Volume 58 Number 3 Abstracts

The Nonconformists: Dobrica Cosic and Mica Popovic Envision Serbia

Nicholas J. Miller

"Simina 9a" became a symbol of resistance to Tito's legacy in Serbia and Yugoslavia in the mid-1980s. It was the address of a small apartment occupied in 1944 and 1945 by a group of friends, all in their early twenties. Nearly all of them saw communism's potential to transform Yugoslav society in important ways--socially, culturally, nationally. By the 1980s, most of the members of that group had become leaders in their fields. But most interestingly, they had abandoned their youthful openness towards communism and had become Serbian nationalists. This article will examine the transition of two members of this group of "nonconformists," as they call themselves: Dobrica Cosic (a novelist) and Mica Popovic (a painter). As this article will show, for many Serbs, the belief that Serbs required a nationalist revival emanated from their disappointment in communism's failure to fulfill their expectations.

Body of the Nation: Mothering, Prostitution, and Women's Place in Postcommunist Latvia

Daina Stukuls

Among the guiding preoccupations of postcommunist Latvia is the desire to be "normal." While different narratives about normality and social change are at odds with one another in the political field, the dominant narratives share a nation-centered orientation that may reinforce women's marginal status in society. Women as members of the citizenry share the benefits that accrue to this group, but women as women have suffered the consequences of the dual trends of commodification and domestication. Using as prisms social welfare policy and the growing sex trade in Latvia, I examine trends in postcommunist social change and consider some of their effects on Latvia's women. I suggest that the domestication and commodification of women are processes directly related to the transformation of political and economic structures and that the privileging of national interests over all others entails the development of a masculinized public sphere that potentially and actually marginalizes women and women's interests.

Aleksandr Polezhaev and Remembrance of War in the Caucasus: Constructions of the Soldier as Victim

Susan Layton

To judge by nineteenth-century responses to Polezhaev, the Russian army's punitive functions had a significant negative impact on the reading public's attitudes toward the Caucasian conquest. Conscripted in 1826 as punishment for his indecent parody of Eugene Onegin, Polezhaev eventually landed in Chechnia and took part in expeditions against the mountaineers. Writings inspired by those experiences fashioned the soldier poet as a victim--isolated from friends, hungry, cold, scared of dying, and morally lacerated by combat. Russian commentators would disagree about Polezhaev's responsibility for his fate. In the 1880s, however, there emerged in Russia a veritable cult of Polezhaev as a man unjustly punished by the state. This cultural enshrinement of the poet as a victim bespoke a current of Russian opinion that recollected the Caucasian war as a monumental waste of national resources rather than a heroic civilizing mission.

The Passion of Dmitrii Karamazov

Carol A. Flath

Studies of the Christian theme in The Brothers Karamazov have tended to focus on the characters of Zosima and Alesha. The current study turns to Dmitrii. Studies of hagiography in old Russian literature, particularly those of Jostein Børtnes, serve as the basis for an examination of Dmitrii's plot as a strast' or passion, in which the protagonist's suffering leads him to saintliness. The formula, "on the outside, the truth, inside a lie!" is reversed to show how Dmitrii's inner grace is masked by the various layers of a slanderous narration throughout the novel. A careful reading of the stories told about Dmitrii cast into doubt not only the central event, the murder of his father, but also the many other violent acts of which he is accused. Dmitrii's innocence links his role to that of Zosima and serves as a metaphor for Christlike grace.

Boundaries of Art in Nabokov's The Gift: Reading as Transcendence

Stephen H. Blackwell

As a novel devoted to exploring the limits of human consciousness, The Gift offers a smorgasbord of boundaries and delineations. From a bathroom wall to the ultimate, infinite horizon, Nabokov's novel contemplates the role of barriers in a wide variety of human and artistic contexts. Most important among these are the boundaries of personal existence, especially when these are challenged by love and by artistic activity. While describing many boundary situations within the story proper, The Gift also figures its own limits, its contact with the world, by including within itself the image of its reception by Zina, Fedor's beloved and ideal reader. Through their artistic activity, and especially their reading, these two lovers transcend the often sordid setting of their everyday lives. An embodiment of the dynamic surpassing of limits, reading emerges as the central figure for the human effort to find loopholes . . . in the world's finest texture.

The Icebreaker Controversy: Did Stalin Plan to Attack Hitler?

Teddy J. Uldricks

Viktor Suvorov and other revisionist historians claim that Iosif Stalin provided World War II as an "icebreaker" to reopen the long-blocked pathway to revolution in Europe. They contend that the USSR was preparing to invade Europe in the summer of 1941 when the Germans noticed the Soviet build-up and launched their own preemptive strike--Operation Barbarossa. The German attack was so devastating, Suvorov argues, because it caught Soviet forces fatally exposed in forward deployments for their own offensive. The icebreaker thesis challenges the traditionally accepted interpretation that the German attack was so successful because Stalin was locked into a strategy of appeasing Adolf Hitler in order to postpone a Russo-German war as long as possible. This view denies that Moscow intended to launch aggressive warfare in 1941 and downplays the priority given to revolution in Kremlin planning. The review essay examines the icebreaker thesis, the work of its critics and recently available documentary sources which illuminate the debate. It concludes that Suvorov's conjectures are not supported by the evidence. Recent, archive-based work by various scholars confirms the traditional view that Stalin was seeking to avoid war in 1941.

In Search of a Vanished World

Boris Gasparov

Richard Taruskin's book Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra covers a relatively small portion of Igor Stravinsky's life: from his apprenticeship years as a minor member of Nikolai Rimskii-Korsakov's circle in the 1900s, to the mid-1920s when the composer unveiled to the Parisian public his last openly "Russian" works. This relatively short span of time is projected onto a cultural context of truly epic breadth. Taruskin's numerous digressions into the worlds of salon culture, literature, theater, painting, philosophy, politics, journalism, musical life, ethnography, and popular art are so informative, insightful, and lucidly written that they offer much to think about for both specialists and nonspecialists. Taruskin's argument, placed against this formidable background, aims at showing 1) that Stravinsky's principal achievement was a synthesis of the authentic native-soil musical tradition, grounded in genuine folklore sources, and the aesthetic premises of modernism; 2) that this synthesis had become a compelling paragon followed by much of the musical world throughout the twentieth century, with the sole exception of Stravinsky's homeland; 3) that what has emerged as the fundamental features of western music of this century can, as a result, be largely attributed to its (unwitting) adaptation of the "Russian way" of musical thinking; and 4) that, for all of this, Stravinsky, regardless of the cosmopolitan veneer of his later oeuvre, "was the most completely Russian composer of art music that ever was and, if present trends continue, that ever will be."