Ogden_Siberia as Chronotope.

Ogden_Siberia as Chronotope. - Studies of New Imperial...

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Unformatted text preview: Studies of New Imperial History and Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Space AD INVEKIO HCCJIBLLOBaHI/IH no HOBOIZ I/IMnepCKOfi I/ICTOpI/II/I H HaIII/IOHaJII/I3My B HOCTCOBCTCKOM HpOCTpaHCTBC PEJIAKHI/Ifl I/Inba B. FEPACI/IMOB Ceprefi B. FJIEBOB AneKcaHzxp II. KAIIJIYHOBCKI’H/l Maana B. MOFI/IJIBHEP Aneiceamip M. CEMEHOB Peuenmn H fiiifimdorpalbml I/Iropb C. MAPTbIHIOK JIHTnpaBKa n Koppemypa Mapufl O. HOBAK Hpurnameflflblfl penaxrop Homepa Ceprefi MAPKELIOHOB EDITORS Ilya V. GERASIMOV Serguei V. GLEBOV Alexander P. KAPLUNOVSKI Marina B. MOGILNER .lexander M3 SEMYONOV Reviews and Bibliography Igor S. MARTYNYUK Style Editing and Proofreading Mariia O. NOVAK Issue’s Guest Editor Sergei MARKEDONOV 2/ 2004 www.abimperio.net 647 Al) Imperio, 2/2004 J. Alexander OGDEN IN SIBIR’, SIBIR’... SIBERIA AS CHRONOTOPE VALENTIN RASPUTIN’S CREATION OF A USABLE PAST The movement of nations is caused not by power, nor by any intellectual activity, nor even The ability to see time, to read time, in the spatial whole of the world and, on the other hand, by a combination of the two, as historians have supposed, but by the activity of all the people Lev Tolstoi, War and Peace1 participating in the event, who always combine in such a way that those who take the largest direct share in the event take the least responsibility, and vice versa. is the ability to read in everything Signs that show for all, but as an emerging whole, an event — this time in its course, beginning with nature and to perceive the filling of space not as an immobile background, a given that is completed once and ' Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace / Transl. by Ann Dunnigan. New York and Scarborough, 1968.13. 1437. i ...i #1 l:.1l‘1‘:) a £539. ,. v9x . , S . g . «.3 , it x , z [email protected] _. i x a ,. flask ,. \Iewéx. , \R _ , t , _ ”sag, )6? S3)“ at??? s» t sfimmg v, 3;. ., s? {Enekétixfie 3%.... ea //.§\ 3, Rea/13.1 55.x ,. . E53}? 4 a.) a 355,3, fl . J. A. Ogden, Siberia as Chronotope... ending with human customs and ideas (all the way to abstract concepts). 1 Mikhail Bakhtin, “The Bila’ungsroman and ts Significance 1n the History of Realism”2 . Time, moving in one IS subdivided for each 0 of our homeland. mighty, general current, f us and takes the form Valentin Rasputin, Siberia, Siberia3 of Russian history in which Siberia repre— and centralized authority do not. bachev period turned especially r“ Ab Imperio, 2/2004 Rasputin built a reputation in the 1960s and 19705 as a fiction writer and one of the foremost representatives of Village Prose, sharing with other Village Prose writers of the 19505—19705 themes of “a return to childhood and the past, poignant observation of the changing environment, lyrical appreciation of the beauty of nature, and a questioning of the values of the modern world.”4 Siberia, Siberia marked something of a departure for him; while he had written regular journalistic pieces since the 19705 and in 1987 had published a collection of sketches, interviews, and reviews, Siberia, Siberia was and remains by far his most ambitious nonfiction project. In making this shift, Rasputin followed a time—honored compulsion of Rus~ sian novelists. “Indeed,” states Andrew Wachtel, “it turns out that at some point in their careers practically all of Russia’s most famous writers took it upon themselves to write the nation’s history,” returning to topics already treated in their fiction.5 Many of Rasputin’s concerns have been notably consistent from the post- Stalin 19605 to the post-Soviet 1990s and beyond, but the model of Russian identity that his works develop suddenly took on particular topicality in the waning years of the Soviet Union, the years in which he was working on Siberia, Siberia (a time in which the turn toward writing history and publit- sistika was heightened in a climate of pressing public debate on fundamental national issues). The country’s startling metamorphosis into something quite 4 David C. Gillespie. Valentin Rasputin and Soviet Russian Village Prose. London, 1986. Pp. 11—12. Kathleen F. Parthé dates the end of the flourishing of canonical Village Prose to the late 19705, following publication of Rasputin’s Farewell to Matyora in 1976. The movement subsequently went through a “period of decline and transformation.” Kathleen F. Parthé. Russian Village Prose: The Radiant Past. Princeton, 1992. P. 94; see also Pp. 119-120. 