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Forging the Enemy in Soviet Fiction and Press. 1945-1982

Auclert, MH (2018) Forging the Enemy in Soviet Fiction and Press. 1945-1982. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

My dissertation offers a new approach to the study of Soviet official prose in the context of Soviet politics and of the Cold War. The Cold War was an ideological contest between two blocs: capitalist and communist. To gain victory, the Cold warriors needed to shape the minds of both foreigners and their own people. An excellent way to understanding the Soviet political consciousness is literature, the “second government,” to use Alexander Herzen’s words. In Russia, since the 19th century, literature has been a unique realm where public discourse could be expressed. In 1932 Socialist Realism became the official doctrine, consequently, the language of power. Aesthetics aside, in my PhD study I consider official prose as purely political texts. The dissertation focuses on a number of Soviet novels written between 1941 and 1981, most of which gained various State Prizes. Although these novels were the most read at the time, today they have fallen into oblivion. However, by reading these novels one can draw quite an accurate picture of Soviet cultural life and mentality of that period, revealed in particular in the images of the enemy and in relation to the West. In my research, I take into consideration the German political thinker Carl Schmitt, for whom ‘the specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.’ The thesis argues that, during forty years, the enemy has become more subtle: in the Stalin period the “Western threat” was destructive, but under Khrushchev the same threat became seductive. The danger came from the appeal for Western values capable of contaminating Soviet citizens. Under Brezhnev, the introspective questioning of the intelligentsia was considered as the seed of ideological and moral corruption. Thus, the analysis of the crafting of the enemy in various case studies from the late Stalinist period until the “Stagnation period” will allow me to track the evolution of the Party line. As Alexey Yurchak proved, these metamorphoses of ideology have progressively led to the rift between the official discourse and the Soviet reality, making the collapse of the empire ‘simultaneously unexpected and unsurprising, and amazingly fast.' The originality of my research lies in its interdisciplinary approach to decipher Soviet ideology, resorting to political scientists, historians and anthropologists. Moreover, it includes authors not previously studied, unpublished materials I collected in the archives of the Soviet Writers’ Union (Moscow), and the literary criticism of the epoch.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Russian and Slavonic Studies (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.759845
Depositing User: Raphaelle MH Auclert
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2018 08:53
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2019 11:04
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22136

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