Anti-Utopianism in Post-Soviet Russian Literature

Vera Aginsky, Iowa State University

In the presentation I will give a short overview of the genres of anti utopia, giving the historical and cultural background of crystal palaces in Russian literature of the nineteenth century, which goes back to chernyshevskij's What Is To Be Done and Dostoevskij's Brothers Karamazov. An important place in Russian anti-utopianism is held by the novel We by Evgenij Zamjatin. Then in my paper I will analyze the approaches to the utopian Russian idea in the story of Pelevin Devjatyj son Very Pavlovny and Kys' by Tat'jana Tolstaja.

Using the intertextual approach, Pelevin in Devjatyj son Very Pavlovny develops a new and original approach and attitude to the utopian ideas of the reconstruction of Russia. The action takes place in a restroom, where Vera works, during the years of perestroika. Many positive changes take place in the restroom. The analogy between the reforms done in post-Soviet Russia and those done in the restroom is quite obvious. The conclusion to which the analysis brings us may sound quite rude and straightforward, but you can't make a clean and decent place out of a dirty and stinky one. Thus the utopian ideas of crystal palaces are worth nothing, and the eternal question ""chto delat'" hasn't been answered yet.

Kys' by Tolstaja depicts a degenerated society, which was formed after a nuclear disaster. The city is named Fedorkuz'michsk after its dictator Fedor Kuz'mich, who fully possesses minds and souls of his subjects. The life in this fantastic city reminds the reader of life in Moscow and in the Soviet Union in general, though many features are exaggerated to absurdity. Even a huge catastrophe cannot change the mentality of slaves and dictators


The analysis of the two stories of Pelevin and Tolstaja shows that the authors, following the traditions of their predecessors, developed their own new approaches to the genre of anti utopia in post-Soviet Russia.