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literature.For the literature of England, see English literatureEnglish literature,
literature written in English since c.1450 by the inhabitants of the British Isles; it was during the 15th cent. that the English language acquired much of its modern form.
..... Click the link for more information. ; for that of Germany, see German literatureGerman literature,
works in the German language by German, Austrian, Austro-Hungarian, and Swiss authors, as well as by writers of German in other countries. Old and Middle High German: From Early to Medieval Literature
Heroic legends, among them the
..... Click the link for more information. , and so forth. For the forms of literary art, see biographybiography,
reconstruction in print or on film, of the lives of real men and women. Together with autobiography—an individual's interpretation of his own life—it shares a venerable tradition, meeting the demands of different audiences through the ages.
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relatively short literary composition in prose, in which a writer discusses a topic, usually restricted in scope, or tries to persuade the reader to accept a particular point of view.
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in modern literary usage, a sustained work of prose fiction a volume or more in length. It is distinguished from the short story and the fictional sketch, which are necessarily brief.
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building, structure, or space in which dramatic performances take place. In its broadest sense theater can be defined as including everything connected with dramatic art—the play itself, the stage with its scenery and lighting, makeup, costumes, acting, and actors.
..... Click the link for more information. , lettersletters,
in literature, written messages, ranging from those addressed to the public and those sent from lover to lover, to business letters and thank-you notes. The common quality they share is a lively style, echoing the personality of the sender yet aimed at the mind and
..... Click the link for more information. , and so forth; for its methods and purposes, see criticismcriticism,
the interpretation and evaluation of literature and the arts. It exists in a variety of literary forms: dialogues (Plato, John Dryden), verse (Horace, Alexander Pope), letters (John Keats), essays (Matthew Arnold, W. H.
..... Click the link for more information. , stylestyle,
in literature, the mysterious yet recognizable result of a successful blending of form with content. Generally speaking, all the arts reflect one of two stylistic tendencies: the classical or the romantic.
..... Click the link for more information. , satiresatire,
term applied to any work of literature or art whose objective is ridicule. It is more easily recognized than defined. From ancient times satirists have shared a common aim: to expose foolishness in all its guises—vanity, hypocrisy, pedantry, idolatry, bigotry,
..... Click the link for more information. , versificationversification,
principles of metrical practice in poetry. In different literatures poetic form is achieved in various ways; usually, however, a definite and predictable pattern is evident in the language.
..... Click the link for more information. , figure of speechfigure of speech,
intentional departure from straight-forward, literal use of language for the purpose of clarity, emphasis, or freshness of expression. See separate articles on antithesis; apostrophe; conceit; hyperbole; irony; litotes; metaphor; metonymy; paradox;
..... Click the link for more information. . See also journalismjournalism,
the collection and periodic publication or transmission of news through media such as newspaper, periodical, television, and radio. Schools
The importance of journalism in modern society has been testified to by the establishment of schools of
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one of the principal forms of art, the art of the word. The term “literature” also designates any product of human thought set down in writing and having social significance, for example, scientific, publicistic, reference, or epistolary literature. But in the ordinary and narrower sense literature refers to works of artistic writing. The term “literature” (formerly called belles lettres, as V. G. Belinskii pointed out) became established quite recently. Only in the 18th century was it first commonly used, supplanting the terms “poetry” and “poetic art,” which today designate literary works in verse. The term “literature” arose with the development of printing, which gave primacy to the “literary,” that is, “letter,” form of verbal art. Earlier, particularly as a result of the very limited number of manuscript books, verbal art had existed primarily for hearing, for public delivery, and was conceived as a skillfully performed poetic action through a special poetic language (Aristole’s Poetics, the ancient and medieval aesthetic treatises of Western Europe and the East).
