Literature and Power in the Post-Soviet Space

Project coordinator: Dr. Nina Frieß

To this day, the former capital Almaty is the literary centre of Kazakhstan. © Dagmar Schreiber.

The project "Literature and Power in the Post-Soviet Space" analyses the role of Russian-language literature in selected countries in the Former Soviet Union today, including Belarus, Kazakhstan and Latvia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union these countries have experienced different political and economic developments. Their population structures differ greatly from each other as well as their relations with Russia as the de facto successor to the Soviet Union. The Russian language, however, is still in widespread use in all of these countries - also in literary texts. The selected countries are representative of the different paths of development in the post-Soviet space.

The project asks what kind of Russian-language literature still exists in the selected countries. The focus is on texts by local authors rather than on literary imports from Russia. What topics do these texts deal with? What function do they have? In some of the countries there are conflictual relations between the titular nations and the Russian or Russian-speaking minority, in which Russia has intervened. The project will investigate whether literature is a field of political contestation in the sense of acting as a form of continuing Russian dominance in the post-Soviet space. Is there continuity with the Soviet tradition of using literature (and culture in general) as an instrument for the projection of power (as the concept of Russkij Mir suggests)? Or, do the authors use their literary texts to criticise the Russian regime? The analysis of the selected texts from different countries will be placed in a comparative perspective.While literary methods are used to analyse the content of the texts, a wider discourse analysis and expert interviews will help to understand the social dimension and impact of literature.