demotic variants such as the verb ложить for ‘to put’ used instead of the standard класть. The parents’ struggle for ‘quality Russian’ also entails the maintenance of linguistic borders, precluding the children from code mixing and ‘polluting’ their Russian with English words: A Russian nanny in London is an imported luxury, she is brought to Belgravia from [Moscow’s] Rublevka as an especially valuable cargo. A nanny who does not say ‘sho’ instead of ‘shto’, who uses the verb ‘to place’ correctly is unique. She is flown business class, is handed a credit card – in short, everything possible is done to prevent her from quitting and leaving the family in a foreign land alone with the child who says: ‘The sale was a total trash.’ Like manicure, jewellery, handbags and a wine cellar, nannies are a cause for envy, boasting and scandals in blogs – the vanity fair of new Russian Englishmen. [To indicate the irony, the genitive plural ending in the final noun is -ов while the standard Russian requires a zero ending (англичан ‘Englishmen’.)]35 Episode 18

Intercultural communication In both the novel and the TV series, the performance of intercultural communication by the central Russian characters in relation to the British locals is manifestly problematic and ridden with twisted complexity. In fact, the Russian-speaking inhabitants of ‘Londongrad’ and their hosts often seem so far apart that they might just as well be living on different planets. The British are usually shown as the background or as naïve punters, dupes in many Russian ploys. The opening dialogue of the series provides a kind of prologue to the theme of dysfunctional communication between migrants and hosts, a theme imbued with sad humour. Misha Kulikov is shown in bed having


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sex with an unnamed British girl (whom we will never see again) as his mobile phone rings: Mikhail: Hello! Again? Shit, just do not speak to them, do not speak to them at all! I will be right there, see you. Girl: Mikhail, please talk to me in Russian. M: Volga flows into the Caspian Sea. G: Oh, this is so sexy! Shall we meet again? M: Of course!36 Episode 1

In this scene, what appears to be bilingually fluid transnational interaction is pitted against firm linguistic boundaries and a failure to connect. Two dialogues are played out at the same time: in the first one, in a phone call Misha advises his client, who has been detained by the police, not to speak to ‘them’. ‘Them’ relates to the police, but could easily be interpreted in a wider sense to denote the British, while Misha’s advice can be interpreted as a suggestion to construct a communication barrier. This understanding is reinforced in his second dialogue – an intimate conversation with the nameless girl. The girl, abandoned in favour of the telephone, attempts to establish trans-cultural and trans-lingual contact with Misha by asking him to speak to her in Russian, which she does not understand. In response, Misha utters the phrase that in his mother tongue stands for total banality, excluding any content – a mockery that the girl mistakes for intimate conversation. Thus, both dialogues demonstrate that transnational contact is problematic and fraught with inherent misunderstanding and danger, as communication with members of the host society or halting such communication are employed to trick and delude rather than establish affection and trust. And yet, intercultural communication is not completely impossible. The plot of Londongrad contains a some important transnational romantic love stories, such as the teenage infatuation between the Russian public schoolboy Egor and Kelly, the girl from the Irish travellers’ camp, or the budding romance the protagonist Alisa had with the British Royal event organizer Marcus. In both cases, however, cross-cultural attraction does not produce lasting positive relations but rather break-up and separation. In contrast, the main Russian-speaking protagonists go through a complex journey, exploring relationships with each other and ultimately finding their right partner within the group. Their office team is represented as a utopian subcommunity – a Russophone microcosm emerging through the stereotypes of friendship, loyalty and team spirit – for which each character at some stage is prepared to make sacrifices.

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


In contrast, the stereotyped qualities of ‘Britishness’ are often presented as a stumbling block to the British subcommunity’s ability to accept ‘Russianness’. For example, hypocrisy and avarice stand in the way of a seemingly fairy-tale marriage between a Russian model and an English aristocrat; and Alisa’s potential suitor Marcus fails in the relationship because he is too stiff, polite and understated, in other words – too much of a traditional British gentleman. The starry-eyed teenage lovers’ subplot is the series’ only fruitful story of cross-cultural attachment. But by making the boy the son of a wealthy Russian wine merchant and the girl an Irish traveller who lives in a squalid camp, Idov subverts the Romeo and Juliet idyll of social equality and emphasizes the girl’s place as an outcast on the margins of British life. Although born an Irish English speaker, her claim to ‘Britishness’ is more problematic than that of Egor, who studies for his A-levels in a posh English school. In Ostalsky’s novel, Sashok is also a victim of stereotypical ‘Britishness’. He feels that he does not fit into English life and constantly breaks what he regards as unnecessary British taboos. Living in Britain, he faces too many complex nuances and subtleties that he cannot understand, which he again blames on the English national character and its inherent deficiencies (kompleksy). For example, he criticizes as hypocritical the purportedly stereotypical British linguistic habits of understatement and equivocal speech: ‘Sashok has lived with an English family long enough to understand that the tone means nothing in itself and could even mean the opposite; in short, it serves to cover up all sorts of English hang-ups.’37 In contrast, Sashok believes that his expression of ‘Russianness’ is direct and honest and has no need for superfluous political correctness: for example, he gives his Indian boss the racist nickname Синюха (Bluey), and is perplexed by the disgust with which his in-laws responded to his joke about Down’s syndrome. It appears that in addressing his Russian readership, Ostalsky keeps in mind a transnational pedagogical objective: to describe England to a readership located outside the narrated space. Mixing the genres of a novel and a guidebook to England, the writer uses Sashok’s character to occasionally interrupt the plot in order to comment on English words, expressions and sayings alongside explanations of the manners and habits of the locals. As we have already seen, Londongrad performs a similar function through its main character, who now and then breaks into monologues that directly address the camera during interludes between scenes. These monologues have a predominantly ironic tone and, unlike Ostalsky’s comments, describe both the hosts and the migrants alike for Russian television viewers. A similar pedagogical technique is employed in The English Mystery in Sashok’s remark about how the unfathomable ‘English national character’ is manifested on


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trains: ‘For some reason the English (reflecting their national character!) hate sitting in the middle, squeezed from both sides, and sometimes even prefer standing.’38 Perhaps, for the purpose of reaching out to the Russian public, Sashok’s character – who is conveniently described as an interpreter in his previous Moscow life – invariably provides a Russian equivalent every time he occasionally code switches into English. This is how Ostalsky renders his character’s late arrival apologetic mumbling dialogue with Mr Singh: ‘ “Good morning, Mr Singh, how are you, I am sorry, the train” – babbled Sashok.’39 The mixing of Latin with Cyrillic, and English words transliterated in Russian with Russian translation, in addition to indicating Sashok’s distress, works as a tool of domestication of English, demonstrating for the Russian reader the prosodic character of an everyday British verbal exchange, and ensuring that no foreign word is left unclear. In the same vein, mindful of Russian mainland readers, Ostalsky’s character offers metalinguistic observations in which he overreacts to the obvious English-Russian linguo-cultural differences. For example, he struggles to understand why he is expected to address his English in-laws by their first names, with no use of the patronymics required in Russia. His dismay is indicated by the use of the pronoun почему-то (‘for some reason’) in the following: ‘His father-in-law, who for some reason he had to addressed by his first name – John – and likewise his mother-in-law Maggy (also no patronymics).’40 This linguistic behaviour confirms Sashok’s misfit identity and at the same time advances the book’s pedagogical objective, to explain but also exoticize the British host community. Furthermore, Sashok utilizes his metalinguistic imagination to emphasize British otherness and to affirm that his orientation and loyalty are to Russian. He imagines English to be a flawed language that rarely has the words he is looking for as perfect equivalents to his Russian; for example, his question to himself, ‘What is English for “people in glass houses . . .?” ’ (lit. it’s your cow that should not be mooing),41 remains unanswered. Due to its polysemy, the English noun ‘guard’ (on trains) triggers Sashok’s linguistic musings of the pauslity and inaccuracy of English vocabulary as opposed to Russian equivalent terms, which he willingly provides in numbers (контролер, проводник, кондуктор). At the same time, he attends to the translingual homophony, that is, the similar sounding words between English and Russian: Singh-синюха, guard-гад (reptile), which produces an attitude towards English that is resonant of the defamiliarization described by Victor Shklovsky.42 For Sashok, the key word in the comparison pair is Russian, and in order to achieve the homophonic similarity and justify the pun, he distorts the English pronunciation. Thus, he renders in Russian the name Singh as Сингх [singh], including the silent consonant [h] as voiced. Also, contrary to the norms of the standard British English, he renders in Russian the

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


pronunciation of ‘gard’ with postvocalic rhoticity in place of the orphographic [r] – [ga:rd]. Consequently, the defamiliarization of English is increased as the words are presented as alien and strange to bilingual readers: But the ticket collector (also called provodnik, also called konduktor, while in English it would be guard, like the armed guard or whatever), so why that very guard, a creep, when he checks tickets, punches them through, sometimes with such a force that round bits of cardboard scatter around the carriage and once one of those got into Sashok’s eye?43

Favouring Russian in his daily negotiations, Ostalsky’s character personifies the less cosmopolitan Russophone migrants who are not confident with English and defy biculturalism. He advocates a utopian subcommunity for such Russophones – a comfort zone in which Russian and ‘Russianness’ are staple features. Sashok’s use of translingual associations and puns may be contrasted to the creative and shared use of a Russian-English synesthetic polysemy in Londongrad. The Russian restaurant Less is a contact zone for the communities while its name blends two layers of meaning – the Russian word for ‘forest’ (лес [les]), imbued with patriotic connotations, and a commercial offer in English to have a meal on the cheap. This is a playful balance of the two codes, the equal meaningfulness of each one contributing to transcultural and translingual communication, something for the whole super-diverse local community to enjoy. Naturally, both meanings of the pun are commodified by the restaurant owner,44 who profits by attracting customers with the nostalgic Russian message replicated in the house dish called Русский лес,45 while at the same time appealing to the thrifty locals with the succinct, clever English slogan. Moreover, rather than speaking to the deficiency of being exposed to British alterity (as in The English Mystery case), the blend empowers bilinguals, positioning them as a group able to appreciate the pun from both perspectives. And the rest are invited to take part in intercultural and intercommunal interaction by learning a word of Russian which works as a mobile linguistic resource in London’s urban space (Blommaert 2010). The translingual use of ‘Less’ in Londongrad is a case of metrolingualism, that is, the creative and ‘unpanicked’46 linguistic practices which usually occur across cultural borders. Otsuji and Pennycook define metrolingualism as cosmopolitanism from below,47 ‘a product of modern, often urban interaction, describing the ways in which people of different and mixed backgrounds use, play and negotiate identities through language’.48 The unboundedness of metrolingual cosmopolitan identity may be construed as the antithesis of the utopia of the homogenous entrapment of the territorial


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

state that Mary Pratt was pointing out. However, Idov’s scene of exuberant integration of Russian speakers into British hyperdiversity is not devoid of utopian overtones either. Such an integration is most fully displayed in episode 20’s scene showing a rock music gig in Less by the Russian group B-2. Popular music culture has been described as a powerful global cultural phenomenon, which facilitates transnational linguo-cultural flows and hybridity production.49 To illustrate this, the concert by Russian group is shown to pull in crowds of revellers from all corners of multicultural London, dancing abandonedly to Russian rock. A regular English-speaking customer eager to get a ticket for the event is representative of these Londoners and, as he speaks to Vadim, the manager of Less, he encapsulates their metrolingual and metroethnic stance, asserting that the British sound (as well as the very term ‘sound’, kept in English in the voice-over) may belong to any culture: ‘I want to listen to your guys. The rumour is that they play first class British sound. I’ll see how they would show two fingers to all these snobs from the London music community who preach that a true rocker can only be a subject of Her Majesty’50 (Episode 20). This cosmopolitan scene serves to lionize Russian music, highlighted by the self-deprecating, anti-snobbish stance of one particular Brit. In Idov’s interpretation, in the end, the utopia of integration is short-lived. The series also shows that there are other urban contact zones in London, in which assuming a transnational hybrid identity is problematic. In those spaces, performance of the adopted British side by Russophones makes them look ridiculous and unmasks their misplaced Russian selves. Linguistic and cultural boundaries are revealed to be impenetrable, while Russophone intrusion into the quintessential Britishness representeded by a diamond-cut English accent is resented. This happens when brash Russian characters are opposed to or incapable of imitating a subtle host’s linguistic and cultural modes, the behaviour being met by irritation and resentment from British Londoners. Consider, for example, a dialogue between the rich Russian playboy Oleg and the owner of a country gentlemen’s clothes boutique in London: Shop Owner: Good afternoon, Sir! Excellent choice! This cap is made of Stanford tweed, a classic model, produced since 1929. Oleg: Only since 1929? And you call this classic? In my family, everyone is a hunter. My father taught me to value genuine equipment which must be practical, elegant in its own way and, most importantly, it must respect tradition. Do you have something more traditional? Sh. O: Of course. If you could excuse me a minute. Here is a hat you are looking for.

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


O: O! Sh. O: Try it on! Judging by your accent, sir, you and your father hunt bears in Siberia. O: – True. Sh. O: Not sure I can be of any use for you further. Allow me to see you off. O. – In Russia this is called ‘ushanka’. How much is it? Sh. O: – This item is not for sale. For display purposes only. Let me to show you the exit. (Closes the door behind Oleg and changes the sign from ‘open’ to ‘closed’.)51 Episode 14

In the dialogue spoken in English with a Russian voice-over, Oleg tries to ingratiate himself with the Shop Owner by acting as an enthusiast for ‘British tradition’. For the Shop Owner, however, Oleg’s Russian accent undermines his attempt to pass himself off as a ‘proper gentleman’ and reveals him as an uncouth, cocky and pretentious alien. The Shop Owner begins the conversation with a sugary-polite compliment in respect of his customer’s choice of a traditional British cap, but changes his tone when Oleg attempts to portray himself as the better connoisseur of classics and tradition. Insulted, the Shop Owner focuses on Oleg’s Russian accent and categorizes his customer as a stereotypical Russian: an irritating, clumsy bear hunter and furry-hat wearer who came straight out of the forests of Siberia. The Shop Owner’s placement of the Russian furry hat on his customer’s head is not the usual invitation to try on a piece of clothing, but rather a gesture intended to humiliate, confirmation of Oleg’s unsuitable and unwelcome otherness, ultimately leading to the Shop Owner’s refusal to sell the hat to Oleg and instead expell him from the shop.

Conclusion The two authors’ linguistic imaginaries of ‘Londongrad’ reflect on the identities of the Russian-speakers and communities they forge, and the transnational flows they produce have both correspondences and contestations. These images present a variety of fluid and contradictory and, in addition, deeply utopian visions of British Russianness. Idov’s show leads the viewer through an expanded set of utopian portrayals of linguo-cultural spaces, leaving Ostalsky to elaborate his primarily Russia-oriented narrative. Russianspeaking practices in both their works have utopian elements. The writers’ shared utopia consists of London zones inhabited by Russophones who are


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

isolated in their subcommunity’s linguo-cultural bubble, from which contact with members of the host community is often problematic and unproductive. The Russian-speaking subcommunity emerges from the TV series as a rather insular albeit self-sufficient superior group which, having colonized London, relegated the host community to the role of convenient background setting for Russian chic and dupes of Russian hoaxes and machinations. The Londongrad characters transpose wholesale the Russian habitus pertaining to the nationstate model to these new spaces, reinventing this model’s homogeneity in the form of an escapist Neverland of the Rublevka on the Thames. But for the cosmopolitan and non-nostalgic series, this also means a linguo-cultural Russian everywhere, a global Russian utopia, in which geographies become altogether irrelevant. The monolingual homogeneity and camaraderie of Idov’s Londongrad Russophone subcommunity is shattered by the heterogeneous Russian of the characters’ language practices and the linguistic ideologies they hold. The varieties of Russian used by the author help demarcate and immediately rehomogenize the migrants’ identities, oriented to the affective communities linked to Soviet memories – a glimpse at another utopian world. That said, variation also points to stark social stratifications within the group, marking social distinction as well as purism and linguistic exceptionalism of Russophone London dwellers’ linguistic ideologies. In contrast, Ostalsky depicts no Russophone community in London, as his atomized, isolated Russian-speaking character shares his linguistic code and identity with neither the host society nor the odd Russian-speaking mobster he encounters – the author is primarily oriented to the Russian reader who knows little about England. The image of bilingualism brings about more utopian visions. In Idov’s work, it may be a utopian world of Russo-English fluidity achieved by television technology, something of a glossy wrapper placed around the characters. Alternatively, the author shows Russian-English bilingualism in his brief attempt to explore the place of Russian-speaking in the cosmopolitan superdiverse contact zones of London, but this also reveals utopian overtones aiming to demonstrate Russian superiority. Ostalsky uses bilingualism in order to slip into the pedagogical narrative aimed for the monolingual Russian-speaking readers. He translates and transposes his imaginary England into Russia, presenting the former as an unfathomable Other. Despite Idov’s declared nonnostalgic premise, both he and Ostalsky tend to orient their linguistic imaginary towards the old-style Russian mainland values and practices. In both imaginary worlds, British-Russian linguistic transnationalism has limited success, and the utopia of creating homogenous Russophone subcommunities with boundaries with the Other appears more prominently than the connectivity of linguocultural diversity and hybridity of urban contact zones.

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


Notes 1 There are no reliable and non-ambiguous statistics for Russian-speaking residents in the UK. One basis for academic assumptions is the 2007 International Organisation for Migration (IOM) mapping exercise which produced the figures of over 427,000 (and 300,000 for London). These figures are drawn on in the works of, for example, Andy Byford and Oksana Morgunova and are quoted in this chapter. A much more conservative number was supplied by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 2011 poll of the first language used, in which Russian was named by around 67,400 migrants, the figure accepted by Polina Kliuchnikova and Darya Malyutina. Finally, a sociological study commissioned by the ‘Russian-Speaking Community in Britain’ Association and funded by the Russian governmentsupported Russkii Mir [Russian World] Foundation published yet another count of between 100,000 and 157,000 Russian speakers. However, the report published on the community’s website ( has no date. Cf. Russia: Mapping Exercise (London: IOM, 2007); Andy Byford, ‘The last Soviet generation in Britain’, in J. Fernandez (ed.), Diasporas: Critical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2009); Andy Byford, ‘The Russian diaspora in international relations: “Compatriots” in Britain’, Europe-Asia Studies 64, no. 14 (2012): 715–35; Oksana Morgunova, ‘Russians in the City: Patriots with a touch of spleen’, Digital Icons 9 (2013): 51–68;; Polina Kliuchnikova, Linguistic Biographies and Communities of Language of Russian Speakers in Great Britain, unpublished PhD thesis (Durham University, UK, 2015); Darya Mayutina, Migrant Friendships in a Super-Diverse City: RussianSpeakers and their Social Relationships in London in the 21st Century (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2015). 2 See, e.g., ‘Andrei Ostal’skii’,; ‘Andrei Ostal’skii’,; ‘Andrei Ostal’skii’, https://; Tat’ana Simakova, ‘Gost’ redaktsii: Andrei Ostal’ski’ (2010), 3 Among those are ‘Kratkaia istoriia deneg’ (A short history of money) (2008) and ‘Neft’: chudovishche i sokrovishche’ (Oil: a monster and a treasure) (2009), both of which were shortlisted for the Prosvetitel’ Prize. 4 Adrian Wanner, ‘The Most Global Russian of All: Michael Idov’s Cosmopolitan ocuvre’, in K. Platt (ed.), Global Russian Cultures (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2019). 5 Michael Idov, ‘My accidental career as a Russian screenwriter’, New York Times, 7 January 2016. 6 The Idov novel Ground Up appeared first in the US in English in 2009 and soon after than in Russian as Kofemolka. 7 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections of the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn (London: Verso, 1991); Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1975/1987);


8 9


11 12 13 14 15


17 18 19

The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996); Dilip P. Gaonkar, ‘Towards new imaginaries: An introduction’, Public Cultures 14 (2002): 1–19; Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010); Charles Taylor, ‘Modern social imaginaries’, Public Culture 14, no. 1 (2004): 91–124; Manfred Steger, The Rise of the Global Imaginary: Political Ideologies from the French Revolution to the Global War on Terror (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Claudia Strauss, ‘The Imaginary’, Anthropological Theory 6, no. 3 (2006): 322–44. Appadurai, Modernity at Large, p. 31 Appadurai, Modernity at Large; Ulf Hannerz, Cultural Complexity: Studies in the Social Organisation of Meaning (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992); Ulf Hannerz, Transnational Connections: Culture, People, Places (London: Routledge, 1996); Anna De Fina and Sabina Perrino, ‘Transnational identities’, Applied Linguistics 34, no. 5 (2013): 509–15. Lara Ryazanova-Clarke, ‘Russian with an accent: Globalisation and the post-Soviet imaginary’, in L. Ryazanova-Clarke (ed.), The Russian Language Outside the Nation (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), pp. 249–82; Lara Ryazanova-Clarke, ‘The imaginaries of the Eurasian Union: discursive construction of post-Soviet transnationality in Russia and Kazakhstan’, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 247 (2017): 89–109; see also Anna De Fina, ‘Linguistic practices and transnational identities’, in S. Preece (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016); Karen Risager ‘The language-culture nexus in transnational perspective’, in F. Sharifian (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Culture (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015). Kay Richardson, Television Dramatic Dialogue: A Sociolinguistic Study (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York: Anchor Books, 1959). Deborah Tannen, Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue and Imagery in Conversational Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Richardson, Television Dramatic Dialogue, p. 106. Utopia is understood here as ‘an imagined perfect society or wishfully constructed place which does not and cannot exist’; Ruth Levitas, Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p. 3. Anderson, Imagined Communities; Mary Pratt, ‘Linguistic utopias’, in N. Fabb, D. Attridge and A. Durant (eds), The Linguistics of Writing (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987), p. 50. Phillip Wegner, Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). Pratt, ‘Linguistic utopias’, p. 67. Pratt, ‘Linguistic utopias’; Mary Pratt, ‘Arts of the contact zone’, Profession (1991): 33–40.

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


20 Cf. Appadurai’s note that ‘no idiom has yet emerged to capture the collective interests of many groups in translocal solidarities, cross-border mobilizations, and postnational identities. Such interests are many and vocal, but they are still entrapped in the linguistic imaginary of the territorial state’: Modernity at Large, p. 166. 21 See, for example, Jan Blommaert, The Sociolinguistics of Globalization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Jan Blommaert, Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes (Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2013); Karel Arnaut, Jan Blommaert, Ben Rampton and Massimiliano Spotti, Language and Superdiversity (New York: Routledge, 2016); Alastair Pennycook, Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007); Alastair Pennycook and Emi Otsuji, Metrolingualism: Language in the City (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015). 22 Michael Idov, ‘My strange, phenomenally successful career as a screenwriter in Russia’, New York Times Magazine, 1 October 2016. 23 Andrei Ostal’skii, Angliiskaia Taina (Moscow: n.p., 2014). 24 Stephen Hutchings argues, however, that towards the end of the series, Idov’s influence receded and the show acquired more traditional patriotic tinges: Stephen Hutchings, ‘A home from home: recursive nationhood, the 2015 STS television serial, Londongrad, and post-Soviet stiob’, Russian Journal of Communication 9, no. 2 (2017): 142–57, 153. 25 Andrei Muchnik, ‘Channel hopping: Russian TV drama is going cosmopolitan. But how successfully?’, 16 June 2016, http://calvertjournal. com/articles/show/6233/muchnik-tv-series-londongrad-how-i-becamerussian. 26 ‘Intelligent’ (a member of the intelligentsia) has been a complex concept in Russian history that eludes an unambiguous definition and is ascribed certain attributes such as good education, self-reflection, critical thinking and upright moral and political standing. On the other hand, members of the intelligentsia are often portrayed as naïve, idealistic and fallible. See, for example, Inna Kochetkova, The Myth of the Russian Intelligentsia: Old Intellectuals in the New Russia (Abingdon: Routledge, 2010). 27 ‘только 10% этой толпы говорит по-английски уверенно. Остальные адаптированы на уровне ‘хау мач, зис из нот гуд’. И вот им приходится общаться с там называемой русской коммуной, где особым номером стоят тусовки в родном посольстве. Нет более унылых событий, но чего не сделаешь ради того, чтобы на понятном тебе языке обсудить за кого Пугачева выйдет в следующий раз.’ 28 David Laitin, Identity in Formation: The Russian Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998). 29 Laitin, Identity in Formation, p. 31. 30 ‘Дело в том, что русскими здесь имперски называют украинцев, белоруссов, литовцев, эстонцев и других бывших соседей по СССР. Русских русских, т.е. из России тысяч 400.’ 31 ‘По разным подсчетам, русских в Лондоне под миллион.’


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32 Ronald Grigor Suny, ‘The contradictions of identity: being Soviet and national in the USSR and after’, in M. Bassin and C. Kelly (eds), Soviet and Post-Soviet Identities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 32–??. 33 ‘Давай, выбирай, какой тебе больше нравится, чего столбом стоишь? – по-русски сказал человек в телогрейке и неприятно осклабился.’ 34 ‘Он открыл было рот, собираясь сказать “What do you think you’re doing?” Типа: “Что это вы такое себе позволяете?” . . . Единственное же русское выражение, пришедшее на ум, неожиданно оказалось нецензурным, и Сашок его подавил, поскольку никогда не ругался.’ 35 Русская няня в Лондоне – экспортная роскошь, ее привозят в Белгравию с Рублевки как особо ценный груз . . . Няня, которая не шокает, говорит класть вместо общеупортебляемого ложить . . . – эксклюзив . . . Ей берут билет в бизнесс-класс, выдают кредитку, короче, делают все, лишь бы не ушла, не босила на чужбине, не оставила один на один с чадом, говорящем ‘На сейле был тотал трэш’. Няни, как и маникюр, драгоценности, сумки и винный погреб – это повод для зависти, бахвальства и скандалов в блогах – ярмарке тщеславия новых русских англичанов. 36 M (on the phone, in Russian): Але! Опять? Ну е, вообще с ними не разговаривай, вообще с ними не разговаривай. Да, я щас буду, давай. Girl (in English, dubbed): Миша, поговори со мной по-русски. M (in Russian): Волга впадает в Каспийское море. G (in English, dubbed): Это так сексуально. Мы еще увидимся? M (in English, dubbed): Конечно (grabs his things and jumps out of the window). 37 ‘Сашок достатoчно долго жил в английской семье, чтобы понимать: тон сам по себе ничего не значит или даже может значить обратное, короче, служит прикрытием всяких английских комплексов.’ 38 ‘англичане почему-тo (вот он – национальный характер!) терпеть не могут сидеть в середине, зажатыми с обеих сторон, предпочитая даже иногда стоять.’ 39 ‘ “Good morning, sir.” Гуд морнинг, доброе утро, мистер Сингх, хау а ю, как, в общем, поживаете, ай эм сoу сорри, извините меня, the train, поезд . . .’ – лепетал Сашок.’ 40 ‘Тесть (которого Сашок должен называть почему-то по имени – Джон) и теща Мэгги (тоже никаких отчеств).’ 41 ‘Как там по-английски “чья бы корова мычала?” ’ 42 Victor Shklovsky, ‘Art as device’, in Victor Shklovsky, Theory of Prose, trans. Benjamin Sher (Elmwood Park, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1990). 43 ‘А контролер (он же проводник, он же кондуктор, по-английски вообще будет – guard, то есть охраник, что ли?), так вот, почему этот самый гард, проверяя билеты, гад, пробивает их иногда железными клещами с такой силой, что круглые кусочки картона разлетаются по всему вагону, и один такой кружок угодил как-то Сашку в глаз?’

‘Londongrad’ as a Linguistic Imaginary


44 On the commodification of Russian, see Sebastian Muth and Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (eds), ‘Commodification of Russian’, International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, Special Issue, 20, no. 4 (2017). 45 ‘Russian forest’. 46 Greg Noble, ‘Everyday cosmopolitanism and the labour of intercultural community’, in A. Wise and S. Velayutham (eds), Everyday Multiculturalism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 50. 47 Pennycook and Otsuji, Metrolingualism, p. 9. 48 Emi Otsuji and Alastair Pennycook, ‘Metrolingualism: fixity, fluidity and language in flux’, International Journal of Multilingualism 7, no. 3 (2010): 240. 49 Pennycook, Global Englishes; H. Samy Alim, Awad Ibrahim and Alastair Pennycook (eds), Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language (New York: Routledge, 2009). 50 ‘хочу послушать твоих парней. Говорят они выдают пeрвоклассный британский саунд. Посмотрю, как они натянут всех этих снобов из музыкального сообщества Лондона, проповедующих будто правильный рокер может быть только подданным ее величества.’ 51 Shop Owner: Good afternoon, sir. Прекрасный выбор. Это кепка из Стэнфордского твида, классическая модель, выпускается с 1929 года. Oleg: Только с 29-го? Вы это называете классикой? В моей семье все охотники. Мой отец научил меня ценить настоящую экипировку: она должна быть практичной, по-свому элегантной, но самое главное – она должна уважать традиции. У вас есть что-нибудь более традиционное? (sprays on a cologne) Sh. O: Разумеется. Пожалуйста, подождите меня минутку (gives Oleg a furry hat). Вот этот головной убор – то, что вы ищите. O: O! Sh. O: Примерьте! Судя по акценту, сэр, вы с вашем отцом охотились в Сибири на медведей. O. – Верно. Sh. O: – Не уверен, что я могу вам помочь чем-нибудь еще. Разрешите вас проводить. (takes Oleg to the door) O. – В России это называется ушанка. И почем она у вас? Sh. O: – Этот предмет не продается. Он исключительно для витрины. Позвольте показать вам выход.


Part Four





Provinces, Piety and Promotional Putinism: Mapping Aleksandr Prokhanov’s Counter-Utopian Russia* Edith W. Clowes

At a time when everything is blocked by systems which have failed but cannot be beaten . . . utopia is our resource.1 The twentieth-century avant-garde is an example of the way that a Great Utopia generates great creativity. Tsiolkovskii’s space cars [mashiny] . . . Mel’nikov’s ship design and Kandinskii’s molecular painting. Vernadskii’s noosphere and Platonov’s animated mechanisms. Lenin’s communist theory and Mayakovskii’s fiery poetry. Workers built Magnitka and the Dniepr Hydro-Electric Dam and watched ‘Chapaev’ and ‘Battleship Potemkin’.2 The Russian mind [soznanie] is given to imaginings of ideal life [bytie], the realm of justice and the good. It is alive with the dream of the ‘heavenly realm’ and the possibility of building ‘paradise on earth’.3

Prokhanov’s counter-utopian imagination Looking resolutely backward in time, beyond the Europeanized Russia of Peter and Catherine, the journalist Aleksandr Prokhanov, one of Russia’s leading ultranationalist intellectuals, imagines his country as a reprise of sixteenth-century ‘Holy Rus” – no science and all mystery, wrapped in the sanctimonious imagery of sacred soil and messianic miracle, and woven with a hawkish adoration of military masculinity.4 The geo-cultural images at the heart of Prokhanov’s writing and social action strive for an ‘imagined geography’, to use fiction and social action to mark Russia’s borders, particularly the borders against the ‘West’.5 On the Russian terrain within those borders Prokhanov creates backward-looking religious and military narratives that attack modern multi-culturalism, the universal declaration of human rights and the notion of civil rights. He has no concern for the wellbeing of the civilian Russian citizenry, however that demographic might be defined. 261


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Dismissing Enlightenment values, he promotes a cult of the Russian state, the authoritarian leader and the state-controlled Orthodox Church. If Enlightenment values of inclusivity and universal human rights form the heart of the utopian vision that has spurred humanity to self-improvement over the last 300 years, Prokhanov’s aspirations for Russia – and the vision that inspires his literary works, his essays and his public actions – are best labelled using the felicitous term coined by the German-Hungarian sociologist, Karl Mannheim, in his 1929 book, Ideology and Utopia: counterutopia.* Counter-utopia is a form of conservative vision that resists change and urges audiences to enact an imagined social condition or political order from the deep past.6 This type of utopian thinking, in Mannheim’s view, takes its energy from the idea of ‘Volksgeist’, the mystical force of the ethnically defined nation, the ‘people’.7 Prokhanov would add to that fascist elements of the cult of the powerful, unitary state and the dictatorial leader. Why should we pay attention to the prolix pomposity of yet another rightwing fanatic? Because it is Prokhanov’s counter-utopian fantasy, along with other allied statist, ultra-conservative and often racist visions of Russia’s present and future, that has filled the intellectual void of the long Putin presidency. An administration led by an authoritarian leader that operates like a police state in its struggle to silence civil-rights lawyers and free-speech journalists, not to mention various suppressed ethnic and gender minorities, has adorned itself in these ideological trappings – neo-fascist nationalist narratives, ultra-masculine war heroes, and religious symbols meant to appeal to a broad swath of the ethnic Russian populace. The goal of this chapter is to investigate Prokhanov’s counter-utopian imagination, which is in many ways emblematic of thinking not only supported by the Kremlin but ubiquitous in contemporary popular culture. I focus especially on Prokhanov’s definition of ‘Russia’ in the post-Soviet period. His performative and rhetorical gestures have aimed to change geographical ‘space’ into Russian ‘place’, with a claim as the territorial birthright of all ethnic Russians. In recent years Prokhanov’s imagined geography has aimed to support Putin’s post-2012 drive for incremental reannexation of border areas that have a significant Russian population. Here I will focus on Prokhanov’s three main efforts: as chairperson of the Izborsk Club, his physical construction of so-called ‘sacred mounds’ in border areas and his rhetoric attached to these projects; his rhetoric from the editorial bully pulpit of his right-wing newspaper, Zavtra, and editorials in the mainstream Izvestiia, whence he spreads his views to a broad array of readers; and his ultranationalist novels, for example Mr. Hexogen (Gospodin Geksogen, 2002) and Crimea (Krym, 2014), which script a renewed Russian national identity focus specifically on Russian ethnicity.

