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29. Olzhas Suleimenov (1936–)

Edited by Stephen M Norris and Willard Indiana University Press ePub

 

MARLÈNE LARUELLE

Olzhas Suleimenov has been a key representative of Kazakh culture since the 1960s. A Russian language writer and poet impassioned by history, he expressed during Soviet times a Kazakh national feeling within the framework then set by “peoples’ friendship,” which implied the superiority of the Russian “big brother.” Since Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991, his adopted aim has been to rehabilitate the Turkic cultures of the steppes by proving their ancient status and their major role in world history. His life, but his thought even more so, on the history and identity of the Eurasian steppes, reflect the multiple intersections of faiths, geographies, and ways of life that have characterized Russia and its empire for several centuries.

Suleimenov’s commitment in literature is revealing of the inspiration that has followed him throughout his life: to give meaning to humanity in its totality. A geologist by training, in April 1961, Suleimenov proposed to the editor in chief of Kazakhstanskaia pravda a poem written for the glory of Yuri Gagarin, who had only just undertaken the first inhabited space flight in the history of humanity. The poem enjoyed such success that it rapidly propelled Suleimenov to the status of representative of Kazakh literature. He was employed by Kazakhstanskaia pravda the following year, and was sent to the famous Moscow Institute for Literature, where he associated with the great Soviet writers of the time, such as Mikhail Sholokhov, Vsevolod Ivanov, Ilia Ehrenburg, and Yevgeny Evtushenko. The atmosphere of the shestidesiatniki, the 1960s liberals who, in the wake of de-Stalinization, challenged the Soviet ideological stranglehold on arts and letters, had a decisive influence on his intellectual and political development. He then accumulated prestigious prizes and honors, including the Komsomol Prize for Kazakhstan, State Prize of the Kazakh Soviet Republic, and National Poet of Kazakhstan.

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22. Joseph Stalin (1878–1953)

Edited by Stephen M Norris and Willard Indiana University Press ePub

 

RONALD GRIGOR SUNY

Three imperial leaders of modern Europe came from the peripheries of the empires they would rule and expand—Napoléon, Hitler, and Stalin. Born on December 6 (19), 1878, in the Georgian town of Gori, in a country exoticized as dramatically beautiful, fatally attractive, and savage as Corsica—and as far from the centers of political power as the hinterlands of Austria—Joseph Stalin (Ioseb Jughashvili) rose from impoverished son of a shoemaker to become one of the most powerful men in the world. He forged two empires—one internal between the metropole of Communist Party power in Moscow and the peoples and republics of the USSR (including the Russians!); the other in east Central Europe and Mongolia made up of subordinate satellite states ruled by communist satraps. Historians have linked his Georgian origins to his brutal political style, either as a “man of the borderlands” (Alfred Rieber) or as adolescent poet turned gangster (Simon Sebag Montefiore).1 His dissolute father, Bessarion Jughashvili, and his religious mother, Ekaterina (Keke) Geladze, fought over their son’s education; his mother ultimately triumphed, sending the boy to a Georgian Orthodox seminary. Stalin’s first immersion in culture and politics was in a Georgian milieu, but in the cosmopolitan city of Tiflis (Tbilisi), young Joseph turned away from the church toward Marxism and a career as a professional revolutionary. Somewhat romantic as a youth—he wrote nationalist poetry in his native Georgian language—Soso Jughashvili embraced the hero of a Georgian novella, and to his closest friends and comrades he was known as “Koba.”2 As a member of the Marxist Social Democratic Party, he organized workers in the port town of Batumi, but his impetuous nature led to a reckless strike that ended with the police killing protesters. Never comfortable under the tutelage of the older generation of Georgian Marxists (Noe Zhordania and the mesame dasi [third generation]), Jughashvili gravitated after his first arrest and exile to Siberia toward the more militant wing of social democracy, the Bolsheviks, cutting himself off from most of his fellow Georgian revolutionaries, who preferred the more moderate Mensheviks.

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14 Conclusion: Packaging the Past

Stephen M. Norris Indiana University Press ePub

Our journey into blockbuster history began at the multiplex, which served as the initial locus for understanding film as a theater of historical remembrance. It ends at another new memory site that has appeared in post-Soviet Russia: the video store.

Video stores in the new Russia sell every film, game, and soundtrack mentioned in the previous chapters. The Soiuz chain, to pick one prominent example, operates 40 stores and 9 “hypermarkets” throughout Russia, while also distributing goods to 150 other shops. The company, founded in 1992, bills itself as one that “specializes in the production and realization of products related to the business category of intellectual entertainments.”1 Because of its nationwide reach, Soiuz also attempts to combat video piracy, which is traditionally high in Russia’s provinces. The company also operates a music label, serves as an official distributor of foreign and domestic films, and even helps to produce DVD versions of films—Soiuz officially produced Aleksei Balabanov’s Cargo 200. In short, a trip into the world of Soiuz is a trip into how much Russia has changed since 1991.

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23. Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966)

Edited by Stephen M Norris and Willard Indiana University Press ePub

 

ALEXANDRA HARRINGTON

Anna Akhmatova is one of Russia’s best-loved and most talented lyric poets. Yet her preeminent position in Russian cultural history rests on more than the quality of her writing. Through a combination of her poetry, the shape of her biography, and the force of her personality she has acquired a legendary status, becoming—even during her own lifetime—a larger-than-life, monumental figure, martyr against tyranny and preserver of prerevolutionary culture, a symbol of persecuted genius, and an example of moral courage. In short, she is a cultural icon. Early in Akhmatova’s career, her contemporary Marina Tsvetaeva crowned her “Anna of all the Russias,” which aptly reflects the fact that her life as a writer was, from the outset, intimately tied to Russian imperial experience. Akhmatova embodied the kind of cultural diversity that is an integral part of Russian identity: she was sympathetic to both Western and Eastern influences on Russian culture and her public image incorporates elements of each. This public image—not wholly invented but nonetheless carefully shaped—was a multicultural one, made up of a Tatar name and “Oriental” ancestry combined with a blend of southern (Ukrainian) and northern (Russian) heritage.1

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6 Mirror of War

Stephen M. Norris Indiana University Press ePub

In May 1985, the Soviet film critic Lev Anninskii published a seminal article in Iskusstvo kino. Appearing just two months after Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary, Anninskii’s “Quiet Explosions [Tikhie vzryvy],” promised, as the subtitle suggested, to be a series of “polemical notes.”1 Published to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of Victory Day, Anninskii asserted that the war against Nazi Germany had now passed into memory, particularly because of Soviet cinematic representations. What appears on screen, he wrote, “is not what was, but what is remembered [his emphasis].” Because cinema had fostered this memory work, turning the war into a myth that could be used by the Soviet state, Anninskii urged artists to break away from previous cinematic explorations of the war and to “sing their own songs about the war.” What was needed, according to Anninskii, was a series of “silent explosions” that could shake up the memories produced onscreen. Anninskii got his wish, but only in part, for the Gorbachev era brought a series of loud cultural eruptions. The call for “silent explosions” seemed quaint by December 1991, when a new era dawned.

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