The Readers of Novyi Mir
Coming to Terms with the Stalinist Past
Harvard University Press 2013
In Russia’s collective memory, the Stalin terror is often remembered and referred to by its most grueling year: “1937.” Following Stalin’s death and the shocking revelations about his regime exposed by his successor Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet citizens began to remember and rethink the turbulent first half of the twentieth century – the decades that, in addition to 1937, included two revolutions, two world wars, a civil war, multiple forced expropriations, and relentless class warfare. During the 1950s and 1960s, Novyi Mir (New World), the most famous literary journal in twentieth-century Russia, forged the language and published the literature that for the first time addressed this tragic Soviet past.
The Readers of Novyi Mir: Coming to Terms with the Stalinist Past (Harvard University Press, 2013) examines several thousand letters from Soviet readers preserved in the Russian archives. Exploring how the readers responded to those groundbreaking publications in the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Denis Kozlov traces the maturation and sophistication of Soviet public memory. In their dialogue with literature, the readers were forced to face their own and the country’s historic ordeal and to literally ‘come to terms’ with this past – to rethink it and reincorporate it in their existence. While some rejected the new truths, a great many people did meet the challenge. Offering a detailed look at the thoughts and hopes of Soviet citizens expressed through their heartfelt, autobiographical letters to the journal, this book brings to light the memories and interpretations of the twentieth-century tragedies that, from the 1960s to this day, have shaped the relationship between the state and the individual in Russia, as well as in other countries of the post-Soviet space.