Provinces, Piety and Promotional Putinism


At the outset, it will be helpful to define Prokhanov’s ultranationalism and to give some idea of the basis for his claims to intellectual and political authority. Ultranationalism in the Russian context belongs to the category of neo-fascist ideologies, advocating for the superiority of the Russian state, ruled by a single, all-powerful leader and bolstered by an excessively empowered secret police and military; Russian ethnic supremacy, expressed in Russian Orthodox Christian and militarist terms, often with anti-Jewish and sometimes anti-Muslim racist overtones; and masculinist sexism that views men as warriors and women as baby-makers.8 Ultranationalists like Prokhanov do not stand for grass-roots initiative, supporting it only when it seeks to strengthen the Russian state (but never when the political base opposes the state), and grass-roots groups actively militate against human rights, the rule of civil law and free enterprise independent of the Russian state, and resist any form of multicultural or ‘civil-society’ egalitarianism.9 In short, as we will see, Prokhanov’s ultranationalism is chauvinist, defensively anti-Enlightenment, racist, sexist, belligerent and autocratic. Next, we must consider what role Prokhanov’s counter-utopian imagination plays in Russian public discourse and why his views matter. Any culture can be viewed as a ‘semiosphere’ or dynamic ‘text’, a set of cultural codes – deployed in both discourse and behaviour – that become established and gain credence in what we can call the ‘cultural archive’.10 I define the cultural archive as the imagined set of all archetypes, symbols, rituals and narratives – in short, the stuff that cultural codes are made of – that have embedded themselves over centuries in a community’s cultural subconscious, in this case, the Russian cultural subconscious. In the fulness of time, as they are discredited, these established codes are challenged by other competing codes, which, in order to gain ascendancy, must also become embedded in the existing cultural archive. In this definition of culture, not just any work of art is a ‘text’ or an integral unit worthy of analytical attention, but any repeated, ritualized behaviour or performance counts just as much as a text. For example, both Soviet cultural rituals and post-Soviet ultranationalist ones share a combination of a strong statist belief in centralized governance and an equally strong faith in the military. In addition, the Stalinist version of Soviet practice and post-Soviet ultranationalism share a cult of personality and support the model of lifelong, authoritarian rule by one leader. The discourse and practice of civil rights and human rights occupy a tiny minority position in the Russian cultural archive. Although it had credence and even promised to develop in the years surrounding the end of the Soviet Union, this form of liberal social order quickly lost ground to belligerent, authoritarian social and political views, including ultranationalism. Considering Prokhanov’s early faith in Stalin-tinged Soviet communism and


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his flip in the 1990s to ultranationalism helps us understand how these two dominants – each with its own idealized, ‘utopian’ vision for Russia – are connected in the Russian cultural semiosphere. We can observe how seemingly fringe elements that are actually deeply embedded in the Russian cultural archive brought Russian popular culture to its present counterutopian moment.

Intellectual background How did Prokhanov come to enjoy broad media attention and a certain level of authority? Along with a remarkable number of other apologists for authoritarianism, since the end of the Soviet state Prokhanov has been a vocal public intellectual, viewed by the progressive community as a rightwing crackpot. Although until 2014 he could be severely critical of Vladimir Putin, since the annexation of Crimea he has remodelled himself as more of a Putinist and in return enjoys significant support from the Putin administration, as well as the conservative portion of the intellectual elite.11 Having studied aviation engineering in the 1960s, Prokhanov soon switched to military journalism, of which he was and remains unfailingly proud.12 Throughout the last decades of the Soviet era, he used these military journalistic writings to advance Stalinist views. At this time he was embedded with the Soviet army in all sorts of contested military terrain and battle zones, for example Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola and Cambodia.13 He made important connections in the military hierarchy and gained credibility among the Soviet military brass. Continuing into the twenty-first century, Prokhanov believes fervently in the goodness and heroism of the military and calls it a ‘second religion’ for Russians.14 Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Prokhanov worked for the relatively moderate Literaturnaia gazeta (the Literary Gazette), the policy news outlet of the Soviet Writers Union. In 1985 he even became secretary of the Soviet Writers Union.15 At the end of the old regime, Prokhanov’s thinking fused Stalinism and fascism. In 1990 he founded the fascist newspaper Den’ (Day). He served as its editor until 1993 when it was closed by the Yeltsin administration for promoting the overthrow of the government following Yeltsin’s 1993 attack on the Russian White House, the home of the Russian Duma. Essentially the same newspaper reopened under a new title, Zavtra (Tomorrow), through which Prokhanov has continued for over twenty-five years to inveigh against the principles of civil society, human rights, a multicultural Russia and a functioning free, critical press – portraying these values as the noxious influence of the West.

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Prokhanov claims as his intellectual forebears the mid-nineteenthcentury Slavophiles Aleksei Khomiakov and Ivan Kireevskii. Beyond his belief in the Orthodox Church and its Russianizing mission and his decidedly anti-secular bent, however, he has little in common with early Slavophile thought. His thinking stems more from later thinkers, such as the nationalist Nikolai Danilevskii and the strongly statist Pan-Slavist, Ivan Aksakov. In addition to his belief in a Russia led and dominated by ethnically Slavic Russians, a powerful autocratic leader and a centralized Russian state supported by a powerful military, as an anti-rationalist, Prokhanov claims to believe in providence and miracles and spices up his writing with visions and other inspired mystical experiences.16 In post-Soviet presidential elections, Prokhanov has always supported the authoritarian alternative – in the 1990s he voted for the communist Gennadii Ziuganov and since then for Putin. Above all, whether in his communist or fascist guise, Prokhanov calls himself a ‘singer of the Russian state’.17 Most recently he has acted as a cheerleader for Putin’s post-2005 reannexation efforts. Among his heroes he counts Russian spies and intelligence operatives – for example Igor Strelkov, since 2014 one of the shadow Russian organizers of the frozen Ukrainian war – because, in his view, they fight for a strong Russian state. Prokhanov is a founding member and current chair of the Izborsk Club, an ultranationalist policy research organ attached to Zavtra, started in 2012 and named for a town near the border of Russia with Estonia and Latvia. The Izborsk Club was created to counteract the effect of the much better known and traditionally more broad-minded Valdai International Discussion Club.18 The website of the Izborsk Club describes the organization as being committed to providing an analytical basis for forming so-called ‘patriotically oriented’ policy.19 Prokhanov claims singular popularity: his words and actions, in his view, reach a large number of readers.20 His novels, which include a number of prize-winners, are widely read.21 His own newspaper Zavtra boasts a circulation of 70,000–100,000, while the Kremlin-controlled Izvestiia claims a much bigger per-issue readership of 300,000–400,000 and an overall circulation of between six and seven million.22 More importantly, Prokhanov has the ear of a one-person audience, Putin – who, as Prokhanov remarks in Russkii vikhr’, lacked an ideology before 2011, when he was gearing up for his second stint as Russian president. Since then, during his second round as president, Putin has adopted for his goals an amalgam of various ultraconservative, traditionalist ideologies, among them the neo-Eurasianism promoted by Aleksandr Dugin and Aleksandr Panarin, and Prokhanov’s ultranationalism (Russkii vikhr’, p.  190). Prokhanov has been rewarded by


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Putin with appointments to various commissions, for example the Council on Public Television and the Public Council attached to the Ministry of Defence.23 And in turn Prokhanov has made himself a cheerleader for Putin’s initiatives and for Putin himself.24 In much of his fictional and journalistic writing, Prokhanov concerns himself with mapping ‘Russia’, claiming territory as a kind of ‘holy ground’ for ethnic Russians, the official Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state. Particularly since 2010 his goal has been to justify taking back former Soviet terrain with large ethnic Russian populations. One of the odder approaches he takes to marking Russian terrain is to erect in crucial border areas ‘holy hills’ or ‘sacred mounds’ (sviashchennyi kholm), each topped by an outsized Orthodox cross. He promotes the construction of and advertises these mounds with soil from various historical border areas and famous battle zones. Moreover, using the editorial bully pulpit provided by his newspaper, Zavtra, he advocates the idea of a providentially guided Russia. Finally, he writes geopolitically-oriented novels, some of which have gained a wide readership, in which characters debate the fall and recent resurgence of Russian national identity. In the discussion that follows I will consider each of these tactics for propagating Prokhanov’s ‘back-to-the-future’, ultranationalist vision of Russia’s future.

Building ‘sacred mounds’ What then are the sacred mounds that Prokhanov uses to mark what he views as crucial borders of Russia? In his novels, for example Mr. Hexogen (2002), Prokhanov sometimes marks territory through the description of ancient, pre-Christian burial mounds.25 Even though they are not of Slavic but rather ancient pagan heritage, Prokhanov has made such mounds into emblems of Russia’s deep claim to swaths of East European territory, particularly in the Baltic north-west of Russia and the eastern part of Ukraine. Cultural historian Victoria Donovan discusses Prokhanov’s campaign to build a ‘sacred hill’ in Pskov oblast, which she describes as the ‘most bizarre and controversial monument to open in [the] Pskov region in the post-Soviet period’.26 Apparently, according to Donovan, Prokhanov picked this location because for him Pskov embodies the Russian ‘ideals of spirituality and militarism’. I would add to this interpretation that Prokhanov’s choice of location has at least as much to do with marking Russia’s borders and places where the current Russian leaders would like to reabsorb territory from previous Soviet republics. The Pskov ‘sacred hill’, as Donovan describes it, was started in September 2007, when participants brought soil from places in north-west Russia

Provinces, Piety and Promotional Putinism


Figure 12.1 The Pskov ‘sacred hill’. Reproduced with permission of the photographer, Victoria Donovan.

considered to be sacred ground, including poet Aleksandr Pushkin’s estate in Mikhailovskoe, the Pskov-Pechery Monastery and such tsarist sites as the train station in Dno, where Emperor Nicholas II abdicated the throne in 1917, as well as the headquarters of the Pskov Paramilitary Division, active in the Second Chechen War of 1999 (see Figure 12.1). In November 2007, a second stage of building the mound brought soil ‘from sites of national significance’, including the Moscow Kremlin, the territories of the Hermitage and the Russian Museum, and ‘places of patriotic mourning’, such as the Poklonnyi Hill Memorial Site in Moscow and the Piskarevskii Memorial Cemetery in St Petersburg, and ‘lands of Slavic legend and mythology’, for example Staraia Ladoga and the Solovetskii Islands in the north and Kulikovo Field to the south, near the Don river.27 After Putin was reinstalled as president in 2012 and Prokhanov founded the Izborsk Club, the mound-assembling project, according to Donovan, was transformed into an ‘important prop in the [club’s] performative rituals’.28 Indeed, soon afterwards, Prokhanov wrote a brief opinion piece calling on Russians to make pilgrimages to Pskov and its mound, which he now saw as the touchstone of the great Russian Empire. Prokhanov refers to the mound


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and its cross as the ‘earthen Gospel’, heralding it as the place from which one can see the limitless distance of the ‘Russian World’.29 Following the reannexation of Crimea in spring 2014, new dirt was collected on the Crimean Peninsula at ‘sites of Soviet military history’, for example Sapun-gora and the Malakoff Mound.30 Finally, and controversially, later in 2014 Izborsk Club members welcomed guerrilla commanders from Novorossiia (the Lugansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine) to this Izborsk mound. They brought with them ‘helmets full of soil from SavurMohyla, a strategic height on the Donetsk Ridge, which had only days earlier been captured by pro-Russian rebels’.31 Prokhanov’s purpose in bringing together what he calls ‘sacred soils’ was to generate ‘transformative spiritual energy that would shape the future of Russian government and culture’.32 In his journalistic treatment of the Izborsk mound in Zavtra, Prokhanov asserts that the idea and model for the project originated in features of the terrain in ‘Novorossiia’, the contested east and south-east area of Ukraine, where ancient pagan tribes buried their dead in precisely such burial mounds. Reappropriating this name, ‘Novorossiia’, first coined in the late eighteenth century in the reign of Empress Catherine II, the Novorossian ‘state’ has an ‘enormous history’, stemming from the ‘mysterious thickets of ancient Slavdom, the Greek polis, Scythian mounds’.33 Clearly Prokhanov’s strange way of marking Russia’s north-west border against the encroachments of NATO and European influences has now been transformed into a neoimperial ritual of regathering Russian lands – now with the blessing of the Putin regime.34 We add a cautionary speculation that the construction of this mound could well build support among some parts of the Russian public for neo-imperial intrusions into other countries, by arousing all-too-wellingrained feelings of xenophobia and fear of invasion.

Public commentary If the mound is a visible symbol of reasserted imperial claims, Prokhanov’s editorial writing in Zavtra provides a much more frequent outlet for conveying his geopolitical dreams. Especially since 2014, Prokhanov has redoubled his use of sanctimonious, mystificatory rhetoric in editorials collected, for example, in The Russian Whirlwind (Russkii vikhr’, 2014) and Novorossiia Bathed in Blood (Novorossiia, krov’iu umytaia, 2016). He praises the three traditional pillars of autocracy, first defined almost 200 years earlier in the oppressive reign of Emperor Nicholas I – a strong state ruled by an autocratic leader; an obedient, state-sanctioned Orthodox Church; and the ‘people’, an image of a unified, adoring Russian populace. He always locates

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these values in what he claims as ‘Russian’ territory, whether legally or illegally held. Prokhanov’s rhetoric is always vituperatively anti-American, anti-NATO and anti-European, and it always ignores the facts of international crimes on the part of Russia’s ruler, for example invading a sovereign country (Ukraine) and shooting down the Malaysian Airlines jet, both in 2014. He heralds the ‘liberation’ or annexation of new lands, whether already enacted as in the cases of South Ossetia and Crimea, or hoped for, as in the newly reminted Novorossiia.35 To understand who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ in this imagined ultranationalist community, it is worth rehearsing Prokhanov’s gender and cultural attitudes with regard to geopolitical place. Prokhanov repaints details of history with a masculinist brush, omitting, for example, the crucial fact that a great woman leader, Empress Catherine II, coined the word ‘Novorossiia’ and first conquered and settled the lands in question in the late eighteenth century. Women as important, independent historical agents are completely absent from Prokhanov’s narrative of the Russian past, unless they are significant as wives.36 This attitude belongs more generally to the misogynist character of Putin culture that many cultural commentators have described.37 Before the 2014 turn towards more aggressive annexation of former Soviet territories, Prokhanov focused on Muslim minorities in the Caucasus south of Russia and beyond, though he also had his eye on Crimea and Ukraine. About Crimea he wrote in 2013: Crimea has its own mission as part of building our future empire. Today Russian Crimea is the outcast of Russia . . . but Russian people are sabotaging forced Ukrainization: they are staying true to their ancient mother – they may feel insulted, they may curse her, but they remain the bulwark of Russianness. That is the messianism of Russian Crimeans, their great national and imperial deed.38

Since 2014, Prokhanov has focused solidly on Crimea and ‘Novorossiia’, with a handful of mentions of other regions. He sees the geographically themed opening ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Olympics as a turning point, calling them a ‘mystery’ that opened to view the ‘unrepeatable mysteries of Russian civilization, about why god created the riddle called Russia’.39 He compares the emergent Orthodox-oriented Russian polity to the imaginary medieval sunken city of Kitezh.40 While Prokhanov views Novorossiia as the ‘prototype [proobraz] of the future of the Russian world’, it is Crimea that he cherishes passionately.41 He claims that Crimea has layers of meaning for a real Russian – from ‘childhood trips to the azure sea’ to Tolstoy’s Sebastopol stories to


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the imperial palace at Livadia, the Yalta Conference in 1944 where ‘the Generalissimus drew the lines of the postwar world in the sand with a stick’, and pictures from the Second World War by Aleksandr Deineka, to the ‘charming mystical church’ in Khersones where Prince Vladimir of Kiev was baptized in 988, where ‘the lord touched his forehead and the light of Orthodoxy coursed [khlynul] across the Russian spaces right through to the Pacific Ocean’.42 Crimea, in Prokhanov’s view, is the holiest of holy Russian ground: ‘Crimea is the sacred Russian firmament, the altar of our religion, the bastion of a great power, the harbor of a glorious navy.’43 In his view, ‘Crimea is like a precious mother-of-pearl shell midst enchanting green waters. Put your ear to it, and you will hear the secret music of Russian history.’44 Crimea possesses world-historical importance for Prokhanov. For him, Crimea is connected to the ‘harsh fight [skhvatka] for continents, countries, political systems, ideological models’.45 Crimea is the ‘Crimean bridge’ connecting people and state; in his view, the 2014 annexation of Crimea brought the ‘unification between people, regime, army, president’.46 Crimea is ultimately, for Prokhanov, the ‘hinge’ on which ‘continents turn’, economies are reborn and meanings are ‘dislocated’.47 This mention of a Crimean bridge brings to mind the Moscow ‘Crimean Bridge’ (Krymskii most) connecting the centre of Moscow to the neighbourhood of Iakimanka, across the Moscow river, where the Crimean Khan had his embassy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This image of Crimea as a bridge will become particularly important in one of Prokhanov’s recent novels, not surprisingly entitled Crimea (Krym, 2014). Finally, Prokhanov’s vocabulary implicitly enhances neo-imperial actions by suggesting they are part of a providential design, admittedly an ancient tactic leading backward to an ancient vision of Rus’ as being divinely ordained. The Orthodox geography of Holy Rus’ offers stereotypes that Prokhanov repeats ad nauseam – sometimes even with a number of irritating mixed metaphors. If all Russia is a metaphorical church, then Crimea is all at once its ‘mystery’, a ‘mysterious, mystical part of Russia’, a miracle-working icon and an ‘idiosyncratic altar, from which Russia raised its prayers in battles, in collective worship [radeniia]’.48 The image most often repeated is of Russia as holy ground. Holy Rus’, for Prokhanov, is everywhere there are fallen soldiers, battles, memorials – from battles with the Mongols to battles against the Germans.49 In general, it is noteworthy that, although he stands for a strong centralized state, Prokhanov’s imagined Russian geography veers away from the actual centre of the contemporary Russian state, Moscow and Muscovites, whom he views as too ‘liberal’. In his public commentary as well as his fiction, he pays much more attention to Russia’s regions. While Muscovites are ‘rotten’,

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presumably since as a group they do not support Putin’s neo-imperialist moves, people in the provinces (Prokhanov mentions Tula, Kaluga and Novosibirsk) are more likely to support the idea of Novorossiia.50

Counter-utopian vision in Prokhanov’s novels Prokhanov reaches the greatest number of readers through his novels, and it can be argued that his novels are incubators of his counter-utopian ideas.51 A graphomaniac, who should write fewer novels and with fewer repetitions, Prokhanov writes one or two novels per year. All the same, he is a credible, if odious, novelist. His most famous novel, Mr. Hexogen (Gospodin Geksogen, 2002), deals with the second Chechen War and the Moscow apartment-house bombings of 1999 and was widely recognized and translated, receiving a number of nominations and prizes. That novel focuses on the Muslim south of Russia and demonizes Chechen separatists, among others, while also sanctifying the Russian homeland.52 Among his most recent novels is Crimea (2014). Like his other post-annexation writings, his vocabulary of placebased identity here stresses ritual, mystery, miracle and sacred ground. As early as 2002, Prokhanov was using his novels to project the dream of recapturing prehistoric burial mounds. In Mr. Hexogen, for example, of greatest interest for our purposes is a reverie of the protagonist Viktor Belosel’tsev at the end of the novel that concerns the border region of northwest Russia and a memory of an ancient Slavic burial mound. In this daydream he imagines himself reunited with a young woman whom he adored as a young man. Predictably they are in the Russian north-west, the Pskov region. His beloved, Anya, is an archaeologist digging up a gravesite. The area is an idyllic place, Belosel’tsev believes, from which will emerge Russia’s new leadership.53 The novel ends with a statement of his belief that life is a process of ‘eternal rebirth’.54 Nothing ever truly ends; everything – even prehistoric conditions, mentalities, systems of value – cycles back into the present. Incidentally, here Prokhanov lends an argument for the existence of the deep ‘cultural archive’, if ever there was one. In 2008, Prokhanov published a novel chronicling the building of the mound at Izborsk, entitled The Hill (Kholm, 2008). In his discussion of the novel in Zavtra, journalist Aleksandr Donetskii talks about Prokhanov’s project of the ‘spiritual act of dotting Rus’ with hills’ (dukhovnoe okholmlenie Rusi).55 The novel has its strongly mystical moments, for example resurrecting Russia’s national poet, Aleksandr Pushkin, at a séance, and the protagonist Korobeinikov leaving the earth in a ball of light to join his ancestors – as observed by a pilot who, significantly, is patrolling the border of Russia.


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The novel Crimea (Krym) is another symbolic nation-renewing tale in which an imagined Russia plays a crucial part. Crimea appeared in the summer and autumn of 2014 in the nationalist literary journal Nash sovremennik (Our Contemporary). The novel follows the life path of a highlyplaced military bureaucrat, Evgenii Lemekhov. Lemekhov is a man with Joblike qualities: he is wealthy and loyal, and he venerates his god, the president. He is tasked with rebuilding Russian armaments. Like many of Prokhanov’s novels, this is a form of ‘road novel’, a travel novel as life journey, in which the protagonist is spiritually transformed. Compared to perhaps his best novel, Mr. Hexogen, this novel reads like a self-parody. A brief plot summary will help us understand what the geographical Crimea has to do with this novel. The action takes place at some point in the late twentieth or early twenty-first century. We know that Russia appears to have a looming crisis of governance with a President Labazov who seems to be ill with an incurable cancer. The economy is waning. Lemekhov is an aviation engineer and government bureaucrat favoured by President Labazov. Lemekhov holds beliefs politically in line with Prokhanov’s own ultranationalist, authoritarian views. He is a pious, even blindly dogmatic believer in Russian Orthodox Christianity, who names new submarines after particular types of ‘theotokos’ icons, for example the Virgin of Kazan. A Prokhanov stand-in, the writer Verkhoustin – whose name might suggest a ‘voice from above’ (as opposed to the Father of the Orthodox Church, John Zlatoust, the ‘golden tongued’) – is a somewhat demonic journalist, who seduces Lemekhov into believing that he (Lemekhov) could and should become the next president. To do so, Lemekhov should form a new political party, which will bear the optimistic name ‘Victory’. Lemekhov does form his political party, only to be deposed from his privileged position as a traitor to the president. Suddenly he finds that he has lost his perquisites – his wealth, allies, office, home and lover. And his wife, whom he had incarcerated in a mental hospital, also rejects him, but for personal reasons, specifically for making her have an abortion. (Note here that Prokhanov feels compelled to wedge his arguably misogynist, antichoice views into the novel, along with all the other elements of his ultraconservative ideology.) The protagonist starts on a journey of spiritual seeking across Russia, in some ways reminiscent of Maksim Gorky’s 1908 novel, Confession (Ispoved’), in which Gorky’s character Matvei leaves home, travels across Russia in search of truth, encounters various communities and ends up in a community of workers whom Gorky calls the ‘godbuilders’. This is a sectarian group who channel their communal energy to raise the sick and the dead. In Prokhanov’s novel Crimea the protagonist Lemekhov loses the gift of speech, along with

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his fancy business suit and other appurtenances of wealth and privilege. When the suit rips apart, ordinary people whom he encounters along his life’s path offer him simpler clothes to wear. He joins apocalyptically minded sectarians, is spiritually reborn, then works at various menial jobs in Siberia and elsewhere and then joins an archaeological dig at Arkaim, a site in the south Urals steppe and a place that not incidentally has become quite popular in actual Russian life. This area is associated with bogus AleksandrDugin-like theories about the southern part of the Ural Mountains as the source of the Hyperboreans and the Aryan race.56 Eventually a military emissary from the president finds Lemekhov and calls him back to Moscow. Lemekhov, who has regained the gift of speech, sends the emissary away and stays where he is, having become a sort of ‘man of the people’ and respected visionary. Imagined Russian geography permeates Crimea. To start with, Lemekhov the engineer and administrator travels across all parts of what in typical Russian imagined geography is viewed as the ‘real’ Russia, the ‘secure’ northern parts of Russia. He also visits firing ranges, missile test sites and military factories in the Ural Mountains and Siberia. The novel ends with Lemekhov lying on the ground somewhere in Siberia imagining himself as the map of Russia. This passage is worth quoting at length because it conveys its author’s geopolitical vision of Russia as the centre of the world: Lemekhov walked along the evening steppe and his shadow extended into the reddish distance. He grew tired and lay down on the earth. He splayed his arms in the form of a cross. One arm stretched to the east, across great plains and rivers, Siberian cities and lakes – to China, which was raising its own skyscrapers, developing powerful armies . . . The other arm stretched toward the west, touching Gothic cathedrals, great European capitals, sacred stones, suffused with beauty and eternal debates that foretold war and invasion. His legs reached toward Iran[,] the green carvings and mirrored mosques, to centers of atomic power, to oil tankers sailing the hot [southern] seas. His head rested on a pillow of polar ice, under the rainbows of ever-burning northern lights.57

It should be noted, in passing, that this imagined map looks quite a bit like Aleksandr Dugin’s Eurasianist map with its anti-NATO, anti-Atlanticist effort to connect Moscow to Teheran, Tokyo and Berlin to create a new nonWestern power network.58 Most importantly, Prokhanov’s imagined geography marks Russia with the symbolic Orthodox Christian cross with its three crosspieces, now represented in Lemekhov’s body – his head, outstretched hands, and feet.


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What does Crimea have to do with Lemekhov’s body as the imagined geography of Russia? Crimea never appears as a setting or a place in the novel. No one goes to Crimea. At most we are reminded of Crimea and its connection to Moscow when in two different situations the Crimean Bridge across the Moscow river looms into view. The second ocasion follows Lemekhov’s ‘fall from grace’, when his lover rejects his offer of marriage and he drops the emerald ring he was going to give her from the very same Crimean Bridge. More importantly, Crimea emerges as a mystical symbol twice – near the start and at the end of the novel. Towards the start, Lemekhov hears a disembodied voice intoning ‘Krym’, or ‘Crimea’, amid the thunder of rocketry at a test site. In another lengthy passage that offers clues to the mystery of the novel’s title, Lemekhov recounts to the writer Verkhoustin: In the Far East I took a helicopter to review the launching pads at the space center. The motor failed, and we started to fall. We fell in terrifying silence. I saw from the blanched face of the general that he was taking his leave of life. I saw the earth grow near, a river shining tin-colored. I was sure I would not die, that my unknown intercessor would save me. And suddenly the sun came from behind a cloud in a blinding flash. The helicopter’s cabin was transparent as glass, and I heard a rumbling thunder. That same mysterious voice addressed to me pronounced thunderous words that could not be deciphered. Suddenly the motor roared to life – the pilots had managed to get it started. We landed on the bank of a river in the taiga. I have often tried to make out the words the giant had said to me . . . the dictaphone of my memory had recorded this sound. Many times I’ve slowly played through the tape and picked out the words hidden in it from the roaring cacophony. And this is what I heard: there . . . in the Ussuri taiga one word echoed, ‘Crimea!’ What does ‘Crimea’ mean? The giant promised me a special future, he saved me for that future. And that future in giant speak was called ‘Crimea’!59

At the end of the novel Lemekhov sees the word ‘Crimea’ written on some rock outcroppings in Siberia. At the end, when he lies on the ground and imagines himself as all Russia, Crimea sounds one last time as a magical word leading him and the country as a whole into a brilliant future: [Lemekhov] was the gigantic country that had given birth to him, destined him for love and pain; death and eternal life. He had no idea of his own future or that of his great country. But ‘it’ – the nameless future – was coming near, drawing into itself all his pain and his love. And

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there, ahead, in that future that awaited him, magically and delightfully sounded the fabulous word, ‘Crimea’.60

Given the dogmatically ritualized, limited quality of thinking in this novel and Prokhanov’s writing and geopolitical endeavours in general, we have to assume that these strange scenes invoke the vision of Crimea of the ultraconservatives, Crimea as Orthodox homeland, the site of the Christianization of Rus’, and the place that Russia must have in order to make itself whole. According to Prokhanov, Crimea is the idea, the ‘hinge’, on which Russia and the world turns.61 Little is known about Prokhanov’s current readers and followers at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century. In a recent Facebook query, I asked whether anyone was reading Prokhanov, and, not surprisingly, got mainly silence and a foul-mouthed answer or two back – the latter from educated, forward-thinking Russians. Prokhanov certainly does his share of self-promotion and does appear to have held onto the support of an enthusiastic readership among the Russian military and elsewhere.62 Still, he probably overestimates his real popularity. In a 2015 radio broadcast, he proclaimed that the Izborsk Sacred Hill had become a ‘popular attraction for the local population, a site that was frequented by newlyweds’ for photo opportunities. He also claims that local Pskovians bring their own sacred dirt to the mound, which apparently is increasing in size.63 In contrast, Donovan has found strong alternative evidence in her interviews with Pskov residents, who claimed that the site was largely unknown to locals because they had been excluded from its high-profile unveiling organized by the Izborsk Club. In Donovan’s view, the Hill functions as a prop in a Moscow-centric discourse of centres and peripheries, which had had ‘little, if any resonance within the local community’.64

Conclusion Prokhanov has written quite a lot about what he perceives as the ideological gap in twenty-first-century Russian politics and the need for a credible political vision. Russia, in his view, is a ‘country without an ideology’.65 It lacks rhetorical defence against the incursions of Western liberalism. The purpose of all his efforts – the Izborsk Club, his journalism and his novelistic forays – is to serve as a ‘laboratory where we will build out, create the ideology of the Russian state . . . to create the theory of the forward dash [ryvok]’, and thus overcome Russia’s current economic backwardness.66 Prokhanov’s attempts to turn an ultraconservative image of Russia into the stuff of ideology guiding policymaking in the Putin regime fit Karl


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Mannheim’s concept of the ‘counter-utopian’.67 Despite his nostalgia for Soviet industry and liking for newer technology, Prokhanov is deeply antimodern in his thinking about Russia. He readily acknowledges a utopian tendency in the Russian cultural unconscious toward ‘imaginings of ideal life [bytie], the realm of justice and the good’.68 For him that means that Russian thought is ‘alive with the dream of the “heavenly realm”, and the possibility of building “paradise on earth” ’.69 Wrapped in the rhetoric of myth, legend and mystery, Prokhanov hopes to lend what he considers to be ‘real’ Russians a sense of pride in their history and their country.

Notes * On conservative counter-utopia, see more in Chapter 5 by Mikhail Suslov. 1 Paul Ricoeur, Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, ed. G. H. Taylor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 300. 2 Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Rodina budushchego’, in Za rodinu! Publitsistika (Moscow: Veche, 2013), p. 248. 3 Aleksandr Prokhanov, Russkii vikhr’ (Moscow: Knizhnyi klub knigovek, 2014), p. 183. 4 Aleksandr Prokhanov, Novorossiia: krov’iu umytaia (Moscow: Knizhnyi klub knigovek, 2016), pp. 40, 85, 113. 5 For a fuller definition of this term, please see Edith W. Clowes, Russia on the Edge: Imagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011), pp. 2–4. 6 Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, trans. L. Wirth and E. Shils (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1929/1985), pp. 230, 236, 245–6. 7 Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, pp. 241–2. 8 See, for example, Henrietta Mondry, ‘Blood Rituals and Ethnicity in Aleksander Prokhanov’s Fiction’, Australian Slavonic and East European Studies 27, no. 1–2 (2013): 1–34; Stephen D. Shenfield, Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001); Andreas Umland, ‘Conceptual and Contextual Problems in the Interpretation of Contemporary Russian Ultranationalism’, Russian Politics and Law 46, no. 4 (July–August 2008): 6–30. To my knowledge, to date there is no study of Russian ultranationalist islamophobia. Claims about Russian islamophobia have appeared in the Saudi news source Arab News, which evaluates as ‘center right’ in its political bias but as ‘high’ in factual content. See Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg, ‘Islamophobia in Russia’, 1 December 2013, To this list of features, Per-Arne Bodin adds Prokhanov’s support of the sacral Russian language. See Per-Arne Bodin, ‘The Russian Language in Contemporary Conservative Dystopias’, Russian Review 75 (October 2016): 579–88.

