Slot:       30B-4         Dec. 30, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.                                              

Panel:     Poetry and Performance in Late Soviet Culture

Chair:     Mary A. Nicholas, Lehigh University


Title:       Viewing Vladimir Vysotsky’s Concert Programs as Poetic Cycles

Author:   Anthony Qualin, Texas Tech University

Much of the Russian research focusing on Russian rock music has been devoted to the concept of the rock album as a cohesive whole or, to use their preferred term, a poetic cycle.  Because of his lack of official recognition in the Soviet literary and musical establishment, Vladimir Vysotsky had few opportunities to prepare his works for publication and seldom was able to formulate the presentation of his own albums.  It would seem, then, that his readers and listeners have been deprived of the insight that comes from the interplay of multiple works found in a carefully conceived album.  Fortunately, however, we have access to the recordings of hundreds Vysotsky’s concerts performed over the years.  This study will consist of an analysis of the playlists and a discussion of the significance of Vysotsky’s song selection.  It will explore the cumulative effect of the songs he performs and the significance of the audience and location of the concert.  The analysis will also include a comparison of Vysotsky’s playlists from various points in time.  While the playlists from Vysotsky’s concerts offer a considerably larger sample, he recorded albums in Canada and France.  He also compiled a collection of his verse for the literary almanac, Metropol′.  Though the concert programs will serve as the primary focus of the presentation, Vysotsky’s tamizdat albums and his selection for Metropol′ will serve as a point of comparison throughout the study.  The purpose of the current study is to demonstrate the extent to which Vysotsky’s concert programs were as carefully constructed as his songs, underscoring his poetic versatility and enhancing the meaning and artistic effect his songs through the juxtaposition of images and themes.


Title:       Empire and Identity in D. A. Prigov’s Moskva i moskvichi

Author:   Sidney Dement, University of Kansas

In the 23 poems of his 1982 cycle, Moskva i moskvichi, the Conceptualist poet Dmitrii Prigov (b. 1940 in Moscow) makes his own contribution to the theme of Russia’s capitals as “literary” texts. His intertextual poems explore imperial and Soviet Russia, conflating historical and literary events, architecture, images, legends and leaders to capture the variegated essence of Moscow. Prigov’s Moscow absorbs all of Russia: invader and immigrant, past and present.

In the cycle’s preface, Prigov invites the reader to consider his work as an “historiosophical” contribution to “tema Moskvy” (“tema Peterburga” being more than adequately developed). He notes the uneven efforts dedicated to literary Moscow and declares that Moskva i moskvichi will help to fill in the gaps. Prigov’s title echoes the eponymous Moscow texts of Mikhail Zagoskin and Vladimir Giliarovsky, and the poems of his cycle provide valuable data for current research into the “Moscow Text.”

This paper first explicates the imagery of the cycle’s (arguably) central poem, “Prekrasna moia drevniaia Moskva,” then embeds the poem in the larger context of the cycle (a stratified exploration of the “Moscow, Third Rome” theme and its various implications for empire), and finally speculates on what role Prigov’s cycle plays in the “Moscow Text.” The style of the poem deserves analysis because of Prigov’s atypical persona, which relies heavily on metonymy and vivid imagery (eagle, snow leopard, desert sands, Assyrian king, et al.). These stylistic features find unity with the thematic elements of the poem: the transformation of the medieval Muscovite principality into a “Third Rome” under Ivan III.

This research contributes to the emerging dialogue about the “Moscow Text.” That a poet like Prigov, three years before perestroika, would assume such a novel persona in addressing pressing issues of identity and empire reflects a prescient anticipation of post-Soviet Moscow. Prigov's cycle Moskva i moskvichi deserves more critical attention than it has yet received.


Title:       The Hunt for the Mammoth” — The Ahistorical Properties of Time in the Weltanschauung of Viktor Krivulin

Author:   Zaur V Agayev, Princeton University

The creative works of Viktor Borisovich Krivulin occupy an important place in the field of Russian contemporary poetry. During the final decades of the Soviet Union, Krivulin was known as one of the most significant poets and social figures of the Leningrad underground. His poetry is a unique blend of intellectuality, spirituality, aestheticism and asceticism.

The notion of time is a convoluted concept in Krivulin’s Weltanschauung (mirovospriiatie/mirooshchushchenie). Krivulin’s poetry presents Time as a multidimensional entity; it is a temporal, spatial, and social development of human society and culture. What is more significant, the notion of time in Krivulin’s poetry is usually defined by clearly ahistorical properties. This paper discusses two such ahistorical properties: the social aspect of time, which does not necessarily correspond to actual history, and a universal cultural unity, which also transcends the boundaries of “historicism.” Moreover, I will illustrate how the latter notion is linked to the concept of the unity of culture in time and the liberation from fear of repetition that Osip Mandelshtam developed in his essay “Slovo i kultura.”