Literature proper, as the written form of verbal art, developed and became conscious of its significance with the rise of “civic” bourgeois society. At this time the creations of verbal art of the past also acquired a specifically literary existence, undergoing a fundamental transformation through a new mode of perception —that of the reader rather than the listener. Simultaneously, the standard poetic language broke down; literature absorbed all the elements of the vernacular and the verbal “material” became universal. In the 19th century, beginning with Hegel, aesthetics ascribed primary importance to the content of literature, to its intellectual aspect, and it was regarded primarily as one of several forms of writing (scientific, philosophical, and publicistic), rather than as a form of art. By the mid-20th century, however, literature was seen as an artistic way of apprehending the world, as creative activity belonging to the realm of art, and at the same time as a special type of artistic creation occupying a unique position within the arts. This distinctive position of literature is reflected in the commonly used phrase “literature and art.”
In the Marxist-Leninist interpretation, literature, like all the other forms of art, is a particular artistic way of reflecting and reproducing objective reality by employing images, a type of practical-intellectual perception of the world.
Unlike the other forms of art (painting, sculpture, music, dance), which have a direct sense-object form created from some material object (paint, stone) or action (movement of the body, sounding of a string), literature creates its form out of words, or language. Although it is physically embodied in sounds and letters, language is actually comprehended not through sense perception but through intellectual understanding. Thus, literature has a sense-object aspect—certain combinations of sounds and the rhythm of verse and prose that are perceived to some extent even when reading “to oneself.” But this directly sensuous aspect of literature acquires real significance only as it relates to and interacts with the intellectual, mental levels of artistic speech. Even the most elementary components of form (the epithet or metaphor, narrative or dialogue) are apprehended only through understanding and not through direct perception. The intellectual essense of literature enables it to develop its universal (by comparison with other forms of art) possibilities. “Poetry is the highest form of art. Every other art is to some extent restricted and limited in its creative activity by the material through which it is manifested. . . . Poetry is expressed in the free human word, which is a sound, a picture, and a clearly expressed idea. Therefore, poetry contains all the elements of the other arts and, as it were, uses simultaneously and as a whole all the means given separately to each of the other arts” (V. G. Belinskii, Poln. sobr. sock, vol. 5, 1954, pp. 7–8, 9).
The subject of art is man’s world, man’s multifaceted relationship to reality, the actual world from man’s point of view. But it is precisely in verbal art (and this is its special sphere) that man as an intellectual being becomes the object to be reproduced and comprehended and the focus of artistic efforts. The qualitative uniqueness of the subject of literature was already noted by Aristotle, who felt that the plots of poetic works were related to people’s thoughts, personalities, and actions. But it was only in the 19th century, the primarily “literary” age of artistic development, that this specific feature of the subject of literature was fully realized. “The object which corresponds to poetry is the infinite realm of the spirit. For the word—that most pliable material which belongs directly to the spirit and is best able to express its interests and inspirations in their inner vitality—must be used primarily for the kind of expression to which it is best suited, as is true of stone, color, and sound in the other arts. From this standpoint the principal task of poetry will be to foster recognition of the forces of mental life and in general of everything that rages in the human passions and feelings or passes peacefully before the contemplative gaze—the all-encompassing realm of man’s behavior, acts, fates, and ideas, all the bustle of this world and the whole divine world order” (G. Hegel, Estetika, vol. 3, Moscow, 1971, p. 355).
Every work of art is an act of intellectual and emotional communication among people. It is also a new object, a new phenomenon, something “made” by man, as well as something learned and discovered by him. These functions—communication, creation, and knowledge—are equally typical of all forms of artistic activity, but in the different forms of art different functions predominate. Because the word (language) is the reality of thought, the development of verbal art and literature’s advance to a special place (in the 19th and 20th centuries, to the central place) among the other arts most fully expressed the chief historical trend in the development of artistic activity—the transition from practical-sensory creation to “meaning creation,” to the depiction of being in mental forms. The flourishing of literature is related to the rise of the cognitive-critical spirit in modern times. Literature seems to stand on the border between art and mental activity. This is precisely why various types of “artistic literature” may be compared directly with philosophy, publicistic writings, history, or psychology.