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9 On economic modernization, Andrei Tsygankov argues that since Putin’s formal return to the presidency in 2012 moves to modernize and diversify have stalled in the face of the president’s new ideology of ‘distinct civilization’ and ‘state-civilization’. See Andrei Tsygankov, ‘Crafting the State-Civilization: Vladimir Putin’s Turn to Distinct Values’, Problems of Post-Communism 63 (2016): 146–58, especially 151–2. 10 The term ‘semiosphere’ I take from Yuri Lotman, Universe of the Mind, trans. A. Shukman (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. 134. The term ‘cultural archive’ was first coined by literary scholar Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism (1993) and developed by anthropologist Wendy James, The Listening Ebony: Moral Knowledge, Religion, and Power among the Uduk of Sudan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 2–6. 11 Mondry, ‘Blood Rituals and Ethnicity’, p. 4, n. 13; Tsygankov, ‘Crafting the State-Civilization’, p. 153. 12 See the treatment of Prokhanov in the new book by Financial Times journalist Charles Clover: Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016), p. 185. 13 14 Novorossiia, p. 62. 15 Clover, Black Wind, White Snow, p. 183. See also book-author/prokhanov-aleksandr-andreevich. It is worth noting that there is little information about this crucial period in Prokhanov’s life when he flipped from Stalinist to fascist. Mariette Chudakova notes in her diary from 1991 that Prokhanov, among others, was shocked at the prospect of the newly available ‘freedom of speech’ and remarked that ‘our very books have somehow become irrelevant to people [narodu]’; Mariette Chudakova, ‘Pri nachale kontsa’, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 2 (2007): 551. At this time Prokhanov was already turning to quite popular militaryoriented writing. 16 rossiyu_spasut_bozhiy_promysel_i_russkoe_chudo. 17 Novorossiia, p. 206. 18 See 19 20 Nelya Koteyko, Language and Politics in Post-Soviet Russia: A Corpus-Assisted Approach (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2014), pp. 57–8. Most recently Prokhanov has proposed a new, optional, highly politicized ‘patriotic’ history of Russia for Russian schools. The course was offered in the Pskov region in autumn 2017. See Svetlana Prokov’eva, ‘Usnuvshie kody arkticheskogo Kryma’, 11 June 2017, 21 Mondry, ‘Blood Rituals and Ethnicity’, p. 4. 22 Tom Balforth, ‘From the Fringes toward Mainstream: Russian Nationalist Broadsheet Basks in Ukraine Conflict’, 17 August 2017, https://www.rferl. org/a/26534846.html; Svitlana Malykhina, Renaissance of Classical Allusions in Contemporary Russian Media (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2014), p. 30.


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23 Putin signed the directive for these appointments. See, for example, http://; Общественный_совет_при_Министерстве_обороны_Российской_ Федерации. 24 Novorossiia, pp. 65–8. 25 Aleksandr Prokhanov, Gospodin Geksogen (Moscow: Ad Marginem, 2002), p. 454. 26 Victoria Donovan, ‘Militarized Memory: Patriotic Re-branding in Post-Soviet Pskov’, in E. W. Clowes, G. Erbslöh and A. Kokobobo (eds), Russia’s Regional Identities: The Power of the Provinces (London: Routledge, 2018), p. 76. 27 Donovan, ‘Militarized Memory’, p. 76. 28 Donovan, ‘Militarized Memory’, p. 77. 29 Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Stupai, poklonis’ Pskovu’, in Za rodinu! Publitsistika (Moscow: Veche, 2013), p. 39. 30 Novorossiia, p. 87. 31 Donovan, ‘Militarized Memory’, p. 77. 32 Donovan, ‘Militarized Memory’, p. 78. 33 Novorossiia, p. 59. 34 It should be noted that Prokhanov has repeatedly suggested that the sacred mound may have had a miraculous effect in helping Russia to reannex Crimea. See ‘Aleksandr Prokhanov ne iskliuchil, chto Sviashchennyi kholm prisoedinil Krym’, 27 August 2014, 35 Novorossiia, p. 69. 36 Russkii vikhr’, p. 157. 37 See, for example, H. Goscilo and A. Lanoux (eds), Gender and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Russia (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2006); Valerie Sperling, Sex, Politics, and Putin: Political Legitimacy in Russia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); B. Beumers, A. Etkind, O. Gurova and S. Turoma (eds), Cultural Forms of Protest in Russia (London: Routledge, 2017). 38 39 Novorossiia, p. 10. It is worth noting that the stage for the opening of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi was built in the shape of the map of Russia. See, for example, And minute 31:56 shows a detailed map of Crimea, which was to be the next stop for the OMON forces. 40 Novorossiia, p. 10. It is worth noting that in late-Soviet and post-Soviet ultranationalist rhetoric the image of the sunken city Kitezh, with its connection to notions of pure Russianness and pure Orthodoxy, has been at the centre of the emerging ultranationalist movement. See such paintings as that by the ultranationalist artist Ilia Glazunov, Eternal Rus’ (1988), his stage set design for Rimskii-Korsakov’s 1907 opera, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maid Fevronia, and his stylized, modernized painting Kitezh (1986), as well as his notebooks. See the first English-language work on the legend of Kitezh, the PhD dissertation by Lisa Woodson, ‘The Legend

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41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55


57 58 59 60 61 62 63



of Kitezh in Russian Literature’, University of Wisconsin, 2014. Woodson addresses the significance of this image neither in the other arts nor in political rhetoric. Novorossiia, p. 77. Novorossiia, p. 26. Novorossiia, p. 26. Novorossiia, p. 31. Novorossiia, p. 31. Novorossiia, p. 60. Prokhanov’s wording is ‘peremeshchenie smyslov’; Novorossiia, p. 65. Novorossiia, pp. 91, 204. Novorossiia, pp. 113, 194. Novorossiia, p. 314. Rosalind Marsh, Literature, History and Identity in Post-Soviet Russia, 1991–2006 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007), p. 54. Edith W. Clowes, Russia on the Edge: Imagined Geography and Post-Soviet Identity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011), p. 153. Prokhanov, Gospodin Geksogen, pp. 440–56. Prokhanov, Gospodin Geksogen, p. 455. Aleksandr Donetskii, ‘Kholm – roman-apokrif: O novoi knige Aleksandra Prokhanova “Kholm” razmyshliaet pskovskii pisatel’ Aleksandr Donetskii’, Zavtra 41 (2008), Zavtra_777_(41_2008).html. See, also, Donovan’s brief comments on Kholm, p. 76. See Marlène Laruelle, ‘Alternative identity, alternative religion? Neopaganism and the Aryan myth in contemporary Russia’, Nations and Nationalism 14, no. 2 (2008): 283–301. Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Krym’, Nash sovremennik 9 (2014): 132. Clowes, Russia on the Edge, p. 51, n. 23. Krym 8 (2014): 50. Krym 9 (2014): 132. Novorossiia, pp. 106–7. Clover, Black Wind, White Snow, p. 183. See ‘Этот холм зажил. Вокруг этого холма стали собираться в разные времена и в разные часы разные люди. Вокруг этого холма собирались новобрачные и игрались свадьбы. Люди приносили к холму землю со своих священных могил, сюда ссыпались земли из русских монастырей, с великих полей сражения. На этот холм положили солдатские каски, пробитые вражьими пулями.’ Thanks to Victoria Donovan for this source. Victoria Donovan, ‘From Mounds of Friendship to Sacred Hills: Landscapes of Memory in the Russian Northwest, 1985–2015’, a talk delivered at the conference on ‘Centrifugal Forces: Reading Russia’s Regional Identities and Initiatives’, held at the University of Virginia, 26–28 March 2015. See https://

280 65 66 67 68 69

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Russkii vikhr’, p. 190. Russkii vikhr’, p. 191. Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, p. 230. Russkii vikhr’, p. 183. Russkii vikhr’, p. 183.


Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom: Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD Sofya Khagi

Introduction In this chapter I will examine Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD (2006), a work that weaves political concepts, myths, metaphors and emotions into a rich tapestry of speculative fiction. My take on the novel will combine analyses of its poetics and politics – as a corrective to the predominant focus on its ideological messages, and because the two (poetics and politics) are enmeshed in the material of the text. Specifically, I will concentrate on ZhD’s spatial-temporal parameters. This is what the Moscow-Tartu school of semiotics refers to as spatial and temporal planes in the structure of an artistic text, what Bakhtin analyses in his classic theory of the chronotope and what in a more contemporary critical parlance is termed geopoetics – that is, ‘the question of landscape, the poetics and iconology of space and place, and all their relations to social and political life, to experience, to history’.1 This chapter’s objective is twofold: to open a new interpretative channel by examining ZhD’s spatial-temporal poetics and, via this channel, to contribute to the polemic surrounding Bykov’s utopian and dystopian visions. I will address the following issues: a) the novel’s symbolic geography – the capital, the periphery, the heartland and assorted real and fantastic locales; b) nonEuclidian spaces and warped timelines; c) roads and meetings; d) railroads, and e) traits of space-time and movement as they pertain to the problem of (un)freedom and potential ways out of dystopian deadlock. ZhD is a sprawling, rich, earnest and uneven piece of speculative fiction that blends the genres of dystopia, utopia proper, fantasy, folklore, magic realism and alternative history. Awarded the Strugatsky Brothers’ Prize for the best fantasy in 2007, it offers alternative visions of history, territorial planning, culture and so on. It illuminates realpolitik the way a fantastic lens works – estranging, warping, condensing and thereby bringing into sharper relief the vicissitudes of the post-Soviet political climate. Its architectonics is 281


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complex. And, beyond its multiple varieties of the fantastic, ZhD taps extensively into Russian literary classics including work by Gogol, Tolstoy, Bulgakov and Pasternak. In Bykov’s alternative historiographic scheme, two colonizing forces, the Varangians (that is, Russians), with their military-security establishment (siloviki) and a strong centralized power structure (gosudarstvenniki) and Khazars (read: Jews), with decidedly (neo)liberal and Westernizing tendencies, vie for dominance over the Russian lands. Between these two aggressors lie vast expanses of the country populated by meek and passive korennye (indigenous people), who abstain from fighting or any active intervention in history. The land is torn by war as the Kaganate (a transparent designation for Israel) engages in its latest military move against the Varangian state to recapture control of their colonies.2 Bykov has characterized his magnum opus as ‘the most politically incorrect book of the new millennium’.3 Indeed, few other post-Soviet works have generated as much controversy among critics and the general reading public. Not surprisingly, the acerbic portrayal of both warring factions – the Varangians and the Khazars – endeared the novel to neither the conservative nor the liberal sides of the political spectrum. Hence a wide range of critiques – from Zakhar Prilepin ‘finding distasteful the very notion of giving equal rights to the Khazars and the titular nation’ to a reviewer in The Jewish World ‘having no doubt that, among the multiple examples of decoding ZhD, the author has omitted the letter “i” between “Zh” and “D” ’.4 Beyond such popular responses, ZhD has been subjected to in-depth scholarly study. The apparent conflation of neoliberal, capitalist and Westernizing ideologies with Jewish ethnicity, and the anti-Jewish bias it suggests, has become a focus of incisive examination.5 The novel has been contextualized within the revival of the ideological novel genre as a work ‘about the fundamental importance of nationalism in general and ethnic belonging in particular’.6 Alternatively, scholarship has read the novel parodically, distancing the author from the stark claims that abound throughout.7 It has been read as a flawed attempt at reconciling various competing ideologies ‘by plotting the main characters’ escape from public life into a more genuine private sphere’.8 It has also been criticized as one of the ‘close-range anti-utopias’ that fail to create new meanings capable of uniting society, and that instead exhibit unproductive estrangement from history and politics.9 The provocative political pronouncements extracted from the novel have been deemed naïve, over-the-top, conservative, Russophobe, antiSemitic and many combinations thereof. In my reading, of strategic importance to ZhD is the problematic of personal and collective agency and free will and/or lack thereof. As I argue, the

Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom


novel employs the idiom of spatial and temporal relations to couch issues that lie at the core of its historiographic concerns – namely, telos and its absence in Russian history. Telos, understood as free linear movement, contrasts with a view of history that is cyclical and predetermined; that is, ZhD combines dystopian fears and utopian hopes.10 Simultaneously, Bykov’s spatial-temporal modelling foregrounds issues of personal will and lack thereof or the inability to act. The former (collective, historical) and the latter (a condition of the individual) are conflated to convey a vision of history as predicated on individual ethical choice. Coloured initially by ethnic determinism, the narrative, as it unfolds, privileges the unions of ethical individuals as agents of positive change irrespective of their ethnicity. Doing – acting ethically – or in the spatial-temporal idiom moving directionally – is key in ZhD.11

Bykov’s symbolic geography ZhD displays a complex structure, covers sweeping geographic expanses and follows multiple characters who traverse Russian lands and whose storylines converge and diverge in the course of the narrative. As such, the novel is reminiscent of classic Russian epics of war, wonderings and social upheaval like Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1868–9), Gogol’s Dead Souls (1842) and Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (1957). The latter two are variously encoded in the title – Zh(ivye) d(ushi) (Living Souls) and Zh(ivago) D(octor); the Gogolian subtext is further underscored via the book’s subtitle, Poema.12 The action of this expansive work takes place all over Russia as well as outside its boundaries, in both real and imagined locales. The real loci include Moscow and the Moscow region, Siberia and the Caucasus. In between the real and fantastic locales are places such as Alabino and N+1 that are generic and/or amalgamations of multiple Russian/Soviet locations. The imaginary locales include the mystical villages of Degunino and Zhadrunovo, the railway station of Riukhino, the provincial town of Blatsk and the Danilovsky monastery. As Edith Clowes points out in her illuminating study of territorial imagination and post-Soviet identity: Among the leading metaphors are traditionally imperial terms of center and periphery. Two geographical axes, north versus south, as well as the familiar east vs. west, figure prominently in post-Soviet thinking. In addition, two new sets of metaphors – Eurasia versus the West and the geopolitical concepts of ‘heartland’ versus coastal power – have gained considerable currency.13


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

ZhD works from the following primary spatial binaries: East vs West (reimagined as North vs South) and Moscow vs provincial Russia; to a lesser extent, the European part of the country vs Eurasia and the heartland vs the periphery also come into play. The novel’s opening two sections, entitled ‘In the camp of the Russian warriors’ and ‘The Kaganate’, erect a clear compositional, spatial and ideological dichotomy between two markedly dystopian, albeit in contrasting ways, social structures: the Varangian and the Khazar states. The narrative transposes the familiar binary of the totalitarian East and the neoliberal West into opposition between the North and the South. The Varangians are an autocratic, shabbily militant, Nordic-style society that espouses the values of collectivity, war heroism, asceticism and self-sacrifice. Their opponents are pro-modern, mercenary, hypocritical and exploitative.14 Both dystopias are portrayed by Bykov in a thoroughly unforgiving manner. The capital of Moscow provides a focal point in ZhD’s geographic layout and compositional structure. Many of the novel’s personae travel back and forth between Moscow and the provinces over the course of the narrative – the Varangian officer/writer Gromov, the Varangian-revealed-to-be-korennoi historian Volokhov, Governor Borozdin, Borozdin’s indigenous lover Asha, and assorted wanderers all make the circuit – whether to fight in the civil war, visit relatives and lovers, fulfil administrative duties or escape persecution. It is in the capital that several major characters initially cross paths, for example the Khazar girl Anya and the korennoi Vasily Ivanovich. The centre vs the periphery (identified by Clowes as among the leading metaphors of post-Soviet territorial imagination) is a recurrent subject in Russian works of the fantastic.15 Similar to, for example, Vladimir Voinovich’s Moscow 2042, Bykov’s Moscow of the near future is a bloated state-within-astate that is sharply demarcated from the rest of the disintegrating country. Compared to the war-torn provinces, the capital provides some semblance of peace and normalcy. And yet even Moscow shows signs of the disintegration at work in the country at large. The residential areas outside the historic centre are decaying: the district Gromov walked through ‘was as run-down and shabby as their flat. Even the people were old and shabby, and there were no young people around’. Everywhere there were ‘medical offices with fluoroscopies . . . senile mucus that rattles in the lungs with each breath’.16 Decrepit apartment blocks, abandoned factories and garbage-strewn industrial zones are remnants of Soviet times. These neighbourhoods and their populace are living out their twilight years on a promissory note from the Soviet utopian project that has long receded into the past and yet continues to lead a kind of posthumous shadowy existence.

Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom


Unlike the war-torn European part of the country, the vast areas beyond the Urals still enjoy relative tranquillity if not prosperity. ‘Maugham’s way’ (a playful allusion to British colonial fiction) concentrates on the administrative duties and personal life of Borozdin, the Varangian governor of a remote Siberian province. It is still quiet there, but things are gradually deteriorating. One’s own industry had stopped completely, the Chinese are pumping out the remaining oil, and the natives lead a dark half-underground existence. Borozdin harbours no illusions about the prospects of the region entrusted to him, yet he tries to fulfil his duties as best he can. True to the paradigms of ‘imperial pleasures’, Borozdin seeks to civilize the ‘backward’ local populace and has an affair with a korennaia, the young shaman Asha. The ever-smouldering periphery of the Caucasus brings news of terrorist bombings and local military altercations, and promises (yet never delivers) final destruction. The threat of terrorism from Islamic extremists hangs heavy over Moscow, and in the streets groups of young Muscovites engage in fights with the Caucasians. It is to the Caucasus that Borozdin and the pregnant Asha make their way, on the run from pursuers who believe that a mixed-race child of a Varangian and a korennaia will turn out to be the Antichrist. When Asha gives birth to their baby in a cave in the mountains, and it turns out to be an ordinary child, the feared apocalypse never takes place. Alongside some identifiable locales, ZhD depicts less clearly defined spaces and places that fuse traits of multiple Russian/Soviet locales – including landmarks of the receding Soviet project. Such is the mysterious station of Alabino in the Moscow region, where there had once been a scientific centre and a nuclear plant. A former locus of Soviet scientific ideals, it was destroyed at the end of the twentieth century: ‘Either the earth shook in one single place, though there had never been earthquakes there before, or it was managerial carelessness, but the whole Alabino zone had been surrounded with barbed wire, guards have been posted at all roads, and the inhabitants of Alabino, a new scientific center of five thousand people, were urgently evacuated in multiple directions.’ After the Alabino catastrophe ‘the disintegration accelerated, or perhaps the catastrophe itself was the first sign of collapse’.17 Alabino is an actual locale in the Naro-Fominsk part of the Moscow region, but its description makes it at once a scientific town after the likes of Dubna and Ukraine’s Chernobyl, where the catastrophic nuclear accident of 1986 preceded, by only a few years, the collapse of the USSR.18 In temporal terms, Alabino, like Moscow and many other places, is strongly tied to the Soviet past. Appropriately, raspad (disintegration) concurrently indicates nuclear and social collapse. The space of Alabino is sealed off from the rest of the world and remains dangerous to intruders.


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

Figure 13.1 The Trumpeting Angel of Chernobyl. Public domain.

The deteriorating yet still dynamic space of the metropolis and its environs contrasts with the rest of the country, which has advanced further along the path of degradation. One such generic locale is Blatsk, formerly an ordinary provincial town in the northern part of the Great Russian Plain. In its Soviet days, it used to be home to a drama theatre and a museum of local handicrafts. Gradually, members of the criminal underworld (blatnye) assumed control over it. Now Blatsk’s streets are in disorder, its little houses have long been neglected and the water wells have grown rotten and crooked. Stasis and abandonment are writ large there. One more decaying provincial town, N+1, is a whimsical amalgamation of multiple loci – a generic provincial locality, the mystical Kitezh, along with

Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom


Peter the Great’s ideal city reverting to its pre-Petrine condition. Named jokingly in the tradition of provincial towns referred to in nineteenth-century belles lettres as ‘Town of N’, N+1 in its architectural layout is a typical quaint provincial town in the Russian heartland, with many churches and wooden houses. Most of the populace had moved to Moscow where one could still find employment. Like the otherworldly Kitezh, this place is slowly sinking under water, though not to evade Tatar invaders but simply due to human neglect. Neither is the sinking due to some kind of apocalyptic judgement from Heaven, in the Pushkin-inspired tradition. Rather: Moral events occur in moral history, and in physical history only physical events take place. These are neither a retribution nor a lesson, but instances of the land being neglected . . . It may very well be that the town of Kitezh met a similar fate, and conquerors had nothing to do with it. N+1 was sinking under water like a new Venice.19

The symbolic geography of Bykov’s nearly 700-page work covers the capital and the provinces, the European part of the country, Eurasia and the South. The capital of Moscow – ZhD’s narrative hub – is surrounded by fragmenting provinces in varying degrees of disrepair. Real, generic and imaginary locales combine in a sweeping spatial canvas. This canvas is overwhelmingly gloomy – and yet calling, and with a potential for ‘moral events’.

Non-Euclidian spaces, impossible timelines Moving in the direction of intensifying the fantastical quality of space-time, the Danilovsky monastery (in ‘The monastery’ section) neighbouring Blatsk is a paranormal space segregated from the rest of the land. Escaping from a gang of Blatsk criminals, Gromov and another soldier, Voronov, follow an underground passage. The tunnel opens onto a river, and a peasant in a boat offers to take them across to an island. The island, rising in a gentle green slope, is crowned with a tall wall of white stone, behind which there rise golden domes. No inhabitant of Blatsk can reach it. Gromov does not remember ever hearing of a monastery there, and Blatsk is barely visible though they are not far separated in terms of ordinary Euclidian reckoning. ‘What are these tricks of space [shutki prostranstva]?’ Gromov wonders.20 The island-based stronghold of faith evokes the Solovetsky or Kizhi monasteries, but is actually an imaginary utopian locus. As is proper for a utopian locale (in the tradition of Thomas More), the monastery is positioned on an island and safeguarded from the rest of the world by magic that permits


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

passage only to worthy people. The monks are unable, at least up to a certain point in the narrative, to leave their enchanted space, and stay in touch with the mainland via telepathic connection. Blatsk versus the Danilovsky Monastery offers a spatially marked and symbolically condensed opposition between the dark (criminal) and the light (spiritual) traits of Russian existence. The underground pathway from Blatsk to the monastery is not only a way into another space but a temporal passage as well. The Blatsk setting, identified in specific temporal terms as post-Soviet and controlled by criminal gangs familiar from the 1990s, contrasts with the world of the monastery, which is depicted as ancient or, more precisely, a-temporal, a spiritual Arcadia. The geographic layout, the way of life and the conversations between the Father Superior and the monks who argue over questions of faith, goodness and evil, might have come out of a Dostoevsky novel. Equally, it is reminiscent of an old believers’ hermitage (skit) or, indeed, any hermitage of the faithful hiding in the Russian heartland during a generic Time of Trouble. A different and pronounced temporal warping takes place when Gromov visits the small abandoned railway station of Riukhino (in ‘The gates’ chapter). As Gromov approaches Riukhino, he senses the boundary that separates ordinary space-time from the magical space-time of the station: they were ‘approaching some frontier beyond which unimaginable things might happen . . . The horse ran back like a messenger from another space [iz drugogo prostranstva]’.21 Temporal warping takes place via the appearance, impossible by normal standards, of a soldier from the distant past: ‘Before an ancient telegraph machine such as he had seen but once in his life, at the Museum of the Revolution, there sat a Red Army soldier wearing a pointed felt helmet . . . He tapped out an unknown message. “This is the Civil War” – Gromov whispered.’22 The Red Army soldier is still fighting since Civil War is never over. The magicalization of space-time in ZhD reaches its apogee in the sections of the narrative that portray the mystical villages of Degunino and Zhadrunovo. Like Varangians/Khazars, Moscow/the provinces or Blatsk/the Danilovsky Monastery, the idyllic Degunino and the dangerous Zhadrunovo represent a major binary in ZhD’s compositional, spatial-temporal and historiographic architectonics. These two suggest one more possible decoding of the title (Zh[adrunovo]D[egunino]), a pairing that embodies the locals’ cyclic cosmology in which the forces of life and giving give way to the forces of death and taking away – and vice versa – into eternity. The village of Degunino is a fairy-tale-like realm of abundance and generosity. It lies in the Kursk region south-west of Moscow at the centre of the European part of Russia. There magical apple trees always produce fruit, and a magical stove endlessly bakes cakes. Degunino stands on animated

Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom


land. Not only does the soil bring forth crops without human effort, but, when fighting takes place there between the Varangians and the Khazars, the soil literally comes to life to swallow up the invaders. In a parodic inversion of the crossing of the Red Sea, the earth opens under the Khazar army, swallowing two whole battalions and spitting them out 20 kilometres from Degunino. Simultaneously, the Varangian regiments of General Paukov are left at the bottom of a deep ravine from which it is impossible to climb out. The destruction of the invaders in the Degunino Cauldron – as is proper for the region where the historic 1943 Battle of Kursk took place – marks a turning point in Russian history, the end of its repeating cycle and the emergence of Phlogiston, the magical gas of history. Whereas Degunino is utopian, folkloreish and, up to a certain point, static, Zhadrunovo sits south-east of Moscow, on the Volga river beyond Kazan, and presents a sharply warped space-time that is uncomfortable, alarming and enigmatic. As Zhenia Dolinskaia, a Khazar commissar and Volokhov’s pregnant love, reaches Zhadrunovo, she grows uneasy. Zhenia’s dizziness and disorientation as she approaches the village point to its paranormal qualities: ‘The space around her seemed to be growing distorted [kak-to prostranstvo vokrug nee nachalo iskazhat’sia] . . . Proportions changed, the air quivered, contours swam . . . as if they had entered a deformed space, entirely alien, where no one will find anyone.’23 Posts akin to dry bones mark a dangerous boundary, and Zhenia hesitates at the gate. After she enters, the station and the surrounding landscape disappear, cutting her off from what constitutes ordinary space-time parameters. It occurs to Zhenia that ‘every ethnos has its legend about a bewitched place’.24 After but a short sojourn in this zakoldovannoe mesto, Zhenia begins to experience amnesia. Befitting the world of Thanatos and Lethe,Volokhov’s girlfriend lapses into unconsciousness and he can no longer sense her from a distance, as lovers should. Significantly, Zhadrunovo proves the final destination for several other major characters in the novel, including Volokhov, Gromov and Ania. The chapter entitled ‘Zhadrunovo’ depicts Volokhov and his comrades’ travels. Intent on inculcating strength and independence in a group of select korennye, Volokhov wanders with his brigade deeper and deeper into the Russian heartland. Spatial deepening is simultaneously a temporal plunge. The closer the group draws to Zhadrunovo, the deeper they descend into the past. The villagers they meet are positioned in more and more distant historic periods, from the time of the Great Patriotic War and the Civil War to the war with Napoleon and even further back, to the Time of Troubles, when the natives enquire whether the Poles (liakhi) have yet been beaten.25 Volokhov’s experience of Zhadrunovo, though less disturbing than that of his girlfriend, likewise suggests impending amnesia and resignation. With his


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companions dropping out at different points of their spatial-temporal pilgrimage, he alone reaches the village. The air is cool and a blue mist is floating from the river, but Volokhov mistrusts the seeming idyll. He recalls reading a story once in which heroes attain peace, enter a garden, a house, and so on, and thinks, ‘Everything should really blow up at that very moment, a satanic laughter should erupt, and instead of the house a sad, empty space will reveal itself. Because nothing should ever be accepted from benefactors of a certain kind.’26 Volokhov’s scepticism, directed at the idyllic conclusion of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (1928–40; 1966), hints that for himself (and Zhenia), Zhadrunovo may be but a deception of final refuge. If Zhenia’s and Volokhov’s encounters with Zhadrunovo suggest a darker posthumous realm, for Gromov and Ania the nature of the place remains an enigma. Gravitating toward the mysterious village, they never quite reach it. In the novel’s finale, Gromov travels south by military train. At the station of Zhadrunovo, he sees Ania and the korennoi Vasily Ivanovich with whom Ania has travelled from Moscow, protecting him the best she can. Since the old man is too frightened to enter Zhadrunovo, Gromov offers to accompany her there instead. They walk to the village where ‘the unknown [neizvestno chto] awaits them’.27 The question of whether Zhadrunovo (novo-novyi-new) means destruction or a promise of personal and collective renewal – a utopian novum – remains open.28

Roads and meetings Not only is geography key to ZhD’s architectonics, but the entire narrative is structured around the motif of the road. The novel is divided into two books: ‘Departure’ and ‘Arrival’. Most of the major characters are continuously in motion. They peregrinate across Russia, fight in the Civil War, look for their loved ones, pursue others and are being pursued themselves. Yuri Lotman has observed that the road is the basic spatial term that organizes Dead Souls. The road ‘becomes the universal form for organizing space, including all the forms of Gogolian space, since it passes through them’. It ‘presents an isomorphic picture of life’, and ‘it is possible to trace mentions of “the whole vast movement of life” and “our bitter and dreary journey on earth” through the whole work’.29 Similarly, Bakhtin noted (earlier) that it is the rare epic or novel that does not contain a variation of the road motif, and ‘many works are directly constructed on the road chronotope, and on road meetings and adventures’.30 He also sees the motif of meeting and the chronotope of the road as closely linked, and frequently ‘the chronotope of

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meeting fulfills architectonic functions: it can serve as an opening, sometimes as a culmination, even as a denouement (finale) of the plot’.31 In the world of ZhD, the road is ever so enticing. The narrative dwells on the lives of a special caste of korennye, the Vas’ki, vagabonds/wanderers who move around Russia, never able to settle down. They roam the cluttered urban landscape of Moscow, sleep in its cellars and passageways and spend time in the Moscow subway system. But the Vas’ki do not confine their peregrinations solely to Moscow or its environs – they travel the countryside, all across the Great Russian Plain, north, south and east, and beyond the Urals. So, the Vas’ka Vasily Ivanovich departs from Moscow, accompanied by Ania, and roams the countryside. The novel is organized around the quests of three key couples: Volokhov and Zhenia, Borozdin and Asha, and Vasily Ivanovich and Ania. One other principal, Gromov, is linked to Masha, his long-time love, for most of the narrative. Only at the conclusion is the ‘right’ couple finally identified: unexpectedly it is Gromov and Ania. As the male and female leads travel around, their paths – storylines, lifelines – criss-cross. Turns (forks) in their destinies are predicated on literal turns in the road. As in Doctor Zhivago, the crossings of fate are realized compositionally in the convergences and divergences of the roads the characters take. This is seen in the aborted love lines of Volokhov and Zhenia, and is particularly vivid in the final overlap of Gromov’s and Ania’s trajectories. As the telepathic monks of the Danilovsky Monastery point out, ‘What is important is that the two have met.’32 The crossing of their paths becomes a promise of a transformed or perhaps a newly begun history.

The locomotive of history Zh(eleznaia) d(orog)a (railroad) is first in the list of possible decodings of the title abbreviation Bykov himself suggests in the Foreword. The motifs of the railroad and the train are certainly central to ZhD. All of Russia is covered by railway lines. These range from the Moscow subway system, and local lines and trains, to provincial railroads in the European and Asiatic parts of the country, and the gigantic trans-Siberian rail system connecting Russia’s West and East. Besides the Moscow subway inhabited by the Vas’ki, railway stations like Alabino and the fictitious Riukhino and Zhadrunovo are key locales in the plot development. A major project undertaken on Moscow’s orders in the Siberian region entrusted to Borozdin is the building of a new railway line through the Taiga and along the border with China. Vasily Ivanovich and Ania repeatedly take trains in their travels, and so does Gromov.


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

The railroad and the train aptly embody Bykov’s historiographic preoccupations – foregrounding the Civil War problematic and engaging a well-established metaphor of historical movement. ZhD invokes earlier narratives of the Revolution and the Civil War (including Pasternak’s) as well as nineteenth-century classics in which the train, the locomotive, tracks extending into the distance, temporal acceleration, and so on serve as tropes of historical movement, whether conceptualized positively (as progress) or negatively (as out of control and destructive).33 Bykov taps into the wellestablished ‘Locomotive of history’/ ‘Locomotive of the revolution’ trope to accentuate his ‘perennial Civil War’ theme. So, a sharp temporal plunge takes place in the section of the book that deals with the station of Riukhino. Not a single soul is at the station. One Moscow train appeared to have left some five hours earlier, and Gromov hopes to get on a local. Yet judging by the neglected state of the station, no one had been here for a long time. Gromov sees a few rusty steam trains standing at a distance, and one ancient black locomotive looming vaguely ahead. Eventually leaving the station in one of the ancient steam trains that had been stationed there, Gromov enjoys ‘distant lights, the smell of damp grass, horses, trains, and stars – it is nice being in no one’s night steppes in the times of the Civil War’.34 Just as crossings of fate are realized in ZhD as the crossings of roads, railway stations provide junctures (literal and figurative) at which key plot developments take place. Zhenia, Gromov, Vasily Ivanovich and Ania all arrive at Zhadrunovo by train. Gromov’s and Ania’s final meeting occurs right on the platform, and the force that prompts Gromov onto the platform at the sight of Ania and Vasily Ivanovich is described as tiaga – an urge as well as the pull or traction (of the engine).35 Whether it proves threatening or promising, Gromov cannot resist the traction of history.

