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The ‘new god-builders’

  • Irena Maryniak
Part of the Studies in Russia and East Europe book series (SREE)

Abstract

In the years immediately following the widespread but unsuccessful revolutionary action of 1905-7, some of Russia’s leading socialist intellectuals toyed with the notion of promoting revolutionary ideology in the form of religious faith. By this, they hoped to encourage an atmosphere of shared purpose, excitement, union and self-denial in an increasingly uncertain and divided revolutionary movement. The ‘god-building’ theory, as it was known, received only limited support among Russian social democrats, and was stifled within less than ten years largely as a result of Lenin’s personal intervention. It has taken more than seventy years for a modified form of the same idea to re-emerge in Soviet writing, but since the mid-1970s a new kind of god-building has found its way into novels by three well-established writers frequently associated with the ‘village prose’ school:1 Pëtr Proskurin, Chingiz Aitmatov and Vladimir Tendriakov. Their work is largely devoted to traditionally ‘village’ themes such as the protection of the environment, of cultural tradition and family ties; but some examples of their writing also emphasise specially the need to protect and preserve as a supreme Absolute the principle of the strong, undivided social collective.

Keywords

Religious Faith Russian Literature Collective Consciousness Creative Power Collective Energy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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NOTES

  1. 1.
    For an introduction to village prose and its origins, see: Geoffrey Hosking, Beyond Socialist Realism (St Albans, 1980) pp. 50–83.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A. Lunacharsky, Religiia i sotsializm, 2 vols (vol. 1, St Petersburg, 1908; vol. 2, St Petersburg, 1911). See also: Christopher Read, Religion, Revolution and the Russian Intelligentsia, 1900–1912 (London and Basingstoke, 1979) pp. 78–85, hereafter referred to as Read, Religion . . . . Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Gorky, Ispoved’ (St Petersburg, 1907).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    V.I. Lenin, Sochineniia, 4th edn, vol. XxxV (Moscow, 1954–66) pp. 81–91. See also: Bertram D. Wolfe, The Bridge and the Abyss (Connecticut, 1967) pp. 43–53.Google Scholar
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    Gorky, Ispovedin Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. ix (Moscow, 1969–76) p. 322.Google Scholar
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    Announced by Radio Moscow 2, 19.30 h., 27 June 1987.Google Scholar
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    Critics still tend to be cautious about what they say in writing, but the journal Ogonek has published general articles attacking mediocrity and conservative attitudes in literature, which reportedly generated violent reactions from the right wing of the literary establishment of which Proskurin is a prominent member. See: B. Sarnov, ‘Bor’ba za pravo pisat’ plokho’, Ogonek, No. 23 (1987); N. Il’ina, ‘Zdravstvui plemia, mladoe, neznakomoe ...’, Ogonek, No. 2 (1988); J. Wishnevsky, ‘Literary Criticism in the glasnostera’, Radio Liberty Bulletin, No. 377, 28 September 1987; J. Wishnevsky, ‘Ogonek Exposes Corruption in Literature’, Radio Liberty Bulletin, No. 40, 2 February 1988.Google Scholar
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    Pëtr Proskurin, Sudba, Moskva, No. 8 (1972) pp. 11–117; No. 9 (1972) pp. 12–145; No. 10 (1972) pp. 11–114; No. 11 (1972) pp. 12–126.Google Scholar
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    The ‘single stream’ (edinyi potok) interpretation of Russian history does not regard the revolution as a leap into higher reality and tends to inflate the significance of pre-revolutionary figures and events. It is well illustrated by V. Chalmaev’s articles, ‘Velikie iskaniia’ and “Neizbezhnost”, published in the late 1960s: V. Chalmaev, ‘Velikie iskaniia’, Molodaia gvardiia, No. 3 (1968); V. Chalmaev, “Neizbezhnost”, Molodaia gvardiia, No. 9 (1968). For controversies surrounding these see: John Dunlop, The Faces of Contemporary Russian Nationalism (Princeton, 1983) pp. 219–27.Google Scholar