Literature has been called “artistic investigation” or “the study of man” (M. Gorky) because of the problems it treats, its analytic nature, and its revelation of man’s knowledge of the very depths of his soul. In literature, more than in the plastic arts and music, the artistically re-created world is presented as a world comprehended, analytically elucidated, and raised to a high level of generalization. Literature, therefore, is the most suitable of all the arts for conveying ideas, as well as the most ideological. Because its images are not directly perceived but rather arise in the human imagination, literature yields to other arts in the strength of its sensory impact, but it “gains” from the standpoint of its all-encompassing grasp of the “essence of things.” The impact of the literary image lies not in its “graphic” or “representational” quality but in its special kind of artistic dialectic— its ability to elucidate one thing through another, to relate, compare, “bring together” the most diverse phenomena, sometimes remote and disconnected, and to capture their hidden interrelationships. Literature does this by working freely with the “universal equivalent”—the word—which knows no limits.
The typical feature of literary communication, the transmission of “messages,” arises from the mental nature of literature. Literature appeals most to the aesthetic imagination, to the reader’s creative efforts, because the artistic reality presented by a work of literature can be “revealed” only if the reader himself begins to reconstruct, re-create this reality from the sequence of word-image statements. L. N. Tolstoy wrote in his diary that in perceiving true art there is “an illusion that I am not perceiving, but creating. . . . A work of art is a true work of art not only when it seems to the person perceiving it that he has produced this beautiful thing, but when he experiences a feeling of joy at having produced it” (L. N. Tolstoy, O literature, 1955, pp. 598, 603).
Tolstoy’s words also emphasize that literature preserves fully the function of creation (which makes it akin to other forms of artistic activity), including fostering the artist within the reader himself. The literary work is a “beautiful thing,” even though this “thing” has a specific kind of “symbolic” existence. The writer does not describe or contemplate life as does, for example, the memoirist or philosopher; like the representative of any other art, he creates an artistic world. The process of creating a literary work, its architectonics and individual phrases, involves a strain that is almost physical, and in this sense the process is related to the activity of artists who work with such material as stone, sound, or the human body (in dance and pantomime). This physical and emotional tension is not lost in the finished work: the literary image is not only recognized but also felt in the way that a physical or musical image is perceived. It embodies the creative effort which has “transcended” the material and records the creative “gesture.”
The verbal aspect of literature is not speech in the usual sense. In creating a work the writer does not “speak” (or “write”); he “performs” speech, just as an actor on the stage does not “do” but acts out behavior. Artistic speech does not “inform”; it creates a sequence of verbal images, or “image-gestures.” It becomes an action, a “reality.” Thus, the cadenced verse of “The Bronze Horseman” seems to evoke Pushkin’s inimitable St. Petersburg and the intense, breathless style and rhythm of the narration in F. M. Dostoevsky’s works make the spiritual throes of his heroes almost palpable. The literary work confronts the reader not with a bare thought, but with an artistic reality that can be not only comprehended but also experienced and “lived.” The artistic world of a literary work is a new fact, a new phenomenon of eternally creative nature.
In their statements about the ideological and aesthetic nature of art and literature the classics of Marxism-Leninism emphasized the cognitive and educative functions of literature. For Engels the most important aspect of Balzac’s work was his ability, through “poetic justice,” to rise to the lofty level of the “revolutionary dialectic” of history. Lenin regarded L. N. Tolstoy’s works as a “brilliant illumination” of the “great human ocean, agitated to its very depths” (O literature i iskusstve, 1969, pp. 219, 227). In N. G. Chernyshevskii’s What Is to Be Done?, Lenin saw a novel that truly performed the functions of literature: “This is genuine literature, which teaches, guides, and inspires. In one summer I read the novel What Is to Be Done? five times, each time discovering exciting new thoughts in this work” (ibid., p. 651). The ideologists of the proletariat also valued the “artistic,” creative principle in art, aesthetic pleasure, the process of creating forms, and the act of intellectual and emotional communication. Marx wrote of the “eternal delight” and eternal “pleasure” derived from classical art (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 12, p. 737). Lenin insisted that art “should unite the feeling, thought, and will... of the masses and raise them up. It should awaken the artists among them and develop them” (O literature i iskusstve, 1969, p. 663).