Circularity – linearity, dystopia – a way out In his analysis of Gogolian spatiality, Lotman astutely observes: In order to become elevated, space must not only be vast (or unbounded), but also directional: those located in it must move toward a goal . . . The unqualified inclusion of a character in a certain world that surrounds him, assuming that world’s predominance over him, obviates the questions of moral responsibility and of a person’s individual active participation in causes that were so crucial to nineteenth-century literature . . . The character in motion has a goal. Even if it is a shallow, self-seeking one . . . the author all the same distinguishes him from the

Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom


world of immobile puppets, . . . and hopes to turn his temporary and egoistical movement into an unbroken and organic one.36

The artistic modelling of key questions of moral responsibility and social activism in Russian classics is couched in the idiom of spatial relations. Characters’ dissatisfaction with the state of things and acting out on their moral and social obligations (transforming the world around themselves) is typically expressed through movement; obversely, inaction and indifference translate themselves narratologically as the failure to move. It further emerges from Lotman’s analysis that characters’ agency and free will or lack thereof is expressed in spatial terms. Equally important is that Lotman differentiates meaningful from meaningless movement not by its length or longevity but by its directionality. Tendencies to spread out aimlessly in all directions or to enclose oneself inside a tiny space are viewed as variations of non-directed, and consequently immobile, activity. In line with this analysis, movement in ZhD is divided between teleological (an ideal) and non-directional (dystopian). If there is movement but it is not progressive/goal-oriented, it is understood to be illusory. Among the nondirectional types of movement, ZhD highlights circularity. A fitting example of a circular, and therefore meaningless, trajectory is the order Borozdin gets to build a railroad all around his Siberian region. This is a directive he finds inexplicable since there already exists a transport network connecting his town to Moscow (the trans-Siberian Railway). Circularity clearly captures a non-teleological vision of Russian history in which the Varangians–the Khazars, conservatives–liberals, force– counterforce take turns dominating Russian lands. Revolution, reaction, thaw and senility predictably and mechanically follow one another, over and over again, like seasonal cycles. It is no accident that, upon getting to the railway station of Zhadrunovo, Ania insists that they should reach their destination, the village, ‘because one cannot move in circles all the time’.37 Bykov foregrounds circularity – entrapment in a non-progressive history – and makes it the novel’s leitmotif. Real circular loci such as the Central Circle Line of the Moscow subway, Bul’varnoe Ring encircling the historic centre of Moscow, the MKAD (Moscow Automobile Ring Road) around greater Moscow, for example, are mentioned over and over. Railroads encircle all of Russia. Volokhov leads his Brigade Moses-like into the heart of the country, trying and failing to break from the circularity. The culture of korennye embraces circularity. The Vas’ki literally wander in circles (to keep history from starting), and the indigenous populace invariably dance khorovods and communicate in a circular manner. Korennye live in folkloric time as theorized by Bakhtin:


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

A final feature of this time . . . its cyclicity, is a negative feature, one that limits the force and ideological productivity of this time. The mark of cyclicity, and consequently of cyclical repetitiveness, is imprinted on all events occurring in this type of time. Time’s forward impulse is limited by the cycle. For this reason even growth does not achieve an authentic ‘becoming’.38

The circle – the cycle – is also the wheel of the train, rolling inexorably along the iron tracks. The later part of the novel mainly concerns the question of how to break this dystopian historical deadlock. Here two possible solutions are offered. The first has to do with another type of spatiality – emptiness. Phlogiston, the gas of history, is finally emerging in Russia. Bykov’s hymn to Phlogiston is a celebration of empty space understood as freedom, contingency and potential. The gas of history appears, seemingly in defiance of known physical laws, out of a vacuum. Emptiness, as opposed to materiality and determinism, is a promise of all kinds of possibilities. Spatial holes are filled with nothing and as such can give rise to anything: ‘While dark earthy flesh rots, decays, decomposes, in the black moist mass there are formed bubbles, voids, transparent spaces filled with nothing [nichem ne zapolnennye prostranstva] . . .No one knows what comes out of emptiness.’39 Emptiness is a promise of personal as well as collective freedom. For a brief time in the life of an individual, ‘in the packed timetable of a humiliated man feverishly settling his everyday chores, there appears an airy lacuna’, and he ‘falls out of the wheel of worries and commitments’.40 For a little while one is free and anything is possible. In a pattern analogous to the recuperation of freedom in individual lives, emptiness as Phlogiston aborts historical determinism, that is, the series of mechanical reactions and counter-reactions in which the Varangians inevitably engender the Khazars and vice versa. Fittingly, on the heels of the first appearance of Phlogiston, the colonizers’ troops are swallowed in the Degunino Cauldron. New history (or just history) begins.41 The positive value of emptiness understood as freedom and potential is anticipated in the narrative in the inset story of one of the Vas’ki, Mikhail Egorovich. Experiencing a sudden urge to travel, he leaves his native town, boards the first bus that comes along, and departs into the unknown. He considers travelling to the terminus but changes his mind because going there suggests predictability and limits free will. Instead, the Vas’ka gets off randomly at a stop in the middle of a field where there had once been a village. The hole in space where the village had once stood seems at once threatening and enticing. He realizes that ‘this very space constituted free will [eto prostranstvo i bylo svobodoi voli]’.42

Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom


The space of free will is also one into which Gromov departs from Moscow on a quasi-magical train of which he dreamt in his childhood. The train leaves Moscow’s cluttered terrain behind and crosses over into a different dimension. It is at the point of this cross-over into fantastic spatiality that the text transforms from prose into poetry. One ‘can enter a different boundless realm, in which there is only the sky, the wind, and joy’. A ‘merry stork is flying, a gray heron or the prophetic Väinämöinen – who knows them, Ugro-Finns’. And further, ‘there howl the prophetic winds of Central Asia, and steppes turn into deserts’. One can ‘at last see the vaults of pale-blue sky, parks, mosques of Ashkhabad, Bukhara, and Khorasan, and the sky of the Caucasus burning with fire’. One can ‘fall out of everywhere [mozhno vypast’ otovsiudu] – the way a soldier on leave is removed from battle. You jump into the dark cube of the carriage, crawl along the ringing rails, leave the narrative – and return in the epilogue.’43 Lines rhyme to the beat of the wheels, the train speeds across space, and space opens up, fanlike, all around Moscow into the expanses of Russia. The east-bound train actually moves in multiple directions at once, north and west (Ugro-Finns), east and south (Central Asia, the Caucasus). Such a multidirectional trajectory is of course impossible in terms of normal travel. The magical train enables Gromov to celebrate personal freedom for a while, and come back in the epilogue (the illusion of verisimilitude broken). When Gromov does make a comeback, the second solution to the dystopian impasse presents itself – a union of two individuals, one embodying duty (Gromov) and the other compassion (Ania): At a small station the military train slowed down, as if afraid to wake up some mysterious forces. Gromov felt an irrepressible urge to descend to the platform . . . It felt akin to the urge to tumble over the rails of a fifteenthstory balcony . . . He would have overcome it and proceeded further south, to fight in the endless war, but he suddenly spied on the platform a girl of some fifteen years, very thin and black-haired, with a bent old man sitting right there on the asphalt . . . There was something so lost, pitiful, and helpless about this pair that Gromov could not stand it and jumped right onto the platform, having left his things on the train and not caring about them . . . It was as if the train driver waited exactly for this.44

This passage condenses much of ZhD’s poetics and politics. Gromov, who ‘had fallen out of everywhere, like a soldier on leave’ (which he is), has been enjoying his personal freedom. As he approaches the dangerous space of Zhadrunovo, he experiences a strong urge to disembark, one that might be detrimental to his wellbeing or even self-destructive – as the simile to a jump from a tall building suggests. The train obligingly slows down, as the


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locomotive of history should, for Gromov to jump out. In a bit of ironic paradox, he relinquishes personal freedom to initiate free linear history – to abort the historical determinism of the Varangian–Khazar pendulum. The first solution to historical impasse (Phlogiston) and the second (the meeting) work in tandem: perhaps Phlogiston enables the crossing of Gromov’s and Anya’s trajectories or perhaps it emerges at the point when history is already enlivened. The two solutions coordinate since Gromov does emerge at Zhadrunovo thanks to his little ‘bubble’ of individual freedom, only to relinquish it to enable meaningful history to begin.45 More importantly, for once ‘moral events occur in moral history’: what makes Gromov jump out, cutting short his respite from duty, is the sight of the exhausted and helpless-looking Anya and the Vas’ka on the platform. History, then, is fuelled by personal ethics. Gromov is hopeful that his sense of duty and Anya’s capacity for compassion, when combined, will enable them to do something no one has done before them: ‘Duty and compassion, if crossed, beget surprising things. It never worked out like that here, but perhaps it will in our case.’46 Yet what might be termed the duty–kindness, Varangian–Khazar or, if you will, yin–yang divide has already been overcome – within each of the characters, and prior to their meeting. Gromov jumps onto Zhadrunovo platform out of sympathy and concern, and Anya has displayed considerable resolve and a sense of responsibility in protecting Vasily Ivanovich throughout their wonderings: ‘ “This is Vas’ka,” – said An’ka . . .“I left with him so that he would not perish.” ’47 Ania is also the one who insists that they reach Zhadrunovo no matter what. The two combine the seemingly incompatible ‘here’ (in Russia) strength with solicitude. Appropriately, the walls of the enchanted Danilovsky Monastery crack as they meet.

Conclusion: ethical agents and a Lotman encore The Varangian–Khazar swing dramatized in ZhD is clearly reminiscent of the cyclicity of Russian history as theorized in Lotman’s and Boris Uspensky’s seminal study, ‘Binary models in the dynamics of Russian culture’. As they claim, Russian culture is based on a metaphysical binary structure of heaven and hell, holy and sinful, and so on, without an axiologically neutral zone (in contrast to the Western ternary metaphysics of heaven–purgatory–hell). The underlying binarism of the culture is responsible for the impeded quality of Russia’s historical evolution. Whereas historical experience in the West is understood as ongoing change, Russians envision change eschatologically, as one of total conversion. These transformations present themselves in cycles

Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom


because each transformation assumes the form of normative inversion whereby the prescribed and the proscribed switch places: ‘It is in the transformations that the invariants are revealed.’48 As Lotman and Uspensky – and Bykov – suggest (tellingly, a certain Lotsman figures in the narrative), each subsequent change repeats the cycle by merely reversing ‘plus’ and ‘minus’, Varangians and Khazars, and vice versa. So what and who does it take to break out of the dystopian circularity into the novum of linearity? Bykov’s novel concludes with the pair of Gromov and Ania proceeding to Zhadrunovo. As monks of the Danilovsky Monastery (apparently, authorial spokesmen) summarize at the novel’s end, there were two couples, neither of which could accomplish anything. One ‘was separated too soon’ (Volokhov and Zhenia), and the other ‘was of no considerable interest since the bureaucrat was of a common race, and his child could change nothing in this world’ (Borozdin and Asha). But ‘what difference does it make who is of which race? What is important is that the two have met, and something will start from that meeting.’49 The quests of ZhD’s protagonists centre on the problematic that Bykov pursues across his oeuvre: what a member of the intelligentsia, an intelligent, responsible and compassionate human being, is supposed to do under the conditions of social degradation. Korennye, though they possess strong tribal bonds and a holistic worldview, are largely impotent. They are portrayed with a mixture of sympathy (in the vein of Pochvennichestvo) and satire; after all, without blaming the colonizers, N+1 sinks under water due to the neglect of its own populace. Likewise, the monks of Danilovsky Monastery, their wisdom and kindness notwithstanding, are more or less impotent, unable to exercise influence over worldly affairs that have gone wrong. It remains to the two ethical agents in the novel’s final sentence – in a message I’d call neither conservative nor liberal but traditional (Russian-literary) humanist – ‘to walk, hand in hand, into the village of Zhadrunovo – into neizvestno chto’.

Notes 1 Mikhail Bakhtin, ‘Forms of time and of the chronotope in the novel’, in M. Holquist (ed.), The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981); Yuri Lotman, ‘Problema khudozhestvennogo prostranstva v proze Gogolia’, Uchenye zapiski, Tartu Gos. Universitet, Trudy po russkoi i slavianskoi filologii: literaturovedenie 11, no. 209 (1968): 5–50; pp. 45–50 trans. as ‘The problem of artistic space in Gogol’s prose’, in Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls (New York: Norton, 1986); and W. J. T. Mitchell, ‘Geopoetics: space, place, landscape’, Critical Inquiry 26, no. 2 (2000): 173.


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2 The kind of spirituality encouraged by the Varangians is ‘nationalist and militaristic, with occultist overtones that characterize Aryanist writings’. Yuliya Minkova, ‘The squid and the whale à la russe: navigating the “uncanny” in Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD’, Russian Review 72, no. 2 (2013): 292. On Eurasianist spirituality, see Marlène Laruelle, Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire (Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). 3 This claim is put forth on the book’s cover. It has been translated into English as Living Souls. 4 Zakhar Prilepin, ‘ZhD’,; Vul’f Chechik, ‘Zhirnyi Dima i ego kniga ZhD’, 3 September 2008, A ‘zhid’ is used as an anti-Semitic pejorative by Russian-speaking people. 5 Mark Lipovetsky and Alexander Etkind, ‘The salamander’s return: the Soviet catastrophe and the post-Soviet novel’, Russian Studies in Literature 46, no. 4 (2010): 6–48. 6 Serguei Oushakine, ‘(Post)ideological novel’, in E. Dobrenko and M. Lipovetsky (eds), Russian Literature since 1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 61. For a psychoanalytical reading as a product of Bykov’s conflicted Russo-Jewish ethnicity, see Andrei Rogachevskii, ‘The “Khazar”–“Varangian” dialogue in Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD: some psychoanalytical observations’, in L. Katsis and H. Tolstoy (eds), Jewishness in Russian Culture: Within and Without (Leiden: Brill, 2013). 7 ZhD is ‘a parody of ethnic determinism . . . through a strategy similar to the subversion of a questionable doctrine by means of naïve over-identification with it’. Minkova, ‘The squid and the whale à la russe’, pp. 285–7. 8 Minkova, ‘The squid and the whale à la russe’, 286. 9 Aleksandr Chantsev, ‘Fabrika antiutopii: Distopicheskii diskurs v rossiiskoi literature serediny 2000kh’, NLO 86 (2007): 269–301. 10 Bykov deliberately opens up different interpretations of the title. At least one of them (Zhivye dushi) implies a more optimistic vision. 11 In my view, rather than promoting escapism, ZhD suggests that worthy private individuals drive history. I also think that, while the novel nods to postmodern playfulness, it is earnest in its key pronouncements. 12 A poema is a long narrative poem. As a specific genre it appeared in Russian poetry in the eighteenth century and continues till now. 13 Edith W. Clowes, Russia on the Edge: Imagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 2011), pp. xii–xiii. 14 Bykov ‘constructs a dialogical structure between the two conflicting culture-psychological poles in the civil war, and between them and the non-warring majority’. Mattias Ågren, Phantoms of a Future Past: A Study of Contemporary Russian Anti-Utopian Novels (Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2014), p. 132. On the theory of internal colonization, which Bykov’s scheme reminds us of, see Alexander Etkind, Internal Colonization: Russia’s Imperial Experience (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011).

Parameters of Space-Time and Degrees of (Un)Freedom


15 On the centre–periphery relations, cf. Sanna Turoma and Maxim Waldstein (eds), Empire De/Centered: New Spatial Histories of Russia and the Soviet Union (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013). On the configurations of empire and space in twentieth-century Russian intellectual debates, see Marlène Laruelle, ‘Space as destiny: legitimizing the Russian empire through geography and space’, in Sanna Turoma and Maxim Waldstein (eds), Empire De/Centered: New Spatial Histories of Russia and the Soviet Union (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), pp. 85–101. 16 Dmitry Bykov, ZhD (Moscow: AST, 2007), p. 550. Translations are my own. 17 Bykov, ZhD, p. 528. 18 On post-Chernobyl disaster narratives, see Eliot Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, in Evgeny Dobrenko and Mark Lipovetsky (eds), Russian Literature Since 1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 86–103. 19 Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, pp. 646–7. 20 Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, pp. 475–6. 21 Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, p. 524. 22 Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, p. 525. 23 Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, pp. 500–1. 24 Borenstein, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, p. 504. Cf. Gogol’s ‘Bewitched place’ (1832). 25 ‘The farther, the more the plot acquires fairy-tale contours.’ Alla Latynina, ‘Skazki o Rossii’, Novyi mir 2 (2007): 182. 26 Bykov, ZhD, p. 667. 27 Bykov, ZhD, p. 685. 28 Volokhov’s–Zhenia’s and Gromov’s–Ania’s trajectories contrast each other: the former gravitate toward private refuge (likely illusory) while the latter persist in social engagement. On the novum, see Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979). On the utopian impulse of the novum, see Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (New York: Verso, 2005), p. 295. 29 Lotman, ‘The problem of artistic space in Gogol’s prose’, p. 580. 30 Bakhtin, ‘Forms of time and of the chronotope in the novel’, p. 98. 31 Bakhtin, ‘Forms of time and of the chronotope in the novel’, p. 98. 32 Bykov, ZhD, p. 684. 33 Bethea explores the apocalyptic imagery of the train in works that portray the events of 1917. David Bethea, The Shape of Apocalypse in Modern Russian Fiction (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989). 34 Bykov, ZhD, p. 528. 35 Bykov, ZhD, pp. 680–1. 36 Lotman, ‘The problem of artistic space in Gogol’s prose’, pp. 579–81. 37 Bykov, ZhD, p. 683. On the circularity of Russian history in ZhD, see Lipovetsky: ‘When Bykov writes, in his first “Philosophical Letter” and later in ZhD, about a single cycle of political reforms that repeats in Russian



39 40 41 42 43 44 45

46 47 48


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history – repressions, thaw, revolution, stagnation, dementia, thaw – he is, of course, simplifying, but nor overly so.’ Lipovetsky and Etkind, ‘The salamander’s return’, pp. 34, 36. Cf. Aleksandr Chantsev, ‘Fabrika antiutopii: Distopicheskii diskurs v rossiiskoi literature serediny 2000kh’, NLO 86 (2007): 292; Valeriia Pustovaia, ‘Skifiia v serebre: “russkii proekt” v sovremennoi proze’, Novyi mir 1 (2007): 169–70; Minkova, ‘The squid and the whale a la russe’, p. 286; Ågren, Phantoms of a Future Past, pp. 31–3; and Oushakine, ‘(Post)ideological novel’, p. 62. Bakhtin, ‘Forms of time and chronotope in the novel’, pp. 209–10. This formulation implies the connection between the cyclicity of time and political conservatism as an ideology. Bykov, ZhD, pp. 615–16. The trope of emptiness, prior to Bykov, figures prominently in the art of conceptualists and Victor Pelevin. Bykov, ZhD, p. 616. The positive vision of emptiness goes against Chaadaev’s classical critique of ‘The First Philosophical Letter’ (1836). Bykov, ZhD, p. 461. Bykov, ZhD, p. 587. Bykov, ZhD, pp. 681–3. The way Gromov–Ania act on their social and moral duty, against the grain of the Varangian and Khazar projects, contrasts with the manner the protagonists of recent imperial SF gain a sense of agency through conformity with the imperial body politic: ‘Imperial SF replaces the feat of holiness [that is, an individual who confronts the overwhelming forces of his surrounding environment] with the feat of conformity [with the environment].’ Olga Slavnikova, ‘Ia liubliu tebia, imperiia’, Znamia 12 (2000), quoted in Mikhail Suslov, ‘Of planets and trenches: imperial science fiction in contemporary Russia’, Russian Review 75 (October 2016): 569. Bykov, ZhD, p. 683. Bykov, ZhD, p. 684. Yuri Lotman and Boris Uspensky, ‘Binary models in the dynamics of Russian culture’, in A. Nakhimovsky and A. Stone-Nakhimovsky (eds), Semiotics of Russian Cultural History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 33. For an extension of the Lotman–Uspensky argument, see Michael Urban, ‘Post-Soviet political discourse and the creation of political communities’, in Andreas Schonle (ed.), Lotman and Cultural Studies: Encounters and Extensions (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), pp. 115–36; and Amy Mandelker, ‘Lotman’s other: estrangement and ethics in culture and explosion’, in Andreas Schonle (ed.), Lotman and Cultural Studies: Encounters and Extensions (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), p. 64. Bykov, ZhD, p. 683. The author self-consciously anticipates the likely line of critique – of ethnic determinism. As Bykov himself states in the Foreword, ‘It was not that important for me to write a good book. It was important to write what I wanted.’ Bykov, ZhD, p. 6.


The New ‘Norma’: Vladimir Sorokin’s Telluria and Post-Utopian Science Fiction Mark Lipovetsky

Introduction: post-utopian science fiction Fredric Jameson defines the role of contemporary science fiction (hereafter, SF) as ‘cognitive mapping’ and connects it with an inerasable function of the utopian discourse, which reappears in such unexpected genres as, for example, cyberpunk: ‘what is significant are the priorities of global cyberpunk, in which technological speculation and fantasy of the old Toeffler sort takes second place to the more historically original literary vocation of a mapping of the new geopolitical Imaginary’.1 However, since utopia, as we know it in twentieth century, is indeed a handy tool of metanarratives, how can utopian discourse operate in the postmodern condition of ‘incredulity toward metanarratives’?2 One may recognize an answer to this question in a post-utopian modality that has emerged in Western and late Soviet science fiction in the 1960s and continues developing until the present day. It embraces such genres as postapocalyptic SF and alternative history (and steam-punk as its sub-genre), as well as cyberpunk. While preserving its ties with dystopia as a dominant modality of SF in the twentieth century, post-utopian SF at the same time restores utopian themes as self-reflexive and restrained by the memory of failed utopias, but nevertheless vital forces for the development of humanity. Vladimir Sorokin’s novel Telluria (2013) perfectly fits the post-utopian model by performing a unique synthesis of post-apocalyptic SF, steam-punk and cyber-punk. Telluria consists of fifty chapters, depicting realms that supposedly appeared on the territory of Eurasia after the collapse of the present-day states, each with its peculiar language and lifestyle. Similarly to other post-utopian genres, Telluria blurs borderlines between past and future, advanced and ancient technologies, the real and virtual. Another significant aspect of post-utopian SF is associated with either minimalized or emphatically uncertain distancing between the reader’s 301


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reality and imaginary realm. If, for example, in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s The Roadside Picnic – a prototypical text for post-utopian SF – fantastic events are located in the present but situated in an unnamed Western country, in Telluria the temporal distance in more or less clear – everything is happening in the mid-twenty-first century, while different post-apocalyptic realms are situated in easily recognizable European and Russian locations, from Kőln to Vladivostok. The dystopian aspect of Telluria is also quite obvious – the novel depicts Eurasia broken into multiple small ‘appanage states’ after the devastating war with global Islam. Furthermore, in accordance with many post-apocalyptic fantasies, many of these states and their inhabitants intentionally fashion themselves according to archaic, especially medieval, models. However, if one accepts a suggestion that Telluria is, in fact, a post-utopian text, then dystopian and post-apocalyptic features of this text should be interwoven with much less noticeable and expectable utopian themes. In the following analysis, we will focus on the dialectics of the dystopian and utopian in Telluria and will try to define a political meaning of Sorokin’s narrative.

Telluria’s cognitive map What cognitive mapping does Telluria offer? Out of fifty chapters, twentyfive, including the four opening chapters, unfold in Moskovia (Moscow and Podmoskva). Sorokin openly connects this realm with his own earlier works – Day of the Oprichniks (Den’ oprichnika, 2006), The Sugar Kremlin (Sakharnyi Kreml’, 2009) and Blizzard (Metel’, 2010). Politically based on the synthesis of medieval political institutions (monarchy, oprichnina) and late Soviet rhetoric (the party leadership, censorship of popular culture, official xenophobia), it nevertheless includes a wide variety of interesting deviations from hegemonic discourses and practices. In these chapters, the reader encounters a Lolita-like romance, in which a girl is both naïve and calculatingly mercantile; and witnesses the orgy of Petersburg’s underground Bohemians. The narrative moves from gay tourism to political resistance and its internal feuds; from the circle of young consumers of banned tellurium to a Moscow princess seeking to be raped by ordinary thugs, and so on. This diversity blurs and complicates the dystopian contours of Moskovia, thus continuing the process begun in Sakharnyi Kreml’ and extended even further in Sorokin’s newest novel Manaraga (2017). In Telluria, Moskovia is surrounded by a number of other Russian states, among which special chapters are dedicated to the neo-feudal Ryazan kingdom (a stylized scene of an anti-Semitic aristocrat and his guest from

The New ‘Norma’


Moskovia hunting in Chapter 7); and the Yaroslavl princedom – inhabited by cheerful peasants engaged in dancing competitions with neighbouring villages, which is reminiscent of Soviet kolkhoz utopias like the infamously optimistic post-war musical comedy The Cossacks of Kuban (Kubanskie kazaki, 1949; dir. Ivan Pyr’ev), but with the inclusion of biomorphic characters and devices (Chapter 31). In Chapter 6, the United States of Urals, otherwise known as Durka (nuthouse), appears as the site of a prolonged civil war led by pro-communist leaders backed by the Chinese Communist Party. In Chapter 48, Sorokin presents a private republic/theme park entitled SSSR – the Stalinist Soviet Socialist Republic – which along with numerous artefacts from the Stalinist era, or rather their simulacra, offers a tellurian trip to Stalin’s realm including a personal encounter with the beloved leader. Also mentioned are such Russian states as the Far East Republic (DVR), Barybin, Belomor’e, Tartaria and Bashkiria. Some of them are said to represent more liberal versions of the Moskovian regime; about others we know nothing but their names. The theme of Russian disintegration is a dangerous subject in contemporary Russia. It is specifically addressed by the law of 2013 against separatism, which criminalizes ‘public appeals for the actions directed against the territorial unity of [the] Russian Federation’.3 This law strives to circumvent not only the expressed desire of Chechnya to separate itself from Russia (which led to a decade of military action), but also such separatist tendencies as Siberian ‘oblastnichestvo’ (regionalism) or the attempts to create the ‘Republic of Urals’, Karelia and Ingria separatisms.4 Sorokin’s Telluria certainly plays with this potentially explosive subject. However, it should be noted that discussion of the advantages of Russia’s disintegration began as early as the beginning of the 2000s in the circle of former Moscow Conceptualists, to which Sorokin had belonged since the late 1970s. In 1999, Dmitry Prigov wrote a cycle of poems titled ‘Умный федерализм’ (Smart federalism); it was openly utopian and presented friendly relations between several Russias emerging from disintegration of the Russian imperial entity. In the Foreword to the cycle, Prigov wrote: One may suppose, while looking at the state of current affairs and registering the lack of transparency in all channels of communication between the center and the rest of Russia . . . that the big cultural and historical eon of the Russian Empire has ended. Any overstraining of forces toward sustaining of the structure, which is not filled by live blood, which is getting petrified and losing its plasticity, only increases the pressure on the corroded construction.5


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Similar ideas can be detected in Telluria. Quite tellingly, three chapters (39, 40 and 41) depict the same episode from three different perspectives: a grandmother and her two teenage grandchildren visit a monument hidden in the depths of the woods. The monument was created by the grandmother’s late husband and depicts three heroic knights who had defeated the monster – Lenin as the destroyer of imperial Russia, Gorbachev as the slayer of the Soviet empire, and, believe it or not, Putin, whom Sorokin sees as the demolisher of post-Soviet Russia: She says that Russia was a horrible, anti-human monster at all times, but this beast was especially wild in the twentieth century – back then, blood was streaming like a river and human bones were crunching on the teeth of this dragon. To slay the monster, the Lord sent three knights, all marked by bold patches. And every one of them, each in his own time, performed heroic deeds. The bearded one [Lenin] had slayed the first head of the dragon. The one in eye-glasses [Gorbachev] – the second, and the one with a small chin [Putin] – chopped off the third head. She said that the Bearded was successful because of his courage, the EyeGlassed – because of his weakness. But the granny loves the third one most of all. She mumbles something tender, caresses him and puts lots of candies on his shoulders. She nods her head: how hard it was for him, the last one, harder than for anyone else. He did his job secretly, wisely, sacrificing his reputation, causing anger against himself. She says, ‘how much offense did you take, how much of silly people’s hatred, dumb wrath and hurting words’. She caresses and kisses him, calls him a little crane, and – cries.6

Much like Russia, Europe has also disintegrated on Sorokin’s virtual map. It is depicted as recovering after a long war against a Wahhabist invasion. Telluria presents at least three outcomes of this war (although it includes at least seven ‘European’ chapters): Chapter 5 describes a Victory parade in Köln – the Wahhabists are defeated and the new government is formed by a coalition that includes anti-Wahhabist Muslims; Chapter  18 offers a transrational internal monologue from an Islamic Stockholm; while Chapter  21 depicts Languedoc in the south of the former France where the ruling Knights Templar, armed with mech suits, are beginning a new crusade against global Islam (they are planning to conquer Istanbul). However, the conceptual and compositional centre of the novel is occupied by Chapter 23, which depicts the republic which bears the same name as the entire book – Telluria. Telluria is the world’s source of tellurian nails and the only place in the world where they are fully legal. While the majority

The New ‘Norma’


of the novel’s other chapters are filled with dynamic action – with Sorokin ready to engage with his favourite tropes of sexuality and violence as well as their discursive manifestations, aspects suggesting dystopian rather than utopian modality – the chapter on Telluria is openly conflictless and idyllic. Its ruler – a former French pilot, who together with his escadrille took control of the territory in the Altai mountains, where the largest deposits of tellurium are located – is depicted as a godlike king (although he is just a president) who flies over his domain like a black stork visiting his elated subjects. Telluria constitutes an opposition to Moskovia, where tellurian nails are strictly prohibited but craved more than anywhere else. All other countries on Sorokin’s map are situated between these two polarities: the dystopian world of an extended ‘day of the oprichniks’ and the utopian world of Telluria. However, the title of the novel clearly suggests that Sorokin in his aspirations gravitates to the latter rather to the former. Since each chapter in Sorokin’s book is characterized by its own discourse, narrative perspective and realm, the overall effect is a complex interaction of openly contradictory voices and positions which cannot be reduced to one simple message or ideology. However, emotionally rather than rationally, the overarching tonality of Telluria – a novel presenting a pretty disruptive picture of the near future – is very positive, and sometimes ecstatic, although the reasons for the excitement are hardly compatible with each other. For example, a novella about tellurian trips that allow the protagonist to see himself among Christ’s apostles, hearing his word and learning the higher truth, ends with a Christian prayer (Chapter  46). Right after this chapter, Sorokin strategically places the jubilant monologue of a horse nomad, reminiscent of the Scythians or Mongols, who who is revealed as a biomorphic being with male and female genitalia, enjoying her newly-found strength and freedom (Chapter 47).

