Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008


From the collapse of the Soviet Union until the end of Putin’s second term as President, Russia has been through a transition process affecting all aspects of social, economic and cultural life. This project will examine one aspect of this transition: post-Soviet revisions to the canon of twentieth-century Russian poetry. Key issues for discussion will be the changing position of figures and groups who have either been 'canonised' or 'de-canonised', including those thought to represent the heritage of ‘classic’ Soviet poetry and the variety and experimentation of the Silver Age. Those poets who have no strong affiliation either to ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ Soviet culture will also be considered.

The project will explore issues of canonicity in relationship to the prominent role that continues to be ascribed to high literary culture as a focus for educated values and national identity, while also assessing the extent to which the very idea of a canon has become contested. The project will examine the relationship between changes to the canon and the search for a post-Soviet identity, at a time when Russian nationalism started to make itself more widely felt in the cultural, as well as in the political sphere. Through its investigations of the extent and nature of changes to the canon, the project will provide a new, post-Soviet perspective on twentieth-century Russian literary history, and explore the relationship between cultural memory as expressed through the canon, and post-Soviet Russian identity.

The project will develop methods for establishing the nature and composition of the current canon, and examine the ways in which the canon proposed by anthologies, textbooks, literary histories and other sources published between 1991 and 2008 differs from the canon presented by comparable material published in the early-to-mid 1980s. It will assess the relative prominence in the canon of poets closely associated with the Soviet ‘official’ canon; poets and literary movements linked with the counter-canon of ‘underground’ and émigré literature; poets who do not belong to either category.