There is great diversity in the literature of any age. It is divided into two basic forms—poetry and prose—and into three types, the epic, lyric, and drama. Although the boundaries between the types cannot be drawn precisely and there are many transitional forms, the chief characteristics of each type have been adequately defined. Moreover, there are common features in works of different types. In every literary work there are characters, or protagonists, appearing in specific circumstances, although in lyric poetry these categories, like several others, possess a number of distinctive features. The aggregate of characters and circumstances in a work is called the theme (tema), and the resolution of the work, which evolves from the juxtaposition and interaction of the characters, is the artistic idea. In contrast to logical ideas, artistic ideas are not given as the author’s statement but are depicted through all the details of the artistic entity. In analyzing the artistic idea a distinction is often drawn between understanding the life depicted and evaluating it, between “cognition and aspiration (desire).” The evaluative (value) aspect of a work, or its “ideological-emotional orientation,” is called the tendency. In the literature of socialist realism, tendency in the broad sense is interpreted as party-mindedness (partiinost’).
The literary work is a complex interweaving of “image” propositions—minute and simple verbal images. Each image proposition places before the reader’s imagination a particular action or movement, and taken together these actions present the inception, development, and resolution of a living process. The dynamic nature of verbal art as distinguished from the static nature of visual art was first discussed by G. E. Lessing (Lao-koon, or On the Boundaries Between Painting and Poetry, 1766).
The separate elementary actions and movements which make up the work differ. They include external, objective movements of people and things, internal, psychological movements, and “speech movements”—statements by the heroes or author embodying either a desire or a psychological movement. The chain of these interrelated movements is the plot of the work. As he grasps the plot, the reader gradually comprehends the content —the action and conflict, the story line and motivation, and the theme and idea. The plot itself is a content-form category or (as is sometimes said) the “internal form” of the work. The composition is also part of the “internal form.”
Finally, the form of a work is artistic speech, the sequence of sentences, which the reader perceives directly by reading or hearing. This does not mean that artistic speech is pure form. It is part of the content because through speech the plot materializes and thereby also the entire content of the work, its characters, circumstances, conflict, theme, and idea. When considering the structure of a work and its different “strata” and elements, it must be remembered that these elements can only be identified by abstraction. In reality each work of literature is an indivisible living whole. Analysis of a work using a system of abstractions and investigating different aspects and details separately should lead to a perception of this wholeness, of the unity of content and form.
Depending on their content and form, works belong to different genres, for example, the epic, novella, novel, short story, sketch, and fable. In every age various genres develop, although those that best correspond to the general character of an era predominate, for example, the leading place of the novel in modern literature. Finally, different creative methods and styles may be identified in literature. Although a particular method and style characterizes the literature of an entire epoch or school, every major artist creates his own individual method and style within the framework of the school close to him.
Literature as the art of the word arose out of oral folk literature in ancient times during the period of the formation of the state, which necessarily engendered a developed form of writing. At first, however, literature was not distinguished from writing in the broad sense. In the most ancient written works, such as the Bible, the Mahabharata, or the Tale of Bygone Years, elements of verbal art are inseparably combined with those of mythology and religion, embryonic forms of the natural and historical sciences, various kinds of information, and moral and practical instructions. But the syncretism of the early literary works does not deprive them of their aesthetic value because the religious and mythological mentality reflected in them resembled the artistic mentality.