Telluria and neo-medievalism Inspired by the resonance between his 2006 novel Day of the Oprichnik and the recent neoconservative turn in Russia, as well as in anticipation (accurate, as we know now) of analogous processes in European politics, Sorokin designs Telluria as a large-scale panorama of embodied discourses united by the theme of neo-medievalism.7 Certainly, Sorokin is not very original in his assessment of the present and near future history as the ‘new middle ages’; one may recall in this respect Umberto Eco’s 1986 essay, ‘The Return of the Middle Ages’,8 which in itself was a reaction to Hedley Bull’s 1977 book, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in the World Politics. Although one may


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find in Telluria reflections of Eco’s ideas about the medieval decentralization of power and especially about the significance of various nomads, from knights to vagrants, I doubt that Sorokin’s vision of the ‘new world (dis)order’ is inspired by Eco. Neither is he trying to catch up with neo-medievalism in popular culture as reflected by the Lord of the Rings cine-saga and, especially, Game of Thrones. I would contend that the main source of Sorokin’s neomedievalism is to be found in Nikolai Berdyaev’s 1924 essay, ‘New middle ages’ (Novoe srednevekov’e). Berdyaev designed his vision of the new middle ages as a response to the crisis of individualism and humanism. He argued (much like Konstantin Vaginov in his famous novel The Goat’s Song (Kozlinaia pesn’, 1929) that the post-First World War epoch is comparable with the collapse of the Hellenistic world. However, Berdyaev believed that the coming new age should not be perceived as a tragedy but rather as a manifestation of normal ‘rhythms’ in history, by which opposite conditions regularly alternate. He considered that contemporary world, despite its declared individualism, had lowered the value and significance of human individuality; while human freedom turned ‘out to be a formal and empty entity’ (‘формальной и бессодержательной’).9 According to Berdyaev, the new medievalism would attempt to transform the experience of the rationalist and humanist culture of the preceding centuries into a quest for the new sacred (a concept echoing both Bataille’s and Benjamin’s ideas of the 1930s). The new sacred was the core of Berdyaev’s neo-medievalism and his response to the crisis of individuality. According to his logic, only through religious communication with the new sacred will human freedom rediscover its meaning and goals. He interpreted communism and Italian Fascism as inseparable parts of this process, albeit oriented towards the ‘religion of the devil, the religion of Anti-Christ’. This does not mean that in the new middle ages the true religion, the religion of Christ, would necessarily win, yet this means that in this epoch, all the life, from all sides, will be dominated by the religious struggle, religious polarization, and extreme religious manifestations. The epoch of intensive struggle between the religion of God and religion of the devil, of the Christian and anti-Christian foundations, will be not secular anymore, but religious, sacral by its type, even when the religion of devil and the spirit of anti-Christ would be winning.10

These ideas resonate with Sorokin, whose characters speak about the ‘blessed enlightened Middle Ages’ (pp. 286–7). The leader of the team of ‘carpenters’ – those who perform the operation with tellurian nails – praises the new Middle Ages as a post-utopian condition:

The New ‘Norma’


. . . [A]fter the end of ideological, geopolitical and technological utopias, the world finally immersed itself in the blessed enlightened Middle Ages. The world acquired the human size. Nations found themselves. A human stopped being a sum of technologies. Mass production is moving to its end. There are no two identical nails that we insert into humanity’s head. People acquired the sense of the thing, began eating healthy food, changed cars for horses. Gene engineering helps the human to feel his true size. The human returned to faith in the transcendental. Returned to the sense of time. We are not in a hurry anymore. And most importantly – we understand that on Earth there can be no technological paradise. And a paradise in general. The Earth is given to us as the island of obstacles for the overcoming! And everyone choses by himself what to overcome and how. By himself! (pp. 286–7)11

As we can see, paradoxically, in this hymn to neo-medievalism, the rejection of utopias and utopia-promising ideologies leads to a retro-utopia found in a reimagined and reconstructed Middle Ages. In the depiction of the mechanics of the new medieval society, Sorokin’s ideolog follows Berdyaev’s leads by emphasizing the role of the transcendental, professional brotherhoods and local communities as opposed to nations and nationalisms: notably in Telluria, local and professional communities serve as the main source of ethical and cultural norms. Sorokin also highlights the intense interaction and interpenetration between West and East accompanying the decline of Europe’s cultural centrality. Both Sorokin and Berdyaev emphasize the renewed significance of women, who are able to overcome traditional gender roles in the new circumstances. As in Berdyaev’s writing, Telluria depicts the complete rejection of the capitalist industrial system, accompanied by the rise of new forms of inequality (in Sorokin they are mainly associated with the ‘new anthropology’ based on biomorphic transformations). Importantly, almost all of Sorokin’s novellas, in correspondence with Berdyaev’s programmatic statement, depict ‘the collapse of the legal principles of authority . . . and their replacement by the principle of force, live energy [concentrated in] spontaneous social groups and associations’.12 Yet, the greatest similarity – and at the same time, a paramount difference between Berdyaev and Sorokin – is found in their treatment of the concept of the sacred. The motif of a tellurian nail that appears in almost every part of Sorokin’s narrative, serves as the most vital manifestation of the sacred. Due to its structural function, this motif recalls ‘norma’ from Sorokin’s early eponymous book of 1979–83 (first published in 1994); however, ‘norma’ – pressed human feces mandated for daily consumption – served as the


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dystopian symbol of the Soviet discursive regime. A tellurian nail, on the contrary, may be understood as the symbol of the utopian imagination – when hammered in the head by a specially trained ‘carpenter’, it triggers colourful and exciting hallucinations: ‘a stable euphoric state accompanied by a sense of timelessness’ (p.  249). Furthermore, Sorokin’s use of tellurium might refer to Aleksandr Sukhovo-Kobylin’s unfinished ‘cosmist’ utopia, Philosophy of Spirit and Sociology (The Universum Teaching) (Filosofiia dukha ili sotiologiia (uchenie Vsemira), 1899–1901) in which ‘tellurian’ designates the first stage in the process of humanity’s evolution towards cosmic harmony.13 Unlike Berdyaev, in Sorokin’s novel the manifestation of the sacred through tellurian hallucinations is not related to the opposition of God and the devil; furthermore, it is not even necessarily religious – in fact there is only one example of a tellurian trip invoking religious imagery (Chapter 46). Sorokin’s post-religious sacred is directly connected with the subject’s individual mind – his or her creative potential rather than supra-individual concepts. Tellingly, among the stories about the ‘wicked nails’ shared by the tellurian carpenters, one stands out about a man who, returning from a bad trip, was rendered capable of saying only ‘Нема Бога!’ (‘Ain’t no God!’). Tellurian hallucinations certainly suggest post-traumatic escapism – carpenters are invited to Europe to cure its wounded souls after the catastrophic war, but are not limited to it. In fact, tellurian nails appear as one of the few accessible forms of self-realization, or rather of the realization of individual vitality and creativity that the neo-medieval world offers: You know what the power of tellurium is about. It agitates most intimate desires in our brain, most valuable dreams. But – dreams that have been thought through deep, profound as opposed to impulsive pangs. All known narcotic substances drive us behind, forcing on us their desires, their will and their idea of pleasure . . . But tellurium . . . divine tellurium offers neither euphoria nor a spasm of pleasure, neither kaif nor a rainbow-colored high. Tellurium offers you a whole world. Solid, truthful, and live. 40914

Telluria resonates with another propagandist of neo-medievalism – the contemporary Russian nationalist ideolog Aleksandr Dugin. In his writing, the idea of the new middle ages is directly linked to his speculation about the collapse of Western political anthropology based on the idea of civil nationalism and the concept of modernity. According to Dugin, Western states ignore the ‘inborn’, ‘natural’ characteristics of their subjects defined by

The New ‘Norma’


their race, ethnic origins and religious culture: ‘European justice based on the ignoring of these identities is collapsing now, eroded in its foundations. It cannot deal with the critical mass of newcomers [to Europe] who do not integrate into European society.’15 In his analysis of this situation, Dugin offers salvation in the form of the concept of new medievalism (in his idiosyncratic vocabulary, this condition is also defined as ‘postmodern’, which he also understands as ‘anti-modern’). Dugin only briefly mentions a return to ‘traditional political anthropology’, which is based on his essentialist concept of identity; ‘naturally’ he does not mention the ensuing segregation and discrimination, preferring to concentrate on the spiritual height of the historical Middle Ages: The crisis of contemporary Western society, the exhaustion of the Enlightenment paradigm, invites us to return to the middle ages. Indeed, we need to build a new medievalism, since modernity has exhausted its agenda. The paradigm of modernity is fading away into the past. With no return. Aren’t we returning to the middle ages after the collapse of the Soviet system? What about the increased role of the church and rising of the national idea, don’t they invoke new medievalism? We are swiftly leaving the paradigm of modernity, but it was this paradigm that had negatively characterized the middle ages as the time of ‘barbarity’ and ‘darkness’. But this was nothing but political propaganda, ‘black PR’ . . . In actuality, the middle ages, if one adopts a different perspective, is the brilliant and beautiful golden age of world culture . . . No other epoch demonstrated such artistic beauty, such heights of human spirit, such breadth of heroism and action, such fullness of spirit. Therefore, the return to medievalism is exciting!16

Dugin’s neo-medievalism also suggests the creation of new empires (preferring to ignore the historical association between empire and modernity), yet these new empires that war with one another for global domination are described by him in a way reminiscent of Telluria: What kind of empire are we dreaming and thinking about? Empire is a specific combination of the universal and particular. There were many kingdoms within the Byzantium Empire. [Contemporary] network structures in new empires will transform into ethnic formations, based on assemblages of typical physical and intellectual capabilities. For example, an ethnos can emerge from programmers, football players, artists, or bikers. These new ethnic formations will be included in new empires according to their linguistic and geographic characteristcis,


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

which will function similarly to the religious distinctions in ‘old’ empires. These new ethnic formations will bring along new rationalities. Thus, in new empires there will be many rationalities – as opposed to the mono-rationality of the ultramodern ‘Empire’. Thus, we’ll be returning to the pre-modern world where many rationalities coexist within one civilization. These will ot necessarily be religious rationalities – although someone (if there is such a desire) might deify Kant similarly to one of ‘new religions’ in Brazil worshiping Voltaire and Rousseau.17

However, while seemingly following Dugin’s script, Sorokin turns Dugin’s medievalism upside down. If Dugin essentializes individual choices, forming new ‘ethnic formations’ from ‘programmers, football players, artists, or bikers’, Sorokin, on the contrary, emphasizes individualities behind collective identities. This can be seen in the ‘deviations’ hidden beneath the uniformity of Moskovia’s neo-medieval society. In Telluria, Sorokin radically extends the limits of subjectivity, for example – the novel includes the monologues of representatives of ‘new species’ shaped by the advances of DNA-engineering, such as centaurs – animals genetically modified with human DNA – and the ‘little’ and ‘big’ humans – like in Blizzard – while we also read a narrative written from the perspective of a living and self-conscious penis, one of a community of similar creatures. Most importantly, Sorokin undermines Dugin’s medievalism as a rejection of the idea of individuality as a liberal phantom. In Sorokin’s novel, tellurian self-realizations – as the kernel of the entire text – allows individuality to take a shape, thus embodying Berdyaev’s prognosis: ‘God-human [God in the human form, i.e., Christ] is confronted not by a human belonging to the neutral and middle-land kingdom, but a human-god, a human who has placed himself in God’s place’ (‘Богочеловеку противостоит не человек нейтрального и серединного царства, а человекобог, человек, поставивший себя на место Бога’).18 Sorokin’s characters act as gods, as demiurges, while creating their own utopian worlds during their tellurian trips. In this respect they also materialize the Nietzschean concept of the human as the overcoming of the human – but with two adjustments: with minimal harm to other people, and on a regular basis. As one of Sorokin’s characters says while praising the effects of tellurian, ‘A human is something that has to be overcome not once but permanently. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second . . .’ (‘Человек – это то, что должно не преодолеть, но преодолевать. Ежедневно, ежечасно, ежеминутно, ежесекундно . . .’, p.  408). The ‘wicked nail’ or failed trips, in this respect, correspond to the human inability to face the challenges of his or her ultimate self-realization. This is the sacred of Sorokin’s neo-medievalism, and this,

The New ‘Norma’


highly individualized and individualistic, concept stands for the utopian axis of his post-utopian fantasy.

Conclusion Drugs in general (and a tellurian nail as a super-drug) have served as metaphors for literature and, generally speaking, the transcendental in many of Sorokin’s works since Goluboe salo (The Blue Lard, 1999).19 The fact that each chapter in Telluria offers a new discursive identity in combination with the novel’s title also suggests the reading of tellurian trips as a metaphor for literature (or any form of art for that matter). Yet, this is also Sorokin’s response to the crisis of literature about which the writer speaks incessantly, including in his latest novel Manaraga, in which literature is used as an expensive and sophisticated fuel for grill and BBQ. One may detect in this novel the fullest realization of what Ilya Kalinin defined as Sorokin’s ‘metalingual utopia’: ‘a victory of language in a non-representational mode, in an absolute mimetic identity with the material, physical nature of bodies and things’.20 In Manaraga, books are ‘bodies and things’ with which literature is identified. But there is another direction for the same ‘metalingual utopia’ – towards the full dematerialization of literature, towards its magic power. And this direction of Sorokin’s quest is best manifested in Telluria. If tellurium is indeed a metaphor for literature, then we are dealing with literature in which the ‘reader’ serves as the ‘author’. But what is the source of the reader’s creativity? In Sorokin’s oeuvre there has always been only one possible answer to this question – language. Therefore, the reader mainly materializes the potentialities and prompts of the language to which s/he adheres during his or her tellurian self-realizations. Sorokin imagines a neo-medieval world in which each state and each anthropological subspecies possess their own language. The CommunoOrthodox languages of Moskovia are distinct from the stylized linguistic and behavioural archaisms of the Ryazan and Yaroslavl states, as well as from the revolutionary newspeak and lifestyle of the United States of Urals. The intellectual ‘post-cynical’ discourse of the dog-headed vagrants is different from the centaur’s quasi-old Slavonic lingo. Not only are these languages channelled to individualized concepts of the sacred, thus forming the kernel of neo-medievalism, but they also constitute a new appanage system, in which both new republics and kingdoms as well as new anthropological states serve as tangible manifestations of discursive differences and gaps. As usual in SF, Sorokin only extrapolates the current cultural and political condition into the future – arguing that contemporary information bubbles


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

and growing internet-based communities united by a shared discourse and rejecting any deviations from it already contain the seed of new medievalism. This is indeed our new ‘norma’. Yet, according to Sorokin’s logic, contemporary Facebook-based communities lack the most important thing – tellurium nails, the utopian catalysts, or, in other words, truly creative and profound quests for a new and individual sacred. What is Telluria then – a temptation to accept neo-medievalism as a condition for new intellectual opportunities? A warning about potential scenarios already present in today’s cultural condition? A utopia masked as dystopia, or the opposite – a dystopia ironically tinted in utopian colours? Possibly both – which indeed is what post-utopian SF is all about.

Notes 1 Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (New York: Verso, 2005), p. 385. 2 Jean-François Lyotard, ‘From The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge’, in Michael Drolet (ed.), The Postmodern Reader: Foundational Texts (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 123. 3 See ‘Piat’ let lisheniia svobody grozit za prizyvy k separatizmu’, 29 December 2013, 4 For these and similar movements, see A. V. Remnev, ‘Natsional’nost’ – “sibiriak”: Regional’naia identichnost’ i istoricheskii konstruktivizm’, Politiia 3 (2011): 109–26; V. Shevtsov, I. Nam and E. Khakhalkina, ‘Siberian identity in the historical perspective and at present’, SHS Web of Conferences 28 (2016): 1–4; S. V. Moshkin, ‘Ural’skaia respublika – khroniki’ (2013), https://; Louk Hagendoorn, Edwin Poppe and Anca Minescu, ‘Support for Separatism in Ethnic Republics of the Russian Federation’, Europe-Asia Studies 60, no. 3 (2008): 353–73; Valery Stepanov, ‘Ethnic tensions and separatism in Russia’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 26, no. 2 (2010): 305–32. 5 D. A. Prigov, ‘Umnyi federalism’, 6 ‘Говорит Россия была страшным античеловеческим государством во все времена, но особенно зверствовало это чудовище в ХХ веке, тогда просто кровь лилась рекой и косточки человеческие хрустели в пасти этого дракона. И для сокрушения чудовища Господь послал трех рыцарей, отмеченных плешью. И они, каждый в свое время, совершили подвиги. Бородатый сокрушил первую голову дракона, очкастый – вторую, а тот, с маленьким подбородком, отрубил третью. Бородатому, говорит, это удалось за счет храбрости, очкастому – за счет слабости, а третьему – благодаря хитрости. И этого последнего из трех лысых бабуля, судя по всему, любила больше всего. Она бормотала что-то

The New ‘Norma’


8 9 10 11

12 13





нежное такое, гладила его, много конфет на плечи ему положила. И все качала головой: как тяжело было этому третьему, последнему, тяжелее всех. Ибо, говорит, он делал дело свое тайно, мудро, жертвуя своей честью, репутацией, вызывая гнев на себя. Говорит, сколько же ты стерпел оскорблений, ненависти глупой народной, гнева тупого, злословия! И гладит его и целует и обнимает, называя журавликом, а сама – в слезы.’ Vladimir Sorokin, Telluria (Moscow: AST, 2013), p. 370. Hereafter, all quotations from Sorokin’s novel are taken from this edition; pages are indicated in parenthesis after a quote. All translations are mine. Neo-medievalism has already developed into a discipline of the humanities. See, for example, The Cambridge Companion to Medievalism, ed. Louise D’Arcens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, trans. William Weaver (San Diego, New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983), pp. 59–85 Nikolai Berdyaev, Novoe srednevekov’e: Razmyshlenie o sud’be Rossii i Evropy (Moscow: Feniks-KhDS-press, 1991), p. 417. Berdyaev, Novoe srednevekov’e, p. 415. ‘. . . после краха идеологических, геополитических и технологических утопий он погрузился наконец в благословенное просвещенное средневековье. Мир стал человеческого размера. Нации обрели себя. Человек перестал быть суммой технологий. Массовое производство доживает последние годы. Нет двух одинаковых гвоздей, которые мы забиваем в головы человечеству. Люди снова обрели чувство вещи, стали есть здоровую пищу, пересели на лошадей. Генная инженерия помогает человеку почувствовать свой истинный размер. Человек вернул себе веру в трансцендентальное. Вернул чувство времени. Мы больше никуда не торопимся. А главное – мы понимаем, что на земле не может быть технологического рая. И вообще – рая. Земля дана нам как остров преодоления. И каждый выбирает – что преодолевать и как. Сам!’ Berdyaev, Novoe srednevekov’e, p. 420. See Aleksandr Sukhovo-Kobylin, Uchenie Vsemir: Inzhenerno-filosofskie ozareniia, intro. and ed. A. A.Karulin and I. V. Mirzalis (Moscow: C.E.T., 1995). ‘Вы знаете, в чем мощь теллура. Он возбуждает в мозгу нашем самые сокровенные желания, самые лелеемые мечты. Причем – мечты осознанные, глубокие, выношенные, не просто импульсивные позывы. Все известные наркотические вещества всегда вели нас за собой, навязывая свои желания, свою волю и свое представление об удовольствии . . . Но теллур . . . божественный теллур дает не эйфорию, не спазм удовольствия, не кайф и не банальный радужный торч. Теллур дарует вам целый мир. Основательный, правдоподобный, живой.’ Aleksandr Dugin, Geopolitika postmoderna (St Petersburg: Amfora, 2007), Dugin, Geopolitika postmoderna.


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

17 Aleksandr Dugin, ‘Zakoldovannaia sreda “novykh imperii” ’, Khudozhestvennyi zhurnal 54 (2004), For a more detailed comparison of Telluria with Dugin’s theories see the following article: Dirk Uffellmann, ‘Eurasia in the Retrofuture: Aleksandr Dugin’s “tellurokratija”, Vladimir Sorokin’s “Tellurija”, and the Benefits of Literary Analysis for Political Theory’, Die Welt der Slaven. Jahr. 62, no. 2 (2017): 360–84. 18 Berdyaev, Novoe srednevekov’e, p. 415. 19 See the following works: Stanislav L’vovskii, ‘Tret’ia Psikhodelicheskaia Vladimira Sorokina, ili Telluria: piat’desiat glav o tom, chego ne mozhet byt’, ‘Eto tol’ko bukvy na bumage . . .’, in Evgeny Dobrenko, Ilya Kalinin and Mark Lipovetsky (eds), Vladimir Sorokin: Posle literatury (Moscow: NLO, 2018); Mark Lipovetsky, ‘Fleshing/Flashing Discourse: Sorokin’s Master-Trope’, in Tine Rosen and Dirk Uffellmann (eds), Vladimir Sorokin’s Languages, Slavica Bergensia, vol. 11 (Bergen: Bergen University Press, 2013), pp. 38–40 (pp. 25–47). 20 Ilya Kalinin, ‘The Blue Lard of Language: Vladimir Sorokin’s Metalingual Utopia’, Vladimir Sorokin’s Languages 141: 128–47.

Afterword: Back to the Future, Forward to the Past? Explorations in Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy Kåre Johan Mjør and Sanna Turoma

The prevalence of science fiction (SF), especially dystopic narratives, be it pulp fiction, computer games, art-house films or digital forms of storytelling, is a common feature of global culture. The blockbusters of this industry are also translated and commercialized in Russia. In global consumer culture, SF is often regarded as a form of popular entertainment. Whether meant to entertain or not, SF, however, always operates at the intersection of politics and culture. Its utopian and anti-utopian visions of mankind’s future and society’s power structures grant it the potential to imagine an alternative political order and cultural hegemony. In the Soviet Union, SF occupied an uneasy position between ideological control and the official promotion of scientific and technological innovation.1 ‘Scientific fantasy’ or nauchnaia fantastika (the Russian name of the genre first introduced in the 1890s) emerged in pre-revolutionary Russia as an important channel for imagining modernity much earlier than it did, for instance, in the English-language world.2 Such writers and intellectuals as Valery Briusov, Aleksandr Bogdanov and Evgenii Zamiatin were pioneers in rendering technological and scientific imagination into the world of fiction at the beginning of the twentieth century. The essays collected in this volume manifest the fact that SF, fantasy literature and utopian/dystopian narratives also continue to play a crucial role in the post-Soviet Russian popular imagination. How, then, as the collection prompts us to ask, does Russian SF, its production and consumption, differ from other global clusters of the SF industry?

SF and conservatism In comparison with the twentieth-century Russian and Soviet genre, twentyfirst-century post-Soviet SF seems to have little to do with science but much 315


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to do with fiction. The current dystopias are notably earthbound, terrestrial and territorial, rather than extraterrestrial in the strict sense of its definition. One of the traits of the current SF scene in Russia, and a trait that makes it so distinctly different from earlier Russian and Soviet SF writing, is, in fact, a distrust in science, a trait Andrei Rogachevskii, one of the contributors to this book, detects in Eduard Limonov’s works. By the same token, there seems to be less concern about transhuman technologies, artificial intelligence, posthuman ethics and climate change catastrophes in Russian SF than, for instance, in the mainstream English-language one. According to Maria Galina, who analyses a number of Russian SF pulp novels in her chapter, the two main preoccupations of fantastika are future military conflicts between Russia and foreign powers, and the revision of history, which often take the form of alternative history (see more on this, below). One may conclude from this, as the editors indeed do, that there is conservative impetus behind current Russian SF and fantasy literature. To make sense of this conservative impulse, the contributors to this book draw on Karl Mannheim’s (1893–1947) concept of ‘counter-utopia’. What attracts our attention is the fact that Mannheim’s notions of ‘the conservative idea’ and ‘conservative mentality’, conceived at the end of the 1920s, should resonate so strongly among critics of Russian cultural production a hundred years later. Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia, first published in 1929, was a response to the conflicts that ‘led to the destruction of [the] liberal Weimar Republic’, as Louis Wirth wrote in the preface to the 1936 English-language edition. This was the time when there was a sense of ‘Western civilization’ coming to an end, a Zeitgeist captured acutely by Oswald Spengler (1880– 1936) in The Decline of the West. First published in Germany in 1918, Spengler’s influential work was translated and published in Russia in 1922. Russian translations of Mannheim, on the other hand, had to wait till the early post-Soviet years of the 1990s. Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that Mannheim, who sought to gain objective knowledge about ‘how . . . thinking functions in public life and in politics as an instrument of collective action’,3 should offer a conceptual frame for explaining the conservatism of current Russian SF, while Spengler, in turn, is a source of inspiration for conservative fictions of culture and civilization so prominent in Russian intellectual production today. The immense popularity SF and fantasy literature enjoys in Russia offers a perspective from which to explore not only post-Soviet Russia’s destabilizing utopias but also Russia’s stabilizing ideologies, to follow Mannheim’s distinction. And, more specifically, Russian SF offers a perspective to discuss the role and place that nation and empire, space and borders, as well as time and history, occupy in the Russian creative and political imagination. What is



often at stake in Russian SF, as many of the essays in this book attest, is the battle over history. On the one hand, SF contributes to the politicization of history currently occurring at various levels of institutionalized practices in Russian society. On the other hand, authors of SF also try to subvert the Russian state’s official political history and provide relief for their audiences from the homogenizing narratives authorized by the state and the Orthodox Church as well as from the outlandish but widely circulating claims made by the authors of alternative histories and speculative fiction.

Alternative history Theoreticians of SF have long since extended their analysis beyond the questions of a literary genre and identified the cultural practice of SF, quoting Istvan Csiscery-Ronay, as ‘a mode of awareness about the present’.4 In postSoviet SF, awareness about the present is often projected on the past, be it the past as such or a fictional past created to serve as a projection of the future. Thus, while the action may take place in the future, the future is conceived as a return to a distant past, such as the imaginary Middle Ages. The past, then, is promoted as a utopia, and, as a result, the narrative presents itself as Karl Mannheim’s conservative counter-utopia. It is a response and reaction to the post-Soviet experience of loss and uncertainty. Fantasy literature set in the past often takes the form of alternative history, by which we mean the fictive genre of ‘what if ’ narratives that imagine the outcome of well-known historic events differently from how they actually transpired. The narratives of alternative history take us back to a critical moment, when Russia’s history could have taken a different turn. Alternative history has been a popular mode of fictive and historical writing in postSoviet Russia, its most famous example being Anatoly Fomenko’s concept and publication series New Chronology (Novaia khoronologia). Fomenko sought to replace the traditional chronology of world history, denounced as a ‘Jesuit forgery’, with a completely new scheme, based on mathematics as well as astrology. Among other things, he reversed the chronology between antiquity and the Middle Ages, between the writing of the Old and the New Testament, for instance locating Jesus’ life in the eleventh century.5 Fomenko’s project recalls the observation Andrei Rogachevskii makes in this book when he relates Eduard Limonov’s non-fictive writing to a counter-factual discourse. According to Maria Galina, the creation of alternative historical narratives is a dominant trend in post-Soviet Russian SF. For instance, Sergei Arsen’ev’s 2012 novel, Student, Komsomol Member, Sportswoman, recounts from a


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

future point of view (2040) a story about a female protagonist who exterminates Gorbachev and saves the Soviet Union. In this novel, as is often the case in contemporary Russia, an anti-revolutionary attitude does not necessarily coincide with an anti-Soviet stance.6 In her analyses of SF pulp, Galina notes that alternative histories rarely focus on the October Revolution, but, instead, the anti-utopias evolve around medieval Rus’, Ivan the Terrible or the Second World War. The location of authenticity, as cultural critics have observed, is often a space and time distant from the present, and, thus, narratives of authenticity communicate a utopian vision.7 In the novels which Go Koshino analyses, the quasi-historical accounts depict a Russia where the October Revolution never happened. These novels are critical of the Russian past, but the goal of the criticism is not to expose the crimes committed by the Soviet regime, as was the case in the revision of history during the perestroika years. Instead, the target of the criticism is the present, viewed as the result of specific historical events such as the 1917 revolutions. Meanwhile, these quasihistorical accounts create the perception of an authentic, idealized past, and this ‘real’ past is often located in the medieval period of Russian history.

Cyclical history In post-Soviet Russia, utopia and creative historical imagination is founded on a cyclical understanding of history. Cyclical models of history are commonly regarded as pre-modern and hence contrasted with the linear and progressive understanding of historical time, associated with Western modernity.8 In today’s Russia this means that the progressive perception of historical time is usually associated with globalization and Western hegemony, and, consequently, the defence of cyclical history often takes the form of a critique of the West.9 Since the 1990s, Russian thinkers, scholars and ideologists have been intensely concerned with forging a cyclical model of Russia’s past, present and future, and they have done so on the basis of a selection of key events to recreate a coherent narrative of what they perceive as the ‘true’ logic of Russian history. These events are the ‘Time of Troubles’ of the early seventeenth century, the collapse of the Russian Empire during the First World War and the revolutions that followed, and, finally, the collapse of the Soviet Union as a result of the perestroika period. All these events are commonly called smuta, the ‘Time of Troubles’. Smuta, or smutnoe vremia, originally referred to the turmoil of the Polish–Russian war of 1605–13 and a series of uprisings and imposters at the beginning of the seventeenth



century, which ended with the accession of the first Romanov tsar. In the current discourse, the term is applied to several periods of ‘Troubles’ in the Russian past. The pluralization of the historiographical term once reserved for a specific period and set of events was initially proposed by late Soviet Russian Westernizers, who argued that a cyclical model explains why the entirety of Russian history thus far has been nothing but an alternation between authoritarianism and chaos, and therefore by and large a failure. Since then the model has been appropriated by conservatives and nationalists – from Aleksandr Panarin to the influential Izborsk Club – and presented as the ‘law’ of Russian history. The recurrent periods of chaos, allegedly caused by the West and Russia’s own Westernizers, remain a threat, and yet it is Russia’s ostensible ability to overcome these periods of chaos that fascinates the conservative camp so much. Despite moments of crisis, this narrative is ultimately interpreted in positive terms. It is the struggle against foreign agents and fifth columnists plotting another ‘Time of Troubles’ that makes Russian history meaningful. Fantasy literature offers an important arena for these visions to be widely circulated and popularized. Aleksandr Prokhanov is a leading member of the Izborsk Club and the propagator of the idea of an imminent Russian ‘fifth empire’, which he sees as currently rising from the chaos caused by perestroika. According to Prokhanov, Russia cannot but exist as an empire, which for him means, first and foremost, a strong Russian state. Prokhanov converted from a critic of Putin into his supporter in 2014, though he and other members of the Izborsk Club were disappointed that Russia did not intervene more directly in Donbass and decided instead to fight a proxy war.10 Prokhanov’s empire is, as Edith Clowes shows in her chapter, precisely a conservative utopia (Mannheim). One of Prokhanov’s best-known novels, Mr. Hexogen (2002), relates to the terrorist bombings of apartment blocks in Russia in 1999 and ends in the proclamation of an eternal rebirth. In Clowes’ paraphrase of Prokhanov, ‘Nothing ever truly ends; everything – even prehistoric conditions, mentalities, systems of value – cycles back into the present.’ There is also a substantial amount of more fantastic and lesser known literature which indulges in a range of conservative utopias, as Mikhail Suslov shows in his contribution. The authors of these geopolitical fantasies, such as the series of books titled Eurasian Symphony, are often members of influential networks, which include so-called ‘political technologists’ – the post-Soviet label for ideologists, advisors and spin doctors – think tanks, politicians and representatives of the Orthodox Church. They all reject the secular world and understand globalization exclusively in negative terms, although they are prepared to enjoy, for instance, the advantages of technological progress. Andrei Rogachevskii’s reading of Eduard Limonov’s work shows how this


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

retrofuturistic position entails simultaneously both a nostalgia for the premodern world and a preoccupation with and even addiction to modern technology. The retrofuturistic position also serves to produce a cyclical version of Russian history: it constantly looks backwards in time while also conceiving a reborn Russia as an unforeseen empire or civilization, be it in terms of geographical size, spiritual hegemony or global impact. A similar cyclical progressivism is encountered in the ideas of the Izborsk Club, be it Prokhanov or Aleksandr Dugin, who believe that the new Russian empire of the future will extend its borders beyond any historical Russia and play a global role that will overshadow previous Russian empires, while at the same time representing the rebirth of an ‘eternal Russia’.11 Cyclical representations of history may also be found in what in Russian is sometimes called intellektual’naia proza (intellectual prose), written by some of the most celebrated writers of post-Soviet Russia: Tatiana Tolstaia, Dmitry Bykov and Vladimir Sorokin. In their novels, however, the notion of history’s ability to repeat itself is a target of satire. They critique the very position Prokharov and others represent. According to a well-known Russian anecdote (or joke), Russia has an ‘unpredictable past’. Tatiana Tolstaia takes the irony further, claiming that the past may be reinvented over and over again for continually new purposes.12 In her novel The Slynx (2000), the progressive movement forward is completely undermined by a nuclear catastrophe that took place in the past, but which has paralysed society for good. The inhabitants live in a medieval-like world, where they suffer from the catastrophe’s physical consequences but have also been granted an eternal life. Time has come to an end in this deeply dystopian novel, which takes place in an everlasting present.13 In Vladimir Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik (2006) we are taken both back and forward to an isolated and yet hyper-technological Muscovite Orthodox Tsardom in the future (2027), which emerged as the result of a state collapse (the ‘grey smuta’) succeeding the ‘red smuta’ of 1917 (the October Revolution) and the ‘white smuta’ of 1991 (the disintegration of the USSR). Sorokin’s novel, too, is deeply dystopian, describing a violent, oppressive society led by the tsar and his guards. In the 2013 Telluria, Sorokin describes a very different, fragmented Russia, which has not managed to rise from the chaos caused by radical Islamists. In contrast to the idealization of Putin’s leadership by Prokhanov and his peers (including in the novel Mr. Hexogen), in Telluria, Putin is the figure who had led Russia to disintegration. As Mark Lipovetsky argues in his chapter, Sorokin’s novel represents neo-medievalism, but in the sense that it provides a panorama of various neo-medievalist discourses, including the one created by Nikolai Berdyaev in The New Middle Ages (1924), which presented Berdyaev’s quest for a ‘new sacred’ in the modern



world. As Lipovetsky suggests, Sorokin’s ‘telluric’ narcotic nail, which figures throughout the novel, may be read as a parody of this idea. Although it shares some similarities with post-Soviet neo-imperialist utopias (Prokhanov, Dugin), Sorokin’s book is, above all, a story about imperial disintegration and the re-emergence of individual agency.14 Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD is another example of SF writing that challenges the master narrative institutionalized by the state. It, too, represents alternative history, describing a medieval(-like) conflict between the ‘Variangians’ from the north and the ‘Khazars’ from the south. It depicts a cyclical alternation of Varangian and Khazar hegemony up to the present. In the arena of this conflict live the ‘Russians’, preferring a life that takes place in an unaffected non-progressive time. The novel is arguably a parody on several levels – of traditions of ethnic identification and of the idea of Russian history unfolding in repetitive cycles, where a strong state coincides with poverty and repression. As Sofya Khagi points out, the relationship between the Khazars and the Varangians serves to depict the cyclicity of Russian history.15