5 Andrew Baruch Wachtel. An Obsession with History: Russian Writers Confront the Past. Stanford, Calif, 1994. P. 15. Wachtel explores the intergeneric dialogue in which writers engage by returning to the same historical subject in different genres; rather than asserting a hierarchy that privileges poetic experience over historical perspective, writers’ assign each text a unique and equal voice and thus are able “to exploit the differences in tone, approach, and authority that by convention have separated imaginative literature and history.” Ibid. P. 7. See also P. 11. Rasputin makes full use of this dialogue, and Siberia, Siberia provides a pronounced example of the three features that Wachtel finds particularly striking in Russian writers’ obsession with history: an assertion of Russia’s absolute difference and uniqueness; a sense that Russia can overcome history, jumping out of time; and a belief that even if the present is bad the unique Russian past ensures a unique future role for Russia as messiah among nations. Wachtel. Ibid. P. 1. As seen below, Rasputin’s fictional and nonfictional treatments of Siberia engage in intergeneric dialogue in their differing approaches to historical time. 649 na . . . . mid w1th readers both Within Russra and outside it.7 For a Russian audi— 1 , a strong regional identity offers an alternative to a schematic and r 'o ematrc state—based national identity. Today discussi P 0 ~ 6 i333??? gigs: of Idelas / Ed. and. trans. by J. Alexander Ogden. Cambridge, Mass mm arehiéct Anatélfi pcrfi issor of philosophy, is also elder brother of Russian privatiza: in spite of their diffe . u ars. Chubais 3 answer is in many ways similar to Rasputin’s lyZin our h. t ring politics: We must search for a common Russian idea b anaj g IS ory and our culture... This subject takes a new direction of investigation which may be called a philoso ' ' . phy of Russra, st (1 ' ' formation of the deep ideals of the Russian peo:1:ig%d?: geneSIS, BVOIUUOIL and trans— ones a ‘ . . opposed to schematic na ' nd has invested much greater energ1es in Russia’s “peripheries.” On discipltirfalrii dilemmas ' ' ' . . Hm Russmn Studies a dozen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ab Imperio, 2/2004 Seen from a Western perspective, Rasputin offers both a deeply conser- vative narrative — at times a chauvinistic one — and yet one in tune with progressive tendencies in environmentalism and local grass—roots activism. Some of his nationalist statements in the Gorbachev period, and his anti- Semitism in particular, are especially troubling.9 Yet he is not a representa— tive of the tendency characterized (at roughly the same historical moment) by Francis Fukuyama — himself known for an attempt to fill the interpretive void resulting from Gorbachev’s reforms and Russia’s transformation — as “the fascist alternative,” made up of “a very strong current of great Russian chauvinism” on the part of “ultra-nationalists.”10 While certainly an ultra- nationalist, Rasputin does not advocate a fascist state or other authoritarian system. He advocates the opposite: close—knit communities that are rooted in strong families and are unhindered by the demands of a rapacious state. Rasputin’s ideal for Russia does not represent either path of the “fork in the road” that Fukuyama saw in Russia’s future, one branching off to Fascism, the other to Western liberal democracy (and therefore to a post—historical time).ll Rather, in Siberia, Siberia he seems to promote a historically ground- ed and consciously non—Western form of responsible libertarianism (even proposals for development of Russia’s regions, situates its discussion in the context of Russia’s place in the world: “In the circumstances in which Russia finds itself today it is extraordinarily important to find a correct answer to the following fateful question: what does Russia need today (what path must she choose) in order that she not find herself on the periphery in the development of world civilization?” Rossiiskaia tsivilizatsiia: Entsiklopedicheskii slovar’ / Ed. M. P. Mchedlov et al. Moscow, 2001. Pp. 476—479. The quotation is found on page 476. Ivanov’s article clearly draws on Edward Shils’ elaboration of center/periphery relations within empires as well as Francis Fukuyama’s and Samuel Huntington’s models of the development and clash of civilizations, although he does not reference them directly. 9 K. F. Parthé. Op. Cit. See in particular her chapter 6, “The Village Prose Writers and Their Critics.” Pp. 81—98. See also Maxim D. Shrayer. Anti-Semitism and the Decline of Russian Village Prose // Partisan Review 2000. Vol. 67. No. 3. Pp. 474-485. Also see Boris Paramonov. The Culture of Soviet Anti—Semitism // Partisan Review. 1990. Vol. 57. No. 2. Pp. 193-201. '0 Francis Fukuyama. Have We Reached the End of History? Santa Monica, l989. P. 22. I am quoting from the first published version of Fukuyama’s thesis, based on a lecture presented at the University of Chicago’s John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy. Fukuyama subsequently revised this into his better—known article The End of History? // The National Interest. 