Research / Projects

Soviet Writing and Biopolitics, the 1920s-50s: A Critical Theory

Whether fiction, non-fiction, philosophy and theory, official ideology, or autobiography, the writing of the Stalinist period (1920-50s) bears in itself traces of a unique corporeality created by wars, terror, famine, and wide-ranging administrative manipulations of the population that deeply penetrated if not constituted the Soviet collective body. In this project, Sandomirskaja is suggesting a new concept for the theoretical reading of the written production of the time, created in the USSR and dedicated to the key problems of Soviet history and society. The idea is to unite in one method of interpretation attempts to solve two mutually connected hermeneutical problems. The first one proceeds from the assumption that in the Stalinist universe of discourse, there exists a specific dependence between language, politics, and the body and seeks to give a theoretical account of readerly and writerly strategies in conditions of Stalinist biopolitics. The second problem, connected with the previous one, is based on the assumption of similarity between the Soviet and the European situations of the period in terms of historical, political, and biopolitical experience and seeks to think in a new way the connection between Soviet writerly production and its contemporary European theoretical thought. For this latter purpose, Sandomirskaja is suggesting to read Soviet writing of various genres through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s critical theory. Benjamin’s personal and intellectual biography is closely related to Soviet cultural theory and political practice, which becomes especially evident in the way he formulates and solves 20th century key questions concerning language, criticism, history, politics, technology, and individual experience.
The project resulted in a book published in Russia (see list of publications). It consists of several longer essays organized in a chronological order and covering the following problems: revolutionary language and its transformation into a language of socialist construction (the mid-1920s, Walter Benjamin’s journey to Russia); violence in politics, terror, writing, and knowledge (Mikhail Bakhtin and Konstantin Vaginov, 1920s-30s); strategies of writing under censorship and self-censorship in the 1930s and strategies of bodily survival and recovery during the siege of Leningrad (Lidiia Ginzburg, 1920-40s); writing history and understanding the present time under the rule of Zhdanov’s historical doctrine (Anna Akhmatova’s historical prose, late 1930s-late 1940s); language as geopolitics and as a Utopia of the USSR during the Cold War (Stalin’s works on linguistics, the early 1950s).



Project Manager

Irina Sandomirskaja
School of Culture and Education

More information

Project start: 2005
Project end: 2012

Financier: Intern finansiering

Research linked to the Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe: Yes

Information på svenska

School/centre to which the project is linked