SF and political history Narrating history often equals identity-building. While considering the interaction between SF and political discourse, the contributors to this volume also enquire into the ways this interaction facilitates the Russian state’s identity-building project. A large body of contemporary Russian fantasy literary seeks to politicize and instrumentalize history in line with official political history, while some writers respond critically to this development. Contemporary Russian political history, while not necessarily coherent or consistent, emphasizes first and foremost the longue durée of Russian history. The Soviet period was not an anomaly, as authorities claimed in the 1990s, but an integral part of Russia’s ‘thousand-year history’.16 The interactive exhibit ‘Russia – my history’, which recently opened in several Russian cities and met fierce opposition from the association of progressive historians (Vol’noe obhshchestvo istorii), places much emphasis on the assertion that the origins of the Russian state lie in the medieval Kievan Rus’.17 In the narrative of this exhibit, echoed in teaching in schools and educational institutions across the country, it is the state’s and its leaders’ ability to survive chaos and revolutions that enables the continuity of history. Another key event in contemporary Russian political history is the victory over fascism in the Second World War. The solemn memorialization of the war sanctioned by the state has made it difficult to consider the matter


The Post-Soviet Politics of Utopia

critically. The victory is perhaps a ‘new sacred’ for Russian society. More contested is Stalin and his legacy as an ‘efficient manager’. The current regime does not deny his crimes (in contrast to more conservative hardliners), but at the same time argue that the ‘achievements’ of his reign must be acknowledged. The Second World War is part and parcel of this interpretation. In other words, criticism of Stalin must not lead to a full denouncement of that period in Russian history.18 In addition to the dystopic novels by Tolstaia, Bykov and Sorokin discussed above, another example of how writers responded to the official political history is Sorokin’s short story ‘Monoklon’. According to Ingunn Lunde, this story creates a ‘synchronicity’ of the ‘glorious, celebratory Soviet world of the spacecraft and cosmonauts’ and the ‘violent, brutal world of the camps’. Both belong to a common Soviet past, the implication being that Sorokin implicitly questions a key premise of current political history, that is, that a critique of Soviet crimes must not lead to a rejection of its achievements.19

Territory and empire As a number of chapters in this book demonstrate, Russian popular literature is very often concerned with Russia’s borders, its enemies and its wider sphere of influence – ideas that in recent times have flourished in Russian political thought and been put into practice with the annexation of Crimea and the proxy war in Donbass. Fantastic literature, regardless of its artistic ambition, focuses on national and territorial questions, often centred on concepts such as the ‘Russian World’, ‘Russian civilization’ and ‘Eurasia’.20 The ‘Russian World’ may extend as far as London – the Londongrad of Russian expats – while ‘Russian civilization’ and ‘Eurasia’ mostly overlap and refer to former Russian empires, the Soviet Union perceived as one, too. As Lara Ryazanova-Clarke shows in this collection, the ‘Russian World of London’ takes the Soviet lifeworld as a frame of reference and does not really engage with the British lifeworld, however globalized it appears, but is more concerned with preserving its ‘Russianness’. Although geopolitical SF often immerses itself in the topics of expansion and a destabilization of Western hegemony, as in Prokhanov’s novel Crimea, it is equally obsessed with the protection of Russian territory – understood not so much as the current borders of the Russian Federation, as the territory of the former Soviet Union. There is an obsession with both territorial loss and new Eurasian integration. The preoccupation with borders and territory reflects the trauma connected with the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are several types of trauma in the literature analysed in this book. Muireann



Maguire shows in her study of Vladimir Sharov and Evgenii Vodolazkin how the trauma is connected to the Soviet experience, not its dissolution. In the pulp fiction that Maria Galina discusses, by contrast, the remedy for trauma is the battle over Crimea as Russian land. Prokhanov’s writings, too, focus on the marking of Russia’s borders against the West, which is usually accompanied with a claim for (more) Russian territory, in particular in those areas where ethnic Russians constitute a visible proportion or even majority. Key areas are of course Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, or ‘Novorossiia’. Hence, Prokhanov’s Russian nationalism, as Clowes shows, means also a Russian neo-imperialism in its quest for the ‘regathering of Russian lands’. This is a visualization of the aforementioned imminent ‘fifth’ Russian empire. These areas, then, represent sites of national revival. So do the Russian non-urban regions which Prokhanov juxtaposes with ‘cosmopolitan Moscow’. His project finds a parallel in Limonov’s writings, in which the countryside is seen, too, as the main site for national and even civilizational development. In reality, though, Prokhanov (and probably Limonov) remains Moscow-centered, as Clowes points out with reference to a study by Victoria Donovan. Clowes observes, moreover, a widespread xenophobia in Prokhanov’s writings, not just towards the West but also several of Russia’s own and historically significant ethnic groups: Muslims and Jews. Prokhanov’s Russia is defined in religious terms, and comprises, first and foremost, the Russian Orthodox people under the protection of a strong Russian state. He often appears sceptical about a multicultural Russia. On the other hand, Maria Engström highlights another statement by Prokhanov, which reveals a fascination with the multi-ethnicity of the borderlands of the Russian empires: ‘The culture of Novorossiia is Homer and Lev Gumilev, Babel and Pushkin, Skovoroda and Vernadsky.’ Particularly noteworthy here is the inclusion of the Jewish-Russian writer Isaac Babel, especially in association with Gumilev, well known for his anti-Semitism.21 There is, perhaps, a tacit acknowledgement that the Russian nation is dependent on the empire and hence on other nations, regions and peripheries, which, however, need to remain subjugated to Russian cultural hegemony.22 Contemporary Russian writers of SF have in general been obsessed with an external threat against Russia. After the Ukrainian Orange Revolution in 2004–5, the Russian literary market witnessed an immense output of novels about Western aggression directed against Russia via Ukraine. Book series with titles such as Future Wars may not have appealed to a wider audience – their impact is difficult to estimate, as Maria Galina notes – but these novels do contain much of the rhetoric that became popular less than a decade later during the Ukrainian crisis.


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As several chapters in this book show, there is a niche for Western conspiracies in Russian fantastika. Whereas early post-Soviet science fiction, fantasy and crime often projected the main enemy to be the Jewish community, and later the Muslims from the Caucasus and Central Asia, more recent SF has increasingly portrayed Russia’s antagonists to be of ‘Western’ origin. However, combating Western aggression is not just about a struggle for the homeland, but also, as Mikhail Suslov argues, a means to restore Russia’s agency, allegedly diminished by several phases of Westernization. In this worldview, militarism blends with Orthodoxy. However, the dependency on a geopolitical worldview, as Suslov has shown in other studies, also means an outsourcing of agency, ultimately to the metaphysics of history.23 This contributes to the tension within recent Russian conservative attempts at forming an identity, which in turn has influenced the literature analysed in this book. Fantasy literature laments the ‘theft’ of agency and yet is sceptical about restoring it to the masses. Conspiracies more generally do not really believe in agency and subjectivity.

Utopias in the imperial margins Mainstream Russian-language literary SF is surprisingly uniform in its ethnic and linguistic make-up, considering the heterogeneity of Russia’s imperial situation. Alternative voices and gender perspectives, too, seem curiously absent, especially when viewed against the ubiquity of the female cyborg in the global SF industry. In a story recently published in English in the Calvert Journal, the Kyrgyz writer Syinat Sultanalieva combines these seemingly peripheral elements in a feminist fantasy set in the imperial margins of Eurasian space. She imagines a distant planet called Omay, where the female protagonist has been sent as an ambassador from Earth with a mission to bring back knowledge about ‘Element 174’, a substance vital for Earth’s expansion.24 Inhabited by lesbians and castrated men, the planet’s social order is based on ‘the philosophy of queer feminism’. The inhabitants speak a form of Esperanto to ‘avoid linguistic colonialism’, but, as the protagonist recounts, ‘Knowing my origins, they spoke to me in Russian, even though the lingua franca on Earth was English.’ As the story unfolds, the ambassadorprotagonist falls in love with her Omayan guide, a female cyborg (superhuman), and the lesbian love story is played out on a galactic scale in an interplanetary conflict.25 Syinat Sultanalieva’s story was published earlier this year in a Russianlanguage collection, which includes stories and visual art by a group of feminist, LGBT and environmental activists from the Central Asian republics,



Russia and the US. The book was published in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, a point of irony in that a transnational compendium on the theme of ‘radical imagination’, as the book is described on the publisher’s website, should be released in a former Soviet republic and a region that is the object of geopolitical desires in many a Russian-language Eurasian fantasy.26 This is the imperial periphery writing in the form of SF fantasy. Sultanalieva’s utopia, and other utopias from the margins, the voices of the ‘entirely others’ (sovsem drugie) to quote the punning title of the Bishkek collection, lead us to conclude that utopianism does not seem to be quite as dead as some of the more prominent dystopic narratives may suggest. There are discursive forms of Russian-language SF that may not be in the mainstream but which give voice to the marginal identities of the Eurasian space. Feminist and queer SF continues to offer a discursive space for exercising the liberating and transformative potential of utopian literature in Russian-language SF and fantasy. And when translated into the English language, the lingua franca on Earth, the marginality suddenly dissolves and the utopias become incorporated into the transnational SF community of the global digital universe. Thus, although geopolitical imagination is very much part of the Russian SF mainstream, there are some exceptions. Iana Zavatskaia’s novels, analysed in this volume by Anastasia Mitrofanova, present such a case. Zavatskaia revisits the Soviet SF legacy, with its focus on social ideals and the cultivation of individual morality. Her novels do not relate to territorial expansion or civilizational defence, but instead focus on moral progress in an idiosyncratic combination of a Marxist and Christian-Catholic worldview.

The besieged ethnic and linguistic fortress The voices from Russia’s ethnic or linguistic margins are rare in mainstream Russian-language SF. Geopolitical fantasies present a Russian core that is under threat – Russia as a besieged fort. Yet while it is vulnerable, it is also frequently portrayed as a protector of values, or even, using an in-vogue term drawn from biblical apocalypticism, a Katechon – a ‘restrainer’ – that is, in this context, a bulwark against secularism and liberalism.27 This relates to the process of securitization, in which all sectors of society, cultural production included, are subordinated to the state’s security policy. The 2014 presidential decree (ukaz) on state cultural policies explicitly incorporated these policies into the ‘national security strategy’. This strategy, launched in 2009, has emerged as the overarching matrix of Russia’s social and political reforms.28


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The Russian language, too, has become an object of securitization, as exemplified in the works of the conservative writers analysed by Per-Arne Bodin. The preservation of Church Slavonic, for example, is equated with national preservation: ‘If the language disappears, Russia will perish.’ For some thinkers, such as Aleksandr Dugin, the preservation of Church Slavonic is a means to preserve the modern Russian language, and hence Russia. According to this line of thought, language cannot be separated from the worldview and ideology inherent to it, and thus both Church Slavonic and the contemporary Russian language are presented in these terms. On the other hand, as Bodin shows, critical and liberal writers use (or mock-use) Church Slavonic as a stylistic device to parody neo-imperialist visions or describe a dystopian society, as in Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik. The debate about the interaction between language and worldview is at the core of Valerii Votrin’s novel Logoped, although as Ingunn Lunde argues in her chapter, the novel questions traditional labels such as ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’.29 In many post-Soviet literary fantasies, language is an affirmative and important marker of Russian national identity. Limonov and other representatives of the National Bolshevik Party promote an understanding of ‘Russianness’ as a linguistic identity, which may encompass other ethnicities and nationalities such as Jews, Tatars and the Roma people. This contrasts with the ethno-nationalist notion of Russianness (or Slavdom) encountered in the literary works discussed by Victor Shnirelman. Shnirelman focuses on a segment of contemporary Russian SF that has an affinity with neo-paganism and its explicit racial notion of Russianness and/or Slavdom, as represented by ‘Slavic Aryans’ and presented in opposition to Jews, ‘nomads’ and ‘southerners’. Paradoxically, however, Ukrainians are also presented as enemies on par with Georgians. Vasilii Golovachev’s works demonstrate how the enemy is projected first in the Judeo-Masonic plots, as is the case in the author’s early works, later as ‘internal migrants’ and finally, in his most recent works, as Western protagonists and Ukrainians. The enemies emerge from inside or outside, the former as a ‘consequence’ of Russia’s imperial legacy – for which, nevertheless, there is a strong longing in this fictional world. Golovachev sees the world as divided into incommensurable civilizations, with their differences bringing Christian Russia into conflict with the Democracy of the West. However, SF writers can also display opposing tendencies. As Go Koshino points out, Kir Bulychev’s 1992 novel, The River of Chronos, is in many ways inclusive in its idyllic representation of local multi-ethnic communities such as Crimea (with Russian and Tatar peacefully coexisting), while Viacheslav Rybakov’s Graviplane Cesarevich of 1993 is more patronizing towards ethnic minorities in its longing for former empires as an alternative imperial utopia.



The definition of the Russian nation and its relation to the idea of empire remains contested – a fact reflected in contemporary fantasy literature. As Mikhail Suslov and Per-Arne Bodin observe in their Introduction, and as the contributions collected here indeed attest, contemporary Russian SF and fantasy is preoccupied, above all, with alternative histories and geopolitical fantasies. Instead of using science and technology as a vehicle for imagining social and anthropological transformation, they draw on historical and geographical imagination to create a platform for assertions, both conservative and contested, about culture and national identity. What distinguishes mainstream Russian-language SF in the global context, then, is its preoccupation with national history and national territory as opposed to the universal and transformative opportunities of technological, biological and environmental advance, which together with transnational fantasy sagas enthral the consumers and producers of the global SF market today.

Notes 1 For the dynamics between the two from the perspective of Konstantin Tsiolkovskii’s life and work, see James T. Andrews, Red Cosmos: K.E. Tsiolkovskii, Grandfather of Soviet Rocketery (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2009). 2 For a recent study on Russian science fiction and modernity, see Anindita Banerjee, We Modern People: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity. (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2013). See also, A. N. Shushpanov, ‘Alternative Social Ideals in Russian Utopian Novels and Science Fiction at the Beginning of the 20th Century’, in Vesa Oittinen (ed.), Aleksandr Bogdanov Revisited (Helsinki: Aleksanteri Institute, 2009), pp. 259–82. 3 Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia (London: Routledge, 1936), p. 1; on ‘counter-utopia’, esp. pp. 206–14. 4 Banerjee, We Modern People, p. 3. 5 Marlène Laruelle, ‘Conspiracy and Alternate History in Russia: A Nationalist Equation for Success?’, Russian Review 71, no. 4 (2012): 565–80. See also the official website of the ‘New Chronology’ project: 6 See the special issue of Scando-Slavica 64, no. 1 (2018), ‘The Russian Revolution 100 Years On’, ed. Kåre Johan Mjør and Ingunn Lunde. 7 See, for instance, Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993). 8 This is a central theme in the legacy of the conceptual historian Reinhart Koselleck.


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9 See Kåre Johan Mjør, ‘A Morphology of Russia? The Russian Civilisational Turn and its Cyclical Idea of History’, in Arto Mustajoki and Katja Lehtisaari (eds), Philosophical and Cultural Interpretations of Russian Modernisation (London: Routledge, 2016), pp. 44–58, and Kåre Johan Mjør, ‘Smuta: Cyclical Visions of History in Contemporary Russian Thought and the Question of Hegemony’, Studies in East European Thought 70, no. 1 (2018): 19–40. 10 Pål Kolstø, ‘Crimea vs. Donbass: How Putin Won Russian Nationalist Support – and Lost it Again’, Slavic Review 75, no. 3 (2016). 11 See Mjør, ‘A Morphology of Russia?’, p. 53; Mjør, ‘Smuta’, pp. 33–8. 12 Tatiana Tolstaia, ‘Russkii mir’ (1993), quoted in Reka (Moscow: n.p., 2007), p. 247. 13 Tolstaia’s novel was discussed in a paper by Mattias Ågren at the conference on which this book is based. See also Ingunn Lunde, ‘Den evige fortiden: Historiens rolle i russisk samtidslitteratur’, Arr: Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 3–4 (2017): 58. 14 See also Per-Arne Bodin, Skruden och nakenheten: Essäer om Ryssland (Skellefteå: Artos & Norma Bokförlag, 2009), pp. 217–24; Stehn Aztlan Mortensen, ‘Russlands uforutsigbare fortid’, Vagant 30 (December 2017). 15 On the theme of cyclicity in Bykov’s ZhD, see also Yuliya Minkova, ‘The squid and the whale à la russe: navigating the “uncanny” in Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD’, Russian Review 72 (2013): 285–302; and Andrei Rogachevskii, ‘The “Khazar”–“Varangian” dialogue in Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD: some psychoanalytical observations’, in Leonid Katsis and Helen Tolstoy (eds), Jewishness in Russian Culture: Within and Without (Leiden: Brill, 2013), pp. 175–83. 16 See Kåre Johan Mjør, ‘ “Russia’s Thousand-Year History”: Claiming a Past in Contemporary Russian Conservative Thought in Mikhail Suslov and Dmitry Uzlaner (eds.), Contemporary Russian Conservatism: Problems, Paradoxes and Perspectives (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2019). 17 The state-sponsored parks were launched due to the initiative of Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov and the Council of Culture of the Russian Federations. 18 Kristian Lundby Gjerde, ‘The Use of History in Russia 2000–2011: The Kremlin and the Search for Consensus’, East European Politics 31, no. 2 (2015). 19 Ingunn Lunde, Language on Display: Writers, Fiction and Linguistic Culture in Post-Soviet Russia (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), p. 130. Lunde’s study analyses contemporary Russian literature as a response to sociolinguistic change, but the above suggests that it may also be studied as a response to upheavals in society more generally as well as to current political history. 20 The Russian World (Russkii mir) is also a state-sponsored foundation that promotes the Russian language and cultural projects related to Russia outside the borders of the Russian Federation. 21 On Gumilev and anti-Semitism, see Mark Bassin, The Gumilev Mystique: Biopolitics, Eurasianism, and the Construction of Community in Modern Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016).



22 On the non-Russian lands and people as constitutive of Russia, see Sanna Turoma and Maxim Waldstein (eds), Empire De/Centered: New Spatial Histories of Russia and the Soviet Union (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013); and Kåre Johan Mjør, Russiske imperium (Oslo: Cappelen Damm, 2017). 23 Mikhail Suslov, ‘ “Urania is Older than Sister Clio”: Discursive Strategies in Contemporary Russian Textbooks’, Ab Imperio 3 (2013): 373–4. 24 The Russian original is published in О. Shatalova and G. Mamedov (eds), Sovsem drugie: Sbornik feministskoi i kvir-fantastika (Bishkek:Shtab-Press, 2018). We would like to thank Saara Ratilainen for directing us to this realm of SF output. 25 For female superhumans, or cyborgs, in Soviet and post-Soviet SF cinema, see Åsne Ø. Høgetveit, ‘Superhuman female aliens in (post-)Soviet SF cinema: technologically and morally superior’, in ‘Women and Tech in the Post-Soviet Context: Intelligence, Creativity, Trangression’, a special issue of Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media (digitalicons. org), ed. Saara Ratilainen, Mariëlle Wijermars and Justin Wilmes, forthcoming. 26 27 See Jardar Østbø, The New Third Rome: Readings of a Russian Nationalist Myth (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2016), pp. 128–30; Maria Engstöm, ‘Contemporary Russian Messianism and New Russian Foreign Policy’, Contemporary Security Policy 35, no. 3 (2014). 28 On securitization in a Russian context, see Jardar Østbø, ‘Securitizing “Spritual-Moral Values” in Russia’, Post-Soviet Affairs 33, no. 3 (2017). See also Sanna Turoma and Kaarina Aitamurto, ‘Renegotiating Patriotic and Religious Identities in the Post-Soviet and Post-secular Russia: Introduction to a special issue’, Transcultural Studies: A Series in Interdisciplinary Research 12, no. 1 (2016): 1–14; and Sanna Turoma, ‘Russian Cultural Policy: Stories behind the World News Headlines’, Aleksanteri Insight 5 (2015), https://helda. policy.pdf?sequence=1. 29 On current purist-language ideologies, see Michael S. Gorham, After Newspeak: Language Culture and Politics in Russia from Gorbachev to Putin (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), in particular Chapter 4.


Selected Bibliography Aitamurto, Kaarina, Paganism, Traditionalism, Nationalism: Narratives of Russian Rodnoverie (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016). Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections of the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, revised edition (London: Verso, 1991). Andrew, Thomas, Kul’tura kosmosa: The Russian Popular Culture of Space Exploration (Boca Raton, FL: Boca Raton, 2011). Andrews, James, Red Cosmos: K. E. Tsiolkovskii, Grandfather of Soviet Rocketery (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2009). Andrews, James T. and Asif A. Siddiqi (eds.), Into the Cosmos: Space Exploration and Soviet Culture (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). Appadurai, Arjun, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996). Arnaut, Karel, Jan Blommaert, Ben Rampton and Massimiliano Spotti (eds), Language and Superdiversity (New York: Routledge, 2016). Artem’eva, Tatiana, ‘Istoki konservativnogo utopizma v Rossii epokhi Prosveshcheniia’, in Evoliutsiia konservatizma: evropeiskaia traditsiia i russkii opyt, pp. 104–14 (Samara: n.p., 2002). Ascher, Abraham and Guenter Lewy, ‘National Bolshevism in Weimar Germany – Alliance of Political Extremes Against Democracy’, Social Research 23, no. 4 (1956): 450–80. Assmann, Aleida, Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Averin, Aleksandr, Kratkii kurs istorii natsbolov (National Bolsheviks: A Concise History), (Moscow: n.p., 2016). Bakhtin, Mikhail, ‘Forms of time and of the chronotope in the novel’, in M. Holquist (ed.), The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981). Balkanskii, Andrei [Dmitriev], Eduard Limonov (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2017). Barkun, Michael, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). Bashkatova, Anastasiia, ‘A new morning dawns for the utopia’, translated by Liv Bliss, Russian Studies in Literature 52, no. 1 (2016): 57–66. Bassin, Mark, The Gumilev Mystique: Biopolitics, Eurasianism and the Construction of Community in Modern Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016). Batalov, Eduard, V mire utopii: Piat’ dialogov ob utopii, utopicheskom soznanii i utopicheskikh eksperimentakh (Moscow : Politizdat, 1989). Beaumont, Matthew, Utopia Ltd: Ideologies of Social Dreaming in England, 1870–1900 (Leiden: Brill, 2005).



Selected Bibliography

Bell, Daniel, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (London: Basic Books, 1974). Bennett, Brian P., Religion and Language in Post-Soviet Russia (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011). Berdyaev, Nikolai, Novoe srednevekov’e: Razmyshlenie o sud’be Rossii i Evropy (Moscow: Feniks-KhDS-press, 1991). Bethea, David, The Shape of Apocalypse in Modern Russian Fiction (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989). Beumers, Birgit, Alexander Etkind, Olga Gurova and Sanna Turoma (eds), Cultural Forms of Protest in Russia (London: Routledge, 2017). Bobrinskaya, Ekaterina, ‘Scythianism in early twentieth-century Russian culture and the Scythian theme in Russian futurism’, Art in Translation 8, no. 2 (2016): 137–68. Bodin, Per-Arne, Eternity and Time: Studies in Russian Literature and the Orthodox Tradition (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2007). Bodin, Per-Arne, ‘Two languages and three empires: About the discourse on Russian and Church Slavonic in today’s Russia’, in From Orientalism to Postcoloniality, pp. 57–67 (Huddinge: Södertörns högskola, 2008). Bodin, Per-Arne, Language, Canonization and Holy Foolishness: Studies in Postsoviet Russian Culture and the Orthodox Tradition (Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2009). Bodin, Per-Arne, ‘The Russian Language in Contemporary Conservative Dystopias’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (2016): 579–88. Booker, Keith M., Monsters, Mushroom Clouds and the Cold War: American Science Fiction and the Roots of Postmodernism, 1946–1964 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001). Borenstein, Eliot, Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture (New York: Cornell University Press, 2007). Borenstein, Eliot, ‘Dystopias and catastrophe tales after Chernobyl’, in Evgeny Dobrenko and Mark Lipovetsky (eds), Russian Literature Since 1991, pp. 86–103 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). Boym, Svetlana, Common Places: Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 1994). Brandenberger, David, National Bolshevism: Stalinist Mass Culture and the Formation of Modern Russian National Identity, 1931–1956 (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 2002). Breeva, Tatiana and L. F. Khabibullina, ‘Russkii mif ’ v slavianskom fentezi (Moscow: n.p., 2016). Brown, Timothy S., Weimar Radicals: Nazis and Communists Between Authenticity and Performance (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009). Budraitskis, Ilya, ‘Contradictions in Russian Cultural Politics: Conservatism as an Instrument of Neoliberalism’, Lefteast, 12 September 2017, http://www.

Selected Bibliography


Byford, Andy, ‘The last Soviet generation in Britain’, in J. Fernandez (ed.), Diasporas: Critical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2009). Byford, Andy, ‘The Russian diaspora in international relations: “Compatriots” in Britain’, Europe-Asia Studies 64, no. 14 (2012): 715–35. Carey, John (ed.), The Faber Book of Utopia (London: Faber & Faber, 1999). Carrère, Emmanuel, Limonov: A Novel, translated by John Lambert (London: Allen Lane, 2014). Castoriadis, Cornelius, The Imaginary Institution of Society (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1975/1987). Chalikova, Viktoriia, Utopia i kul’tura: esse raznykh let, vol. 1 (Moscow: INION, 1992). Chantsev, Aleksandr, ‘Fabrika antiutopii: Distopicheskii diskurs v rossiiskoi literature serediny 2000kh’, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 86 (2007): 269–301. Chebankova, Elena, ‘Contemporary Russian Conservatism’, Post-Soviet Affairs 32, no. 1 (2016): 28–54. Chistov, Kirill, Russkaia narodnaia utopia (St Petersburg: Dmitry Bulanin, 2003). Cioran, Emil, History and Utopia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). Clark, Katerina, Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931–1941 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011). Clowes, Edith W., Russia on the Edge: Imagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 2011). Clowes, Edith W., G. Erbslöh and A. Kokobobo (eds), Russia’s Regional Identities: The Power of the Provinces (London: Routledge, 2018). Clowes, Edith W., Russian Experimental Fiction: Resisting Ideology after Utopia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993). Cohn, Norman, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (London: Pimlico, 1993). Dahrendorf, Ralf, ‘Out of Utopia: Toward a Reorientation of Sociological Analysis’, American Journal of Sociology 64, no. 2 (1958): 115–27. Dmitriev, Andrei, Natsional-patrioty v dvizhenii inakomysliashchikh (Patriotic Nationalists in the [Soviet] Dissident Movement) (St Petersburg, n.p., 2001). Dubin, B., Slovo – pis’mo – literatura (Moscow : NLO, 2001). Eco, Umberto, Travels in Hyperreality, translated by William Weaver (San Diego, New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983). Engström, Maria, ‘Contemporary Russian Messianism and New Russian Foreign Policy’, Contemporary Security Policy 35, no. 3 (2014): 356–79. Engström, Maria, ‘Apollo against Black Square: Conservative Futurism in Contemporary Russia’, in Günter Berghaus (ed.), International Yearbook of Futurism Studies 6, pp. 328–353 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016). Engström, Maria, ‘Neo-cosmism, Empire, and Contemporary Russian Art: Aleksei Beliaev-Gintovt’, in Vlad Strukov and Helena Goscilo (eds), Russian Aviation, Space Flight and Visual Culture, pp. 135–65 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017).


Selected Bibliography

Engström, Maria, ‘The New Russian Renaissance’, Intersection: Russia/Europe/ World, 4 April 2017, Epshtein, Mikhail, Pre-Dictionary: Experiments in Verbal Creativity, 2011, Etkind, Alexander, Internal Colonization: Russia’s Imperial Experience (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011). Etkind, Alexander, Warped Mourning: Stories of the Undead in the Land of the Unburied (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013). Fest, Joachim, Der zerstörte Traum: Vom Ende des utopischen Zeitalters (Berlin: Siedler, 1991). Fishman, Leonid, Kartina budushchego u rossiiskikh fantastov (Lipetsk: n.p., 2008). Fokkema, Douwe, Perfect Worlds: Utopian Fiction in China and the West (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011). Foucault, Michel, ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias’, translated by J. Miskowiec, Diacritics 16, no. 1 (1986): 22–7, www/foucault1.pdf. Freinacht, Hanzi, ‘Metamodern Art, Culture and Politics’, Metamoderna, 11 January 2015, Frumkin, Konstantin, ‘Imperii i spetssluzhby v fantastike’, Svobodnaia mysl’ 21, no. 2 (2004): 76–83. Frumkin, Konstantin, ‘Al’ternativno-istoricheskaia fantastika kak forma istoricheskoi pamiati’, Istoritcheskaia expertiza 4 (2016): 17–28. Gabowitsch, Mischa, ‘Fascism as Stiob’, Kultura 4 (2009): 3–8. Galina, Maria, ‘Vernut’sia i peremenit”, Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie 146, no. 4 (2017): 258–71. Gallagher, Catherine, Telling It Like It Wasn’t: The Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018). Gaonkar, Dilip P., ‘Towards new imaginaries: An introduction’, Public Cultures 14 (2002): 1–19. Gillespie, David C., Valentin Rasputin and Soviet Russian Village Prose (London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 1986). Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity (New York: New York University Press, 2002). Gordon, Joan, ‘Utopia, genocide and the other’, in V. Hollinger and J. Gordon (eds), Edging into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation, pp. 204–16 (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002). Gordon, Joan, ‘Hybridity, Heterotopia, and Mateship in China Miéville’s “Perdido Street Station” ’, Science Fiction Studies 30, no. 3 (2003): 456–76. Gorham, Michael S., After Newspeak: Language Culture and Politics in Russia from Gorbachev to Putin (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014). Gorham, Michael S. and Daniel Weiss (eds), Mat, Slander, Blasphemy, Propaganda, and Extremism: The Culture and Politics of Verbal Prohibition in

Selected Bibliography


Putin’s Russia, Zeitschrift für slavische Philologie, special double issue, 72, no. 2 and 73, no. 1 (2016–17). Gray, John, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (London: Allen Lane, 2007). Greene, Diana, ‘Male and Female in The Snail on the Slope by the Strugatsky Brothers’, MFS Modern Fiction Studies 32, no.1 (1986): 97–108. Griffin, Roger, ‘The Palingenetic Political Community : Rethinking the Legitimation of Totalitarian Regimes in Inter-War Europe’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 3, no. 3 (2002): 24–43. Groys, Boris, Russkii kosmism: Antologiia (Moscow : Ad Marginem Press, 2015). Habermas, Jürgen, ‘Die Krise des Wohlfahrtsstaates und die Erschöpfung utopischer Energien’, in Jürgen Habermas, Die neue Unübersichtlichkeit: Kleine politische Schriften (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1985). Hagemeister, Michael, ‘Russian Cosmism in the 1920s and Today’, in Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (ed.), The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, pp. 185–202 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997). Halfin, Igal, From Darkness to Light: Class, Consciousness, and Salvation in Revolutionary Russia (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000). Heinlein, Robert, ‘On the Writing of Speculative Fiction’, in L. A. Eshbach (ed.), Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science-Fiction Writing, pp. 9–17 (Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1947). Heiser, James D. ‘The American Empire Should Be Destroyed’: Alexander Dugin and the perils of immanentized Eschatology (Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 2014). Hermand, J., Old Dreams of a New Reich: Volkisch Utopias and National Socialism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992). Höllwerth, Alexander, Das sakrale eurasische Imperium des Aleksandr Dugin: Eine Diskursanalyse zum postsowjetischen russischen Rechtsextremismus (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2007). Howell, Yvonne, Apocalyptic Realism: The Science Fiction of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (New York: Lang, 1994). Hutchings, Stephen, ‘A home from home: recursive nationhood, the 2015 STS television serial, Londongrad, and post-soviet stiob’, Russian Journal of Communication 9, no. 2 (2017): 142–57. Ianov, Aleksandr, Posle El’tsina: ‘Veimarskaia’ Rossiia (After Yeltsin: ‘Weimar’ Russia) (Moscow: KRUK, 1995). Iurieva, Lidiia, Russkaia antiutopia v kontekste mirovoi literatury (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2005). Jacoby, Russel, Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). Jameson, Fredric. Archaelogies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (New York: Verso, 2005). Jeffries, Stuart, ‘Why Marxism is on the rise again’, Guardian, 4 July 2012.


