Jonathan Brooks Platt
Stalinist Cultural Politics and the Russian National Bard
University of Pittsburgh Press 2016
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoetryNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network November 19, 2016 Olga Breininger
Greetings, Pushkin! Stalinist Cultural Politics and the Russian National Bard (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) by Jonathan Brooks Platt explores the national celebrations around the centennial anniversary of Pushkin’s death in 1937.
Platt structures his book around the dichotomy of what he sees as two different approaches to temporalities and modernity: monumentalism and eschatology, which celebrate, respectively, the formative moments of cultural narratives as opposed to their ruptures and changes. This theoretical framework engages deeply with the work of such scholars as Mikhail Bakhtin, Susan Buck-Morss, Katerina Clark, and Boris Groys.
Through the discussion of the planning and the execution of the jubilee celebration, Platt analyzes the pedagogical practices and the role of teaching of Pushkin at the time; the attitudes of Soviet intellectuals to the phenomenon of the national poet; and the way the life and death of Pushkin were re-imagined in contemporary visual arts, literature, and drama. The concluding chapter of the book traces the transformation of the figure of Pushkin, as well as the memory and legacy of the 1937 jubilee, throughout 20th-century Russian literature.
A particularly remarkable aspect of Platt’s book is his decision not to inscribe the Pushkin jubilee celebrations in the historical context of the era of “ezhovshina” and Stalinist purges. Platt argues that the cultural development around the jubilee celebrations demonstrates that the temporal logic that arose in the Stalinist period, is much more complicated than usually believed, and that the jubilee case demonstrates how different perceptions of time and the project of modernity in general could co-exist side by side in Stalin’s time challenging, thus, our established notion and representations of this era.
Olga Breininger is a PhD candidate in Slavic and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Her research interests include post-Soviet culture and geopolitics, with a special focus on Islam, nation-building, and energy politics. Olga is the author of the novel There Was No Adderall in the Soviet Union and columnist at Literatura.