1989. Vol. 16. He then further expanded it, developing and somewhat modifying his argument, as The End of History and the Last Man. New York and London, 1992. ” Ibid. 651 um ~ eminent as a delegate in the S ” ' opted a dire“ F016 in gOV- PreSIdential Council). The Uses of the Past Ab Imperio, 2/2004 motivation and plot are added — characterizing and shaping events as part of a beginning, middle, and end of a story. Rasputin would doubtless have little use for White’s ideas on narrative or his Formalist typologies; he makes clear in Siberia, Siberia that he views historiography and most scholarly history—writing with suspicion and frus— tration. But Siberia, Siberia exemplifies precisely the process of selection that White describes: Rasputin’s Choice of significant features decidedly favors particular periods and particular kinds of historical actors. Rasputin singles out moments, people — and also particular places — that have re— mained (or should remain, in his opinion) in popular memory as the com— mon history of the entire community. Rasputin divides his attention very unevenly over the past four centu— ries. The narrative focus of his historical accounts is consistently on origins and beginnings — the earliest period of Russian settlement, Tobol’sk as first in everything, and other emphases on births, openings, and discoveries. Fittingly, then, he gives special attention to the first century of Russian conquest of Siberia and the incredible speed with which Russians spread across the continent in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Partic— ularly significant for him are the expeditions and voyages of discovery; the first construction of forts, churches, and homes; and the written documents left behind (many of which are illustrated in the book). Rasputin returns repeatedly to the early Russian (and mostly Cossack) explorers, discover- ers, and adventurers in Siberia. These figures are described as larger-than- life, bogalyr’—type epic heroes. Rasputin writes, The Cossacks played an exceptional, almost supernatural role in conquering and opening up Siberia. Only a special class of people ~ daring, desperate, and not crushed by the ponderous Russian state ~ could do what they, by some miracle, managed to do.15 Central among these figures is Yermak, original conqueror of Siberia, who crossed the Urals in the early 1580s. Rasputin sees Yennak as unfairly forgotten in the typical overviews of Russian history: his accomplishment compares to that of Columbus, yet even his real name and ancestry are unknown.16 Rasputin uses his discussion of Yermak to address historio— graphical questions explicitly: ‘5 Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’... P. 27. Siberia, Siberia. P. 38. ‘6 Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’... Pp. 27—29. Siberia, Siberia. Pp. 3869. 653 despair, saying “...co ' they already are, and if i; Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’.. Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’. '9 Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’.. 654 . P. 50. Siberia, Siberia. P. 71. .. Pp. 50—52. Siberia, Siberia. P. 72. . P. 29. Siberia, Siberia. P. 40. Ab Imperio, 2/2004 passages, he even implies that the Tsarist government under Ivan the Terri— ble’s successors, under Peter, and under Catherine the Great tended to side with the native peoples over the Russian explorers and settlers — and thus Rasputin casts the Russian Siberians as caught in the middle between hos- tile authorities and aboriginals.20 In fact, the native peoples of Siberia are dealt with only in passing in the book, and Rasputin does not even bother to comment on a passage he quotes from another source in which the native peoples are likened to locusts: Yermak’s feat, the conquest of an entire realm with a handful of Cossacks, was, of course, astonishing. No matter how superior to a bow and arrow a rifle might be, we still must not forget that locusts can extinguish whole bonfires that block their path, even though the multitudes of them perish.21 In one passage dealing with mixed marriages between natives and Rus— sians, Rasputin shows a brief, stereotyping Western interest in the exciting, exotic female beauty of Eastern Siberian women, whose “broad cheekbones and slanting eyes give female beauty new contours and an expressive freshness that sets it apart from the tired, washed—out look of European beauty.”22 More often, though, he discusses mixed marriage negatively in terms of impurity and dilution. Rasputin’s primary focus is on the specifically Russian presence in Si- beria, so he deals mainly with the past 420 or so years, with mention of earlier Russian contacts with Siberia. His real heroes are common farmers and settlers, who are glorified in the book even more than the early explor— ers. Moreover, the early Cossack adventurers are significant precisely be- cause they are the best manifestations of the narod. Rasputin explains: Yermak, a man of the common people, was extremely well suited [to take Kuchum], as if the people themselves had sent him to Siberia and then rewarded him with fame. He, along with Stepan Razin, became permanent favorites of the Russian people, the embodiment of their ancient, freedom—loving aspirations.23 For the history that interests Rasputin is written by and for the narod. History is not a logical narrative or scientific process. It is, rather, con- Pp. 35, 56. Siberia, Siberia. Pp. 49, 80. 2' Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’... Pp. 29—32. Siberia, Siberia. P. 42. 22 Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’... P. 35. Siberia, Siberia. P. 49. 