Selected Bibliography

Jones, Polly, ‘Diagnosing the Stalinist sickness: Images of illness in Aleksandr Bek and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’, Modern Language Review 111, no. 4 (2016): 1085–112. Kagarlitskii, Yuri, Chto takoe fantastika? (Moscow : KHudozhestvennaya literatura, 1974). Kalinin, Ilya, ‘The Blue Lard of Language: Vladimir Sorokin’s Metalingual Utopia’, in Tine Roesen and Dirk Uffellmann (eds), Vladimir Sorokin’s Languages, pp. 128–48 (Bergen: Bergen University Press, 2013). Khoruzhenko, Tatiana, Russkoe fentezi: Na puti k metazhanru, PhD dissertation (Yekaterinburg: UrFU, 2015). Klark [Clarke], Katerina, ‘Imperskoe vozvyshennoe v sovetskoi kul’ture vtoroi poloviny 1930–kh godov’, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 95 (2009): 58–80. Klemperer, Klemens von, ‘Towards a Fourth Reich? The History of National Bolshevism in Germany’, Review of Politics 13, no. 2 (1951): 191–210. Klibanov, Aleksandr, Narodnaia sotsial’naia utopiia v Rossii: XIX vek (Moscow: Nauka, 1978). Kolnai, Aurél, The Utopian Mind and Other Papers: A Critical Study in Moral and Political Philosophy (London: Athlone, 1995). Koshino, Go, ‘Obraz imperii v “al’ternativnykh istoriiakh” sovremennoi Rossii’, in Tetsuo Mochizuki (ed.), Beyond the Empire: Images of Russia in the Eurasian Cultural Context, pp. 391–408 (Sapporo: Slavic-Eurasian Research Centre, 2008), Koshino, Go, ‘Illusion and Mirror: Image of China in Contemporary Russian Literature’, in Shinichiro Tabata (ed.), Eurasia’s Regional Powers Compared: China, India, Russia, pp. 205–21 (London and New York: Routledge, 2015). Koteyko, Nelya, Language and Politics in Post-Soviet Russia: A Corpus-Assisted Approach (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Kotkina, Irina and Mark Bassin, ‘ “Ethnogenez” Eruasian Science Fiction Project: Bio-politics and Ethno-Vitalism in Contemporary Russian Geopolitics’, Utopian Studies 27, no. 1 (2016): 53–77. Kovtun, Natalia, Russkaia literaturnaia utopia vtoroi poloviny 20 veka (Tomsk: n.p., 2005). Krasnov, Vladislav, ‘Wrestling with Lev Tolstoi: War, peace, and revolution in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s New Avgust Chetyrnadtsatogo’, Slavic Review 45, no. 4 (1986): 707–19. Kravetskii, A. G. and A. A. Pletneva, K istorii tserkovnoslavianskogo iazyka v Rossii XIX–XX v. (Moscow : Iazyki Russkoi Kul’tury, 2001). Krinitsyna, Olga, Slavianskie fentezi v sovremennom literaturnom protsesse: poetika, transformatsiia, retseptsiia. Avtoreferat na soiskanie uchenoi stepeni kandidata filologicheskikh nauk (Perm: n.p., 2011). Kukulin, Ilya, ‘Al’ternativnoe sotsial’noe proektirovanie v sovetskom obshchestve 1960–1970–kh godov, ili Pochemu v sovremennoy Rossii ne prizhilis’ levye politicheskie praktiki’, Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie 88 (2007): 169–201. Lachmann, Renate, Erzählte Phantastik: zu Phantasiegeschichte und Semantik phantastischer Texte (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2002).

Selected Bibliography


Laitin, David, Identity in Formation: The Russian Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998). Lajoye, Patrice, ‘La tentation totalitariste dans la SF russe actualle’, Galaxies 33 (2015): 111–14. Lanin, Boris, Russkaia literaturnaia antiutopia (Moscow: Ross. Otkrytyi Un-t, 1993). Laruelle, Marlène, ‘Alternative identity, alternative religion? Neo-paganism and the Aryan myth in contemporary Russia’, Nations and Nationalism 14, no. 2 (2008), 283–301. Laruelle, Marlène, Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire, translated by Mischa Gabowitsch (Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). Laruelle, Marlène, ‘Conspiracy and Alternate History in Russia: A Nationalist Equation for Success?’, Russian Review 71, no. 4 (2012): 565–80. Laruelle, Marlène, ‘The Izborsky Club, or the New Conservative Avant-Garde in Russia’, Russian Review 75, no. 4 (2016): 626–44. Latynina, Alla, ‘Skazki o Rossii’, Novyi mir 2 (2007): 176–86. Levitas, Ruth, The Concept of Utopia (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press 1990). Levitas, Ruth, ‘The Imaginary Reconstruction of Society : Utopia as Method’, in T. Moylan and R. Baccolini (eds), Utopia Method Vision: The Use Value of Social Dreaming (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009). Levitas, Ruth, ‘Some Varieties of Utopian Method’, Irish Journal of Sociology 21, no. 2 (2013): 41–50. Levitas, Ruth, Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Lipovetsky, Mark, Paralogii: transformatsii (post)modernistskogo diskursa v russkoi kul’ture 1920–2000-kh godov (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2008). Lipovetsky, Mark, ‘V zashchitu chudishsh’, Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie 98 (2009): 194–202. Lipovetsky, Mark, ‘Fleshing/Flashing Discourse: Sorokin’s Master-Trope’, in Tine Rosen and Dirk Uffellmann (eds), Vladimir Sorokin’s Languages, pp. 25–47, Slavica Bergensia, vol. 11 (Bergen: Bergen University Press, 2013). Lipovetsky, Mark and Alexander Etkind, ‘The Salamander’s return: The Soviet catastrophe and the post-Soviet novel’, Russian Studies in Literature 46, no. 4 (2010): 6–48. Logunov, Aleksandr P., ‘Krizis istoricheskoi nauki ili nauka v usloviiakh obshchestvennogo krizisa: otechestvennaia istoriografiia vtoroi poloviny 80 – nachala 90 gg.’, in Sovetskaia istoriografiia, pp. 447–87 (Moscow: n.p., 1996). Lotman, Yuri, ‘Problema khudozhestvennogo prostranstva v proze Gogolia’, Uchenye zapiski, Tartu Gos. Universitet, Trudy po russkoi i slavianskoi filologii: literaturovedenie 11, no. 209 (1968): 5–50. Lotman, Yuri and Boris Uspensky, ‘The role of dual models in the dynamics of Russian culture’, in The Semiotics of Russian Culture (Ann Arbor: Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan, 1984), pp. 3–35.


Selected Bibliography

Lotman, Yuri and Boris Uspensky, ‘Binary models in the dynamics of Russian culture’, in A. Nakhimovsky and A. Stone-Nakhimovsky (eds), Semiotics of Russian Cultural History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985). Lovell, Stephen and Birgit Menzel (eds), Reading for Entertainment in Contemporary Russia: Post-Soviet Popular Literature in Historical Perspective, pp. 118–19 (Munich: Sagner, 2005). Lowndes, Joseph E., From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008). Luckhurst, Roger, The Trauma Question (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2008). Lunde, Ingunn, ‘Pisateli o iazyke: Contemporary Russian Writers on the Language Question’, Russian Language Journal 58 (2008): 3–18. Lunde, Ingunn, Language on Display: Writers, Fiction and Linguistic Culture in Post-Soviet Russia (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018). Lunde, Ingunn and Martin Paulsen (eds), From Poets to Padonki: Linguistic Authority and Norm Negotiation in Modern Russian Culture, Slavica Bergensia, vol. 9 (Bergen: Department of Foreign Languages, 2009). Lunde, Ingunn and Tine Roesen (eds), Landslide of the Norm: Language Culture in Post-Soviet Russia, Slavica Bergensia, vol. 6 (Bergen: Department of Foreign Languages, 2006). L’vovskii, Stanislav. ‘Tret’ia Psikhodelicheskaia Vladimira Sorokina, ili Telluria: piat’desiat glav o tom, chego ne mozhet byt’, ‘Eto tol’ko bukvy na bumage . . .’ in Evgeny Dobrenko, Ilya Kalinin and Mark Lipovetsky (eds), Vladimir Sorokin: Posle literatury (Moscow : NLO, 2018). Lyotard, Jean-François. ‘From The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge’, in Michael Drolet (ed.), The Postmodern Reader: Foundational Texts, pp. 123–46 (London and New York: Routledge, 2004). Mandelker, Amy, ‘Lotman’s Other: Estrangement and ethics in culture and explosion’, in Andreas Schonle (ed.), Lotman and Cultural Studies: Encounters and Extensions, pp. 59–83 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006). Mannheim, Karl, Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge (1929), translated by L. Wirth and E. Shils (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985). Marsh, Rosalind, Literature, History and Identity in Post-Soviet Russia, 1991–2006 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007). Mart’ianov, Viktor and L. Fishman, Rossiia v poiskakh utopii: Ot moral’nogo kollapsa k moral’noi revoliutsii (Moscow : n.p., 2010). Mayutina, Darya, Migrant Friendships in a Super-Diverse City: Russian-Speakers and their Social Relationships in London in the 21st Century (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2015). McAlister, Melani, ‘Prophecy, politics, and the popular: The left behind series and Christian fundamentalism’s New World Order’, South Atlantic Quarterly 102, no. 4 (2003): 773–98. McGuire, Patrick, Red Stars: Political Aspects of Soviet Science Fiction (Ann Arbor: UMI Research, 1985).

Selected Bibliography


Menzel, Birgit, ‘Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature’, in Stephen Lovell and Birgit Menzel (eds), Reading for Entertainment in Contemporary Russia: Post-Soviet Popular Literature in Historical Perspective (Munich: Sagner, 2005). Meyers, Jeffrey, ‘Cancer Ward and the literature of disease’, Twentieth Century Literature 29, no. 1 (1983): 54–68. Meyers, Walter E., Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980). Minkova, Yuliya, ‘The squid and the whale a la russe: navigating the “uncanny” in Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD’, Russian Review 72, no. 2 (2013): 285–302. Mitchell, W. J. T., ‘Geopoetics: space, place, landscape’, Critical Inquiry 26, no. 2 (2000): 173–4. Mitrofanova, Anastasia, The Politicization of Russian Orthodoxy: Actors and Ideas (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2005). Mjør, Kåre Johan, ‘A Morphology of Russia? The Russian Civilisational Turn and its Cyclical Idea of History’, in Arto Mustajoki and Katja Lehtisaari (eds), Philosophical and Cultural Interpretations of Russian Modernisation, pp. 44–58 (London: Routledge, 2016). Mjør, Kåre Johan, ‘Smuta: Cyclical Visions of History in Contemporary Russian Thought and the Question of Hegemony’, Studies in East European Thought 70, no. 1 (2018): 19–40. Mohr, Dunja M., ‘ “The tower of babble”: The role and function of fictive languages in utopian and dystopian fiction’, in Ralph Pordzik (ed.), Futurescapes: Space in Utopian and Science Fiction Discourses, pp. 225–48 (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009). Moylan, Tom, Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination (New York: Methuen, 1987). Moylan, Tom, Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000). Moylan, Tom, ‘To Stand with Dreamers: On the Use Value of Utopia’, Irish Review 34 (2006): 1–19. Moylan, Tom and Raffaella Baccolini, ‘Introduction: Utopias as Method’, in Tom Moylan and Raffaella Baccolini (eds), Utopia Method Vision: The Use Value of Social Dreaming, pp. 13–25 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007). Muth, Sebastian and Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (eds), ‘Commodification of Russian’, Special Issue, International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education 20, no. 4 (2017). Oushakine, Serguei, ‘(Post)ideological novel’, in E. Dobrenko and M. Lipovetsky (eds), Russian Literature since 1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). Parthé, Kathleen, Russian Village Prose: The Radiant Past (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992). Pereira, N. G. O., The Thought and Teachings of N. G. Chernyshevskii (The Hague and Paris: Mouton, 1975). Peterson, Dale E. ‘Solzhenitsyn back in the USSR: Anti-Modernism in contemporary Soviet Prose’, Berkshire Review 16 (1981): 64–78.


Selected Bibliography

Petersson, Bo, ‘Master of the house – Putin, the presidency and political myth in Russia’, Baltic Rim Economies 3 (2011): 36. Petukhova, Elena and Igor Cherny, Sovremennyi ruskii istoriko-fantasticheskii roman (Moscow: Manufaktura, 2003), cherny_17.htm. Platt, Kevin, Dress-up games with Russian history, dress-up-gameswith-russian-history/. Popper, Karl, The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1945/1966) Pratt, Mary, ‘Linguistic utopias’, in N. Fabb, D. Attridge and A. Durant (eds), The Linguistics of Writing (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987). Prucher, Jeff, ‘Speculative fiction’, in Jeff Prucher, Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, pp. 213–15 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). Pustovaia, Valeriia, ‘Skifiia v serebre: “russkii proekt” v sovremennoi proze’, Novyi mir 1 (2007): 168–88. Revich, Vsevolod, Perekrestok utopii (Moscow : Iv Ran, 1998). Rhodes James, Robert, The Hitler Movement: A Modern Millenarian Revolution (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 1980). Ricoeur, Paul, Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, ed. G. H. Taylor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986). Rogatchevski, Andrei, A Biographical and Critical Study of the Russian Writer Eduard Limonov (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003). Rogatchevski, Andrei, ‘The national Bolshevik party (1993–2001): A brief timeline’, New Zealand Slavonic Journal 41 (2007): 90–112. Rogatchevski, Andrei, ‘The “Khazar”–“Varangian” dialogue in Dmitry Bykov’s ZhD: some psychoanalytical observations’, in L. Katsis and Helen Tolstoy (eds), Jewishness in Russian Culture: Within and Without, pp. 175–83 (Leiden: Brill, 2013). Roscoe, Jane and Craig Hight, Faking It: Mock-documentary and the Subversion of Factuality (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2001). Rossii Varese, Marina (ed.), Utopisti russi del primo ottocento (Naples: Guida, 1982). Ryazanova-Clarke, Lara, ‘Russian with an accent: Globalisation and the post-Soviet imaginary’, in L. Ryazanova-Clarke (ed.), The Russian Language Outside the Nation, pp. 249–82 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014). Ryazanova-Clarke, Lara, ‘The imaginaries of the Eurasian Union: discursive construction of post-Soviet transnationality in Russia and Kazakhstan’, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 247 (2017): 89–109. Sapon, Vladimir, ‘Apostles of the “Other Russia”: Mikhail Bakunin and Eduard Limonov on paths of radical social transformation’, Russian Politics and Law: A Journal of Translations 43, no. 6 (2005): 43–61. Sargent, Lyman T., British and American Utopian Literature, 1516–1985: An Annotated Bibliography (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979).

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Sargisson, Lucy, ‘The Curious Relationship between Politics and Utopia’, in Tom Moylan and Raffaella Baccolini (eds), Utopia Method Vision: The Use Value of Social Dreaming, pp. 25–46 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009). Sargisson, Lucy, Fool’s Gold? Utopianism in the Twenty-first Century (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Savitskii, Stanislav, ‘Budetliane i nemtsy’ (Futurists vs Germans), Die Welt der Slaven 63, no. 2 (2018): 300–8. Schonle, Andreas (ed.), Lotman and Cultural Studies: Encounters and Extensions (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006). Schwartz, Matthias, Die Erfindung des Kosmos: Zur sowjetischen Science Fiction und popularwissenschaftlichen Publizistik vom Sputnikflug bis zum Ende der Tauwetterzeit (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2004). Schwartz, Matthias, ‘How “Nauchnaia Fantastika” was Made: The Debates about the Genre of Science Fiction from NEP to High Stalinism’, Slavic Review 72, no. 2 (2013): 224–46. Shakhnazarov, Georgii, Kuda idet chelovechestvo: (kriticheskie ocherki nemarksistskikh kontseptsii budushchego) (Moscow : n.p., 1985). Sharafutdinova, Gulnaz, ‘The Pussy Riot Affair and Putin’s Démarche from Sovereign Democracy to Sovereign Morality’, Nationalities Papers 42, no. 4 (2014): 615–21. Sheiko, Konstantin and Stephen Brown, History as Therapy: Alternative History and Nationalist Imaginings in Russia, 1991–2014 (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2014). Shekhovtsov, Anton, ‘The Palingenetic thrust of Russian Neo-Eurasianism: Ideas of rebirth in Aleksandr Dugin’s worldview’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 9, no. 4 (2008): 491–506. Shenfield, Stephen D., Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (Armonk, NY, and London: M. E. Sharpe, 2001), pp. 190–220. Shestakov, Viacheslav, Eskhatologia i utopia: Ocherki russkoi filosofii i kul’tury (Moscow: Vlados, 1995). Shishkina, Svetlana, Istoki i transformatsii zhanra literaturnoi antiutopii v 20 veke (Ivanovo: IGKhTU, 2009). Shklovsky, Victor, ‘Art as device’, in Victor Shklovsky, Theory of Prose, translated by Benjamin Sher (Elmwood Park, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1990). Shnirelman, Victor, ‘Revoliutsiia 1917 g. – zagovor inovertsev i inorodtsev? Eskhatologicheskii vzgliad na russkuiu revoliutsyiu’, Scando-Slavica 64, no. 1 (2018). Shnirelman, Victor, Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism (Jerusalem: Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University, 1998). Shnirelman, Victor, The Myth of the Khazars and Intellectual Antisemitism in Russia, 1970s–1990s (Jerusalem: Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University, 2002). Shnirelman, Victor, ‘Russian response: archaeology, Russian nationalism and Arctic homeland’, in Philip L. Kohl, Mara Kozelsky and Nachman BenYehuda (eds), Selective Remembrance: Archaeology in the Construction,


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Selected Bibliography

Wakamiya, Lisa Ryoko, Locating Exiled Writers in Contemporary Russian Literature: Exiles at Home (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Walicki, Andrzej, The Slavophile Controversy: History of a Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth-Century Russian Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975). Walsh, Harry, ‘The microcosmography of Russian cultural myths in Vladimir Sharov’s allohistorical novels’, Slavic and East European Journal 46, no. 3 (2002): 565–85. Wegner, Phillip, Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). Wells, H. G., A Modern Utopia, edited by Mark R. Hillegas (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967). Wertsch, J. V., Voices of Collective Remembering (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002). Wiederkehr, Stefan, Die eurasische Bewegung: Wissenschaft und Politik in der russischen Emigration der Zwischenkriegszeit und im postsowjetischen Russland (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2007). Young, George M., The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and his Followers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). Yurchak, Alexei, ‘A Parasite from Outer Space: How Sergei Kurekhin Proved That Lenin Was a Mushroom’, Slavic Review 70, no. 2 (2011): 307–33. Yurchak, Alexiei, ‘The Canon and the Mushroom: Lenin, Sacredness, and Soviet Collapse’, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7, no. 2 (2017): 165–98. Zarakol, Ayse, After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). Ågren, Mattias, Phantoms of a Future Past: A Study of Contemporary Russian Anti-Utopian Novels (Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2014).

Index Page numbers for figures are given in italics, and for tables they are given in bold. Notes are given as: [page number] n.[note number] 316, punkt ‘V’ (Limonov) 147n.17 666/3. Fantasie capricieuse (Skovronskaia) 4 1984 (Orwell) 131, 146n.11 3012: L’anno del profeta (Vassalli) 204 About some trash (Mayakovsky) 163 accidental traveller theme 28 adventure literature 180 affective community 243 agency, ‘theft’ of 324 Aksakov, Ivan 265 Aksenov, Vasilii, The Crimea Island 47 Aksionov, Vasily, The Island of Crimea 36n.15 Alabino locale 285, 291 Alimov, Igor 122n.18 allies, Second World War 52–4 alphabet, Church Slavonic 207 alternative history 23–37, 317–18 authors/stories 26–8 book series 42–3 Bykov’s 282 conservative SF 316 ethnic problems 29–30 generational categories 34 ‘history correction’ 46–7 post-utopian SF 301 as science fiction 24–5, 321 violence 31–2 ‘alternative present’ 171 ‘alternative USSR’ trend 56 ambi-utopia 83, 99n.7 America–Russia relationship 193 Anabaptism 140–1 anamnesis 115–19

Anderson, Benedict 238 annexing new lands 269 ‘anti-anti-utopian’ movement 1–2, 17n.6 anti-Semitism 4, 178–9, 190–1 anti-utopia impact of novels 160 nationalism 177 retrofuturistic 129–54 Anzora, Kvirin Stories cycle 168 aorist past tense 208, 215 aphasia 84 Appadurai, Arjun 237, 255n.20 appanage system 302, 311 archaic markers, language 205, 207, 210, 212 Arctic ancestors 183 ‘the Ark’ heterotopia 97–8 Arsen’ev, Sergei 55, 317–18 art, contemporary 61–79 Aryan race 186–7, 189–90, 193, 198n.76, 273 Atlantarctic (Golovachev) 187–8 authenticity 318 authoritarianism 264–5, 272 autocracy, pillars of 268 avant-garde 70, 134–8 ‘Avatar’ project 67 The Aviator (Vodolazkin) 81–4, 88, 90–4, 97–8, 100n.33 Babel, Isaac 323 Back to Youth (Sanfirov) 55 Bakhtin, Mikhail 290 Bakunin, Mikhail 143 ‘barracks communism’ 168, 170 basic Christian communities 156


346 Bastion club 109–11 Battle SF book series 42 Beefsteaks 134 Before and During (Sharov) 81–5, 89–90, 93–4, 97–8 Beliaev, Aleksandr 5 Beliaev-Gintovt, Aleksei 71–2 Belodurov, Georgii 110 belonging/betrayal 116 Belov, Aleksandr K. 181 Benediktov, Kirill 110 Berdyaev, Nikolai 306–8, 310, 320 Berezin, Fedor 41–3, 45 Beshiora, Kvirin Stories cycle 168 besieged fortress syndrome 46, 57, 325–7 besoplanetiane essays 118 A Big Black Ship (Berezin) 42 bilingualism 235–6, 240–2, 252 binarism 284, 288, 296 biomorphic characters 303 Bishkek collection 325 Blatsk locale 286–8 Blavatsky, Helene 184 Bloch, Ernst 2 boarding schools 85 Bodin, Per-Arne 14–15, 83, 326–7 Bogdanov, Aleksandr, The Red Star 4–5 Bogoiavlenskii, Leonid, In the New World 4–5 Bolshakov, Valery, Our man Sudoplatov 55 Bolshevik movements 140, 151n.83 see also National Bolshevik Party Booker, Keith 193 border areas 261–2, 266–8, 323 Borders (Granitsy) (Chumak) 72 Borenstein, Eliot 31 Brave New World (Huxley) 169 bridge image 270, 274 Britain, ressentiment 51 ‘Britishness’ 247, 250 Briusov, Valerii 91–2 Brown, Stephen 25

Index Buinyi brodiaga almanac 156 Bulgakov, Mikhail 290 Bull, Hedley 305–6 Bulwer-Lytton, Edward, The Coming Race 4 Bulychev, Kir 7, 11, 23–37, 157, 326 burial mounds 271 Burkatovskii, Sergei, Yesterday There Will Be the War 52 Bykov, Dmitrii 320, 322 ZhD 211, 281–300, 321 bylinas 49 Cancer Ward (Solzhenitsyn) 88 capitalist consumption 62 Catherine II, Empress 268–9 Catholic Church 161, 167, 172n.1 Catholic universalism 159 A Caucasian Prince (Velichko) 51 Cavalcanti, Ildney 203 cemetery heterochronies 93, 94 censorship 175–6, 222 centre–periphery 284–5, 299n.15 change experiences 296–7 Chaplin, Vsevolod 105, 110 Chapman, Anna 66 Charging Diulber (Bulychev) 27, 31 Chebankova, Elena 212 Chechen War 271 Chekhov, Anton Cherry Orchard 133 Three Sisters 133 ‘Ward No. 6’ 88–9 Chekmaev, Sergei 105, 109, 118 Chernikhov, Piranesi Iakov 72 Chernobyl catastrophe 285, 286 chernukha 31–2 Cherny, Igor 24, 34 Chernyshevskii, Nikolai, What Is to Be Done? 3–5, 132–3 Cherry Orchard (Chekhov) 133 children, language policy 245 ‘Chinese threat’ 45, 185 Chizhevsky, Aleksandr 69 Christianity

Index heterotopian theme 86–7, 97 Jews, persecution of 191 languages 206, 214–15 liberation theology 156 neo-pagan myth 184 ‘new person’ concept 158 Orthodoxy versus 182 Zavatskaia’s works 159, 161–2, 165, 168 Christianization, Crimea 275 Chronicles of the World Commune (Zavatskaia) 156 chronology, reversal of 317 chronotope 290–1 Chto delat? see What Is to Be Done? Chudinova, Elena 173n.24 Notre Dame de Paris Mosque 45–6 The Viktors 125n.53 Chumak, Anton 72–3 Borders (Granitsy) 72 New Earth 73 Church Slavonic language 203–18, 326 churches, Zavatskaia’s works 160–1, 167 ‘churchizing’ communities 116–17 circularity 292–7, 299n.37 see also cyclical history city–rural movement 133, 143 civil rights 263 civil typeface 205 Civil War narratives 292 ‘civilizational paradigm’ 191 classicism 70–1 clinic settings 82–3, 88–92 see also ‘ward novels’ ‘close range anti-utopias’ 282 ‘close range SF’ 6, 109, 123n.31 ‘Close Range Social Science Fiction’ series 109 Clowes, Edith W. 16, 283–4, 323 code mixing, language 245 code switching, language 248 codes, cultural archive 263–4 cognitive mapping 301–5 collective ideology 169


colloquial speech 222 colonization, internal 298n.14 ‘combat speculative fiction’ 40 comic effects 211–12 The Coming Race (Bulwer-Lytton) 4 communication barriers 245–51 communism alternative history 33 cultural archive 263–4 Zavatskaia’s view 157 communist science fiction 155–74 communist utopias 5–7 community-building 243–4, 307 community ideology 169 compassion–duty union 295–7 A Comrade Führer (Romanov) 53 conceptualist movement 68 Confession (Gorky) 272 conglomerate identity 242 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Twain) 47 conservatism cosmos 62–8 language use 223–4, 227–8 nationalist literature 176 conservative avant-garde 70 conservative dystopias 231n.2 conservative revolution 106–7, 136 conservative SF 105–27, 155, 315–17 conservative utopias 4–5, 9–10 classicism 70–1 empire/imperial 62, 319 language use 212–16 ridicule of 211 sub-genres 24 conspiracy discourse 25, 175–200, 324 consumerism 62, 76 contemporary art 61–79 contemporary literature 105–27 cosmism/cosmos 61–79 Cosmoparade, or The Victory Parade 2937 (Beliaev-Gintovt) 71–2 cosmopolitan identity 249–50 cosmos/cosmism 61–79

348 counter-utopia 261–80, 316–17 Crimea 40–1, 58n.7, 145n.6, 264, 268–70, 274–5 The Crimea Island (Aksenov) 47 Crimea (Krym) (Prokhanov) 262, 270–3, 322 ‘Crimean bridge’ 270, 274 Crimean Tatars 29–30 crisis heterotopias 85–6, 88–92 The Cross of the Empire (Zavatskaia) 159–63, 166 crossings 291–2 cryptohistory 24, 25–6 Csiscery-Ronay, Istvan 317 cultural archive 263–4 cultural attitudes, ultranationalism 269 cultural flow 237 cultural status, language 204–6 cyberpunk 301 cyclical history 318–21 see also circularity Danilevskii, Nikolai 265 Daraiia, Deitros cycle 168 Day of the Oprichnik (Sorokin) 209, 305, 320, 326 Dead Souls (Gogol) 290 Debord, Guy 143 Decembrists 3 The Decline of the West (Spengler) 316 defamiliarization, language 248–9 Deineka, Aleksandr 270 Deitros cycle (Zavatskaia) 156, 159–65, 167–8, 171 dementia ward settings 82–3, 88–90, 93, 97 democratization of language 231 Den’ otlichnika (Kononenko) 204 Den’(Day) newspaper 264 ‘desired past’ 39 destabilization 227–9, 316 detective novels 179 determinism 283, 296, 298n.7

Index Deutsche Kommunistische Partei (German Communist Party) (DKP) 134–5, 155, 172n.2 deviation, heterotopias of 85, 88–92 Dick, Philip K., The Man in the High Castle 28, 47 Dimitrov, Georgii 170 directionality 293 ‘disciplinary sanatoriums’ 131 ‘discourse of threat’ 223 disease 99n.19 disintegration theme 284–6, 303–4 Distsiplinarnyi sanatorii (Limonov) 130–2, 143–4 DKP see Deutsche Kommunistische Partei Dno sacred site 267 Doloev, Velimir 155, 159 Donetskii, Aleksandr 271 Donovan, Victoria 266–7, 275, 323 Dontsova, Daria 46 double-sightedness 97 Dream of a Happy Society (Sumarokov) 3 Drugaia Rossiia (Limonov) 130, 132–4, 144 drugs 311 see also tellurian nails/trips Dubin, Boris 179 Dugin, Aleksandr counter-utopia 265, 273 language 211, 212–13, 326 Limonov and 129, 136, 145n.3, 150n.62, 150n.68 neo-medievalism 308–10 Dukhless-2 (Minaev) 236 Dulcinian movement 140 duty–compassion union 295–7 duty–kindness 296 dysfunctional communication 245–6 dystopias 167–70 binaries 284 circularity 292–6, 297 cognitive mapping 305 conservative SF 105, 316

Index fantasy 4 heterotopian fiction 81–2 language 203–19, 222–9, 231, 231n.2, 326 ‘matrioshka’ structure 28 ‘norma’ symbol 308 political history 322 post-utopian SF 301, 312 progressive movement 320 science fiction in 315 speculative fiction trends 40, 56 ubiquity of 9 Eco, Umberto 305 economic modernization 277n.9 Edoli Empire, Deitros cycle 161–5 education 133–4, 166–7 Efremov, Ivan 157, 158, 175 Emigrant from Anzora (Zavatskaia) 160 empire as conservative utopia 319 Eurasianism 213 language components 215 neo-medievalism 309–10 territory and 322–4, 326–7 see also imperial . . . Empire V (Pelevin) 207 emptiness 294 The End of Time/Light (Golovachev) 188 enemies 44–5, 52–4, 57, 184–5, 189–90 encroachment of 192 internal/external 326 of language 226 nationalism 177–8 Orthodox device 116, 118–20 pagans as 182–4 ‘Western World’ 324 An Enemy at the Gate book series 44 English language 220, 241–2, 244, 248–9 The English Mystery (Ostalsky) 235, 239–40, 244, 247–9, 252


English national character 247–8 Engström, Maria 11–12, 323 Epshtein, Mikhail 83 escapism 2, 50, 170–1 eschatological change 296 esoteric literature 180–2 ‘eternal rebirth’ 271, 320 eternal temporality 215 ethical agents 296–7 ethical choice 283 ethnic determinism 283, 298n.7 ethnicity 29–30, 325–7 ethnogenesis theory 109, 139 ‘Etnogenez’ project 108–9 Euclidian space 287 Eurasian ‘appanage states’ 302 Eurasian Symphony book series 27, 30, 32, 122n.18, 319 Eurasianism 138–42, 213 European disintegration theme 304 European utopias 119 ‘eutopias/positive utopias’ 98n.2 ‘everyman’ popadanet 48–9 extermination of the Other 177 extremism 184, 225 The Eye of Power (Valentinov) 24 Fantastic History book series 50 fantasy as business 5 conservative SF 105–27 dystopias 4 explorations 315–29 national-patriotic 179–80, 182 ‘superfluous person’ theme 48 see also science fiction; speculative fiction; utopian fiction fantasy characters, SF 160 fascism 134–8, 150n.62, 170, 264–5, 321 Federal Security Service 188–9 Fedorov, Nikolai 64, 68–70, 72 female characters 180, 324 feminist science fiction 325 Fetisov group 135



fiction mapping ‘Russia’ 266 politicization 8–9 subjectivities 237 see also science fiction; speculative fiction; utopian fiction Field of Battle book series 44–5 ‘fifth column’ 190 ‘fifth’ Russian empire 323 films bilingualism 236 conservative SF 112, 115 cosmism 69 mockumentary genre 144 popadantsy 53 science fiction 6–7 First on the Moon film 144 The Flame Alphabet (Marcus) 204 flight narrative 96–8 flow metaphor 237 Flowers Grow through Bones (Doloev) 159 folk history 26, 49 Fomenko, Anatoly 25–6, 141–2, 317 Foucault, Michel 84–5, 87–8, 90, 92–4, 97 free will, space of 294–5 freedom, emptiness as 294 Freemasons 183, 185 friend/enemy theme 116, 118–19 Front for Peaceful Prosperity group 71 future ‘back to’ 315–29 Iur’ev’s view 213 Limonov’s view 134–42 science fiction 5, 7–8, 23 speculative fiction 40–6 USSR restoration 54–6 Future Wars (Iauza series ) 41–2, 45 Gagarin Party 69–70 Gagarin, Yuri 62, 64, 74–5, 76 Gaidar, Egor 112

