Russians Abroad: Literary and Cultural Politics of Diaspora (1919–1939)

Russians Abroad: Literary and Cultural Politics of Diaspora (1919–1939)

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Greta Slobin
Edited by Katerina Clark, Nancy Condee, Dan Slobin, & Mark Slobin

Series: The Real Twentieth Century
ISBN: 9781618112149 (hardcover)
Pages: 258 pp.
Publication Date: June 2013

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The book presents an array of perspectives on the vivid cultural and literary politics that marked the period immediately after the October Revolution of 1917, when Russian writers had to relocate to Berlin and Paris under harsh conditions. Divided amongst themselves and uncertain about the political and artistic directions of life in the diaspora, these writers carried on two simultaneous literary dialogues: with the emerging Soviet Union and with the dizzying world of European modernism that surrounded them in the West. Chapters address generational differences, literary polemics and experimentation, the heritage of pre-October Russian modernism, and the fate of individual writers and critics, offering a sweeping view of how exiles created a literary diaspora. The discussion moves beyond Russian studies to contribute to today’s broad, cross-cultural study of the creative side of political and cultural displacement.


Greta Slobin (PhD Yale University) was professor of literature at the University of California–Santa Cruz and also taught at Amherst College, Wesleyan University, and SUNY Albany. She was a long-time Senior Research Fellow at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University and spent a year at Harvard University on an NEH fellowship. Her other publications included Aleksei Remizov: Approaches to a Protean Writer and Remizov’s Fictions: 1900–1921.

Katerina Clark is Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University. She is author of Petersburg: Crucible of Cultural Revolution and coauthor, with Michael Holquist, of Mikhail Bakhtin.

Nancy Condee is on the Slavic and Film Studies faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. She has been Director of the Graduate Program for Cultural Studies for over a decade (1995-2006) and is a Senior Associate Member of St. Antony's College (Oxford University). She is co-founder and co-editor of the journal Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, and serves on a number of editorial and advisory boards, including Kinokultura, Critical Quarterly, and Russian Studies in Literature. She has served for six years as Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research.


The chief value of this collection of essays is that it clearly traces some of the important dynamics of the post-1917 literary emigration. It shows how émigré literature relates to Russian literature of other periods and to broader questions of identity; as well as countering the usual stereotypes, it demonstrates that émigré letters need not—should not—be studied as a thing apart. . . . [T]his is a collection of essays which opens up many lines of enquiry as it is—and provides many original answers. Prefaced with an eloquent tribute by Galin Tihanov, it stands as a fine tribute to Greta Slobin and the breadth of her scholarship.
— Adam Fergus (University of Sheffield), Modern Language Review, Volume 111, Part 2 (April 2016)
Greta Slobin’s passing cut short a scholarly career devoted, among other subjects, to the study of interwar Russian emigre culture, about which Slobin intended to write a book-length monograph but did not have time to complete it. The present volume, a labor of love by family and friends, strings together previously published and newly revised essays, some translated from the Russian, as well as material dictated by the ailing author, in a narrative that approximates Slobin’s original plan. . . .The present collection of essays documents her life-long intellectual engagement with the problematics of Russian emigre culture. . . . For those who knew Greta Slobin, this volume will be a modest token of appreciation for a passionate scholar whose premature death left an ambitious project incomplete.
— Leonid Livak, University of Toronto, in The Russian Review, vol. 73, no. 2 (April 2014)
Greta Slobin’s highly illuminating study on Russian emigre writing of the 1920s–1940s is an important contribution to the area of Russian twentieth-century studies. Its conceptually sophisticated theoretical framework enables Slobin to offer significant insights into the artistic imagination, memory wars and cultural politics of the most influential representatives of Russian diaspora, including Bunin, Remizov, Nabokov, Tsvetaeva and Adamovich. Being well aware of the importance of the Pushkin myth and the Doestoevsky myth to the construction of the national identity among Russian emigre communities, Slobin suggests that the re-discovery of the works of Ivan Turgenev in the 1930s enabled Russian emigre authors in France to preserve the sense of cultural continuity. In an impressive way, Slobin manages to elucidate many complexities associated with the reception of Russian emigre culture of the first wave in the post-Soviet Period. It is likely to be an indispensable source of information on Russian diaspora of the 1920s–40s for many years to come.
— Alexandra Smith, Edinburgh University
Framed by several critical models, including neocolonial, the book is rich in observations on the nexus between the national canon, exile and modernism....Greta Slobin’s book will play an important part in emigre studies, where a decisive shift has occurred during the last decade from describing the long neglected material and ‘filling the gaps’ to conceptualizing and contextualizing the complex network of literary discourses, solidarities and loyalties.
— Maria Rubins, UCL SSEES, in Slavonic and East European Review, vol. 92, no. 3 (July 2014)