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Journal on Life Writing and the Representation of the Self in Russian Culture
  1. Introduction to the eigth issue of «AvtobiografiЯ»
  2. Diary as a borderline genre
  3. This article analyses the personal journal of Aleksandr Nikolaevich (the future Alexander II) when he was heir to the throne from 1825 to 1839. Held at the Russian State Archive in Moscow (GARF), the journal has not yet received sig- nificant scholarly attention. The article examines Aleksandr’s journal in the context of a romantic culture of intimate journaling at the court of Tsar Nicho- las I, and, in particular, outlines four different models of journals available to the heir while composing his diary: (i) the diary of his mother, the Empress Aleksandra Fedorovna; (ii) that of his father, Tsar Nicholas I; (iii) that of his tutor Vasilii Zhukovskii; (iv) that of his governor Karl Merder. The author demonstrates how Aleksandr Nikolaevich’s journal in its design, language and its choice of subjects openly rejects the model of romantic journal embodied by his mother, while also rejecting Zhukovskii’s model, which treats the diary as a form of discovery and expression of the author’s intimate self. The author reveals how the heir’s diary is modelled after that of his father’s journal, who interpreted the diary as a tool of self-control and self-discipline.
  4. Bronisław Grombczewski, a son of a Polish participant in the January Uprising (1863), chose a career path in the tsarist army of the Russian Empire and became a general under Tsar Alexander III and Nicholas II. Grombczewski was famous thanks to his service in Central Asia, where as a diplomat and intelligence officer he defended the interests of Russia in its struggle against the British Empire for the Silk Road. His travel diaries, covering numerous expeditions, are an invaluable source of knowledge about the history and life of the inhabitants of this region. Moreover, Grombczewski’s notebooks reflect the policy of Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to their value as a historical document, they give personal insight into Grombczewski. The purpose of this article is to identify the features of the diary genre in which Grombczewski worked. Attention will be paid to the culture of diary-writing in this historical period; the problem of the correlation between the elements of historical narrative and an intimate narrative; question of the addressee (the most important addressee was the Russian Emperor); functions performed by the general’s diary.
  5. This article is devoted to Podennie zapisi [Daily Notes], the diaries by Russian poet David Samoilov (1920–1990), which depict the main events in his life and the historical period in which he lived. The article focuses on the years 1934 to 1945, a crucial period for the foundation and evolution of the poet’s moral and creative principles, which shaped the poet’s personal artistic world, his political ideology and his philosophical worldview. Samoilov’s diaries provide a “mirror” of the historical fate of his generation, whom he calls “the generation of 1940”. Ultimately, I argue that Samoilov’s diaries are not simply an autobiographical document, but a “personal history”, which is developed more fully in Samoilov’s poetry.
  6. This article is a sequel to the author’s previous piece Дневники в русской культуре начала ХХ века [Diaries in Twentieth-Century Russian Culture] (1990). During these years a lot of diaries appeared that were not known to anyone, and scholarly understandings of life-writing changed radically. First of all, we are obliged to understand the functions of the diary for its author. More and more often a diary becomes intended for an outside reader, as a work of fiction is. So scholars must distinguish between Dichtung [poetry] and Wahrheit [truth] in these works, as they do in addressing pure art.
  7. This article examines the relationship between Ivan Bunin’s 1920s diary entries, the concrete events of his life and the diaries of his wife, Vera Bunina. An attempt is made to reconstruct what might have been in those parts of his diary, which Bunin subsequently destroyed. Attention focusses on the principles governing the choice of events to be recorded at the time the diary was being written (hypothetically) and the principles that determined the subsequent selection of diary entries for the retrospective construction of a personal history (more concretely).
    Interrogating the assembled documentary evidence makes it possible to delineate the visible limits of Bunin’s inner biography accessible to the scrutiny of researchers and readers in our own time.
  8. The article examines the first publication of Okaiannye dni [Cursed Days] in 1925 in the Russian émigré newspaper «Vozrozhdenie» [Rebirth] and the text’s role in the ideological debates of that year. The author argues that readers judged the newspaper based on the fragments of Okaiannye dni no less than by its editorial articles. Bunin’s diary is written in a subjective, documentary style, evoking the journalistic pathos characteristic of «Vozrozhdenie». The author’s ideological position combined two layers: one associated with the ideological struggles of the year of publication (1925), and the second, reflecting the pathos of the period covered in the diary (1919). When Okaiannye dni was finally published in 1935, the text had many fictional elements, and there exists a common misconception that the newspaper publication also included such elements. However, this article shows that readers in 1925 accepted Okaiannye dni as a real diary written in 1919 and that the newspaper text provides no reason to refute that view.
  9. The article discusses the problem of addressivity (Bakhtin’s adresovannost’) in the diaries of Soviet citizens, based on an understanding of the diary as an uncertain genre balanced between privacy and publicity. On the one hand, diarists can address a You who is, paradoxically, both absent and present: a virtual addressee whose presence reveals the need for dialogue. On the other hand, the addressee can take the form of a We who is particularly meaningful for the diarist. The word We here refers to a community that the diarist considers significant, which can be termed recognition groups. The diarist enters into an internal dialogue with these recognition groups, imitating their discourse. The variety of such forms of addressivity is demonstrated through the analysis of three diaries of young people in the Soviet period: Nikolai Belousov (1913-2002, diary written in 1937-1939), Nina Lugovskaia (1918-1993, diary written in 1932-1939) and Maria Germanova (1922-1997, diary written in 1941-1942).