Galina, Maria 11, 316–18, 323 gender 29–30, 269 see also women The General-Admiral (Zlotnikov) 51 generational trauma 170 generic locales 286–7 genius 89–90 genocides 87–8, 99n.17, 177 genre awards 42 geography, symbolic 283–7 geopoetics 281 geopolitical science fiction 322 geopolitics agency 324 conservative SF 118 morality 325 speculative fiction 39, 46 German Communist Party see Deutsche Kommunistische Partei Gervorkian, Eduard 105 Girkin/Strelkov 47 glasnost ’ 31, 220 ‘global Russians’ 235 globalization, language role 237 Goffman, Erving 237 Gogolian space 290, 292–3 Golovachev, Vasilii 14, 179–90, 191–3, 326 Gorbachev, Mikhail 32–3, 220, 304 Gorky, Maksim, Confession 272 grammar 215–16 grass-roots groups 263 Graviplane Cesarevich (Rybakov) 23, 27–30, 32–4, 326 grazhdanskii shrift (civil typeface) 205 Great Patriotic War 52–3 Grechko, Georgy 69–70 Groys, Boris 61, 68–70, 76 guidebook genre 247 Gulag 82, 95–6 Gumilev, Lev 109, 138–9, 141–2, 323

Index Habermas, Jürgen 17n.12 Hard to Be a God (Strugatsky and Strugatsky) 112 Heaven Coalition 64 heroic metanarratives 62 heroic sagas 49 heterochronicity/heterochrony 85–7, 92–6 heterotopias 81–101 The Hill (Prokhanov) 271 historical alternative/alternative history distinction 26 historical determinism 296 historical legacy, Russian identity 10–12 historical movement 292 historical science fiction 24, 25, 26–8 historical time, progress 318 historico–ideological iterations 120 historiography 25–6, 90, 282–3, 292 history, battle over 317 ‘history correction’ 39, 46–8 ‘Holy Rus’ 261, 270 hospital ward novels see ‘ward novels’ human rights 263 humanism 306 Humans as Gods (Snegov) 23 ‘humans’, use of term 191 humour 211–12 The Hunting Fragment installation 74, 74 Huxley, Aldous, Brave New World 169 hybrid identity, migrants 250 hybrid science fiction 108–11 Hyperboreans 182–3, 185–8, 189–90, 273 hypocrisy 247 Iankovskii, Dmitrii 40–1, 42, 58n.7 Iarna, Kvirin Stories cycle 169–70 Iauza book series 41–6 Iazyk character, Votrin 225–6, 233n.9 ideal society 157–8, 164


‘identitarian’ focus 8, 10 identity language 229–31, 242, 249–50 neo-medievalism 309 place-based 271 political history 321 struggle for 193 ideological–historico iterations 120 ideological novel genre 282 ideology anti-utopia 177 individuals versus 230 of language 219–34 Russian identity 10, 12–14 Ideology and Utopia (Mannheim) 262, 316 Idov, Michael 235–57 the imaginary 235–57 imagined community theory 238 ‘imagined geography’ 261–4, 273–4 imagined locales 283, 287 immigration 186 see also migrants Immortal Regiment procession 67–8 immortality 66–7 imperfect past tense 215 imperial science fiction 300n.45 ‘imperial sublimity’ 110, 113 imperial utopias 61–79, 324–5 imperialism ethnic problems 30 Londongrad 242–3 Zavatskaia’s works 161–5 see also empire In the New World (Bogoiavlenskii) 4–5 In Their Footsteps (Sharov) 89 individual–society relationship 33 individualism 2, 306 individuality, medievalism 310 individuals–ideologies tension 230 industrial neoclassicism 62, 71 Infant’ev, Porfirii, On the other Planet 4–5

352 Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Research (ISEPI) 110–11 intellectual prose 320 ‘intellectual silence’ theory 214 intelligent 240, 255n.26, 297 intelligentsia 255n.26 Interaction of Civilizations foundation 109 intercultural communication 245–51 internal colonization 298n.14 internationalism 192 internet-based communities 312 internet language 212 irony 157, 241 Irtenina, Irina 118–19 ISEPI see Institute for SocioEconomic and Political Research The Island of Crimea (Aksionov) 36n.15 It’s Me, Eddie (Limonov) 130 Itskov, Dmitrii 66–7 Iur’ev, Mikhail 212, 213 Ivan IV, Tsar 99n.5 Izborsk Club 63, 265, 267–8, 319–20 Izborsk mound 268, 271, 275 Izvestiia newspaper 265 Jacoby, Russell 2 Jameson, Fredric 301 Japan 44–5 Jews Freemason links 185 ideological novel genre 282 neo-pagan view 182–4 as the Other 178 Talmud 191 ultra-rightist view 179 see also Judaism John of Leiden 141 journalism 264, 266, 268 A Journey to the Land of Ofir (Shcherbatov) 3, 23–4

Index Judaism 86–7, 97 see also Jews ‘Judeo-Masonic plot’ 183–4, 186, 190, 326 jump simile 295–6 juncture motif 292 Jünger, Ernst 74 Kabakov, Ilya 68–9 Kalashnikov, Maksim 66, 78n.17 Kalinin, Ilya 311 Kaplan, Vitalii 111, 115–16 Kaptar’, Dionisii 7, 20n.44 Katechon 325 Kautsky, Karl 141 Kazakstan 143 Kazantsev, Aleksandr 24 Khagi, Sofya 16 Kharitonov, Mikhail, Rubidium 157 Kharkiv, Ukraine 130 Khodorkovsky, Mikhail 112 Kholmogorov, Yegor 64 Khomiakov, Aleksei 265 Khrushchev, Nikita 32 Kil’diashov, Mikhail 215 Kireevskii, Ivan 113, 265 Kirienko, Sergei 110 Kitezh myth 269, 278n.40, 286–7 The Knight (Vitkovskii) 49 kolkhoz utopias 303 Kononenko, Maksim, Den’ otlichnika 204 Koshino, Go 11, 318, 326 Kosorukov, Gleb 71 Kovtun, Natalia 176 KPD see Deutsche Kommunistische Partei Krasnitskii, Eugenii, A Youth: Grandson of a Centurion 49–50 Kontorovich, Aleksandr 52 Kukuliev, Boris and Valeria 75 Kulakov, Aleksei 51 Kvirin Stories cycle (Zavatskaia) 156, 164–71

Index Kys’ (The Slynx) (Tolstaia) 207, 223, 320 Lachmann, Renate 207 Laitin, David 242 Lancelot’s Pilgrimage (Voznesenskaia) 117 Landing in the Past (Golovachev) 187 language anti-Semitism 179 Church Slavonic 203–18 ethnic problems 29–30 heterotopias 84, 98 identity 229–31, 242, 249–50 ideologies of 219–34 imaginary 235–57 liberalization of 225, 229–30 as mirror of debate 223–5 point of view of 225–7 post-Soviet Russian debate 220–9 power link 223, 229–31 reader’s source 311 Russian identity 10, 14–15 social variation 244 Zavatskaia invention 158 see also linguistic . . . Laurus/Lavr (Vodolazkin) 83, 207 Lautréamont, Comte de 136 ‘Law on the Russian Language’ 221 Lazarchuck, Andrei, Look into the Eyes of Monsters 41 Lazaruses (lazary) 91 Lenin, Vladimir 32–4, 304 Lervena, Kvirin Stories cycle 168–9 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights 158–9 Leskov, Nikolai 211 Levitas, Ruth 2 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights 158–9 ‘liber-punk’ 4, 109 Liberal Apocalypse (Chekmaev) 109 liberal authors 209, 216


liberalism cultural archive 263 language 206, 227–8 speech correction 223 Strugatsky brothers 112 liberalization of language 225, 229–30 liberation theology (LT) 156, 165 Limonov, Eduard 13, 129–54, 316–17, 319–20, 323 linearity 292–6 lingua franca, migrants 242 linguistic dystopia 203 linguistic fortress 325–7 linguistic ideologies 230 linguistic imaginary 235–57 ‘linguistic stiob’ 216 linguistic subcommunities 238 linguistic utopias 219–20, 229 lingvari group (Votrin) 223 Lipovetsky, Mark 16, 320–1 literary utopia projects 9 literature, drugs as metaphor 311 Literaturnaia gazeta 264 liturgical language 204–6, 216 local community-building 307 locomotives see train motif Logoped (The Speech Therapist) (Votrin) 204, 219–34, 326 Logunov, Aleksandr 25 Londongrad TV series 235–57, 322 longevity 66 Look into the Eyes of Monsters (Lazarchuck and Uspenskii) 41 Lopushanskii, Konstantin 112, 114–15 loser complex 48–9 Lotman, Yuri 290, 292–3, 296–7 ‘low genre’ SF 8 LT see liberation theology Luk’ianenko, Sergei 10, 110–11, 157 Lunde, Ingunn 15, 326, 328n.19 Lvov, Nikolai 74 Lyceum (Zavatskaia) 159



‘magical historicism’ 81, 92, 96, 98n.1 ‘magical realism’ 157 magicalization, space-time 288–9, 295 Maguire, Muireann 12, 322–3 Maksimov, Iurii 117–18 Malofeev, Konstantin 110 Man Bites Dog film 144 The Man in the High Castle (Dick) 28, 47 Manaraga (Sorokin) 302, 311 Mannheim, Karl 106, 262, 316–17 Mao Zedong 169 mapping 261–80, 301–5 Marauder (anon.) 42 Marcus, Ben, The Flame Alphabet 204 marginality 324–5 Mars ‘channels’ 19n.27 Marx, Karl 33, 147n.21, 163, 170 Marxist universalism 159 masked utopia 40 mass literature 6, 39, 107, 176 The Master and Margarita (Bulgakov) 290 ‘matrioshka’ structure 28 Mayakovsky, Vladimir, About some trash 163 Mazin, Aleksandr, The Varangian 49 medical implications, heterotopias 93, 99n.19 medievalism see Middle Ages Medinskii, Vladimir 206 Medvedev, Dmitry 188 meeting motif 290–1, 296 memorial book (sinodik) 95 memory 83, 92–6, 115–19, 126n.68 metalingual utopia 311 metalinguistic discourse 237, 248 metamodernism 62–8, 76–7 metanarratives 301 metautopian writing 6 metrolingualism 249–50 Mezhuev, Boris 65, 112, 114 Middle Ages 207, 211, 214, 305–6 Miéville, China, Embassytown 203–4

migrants 235–57 Mikhalkov, Nikita 109 military agencies 188–9 military enemies 182–3 Military and Historical SF book series 46–7, 52 military journalism 264 millenarianism 138–42 Minaev, Sergei, Dukhless-2 236 minority languages 29–30 mirror of language debate 223–5 missionary activism 116 Missionary novel series (Zavatskaia) 159 Mitrofanova, Anastasia 13–14, 325 mockumentary genre 144 ‘modern utopias’ 119 modernity 308–9 modernization, economic 277n.9 Moi posmertnye prikliucheniia (Voznesenskaia) 116–17 mokretsy see ‘slimies’ Molodkin, Andrei 71 monarchist views 109–10 monasteries/monks 287–8, 297 ‘Monoklon’ (Sorokin) 322 moral superiority 115 morality 293, 300n.45, 325 Moscow, geographic layout 284 Moscow ‘Crimean Bridge’ 270, 274 Moscow Patriarchate Church 205 Motorin, Aleksandr 206, 214 mound-assembling 266–8 movement in ZhD 293 movies see films Moylan, Tom 2 Mr. Hexogen (Prokhanov) 262, 266, 271–2 Münster Rebellion 140–1 Muscovites 270–1 music culture 250 Muslim minorities 269 naming practices, Golovachev 189 Napoleon’s Wars 59n.18

Index narrative act, alternative history 26 narrative perspective 224 nation-building 133 National Bolshevik Party (NBP) 129–30, 132–3, 136, 138–9, 143–4, 145n.6, 148n39, 151n.85 National Bolshevism 134–8 national character, English 247–8 ‘national idea’ 180 national identity 193 see also identity national-patriotic fantasy 179–80, 182 national project 142–4 ‘national security strategy’ 325 nationalism 175–80, 192–3 NATO as aggressor 40, 43–4 nature, cosmism 72 Nazi myths 186, 193 NBP see National Bolshevik Party nemesis 115–19 neo-classicism 62, 71–2 neo-conservatism 64–5, 74–5 ‘neo-freemasons’ 183 neo-imperialism 270–1 neo-industrial classicism 70–1 neo-medievalism 305–12, 313n.7, 320 see also ‘new Middle Ages’ concept neo-paganism 181, 182–4 New Academy of Fine Arts 70 ‘new appanage system’ 311 ‘new beginning’ ideology 62 New Chronology 25–6, 138–42, 317 New Earth (Chumak) 73 New Jerusalem 86 ‘New Khazaria’ 178 ‘new Middle Ages’ concept 77n.2, 214 see also neo-medievalism New Novosibirsk project 71 ‘new person/human’ 157–8, 166, 171, 177, 181 new sacred, quest for 306, 322 Nicholas I, Emperor 268 Nietzsche, Friedrich 310


A Nobody’s Land (Valetov) 42 nomads 137–8, 305–6 non-directional movement 293 non-Euclidian spaces 287–90 non-fiction classification 130, 144, 237 Non-Human Factor (Golovachev) 186 The Non-Russians are Coming (Golovachev) 184–5 ‘norma’ 307–8 norms, language 220, 223–4, 225, 230 Nosovskii, Gleb 141–2 nostalgia for utopia 190–3 ‘nostalgic Soviet’ trend 55–6 Notre Dame de Paris Mosque (Chudinova) 45–6 Novikov, Timur 69–70, 72 ‘Novorossiia’ 9, 20n.47, 41, 44, 47 annexation hopes 269 cosmism 73 empire 323 ‘sacred mounds’ 268 Novyi mir book series 100n.20 obnovlentsy faction 204 Obruchev, Vladimir 91–2 October Revolution 51, 318 Odysseus Leaves Ithaca (Zviagintsev) 24 Okhlobystin, Ivan 61, 64 Old Believers 207 ‘old person’ 157–8 Oldie, Henry Lion 24 oligarchs 178 On the other Planet: A Story of Life of the Inhabitants of Mars (Infant’ev) 4–5 On the Threshold of War book series 43 oprichniki 209, 213 Orange Revolution 43 ‘Order’ (poriadok) 228 Orthodox authors 158 ‘Orthodox Communism’ 157

356 Orthodox science fiction 115–19 Orthodoxy Christianity versus 182 Church Slavonic language 204–5, 213, 216 conservative SF 110 imperial utopia 63–4 neoconservatism 75 Prokhanov’s beliefs 265–6, 269–70, 273, 275 orthoepic laws 222, 223 Orwell, George 146n.12 1984 131, 146n.11 Ostalsky, Andrei 235–57 the Other, nationalism 176–8, 192–3 The Other Russia 129–30, 142–3 see also National Bolshevik Party othering Russia 129–54 Our man Sudoplatov (Bolshakov) 55 Paetel, Karl O. 135 paganism 180–3, 189, 191 Panarin, Aleksandr 265, 319 Pandora project 65 parodia sacra 211 parodies 157, 171, 209, 211–12, 241, 321 participle construction 210 past, ‘forward to’ 315–29 past tense 208, 215 ‘patriotic-oriented’ history 46 patriotism 157, 179–80, 182–3, 189 pedagogical techniques 247–8 Pelevin, Viktor Empire V 207 S.N.U.F.F. 208, 215 pensioner protagonists 55–6 People’s Republic of Kharkov 130 Pereslegin, Sergei and Elena 45 perestroika alternative histories 34 chaos caused by 319 historiography 25–6 identity 229

Index language ideologies 221, 223, 227 violence 31 periphery–centre 284–5, 299n.15 Pervushin, Mikhail, The Second Life of Napoleon 24 Petukhov, Iurii 118 Petukhova, Elena 24, 34 philistines 163–4, 166, 169 Philosophy of Spirit and Sociology (Sukhovo-Kobylin) 308 piety 261–80 place 84–5 see also spatial settings place-based identity 271 Plumbum-Cobalt Society 73–4 poema 283, 298n.12 poetics 227–9, 281, 295 ‘polar plot’ 91–2 political conservatism 110–11 political fantasies 4, 6, 7–8 political history 321–2 political science fiction 1 ‘political technologists’ 319 politicization, fiction 8–9 politico-religious utopia 155–74 politics conservative SF 105–27 Telluria (Sorokin) 302 ZhD (Bykov) 281, 295 polygamy 30 polysemy 248–9 popadanchestvo 28 popadanets 47–54, 55, 59n.18 popular culture 262, 323 popular language 222, 224–6, 228, 230–1, 233n.13 popular music 250 poriadok (‘Order’) 228 ‘positive utopias/eutopias’ 98n.2 post-apocalyptic novels 42, 301–2 posthumanism 66–8 postmodernist writing 91, 96, 107, 309 post-traumatic syndrome 39–59, 96 post-utopian science fiction 301–14

Index power–language link 223, 229–31 pragmatic utopias 164–7 Prashkevich, Gennadii 112, 125n.55 Pratt, Mary 238 Presidential Administration 111 Prigov, Dmitry 303 Prilepin, Zakhar 282 prison ward settings 88–92 Prisoners of War (Strugatsky and Strugatsky) 114 professional communities 307 progress, Zavatskaia’s views 171 progressive movement 320 progressive perception, historical time 318 ‘progressorism’ 112–15, 125n.49 Prokhanov, Aleksandr 16 border-marking 323 counter-utopian Russia 261–80 Crimea 262, 270–3, 322 empire/imperial utopia 63–4, 73, 319 intellectual background 264–6 language 212, 214, 215 Putin idealization 320 religio-political utopia 157 Promethean beliefs 6 promotional Putinism 261–80 pronunciation 224, 248–9 propaganda 45, 57, 163–4 provinces/provincial locales 261–80, 286–7 pseudohistory see folk history Pskov ‘sacred hill’ 266–8, 267 psychiatric ward settings 82–3, 88–9 public commentary, Prokhanov’s work 268–71 puns 248–9 purist language policy 245 Pushkin, Aleksandr 271, 287 Putin, Vladimir/Putinism 261–80 conservative SF 107, 114 contemporary ideology 79n.29 Medvedev plot 188 neoconservatism 66

357 Slavic Language project 212 in Telluria 304, 320

quasi-historical accounts 318 queer science fiction 325 racial references 187, 189–91 racism 184, 186 Radek, Karl 134 radical conservatives 62 Radogor (Slavic hero) 181 railroad/railway station motif 288–92 see also train motif rational planning 106 rave culture 69–70 real locales 283, 287 reality in heterotopias 84–5 rebirth myth 136, 139, 143, 271, 320 reconstituted society 142 reconstruction movement 47, 52, 57 The Red Star (Bogdanov) 4–5 Red–Brown alliance 135 The Rehearsals (Sharov) 81, 85–8, 90, 93, 96–7 religio-political utopia 155–74 religion Russian identity 10 the sacred disconnect 308 science fiction themes 115–19 see also Christianity; Judaism ‘religious science fiction’ 158 remembering/forgetting 116–18 ressentiment, speculative fiction 39–59 resurrection theme 100n.33 retrofuturism 129–54, 320 retro-utopia 307 The Return from Trabzon (Bulychev) 33 revolutionary eschatology 139 revolutionary processes 31 A Rhapsody of Wrath (Iankovskii) 40–1, 58n.7 rhetorical utterances 212 Richardson, Kay 237–8



right-wing science fiction 175–6, 178, 192 The River of Chronos (Bulychev) 23, 27–9, 30, 326 roads 272, 290–1 The Roadside Picnic (Strugatsky) 302 Rogachevskii, Andrei 13, 316, 317, 319–20 Roman Catholic Church 161 ‘romance fantasy’ 49 Romanov dynasty 141 Romanov, German, A Comrade Führer 53 ROSKON convention 108 Rubidium (Kharitonov) 157 rural–city movement 133, 143 ‘Rus’ 261, 270 Russia: Future Battles book series 46 ‘Russia – my history’ exhibit 321 The Russian Frontier (Volodikhin and Chekmaev) 118 ‘Russian language’ programme 221 ‘Russian myth’, nationalism 176 Russian Orthodoxy see Orthodoxy Russian Revolution 23–37 Russian speakers 240–3, 253n.1 Russian–Ukrainian conflict 46, 205, 209, 323 Russian World foundation 328n.20 ‘Russian world’ phenomenon 39–46 ‘Russianness’ 326 Russkii vikhr’ 265 Russophone migrants 235–57 Ryazanova-Clarke, Lara 15, 223, 322 Rybakov, Viacheslav 11, 23–37, 112–15, 122n.18, 326 Rykov, Konstantin 108, 110 the sacred 306–8, 310–11, 322 ‘sacred mounds’ 266–8, 278n.34 ‘sacred norms’ concept 223 Sagon Wars cycle (Zavatskaia) 156, 159–60, 165, 171 Sakharnyi Kreml’ (Sorokin) 302

Samizdat authors see web-based authors Samorodova, Elena 73 sanatorium settings 131–2 Sanfirov, Aleksandr, Back to Youth 55 satire 157, 171, 212 Savitskii, Gegorii 44–5 science fiction (SF) 6–7, 315–29 conservative 105–27, 155, 315–17 ‘future’ concept 5, 7–8, 23 literary devices 4 metaphors 1 neoconservatism 64–5 networks 108–11 popadanets 47 post-utopian 301–14 religio-political utopia 155–74 sub-genres 8, 10, 24, 26 themes 8, 10 xenophobia 175–200 see also fantastic literature; speculative fiction; utopian fiction ‘scientific fantasy’ 315 Scythians 137–8, 141 The Second Life of Napoleon (Pervushin) 24 Second World War 52–4, 321–2 securitization 325–6 security agencies 188–9 semiosphere 263, 277n.10 separatism 303 Seraphim, Father 115 Serdiukov, Anatoly 186 Seventeen Moments of Spring TV series 160 SF see science fiction Sharapov, Sergei 106 Sharov, Vladimir 81–101, 100n.20 Shcherbatov, Mikhail, A Journey to the Land of Ofir 3, 23–4 Sheiko, Konstantin 25 Shimanov, Gennadii 135 Shklovsky, Victor 248 Shnirelman, Victor 14, 118, 326

Index Siberia, ‘imagined geography’ 273 simultaneity, heterotopias 92–6 sinodik (memorial book) 95 Skanti, Deitros cycle 168 Skovronskaia, Maria, 666/3. Fantasie capricieuse 4 A Skylark (Stoliarov) 41 ‘Slavic Aryans’ 186, 326 Slavic language 206, 212, 214 see also Church Slavonic language Slavic paganism 181–3, 189 Slavophile themes 106, 112, 265 ‘slimies’ (The Ugly Swans) 114–15, 126n.63 The Slynx (Kys’) (Tolstaia) 207, 223, 320 smuta 318–20 The Snail on a Slope (Strugatsky and Strugatsky) 113 Snegov, Sergei, Humans as Gods 23 S.N.U.F.F. (Pelevin) 208, 215 the social, death of 17n.13 social change 106 social obligations 293, 300n.45 social variation, language 244 society–individual relationship 33 sociolinguistic change 221, 232n.3, 232n.5 solidarity 243–4 Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr, Cancer Ward 88 The Son of Russia (Kukuliev and Kukuliev) 75 Sonin, Sergei 73 Sorokin, Vladimir Day of the Oprichnik 209, 305, 320, 326 ‘Monoklon’ 322 Telluria 1, 16, 79n.32, 83, 210, 301–14, 320–1 ‘Soviet pin-up’ style 55–6 Soviet science fiction 155–74 Soviet Union affective community 243 collapse of 322 dismantling of 220


Soviet Writers Union 264 space operas 113–14, 117–18 space project/program 62, 68–9, 75 space-time parameters 281–300 spatial aspects, national project 142–4 spatial deepening 289 spatial planes 281 spatial relations, moral/social obligations 293 spatial settings 88, 90 see also place Special Troops: The Battle for Berlin (Tarutin) 53–4 ‘specialist’ popadanet 48–9 speculative fiction definition 57n.3 genocides 99n.17 purpose of 9–10 trends 39–59 use of term 1 ZhD (Bykov) 281–300 see also fantastic literature; science fiction; utopian fiction speech, migrants 240–3, 253n.1 see also language The Speech Therapist (Logoped) (Votrin) 219–34, 326 Spengler, Oswald 316 spirituality 298n.2 stabilizing ideologies 316 Stalinism/Stalin, Joseph 75, 135, 264, 303, 322 state, Limonov’s view 154n.128 state coercion 131 state institutions 222 state-sponsored projects 328n.17, 328n.20 Stavrakakis, Yannis 177 steam-punk 301 stereotypes 247, 270 Sterligov, Aleksandr 135 stiob 157, 171, 212, 216 Stoliarov, Andrei, A Skylark 41 ‘Strangers’ 177–8, 190, 192 see also the Other

360 The Strategic Heritage (Sonin and Samorodova) 73 Strelkov, Igor 265 Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris 6, 10, 64–5, 78n.14 conservative SF 111–15, 125n.50, 126n.63 post-utopian SF 302 Soviet SF 157 view of women 125n.56 A Student, a Komsomol Member, a Sportswoman (Arsen’ev) 55, 317–18 stylistic register, language 205 subjectivity 237, 310 Sukhovo-Kobylin, Aleksandr 308 Sultanalieva, Syinat 324–5 Sumarokov, Aleksandr, Dream of a Happy Society 3 superdiverse communities 238 ‘superfluous person’ theme 48 Suslov, Mikhail 12–13, 319, 324, 327 Suvin, Darko 2, 175 symbolic geography 283–7 Talmud 191 Tannen, Deborah 237 tarabary group (Votrin) 223, 228 Tarmashev, Sergei 190–1 Tarutin, Oleg, Special Troops: The Battle for Berlin 53–4 technological innovation 315 teleological movement 293 Telluria (Sorokin) 1, 16, 79n.32, 83, 210, 301–14, 320–1 tellurian nails/trips 303–8, 310, 321 ‘telluric’, use of term 72–3, 79n.32 telluro-cosmic imperial utopia 61–79 telos 283 temporal planes 281 temporal plunge 289, 292 temporal–spatial aspects, national project 142–4 temporal system, language 215

Index temporal warping 288–9 Tereshkova, Valentina 69–70 territory city–rural movement 133, 143 empire and 322–4, 326–7 mapping 261–80 nation-building 133 Russian identity 10, 15–16 terrorism threat 285 ‘text’, counter-utopia 263 theocratic systems 167 There is a Future compilation 156 think tanks 110–11 The Third Empire: Russia as it Ought to be (Iur’ev) 213 This Ain’t California film 144 threat, discourse of 223 Three Sisters (Chekhov) 133 time alternative histories 23–4, 26, 28 heterotopias 84–7, 90, 92–6 see also temporal . . . ‘time machines’ 187 time simultaneity 92–3 time-space parameters 281–300 time travel SF 47 ‘Time of Troubles’ 318–19 timelines, impossible 287–90 Tolstaia, Tatiana 322 Kys’ (The Slynx) 207, 223, 320 Tolstoy, Aleksei 5 Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace 34 Tomorrow’s Wars book series 44 train motif 290–2, 294–6, 299n.33 see also railroad/railway station motif transcendental metaphors 311 transformation cycles 296–7 transhumanism 66, 68 translingual homophony 248 transnational contact, barriers 246 transnational imaginary 237–8 transnational subjectivity 237 trauma narrative 96–8, 322–3 see also post-traumatic syndrome

Index Troitsky, Artemy 69 Trubetskoy, Nikolai 138 Trumpeting Angel of Chernobyl 286 Tsar Fedor: One More Chance (Zlotnikov) 50 TV series Londongrad 235–57, 322 Seventeen Moments of Spring 160 Twain, Mark, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court 47 The Ugly Swans (Strugatsky and Strugatsky) 6, 112, 114–15, 126n.63 UK see United Kingdom Ukraine Chernobyl catastrophe 285 Golovachev’s views 187, 191 Iauza book series 46 language 208 NATO confrontation 43–4 Russia’s conflict with 205, 209, 323 as ‘Utopian State’ 130 Ukrainian Orthodox Church 205 ultraconservatism 275 ultranationalism 263–4, 266, 269, 272, 278n.40 ultra-rightists 179 (un)freedom, degrees of 281–300 United Kingdom (UK), Russophone migrants 235–57 United States of America (USA) as aggressor 40–1, 44 ressentiment objects 51 universalism 159 Urals steppe 273 USA see United States of America Uspenskii, Mikhail, Look into the Eyes of Monsters 41 Uspensky, Boris 296–7 USSR breakdown 170 disintegration 192 imperial view 242–3


popadantsy literature 53 restoration theme 54–6 USSR-2061 literary competition 156 Ustrialov, Nikolai 135 utopian fiction authors 4 emergence of genre 3 use of term 1 see also fantastic literature; science fiction; speculative fiction utopian locales 287–8 utopian socialists 150n.68 ‘Utopian State’, Ukraine as 130 utopian studies, intellectual inputs 2 utopian subcommunities 246 utopianism historical overview 2–7 historico–ideological iterations 120 utopias aspects of 106 as dead genre 83 descriptions 254n.15 ‘effectively enacted’ 82–8 use of term 1 Valdai International Discussion Club 265 Valentinov, Andrei, The Eye of Power 24 Valetov, Ian, A Nobody’s Land 42 van den Akker, Robin 63 The Varangian (Mazin) 49 variation, language 230, 244 Vas’ki wanderers (Bykov) 291, 294 Vassalli, Sebastino, 3012: L’anno del profeta 204 Vedich (Golovachev) 182–4 Velichko, Andrei, A Caucasian Prince 51 Vermeulen, Timotheus 63 ‘vernacularization’ 220, 222 Victory Day celebration 53, 68 Vidokle, Anton 69 The Viktors (Chudinova) 125n.53



village prose writers 137, 176 violence 31–2 visionary neoclassicism 71 Visitor from the Future (film) 7 visuality, ‘new beginning’ 62 Vitenberg, Boris 57 Vitkovskii, Aleksei, The Knight 49 Vladimir of Kiev, Prince 270 Vodolazkin, Evgenii 81–101, 207 ‘Volksgeist’ 262 Volodikhin, Dmitrii 105, 109–10, 112–13, 118–19, 124n.37, 125n.53, 125n.55 Volodin, Viacheslav 109 Votrin, Valerii, Logoped (The Speech Therapist) 204, 219–34, 326 vozbuzhdaiushchiesia patients 132 Voznesenskaia, Iuliia 116–18

border areas 261 conservative SF 316 as enemy 324 neo-medievalism 308–9 progressive perception 318 Westernization 3, 106 What Is to Be Done? (Chernyshevskii) 3–5, 132–3 The White Cross (Irtenina) 119 White Empire 127n.76 Wirth, Louis 316 Witte, Sergei 106 women 180 in conservative SF 125n.56 as literary characters 180, 324 Münster commune 140 ultranationalist views 269 see also gender

War: Imperial Headquarters book series 42–3 War 2030 (Berezin) 42 ‘war communism’ 161 war fiction 40–6 War and Peace (Tolstoy) 34 ‘Ward No. 6’ (Chekhov) 88–9 ‘ward novels’ 81–3, 88–92 Warhammer game 64 warped space-time 288–9 The Way of Cassandra (Voznesenskaia) 117 We (Zamiatin) 6 web-based authors 155–6 Weimar Germany, National Bolshevism 134–5 ‘West–Ukrainian butchers’ theme 44 Western science fiction, influence of 160 ‘Western World’ as aggressor 40

xenophobia 175–200, 323 Yeltsin, Boris 264 Yesterday There Will Be the War (Burkatovskii) 52 A Youth: Grandson of a Centurion (Krasnitskii) 49–50 Zamiatin, Evgenii, We 6 Zavatskaia, Iana 13–14, 155–74, 325 Zavtra (Tomorrow) newspaper 215, 264–6, 268, 271 ZhD (Bykov) 211, 281–300, 321 Zhiliaev, Arseny 69 Zhukov, Georgy 75 The Ziggurat (Maksimov) 117–18 Ziuganov, Gennady 135 Zlotnikov, Roman 110 The General-Admiral 51 Tsar Fedor: One More Chance 50 Zviagintsev, Vasilii 24–5, 34