Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Susan Ikonen (University of Helsinki, Finland)

Return to Cold War Cultural Discourses, or How to Portray Soviet/Russian Fatherland

As tensions have sharpened between Russia and the "West", voices have arisen that proclaim the return of the Cold War era juxtapositions. International politics have also interfered into the realm of Russian cultural products and their reception. Some Soviet-era discourses and practices are seemingly coming back to the cultural sphere in Russia, including insistence of depicting one's country in a positive or "patriotic" way. This paper compares the reception of three polemical works of art from two different periods (1950s and 2010s), all of which have been accused of portraying the Soviet or Russian fatherland in a too negative way, of being anti-Soviet/Russian. The works of art in question are Vladimir Dudintsev's novel "Not by Bread Alone" (1956); Boris Pasternak's novel "Doctor Zhivago" (handed into publication in 1956, published in the USSR in 1988); and Andrey Zvyagintsev's film "Leviathan" (2014). The paper offers a comparative analysis of press and archival materials on Dudintsev's reception; published sources on the Pasternak case; and recent Russian media coverage on Zvyagintsev's film, acquired via Integrum. This comparison aims at shedding light to aspects of the "return" of Soviet and/or Cold War discourses. During the Soviet times, artistic depiction of one's country and the reality of the Socialist system was a matter of ideology. A question worth asking is whether the current Russian patriotic ideology is shifting towards a Socialist Realist/Cold War era type of binary world view and, consequently, putting strains on artistic work. Furthermore, in the Soviet Union, popularity in the West of a given work of art was used as an argument against the author. This happened with Dudintsev; reached its culmination with Pasternak; and continued in the reception of many dissident or dissonant authors to come, right up until the perestroika. This type of logic has also been prevalent in the case of Zvyagintsev, which ties Soviet era cultural discussions to those of today's Russia. What kind of parallels can be found between the two? Is Socialist Realist insistence of positive portrayal of fatherland (be it Soviet or Russian) making a comeback?