Slot:       30A-4          Dec. 30, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.                                                

Panel:     Publishing and Positioning in the Fin-de-siècle

Chair:     Jason Merrill, Michigan State University


Title:       Dreyfus and Zola in Russia: The Engagé Writer, the Poet as Prophet, and the Newspaper

Author:   Gabriella Safran, Stanford University

Osip Mandelstam, in “Shum vremeni,” recalls the 1890s as a time when Russians – or at any rate Russian Jewish men – talked exclusively about the Dreyfus Affair.  Indeed, the growth of newspaper publishing and global communications technologies in that era meant that readers even in the Russian provinces could follow daily developments in the story of the Jewish officer’s various trials, convictions, and pardons and their aftermath in France and beyond.  A more inspirational figure than the colorless Alfred Dreyfus was Emile Zola, whose article “J’accuse!” and subsequent libel trial led the French government (eventually) to admit the army’s wrongdoing.

Aleksandra Brushteyn, in her memoir of a Vilna girlhood, Doroga ukhodit v dal..., paints Zola as a willing martyr, who knew that his literary fame would make his self-sacrifice an effective public statement, and she finds a contemporary Russian analogue to Zola’s activism in Vladimir Korolenko’s work on behalf of the Multan Votiaks (an ethnic minority accused of ritual sacrifice, 1892-1896).  This paper examines these and other echoes of Zola’s intervention in the Dreyfus Affair in Russian literary life, asking whether Zola was read as an exemplar of a pre-existing model for writerly heroism or a founder of a new, productive literary-biographical model.  It argues that the changing perceptions of the heroic writer in Russia cannot be separated from the evolution of publishing, particularly the newspaper, itself seen as a vehicle just as capable of stifling heroism as of nurturing and publicizing it.


Title:       Hypostases of the Final Liberation: Mystical Anarchism in the Context of the Political Satire Journal Adskaia Pochta

Author:   Oleg A. Minin, University of Southern California

The doctrine of mystical anarchism, elaborated upon by G. Chulkov and V. Ivanov in their respective tracts On Mystical Anarchism, The Idea of the Non-Acceptance of the World and The Crisis of Individualism, found its peculiar manifestation in Adskaia Pochta – a journal of political satire published in 1906 by Evgeny Lansere.

This study, while re-examining the principal tenets of mystical anarchism, focuses on the way the doctrine manifests itself in Lansere’s journal. It will be argued that satire in Adskaia pochta, functioning as a vehicle of social criticism, also acts as the conduit for  mystic anarchism’s non-acceptance of the world rhetoric, which, in turn, dominates the journal’s overall meta-narrative.

The notion of prophesy, which repeatedly surfaces in Ivanov’s and Chulkov’s tracts in connection with mystical anarchism, is the seminal notion of Ivanov’s poem Syvilla, published in Adskaia pochta’s inaugural issue. A close reading of this poem ultimately advances the argument that the journal’s meta-narrative was dialogically constructed to accommodate a unitary voice of mystical anarchist protest.

Methodologically, the present study will proceed from Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of dialogism, which operates at the level of the journal’s meta-narrative, reflecting its orientation toward a liberally colored agenda of social criticism.



Adskaia pochta, Issues 1-3, St. Petersburg, 1906.

Bahktin, Mikhail. "Discourse in the Novel," The Dialogic Imagination. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

Chulkov, Georgii. “O mistickeskom anarkhizme.” Valtasarovo tsarstvo. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo “Respublika,” 1998. 342-360.

Ivanov, Viacheslav.  Po zvezdam. Stat’i i aforizmy. St. Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo “Ory,” 1909.

Rosenthal, Bernice G. “The Transmutation of the Symbolist Ethos: Mystical Anarchism and the Revolution of 1905.” Slavic Review 36. 4 (December 1977): 608-628.


Title:       Scandal as a Strategy of Literary Conduct: Rozanov, Vekhi, and Others

Author:   Natalia Kazakova, Hunter College

The Silver Age proposed definite behavioral connotations to Russian society. The eschatological historical context demanded an ontological approach to life; play was transformed into the foundational principle of living and being. Vasilii Rozanov stood out even among his brilliant contemporaries by proposing a new model of creative existence. The disputatious conduct of Rozanov – thinker, journalist, and writer – was conditioned by a defined strategy in his creative self-understanding. Scandal became the supreme metaphorical manifestation of his literary identity.

The anthology Vekhi (articles on the Russian intelligentsia) appeared in the beginning of March 1909. No other book published in Russia in the early twentieth century met with such violent discussion.  Its unbelievable success was the success of a grandiose scandal. The anthology’s critical reflection in addressing the Russian intelligentsia did not, paradoxically, meet with a proper understanding in its milieu.

The religious-philosophical group headed by Merezhkovskii, Gippius, and Filosofov responded to the anthology extremely negatively. Rozanov, however – who had by then already received a reputation for scandal – spoke in defense of the “children of Dostoevsky,” as he called the authors of Vekhi. Rozanov’s distinctive polemical defense and the specificity of his arguments initiated a break with Merezhkovski’s group. Rozanov’s confrontation exposed deep contradictions in the spiritual growth of Russian society and stand as a reflection of this epoch’s tragic conflict.