Zhivago's Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia
A book talk with author Vladislav Zubok (Temple University, History) and discussant Alexei Yurchak (UC Berkeley, Anthropology).
Published: Monday, March 29, 2010
In his moving "Zhivago's Children," historian Vladislav Zubok chronicles the rise and fall of this generation of Russian intellectuals, a group he calls "the spiritual heirs of Boris Pasternak's noble doctor." Zubok's hero is Alexander Tvardovsky, whom Khrushchev appointed to edit the literary journal Novy Mir (New World). Constantly pushing the boundaries of acceptable social criticism, Tvardovsky was behind a watershed moment in Soviet literature: In 1962, he convinced Khrushchev to let him publish Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," an unsparing portrait of life in the gulag. The other players in Zubok's fascinating study come from all corners of the Soviet intelligentsia, from leftist socialist true believers to right-wing patriots. The result is a thorough, scholarly examination of a vital era in Russian history.
Focusing on the major transformation of the 1950s at the level of discourse, ideology, language, and ritual, Alexei Yurchak's "Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation" traces the emergence of multiple unanticipated meanings, communities, relations, ideals, and pursuits that this transformation subsequently enabled. His historical, anthropological, and linguistic analysis draws on rich ethnographic material from Late Socialism and the post-Soviet period.