23 Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’... P. 29. Siberia, Siberia. P. 41. 2° Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’... 655 h 7 J. A. Ogden, Siberia as Chronotope... sciously anti-intellectual and anti-scientific; in his own history writing Rasputin therefore privileges tradition, myth, and popular legend. He finds legends to be the real bearers of historical truth: why, he asks, “are we so suspicious of legends. Don’t they, in the majority of cases, bring us true events from the most ancient epochs. . 3.7”“ Legends are shared by a com— munity, preserved in the collective memory and spread in oral form. Legends are also most often grounded in specific locations.25 For a book presented in part as a history, Siberia, Siberia is perhaps unusual in that the basic organizing principle behind it is based on place, not chronology. Be— tween his two framing chapters, Rasputin presents chapters on Tobol’sk, Baikal, Irkutsk, Gornyi Altai, Kiakhta, and Russkoe Ust’e. The geograph— ical process of selection stands out as much as does Rasputin’s selectivity in choosing historical events and figures: major Cities and regions are left out, including Novosibirsk and all of the Far East. Rasputin focuses rather on those places that are especially steeped in the periods he chooses to emphasize and that will best convey his sense of the particular kind of historical wealth that Siberia has to offer. This living, place-grounded his- tory has power both to conserve and to effect change; it is thus a usable history.26 In the course of Siberia, Siberia history itself becomes not so much an exploration of the past, but a sentient force, a Russian manifest destiny: Rasputin thus sees the reason for Russian expansion eastward as “the will of history.”27 Historical and Geographical Storylines Numerous studies of the fiction by Rasputin and other Village Prose writers have dealt with the importance of the past to the writers of this movement.28 Whether the particular temporal orientation of Village Prose 2“ Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’... P. 228. Siberia, Siberia. P. 302. 25 On legends’ connection to place, see V. L. Komarovich. Kitezhskaia legenda: opyt izucheniia mestnykh legend. Berkeley, 1982. This is a reprint of the original edition (Moscow, 1936). See also Rasputin’s various discussions of Belovod’e in his Chapter Gomyi Altai // Sibir’, Sibir’... Pp. 155—196. Siberia, Siberia. Pp. 203—255. 25 Rasputin is suspicious of overtly didactic uses of the past: a usable past comes from the inside rather than being imposed from the outside and provides a sense of belonging and groundedness. See Angela Brintlinger’s discussion of the idea of a usable past in her: Writing a Usable Past: Russian Literary Culture, 1917-1937. Evanston, Ill., 2000. Pp. 1-21. 27 Rasputin. Sibir’, Sibir’... P. 34. Siberia, Siberia. P. 45. 28 The most developed treatment is Parthé. Op. Cit. See also Gillespie. Op. Cit. Pp. 27—5 1; Katerina Clark. Political History and Literary Chronotope: Some Soviet Case Studies // 656 Ab Imperio, 2/2004 is seen as a continuation of Socialist Realist attitudes toward time or as a reversal of those attitudes, readers agree that the past of much Village Prose writing is an idyllic one, an idealized and mostly unchanging state of grace from which the modern world has fallen.29 There is, then, an inherent ten- sion in Rasputin’s turn to history in his later Siberia, Siberia. To address history head—on, as he does in Siberia, Siberia, Rasputin has to deal with the historical process ~ the dynamism of change rather than the cyclical, endless repetitions and unchanging essence of an idyllic lost world like Oblomovka or, closer to home, his own Matyora. While many of his sub- jects, themes, and ideas remain constant, Rasputin must now treat them in a somewhat different way. In searching for a more practical engagement with history as process, Rasputin asserts an affinity with his nineteenth—century intellectual fore— bears, the Siberian oblastniki (regionalists), to whom he constantly alludes in Siberia, Siberia. As Steven G. Marks points out, the parallel is somewhat forced, since, unlike the regionalists’ “positive, realistic program for grad— ual change,” many of Rasputin’s ideas “are unworkable if not counterpro- ductive.”30 But when compared to his treatment of the past and its implica- tions for the present in his fiction — his apocalyptic conclusion to Farewell to Matyora, for example — Siberia, Siberia in fact represents something of a concession to practical contemporary issues. Rasputin shares with the oblasmiki a belief that exploration of the region’s past is crucial for the construction of its future. Like them, he believes that such an exploration has to be a literary endeavor in the broad sense of the term. He would likely agree with oblasmik Nikolai Mikhailovich ladrintsev — whom he cites in Siberia, Siberia —— in Iadrintsev’s query near the end of his article “Sibir’ pered sudorn russkoi literatury” (“Siberia Before the Court of Russian Lit- erature,” 1866), “T...
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