The literary heritage of the most ancient civilizations (Egypt, China, Judea, India, Greece, Rome) forms the foundation for world literature. These literatures, passing through youth, maturity, and death, ceased to develop before or during the first centuries of the Common Era. The languages in which they were written are no longer living languages. But the artistic treasures created in the ancient world were enormously important for the “new” world literatures that arose in the Middle Ages and have been developing to the present. The Bible, Homer’s epics, the Mahabharata, the Shih Ching, the plays of Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Plautus, and Kalidasa, the lyric poetry of Anacreon, Horace, Catullus, and Ch’ü Yüan, the satires of Lucian and Petronius, and the satirical folk Panchatantra became the basis for the many forms of literature and served as a model for the subsequent development of world literature.
The literatures of the modern peoples of the East and West who established new states on the ruins of the ancient world arose independently, out of indigenous folklore. In Europe in the Middle Ages heroic epics and tales were composed, notably the Chanson de Roland, the Nibelungenlied, and the Tale of Igor’s Campaign, as well as new forms of lyric poetry and satire. Oriental literatures flourished at this time. Long epic narratives were created, for example, the Indian Ramayana, the Persian Shahnameh, the Chinese River Backwaters, the Arabic A Thousand and One Nights, the Japanese Monogatari, and the Georgian Man in the Panther’s Skin by S. Rustaveli. Such great lyric poets as Po Chu-i, Li Po, and Tu Fu in China, Saadi and Hafiz in Iran, and Matsuo Basho in Japan wrote during this period. Medieval literature was characterized by a high degree of generalization through symbols and allegory, by standardization and constancy of artistic means, and by underdevelopment of the theme of the individual in art, which resulted in large-scale epics and aphoristic lyric poetry, especially in Oriental literature.
The next world-historical stage in the development of literature began with the Renaissance, when literature flourished in Western Europe. Dante, Boccaccio, Rabelais, Shakespeare, and Cervantes laid the foundation for modern European literature. These artists are often considered to be the founders of realistic art. The generalized nature of their art is inseparable from its re-creation of life, and its bond with the collective, folk consciousness does not diminish its individual aspect.
Since the Renaissance “artistic literature” has been developing within the framework of clearly defined schools each having a unified method and style. The principal schools of the 16th to 20th centuries were, consecutively, the baroque, classicism, the Enlightenment, romanticism, realism, naturalism, and symbolism. In the 20th century nonrealistic and modernist currents have become widespread. Many of them have succumbed to decadence, which reflects the profound crisis of bourgeois culture. But the realistic method that evolved in the 19th century continues to dominate modern world literature.
Russian literature played a special part in the late 19th century. It became part of world literature later than others and was able to absorb and enrich the universal aesthetic experience. In the works of A. S. Pushkin, N. V. Gogol, N. A. Nekrasov, N. S. Leskov, F. M. Dostoevsky, L. N. Tolstoy, and A. P. Chekhov a new type of realistic art developed and a new level of national character (narodnost’) and humanism was achieved. Major writers of the 20th century, including T. Mann, R. Tagore, Lu Hsin, Akutagawa, Ryunosuke, and W. Faulkner, have often spoken of the enormous influence of the Russian classics on their artistic development.
M. Gorky continued the traditions of Russian literature. He was the founder of socialist realism, which evolved at the turn of the 20th century, when social revolutions were maturing and occurring, and which reflected the modern historical process from the standpoint of socialist ideals. Among the representatives of socialist realism are the outstanding 20th-century writers V. V. Mayakovsky, B. Brecht, J. Hasek, M. A. Sholokhov, and P. Neruda.
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. Ob iskusstve, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1967.
Lenin, V. I. O literature i iskusstve, 4th ed. Moscow, 1969.
Plekhanov, G. V. Literatura i estetika, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1958.
Aristotle. Ob iskusstve poezii. Moscow, 1957.
Boileau, N. Poeticheskoe iskusstvo. Moscow, 1957.
Lessing, G. E. Laokoon. Moscow, 1957.
Hegel, G. Estetika, vol. 3. Moscow, 1971.