  10. The unexpected appearance of Jesus Christ at the end of Aleksandr Blok’s The Twelve has caused much debate among scholars. This essay attempts to discover a key to decoding this image in the light of a much-discussed remark in Blok’s diary: “A terrible thought from the present times: the problem is not that the Red Guards are ‘unworthy’ of Jesus Christ who walks with them now; rather, the problem is that it precisely He who walks with them, when an Other is needed”. This remark suggests that the author himself could not fully explain this controversial idea he introduced in the poem. In the light of this remark, this article reads the ending of the poem as Blok’s attempt to deconstruct the symbolism of the traditional image of Christ. For Blok, such an attempt was necessary because at the time of writing the old image of Christ was already obsolete for Blok, and the new meaning had not yet crystallized for him. As a result, we are presented with a puzzling, transitional image that stems from the author’s searching for a new meaning.
  11. The article offers a comparative analysis of the diaries of Iurii Lotman and Zara Mints. The biographies of those two prominent scholars have many similarities. The wartime experience influenced of the formation of the personality of both. From the diaries we learn about the intellectual quests of Lotman and Mints and how they strove to educate themselves. The article reveals the similarity of their characters, attitudes and goals. This article is based on unpublished archival materials.
  12. This article analyzes the usage of quotations from ephemeral primary texts in autobiographical narrative. By ephemeral primary texts I mean firstly diary entries and regular correspondence, but also newspaper articles, memoranda, receipts, and other forms of daily writing. By contrast, (auto-)biographical narrative is composed from a holistic perspective that attempts a monumental written representation of a person’s life. This paper takes as object of analysis an unpublished manuscript from the Bakhmeteff Archive at Columbia University: The Silver Ring (1951) by Iraida Barry. It is part of a larger collection of autobiographical writings by Barry called Mirror Shards (Zerkal’nye oskolki). Drawing on Bakhtin’s conceptual apparatus, I differentiate the ephemeral chronotope from the monumental one. I demonstrate the discursive effects of abrupt shifts in chronotope. I argue that the co-presence of the two chronotopes produces a polyphonic autobiography.
  13. This article anayses the trajectory of Iurii Olesha’s reinvention of the self through his autobiographical hero in the novel Zavist' [Envy, 1927] and two plays, Zagovor chuvstv [The Conspiracy of Feelings, 1929] and Nishchii ili smert' Zanda [The Beggar, or the Death of Zand, 1930–32]. This essay examines the playwright-protagonist relationship in the context of Olesha’s stylistic evolution of the beggar character in drama who serves as authorial alter ego, tracing the process of how “one’s cultural self is both fashioned and disfigured in the process of self-conscious writing” (Boym 1991: 2). By making his autobiographical character Nikolai Kavalerov a parody of an artist, deeply flawed in moral sense, Olesha adds a layer of identity to his artistic persona and begins his selfmyth of degradation. Through his character, the author enters a Nietzschean cycle of regeneration, finding creation in destruction and rebirth in death.
  14. The article is devoted to the problem of self-portraiture in fine art in comparison with ego-texts written by artists. Many of the most prominent Russian painters of the twentieth century (Chagall, Petrov-Vodkin, Filonov, Malevich) were not only enthusiastic about the self-portrait genre, but also produced literary works about their own lives: they became authors of autobiographical prose, memoirs and poems. This article compares their life-writings and paintings in order to at model the relationship between visual representation and verbal representation in twentieth-century culture. It raises the problems of self-presentation in the context of intermediality, with particular attention to how writing and painting deal with time and space.
  15. This contribution reproduces the text of the naive novel Tkachov’s Life (1850) written by Penza landlord clerk F. Kudreshov. Oral memories of his fellow villager Stepan Tkachov serve as a frame for a fictional autobiography, which is based on the images and motifs in Mikhail Chulkov’s famous novel Peresmeshnik, ili Slavenskie skazki [The Mocker, or Slavonic Tales (1789)].
  16. Tkachev's Life (1850)
  17. The following extracts from the diary and letters of Nelson Fell provide an insight into the revolutionary events taking place between February and May 1917 from the perspective of an overseas eyewitness. After detailing his visit to the Romanov family in Tsarskoe Selo, Fell outlines the gradual unfolding of the events of the revolution as they took place on the streets of Moscow and, later, in Petrograd. One of his letters details his experience of train travel during his trip to Kazan’ in March 1917. In the final extract from May 1917, Fell considers the fate of Tsarism and the future prospects for further revolution in Russia.
  18. Two Unpublished Documents

  19. This review of the book An Encyclopedia of Youth (Moscow, 2018) by the wellknown philologist and culturologist Mikhail Epstein and the writer Sergei Iur’enen examines the features of auto/biographical writing that the authors define as a dia-ography – autobiography as a dialogue. In telling of their youth, Epstein and Iur’enen have chosen a new form for the auto/biographical genre: the encyclopedia, which in this particular case makes it possible to preserve the individual voice of each author, and at the same time lends their dialogue an existential significance. The review is supplemented by an interview with one of the authors, Prof. Mikhail Epstein (Emory University, US).
  20. Vladimir Sorokin. Il pupazzo di neve (traduzione in italiano)