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    See, for instance: Proskurin, Imia Tvoe, p. 40: To chto mozhet sovershitchelovek za odnu zhizn’, - grandiozno, nepostizhimo, no vedeto tozhe vkhodit v prirodu, znachit, ona-to i estput’, ona i esttsel’. Gorky too sees nature as the all embracing force that can and should rule men’s lives; see Ispoved’, p. 389.Google Scholar
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    Proskurin, Sudba, p. 642.Google Scholar
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    According to Karl Popper’s definition, ‘historicism’ is an approach which aims to discover the ‘rhythms’, ‘patterns’, ‘laws’ or ‘trends’ underlying the evolution of history. K. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism (London, 1961) p. 3.Google Scholar
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    See Irena Maryniak, ‘Religious Themes in the Novels of Chingiz Aitmatov’, paper presented at the Second European Seminar on Central Asian Studies, University of London (SOAS), 7–10 April 1987.Google Scholar
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    See, for instance: I. Kryvelev, ‘Koketnichaia s bozhen’koi’, Komsomolskaia pravda, 30 July 1986; V. Lakshin, ‘Po pravde govoria’, Izvestiia, 3/4 December 1986; E. Evtushenko, ‘Istochnik nravstvennosti - kul’tura’, Komsomolskaia pravda, 10 December 1986; ‘Paradoksy romana ili paradoksy vospriiatiia’, Literaturnaia gazeta, 15 October 1986.Google Scholar
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    “Tsena - zhizn”, Literaturnaia gazeta, 13 August 1986.Google Scholar
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    Compare Plakha, Novyi mir, No. 8 (1986) pp. 104–19, with the conversation between Pilate and Ieshua Ga Nostri in Mikhail Bulgakov, Master i Margarita (Frankfurt/Main, 1969) pp. 27–43.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., Novyi mir, No. 6 (1986) pp. 37–8.Google Scholar
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    See T.E. O’Connor, The Politics of Soviet Culture (Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1983) p. 112.Google Scholar
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    ‘Veriu v cheloveka’, Pravda, 14 February 1987.Google Scholar
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    Learning to be Yourself , Soviet Weekly, No. 2399, 6 February 1988, P. 5.Google Scholar
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    Vladimir Tendriakov, Pokushenie na mirazhi, Novyi mir, No. 4 (1987) pp. 59–116; No. 5 (1987) pp. 89–164.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Tendriakov touches on religious subject matter in a number of works. See for example: Chudotvornaia, in Znamia, No. 5 (1958); Apostolskaia komandirovka, in Nauka i Religiia, Nos. 8–10 (1969); Zatmenie, in Druzhba narodov, No. 5 (1977).Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Tendriakov refers to narushenie obshchnosti and razobshchennost(Pokushenie. . ., Novyi mir, No. 4 (1987) p. 61; Gorky refers to razobshchenie (Ispoved’, p. 322).Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Tendriakov, Pokushenie. . ., Novyi mir, No. 5 (1987) pp. 121 -2.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 128.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 136–8.Google Scholar
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    Tendriakov, Pokushenie. . ., Novyi mir, No. 4 (1987) pp. 78–9 and No. 5 (1987) pp. 162–3. The novel culminates in Grebin’s realisation of the practical value which dobrota represents in society, through his observation of the moral instinct of his younger colleague, Misha.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ibid., Novyi mir, No. 5 (1987) p. 149: Vera - start k istine ... etc. Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ibid., p. 164. As the novel concludes, Grebin contemplates his grandson and the future achievements of the human race: Rano ili pozdno liudi vyberut za predelami zemli simpatichnuiu planetu ... raskinut v storonu Solntsa drakonovy krylia . . . Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    A short extract from this article has appeared in Religion in Communist Lands, xvi, No. 3 (1988) pp. 233–5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London 1990

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  • Irena Maryniak

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