Literaturnaia teoriia nemetskogo romantizma. Leningrad, 1934.
Literaturnye manifesty frantsuzskikh realistov. Moscow, 1935.
Russkie pisateli o literature, vols. 1–2. Leningrad, 1939.
Belinskii, V. G. “Obshchee znachenie slova literatura.” Poln. sobr. soch, vol. 5. Moscow, 1954.
Belinskii, V. G. “Ideia iskusstva.” Ibid., vol. 4. Moscow, 1954.
Tolstoy, L. N. Ob iskusstve i literature, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1968.
Dostoevsky, F. M. Ob iskusstve. Moscow, 1973.
Veselovskii, A. N. Istoricheskaia poetika. Leningrad, 1940.
Gorky, M. O literature. Moscow, 1961.
Wehrli, M. Obshchee literaturovedenie. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from German.)
Timofeev, L. I. Osnovy teorii literatury, 4th ed. Moscow, 1971.
Teoriia literatury: Osnovnye problemy v istoricheskom osveshchenii [vols. 1–3]. Moscow, 1962–65.
Problemy teorii literatury i estetiki v stranakh Vostoka. Moscow, 1964.
Dmitrieva, N. A. “Literatura i drugie vidy iskusstva.” In Kratkaia literaturnaia entsiklopediia, vol. 4. Moscow, 1967.
Gachev, G. Zhizn’ khudozhestvennogo soznania, part 1. Moscow, 1972.
Balukhatyi, S. Teoriia literatury: Annotirovannaia bibliografiia. Leningrad, 1929.
Kayser, W. Das sprachliche Kunstwerk, 12th ed. Bern, 1967. (With bibliography.)
Wellek, R., and A. Warren. Theory of Literature. New York, 1963. (With bibliography.)
Dictionary of World Literary Terms: Forms. Technique. Criticism. Edited by Joseph T. Shipley. Boston, 1970.
V. V. KOZHINOV
The multinational literature of the Soviet Union represents a qualitatively new stage in the development of literature. Soviet literature took shape after the Great October Socialist Revolution as a distinct artistic whole, united by a single social and ideological purpose and by a common set of humanist ideals and aesthetic principles.
The peoples of the Soviet Union are rightfully proud of their rich cultural traditions and of the spiritual values they have acquired in the course of centuries. The heroic themes and images created in ancient times include those of the Georgian epic Amirani, the legends about Rustam told by the ancestors of the modern Tadzhiks, the Armenian epic David of Sasun, the Kirghiz epic Manas, the Kalmyk heroic epic Dzhangar, the Latvian Lāčplēsis, and the Karelo-Finnish Kalevala. These works have been regarded over the centuries as encyclopedias of the history, way of life, and moral, religious, and aesthetic ideas of the peoples that gave them birth. Although differing in plot, character of the heroes, and compositional skill, epics are bound together by their affirmation of national character, love of the native land, and denial and condemnation of evil and injustice.
The artistic synthesis of historical and social differences is illustrated in the Russian byliny (epic folk songs), whose main heroes personify typical national character traits; for example, Il’ia Muromets, Dobrynia Nikitich, Alesha Popovich, and Mikula Selianinovich express the inexhaustible strength and infinite creative possibilities of the people’s spirit. The people’s awareness of their specific historical experience was reaffirmed in songs, legends, and stories that told of actual events and persons. Razin, Pugachev, Khmel’nitskii, Dovbush, and Karmeliuk were poeticized in folk memory, which presented them as spokesmen for the freedom-loving aspirations of the people. Folktales expressed the people’s affirmation of the triumph of goodness, resourcefulness, cunning, bravery, and self-sacrifice—all vividly embodied in the person of the Russian and Ukrainian Ivanushka, the Byelorussian Nesterka, the Azerbaijani and Tadzhik Molla Nasreddin, and the Kazakh Aldar-Kose. The rich ideas and images of folklore were life-giving sources for the creative work of A. S. Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov, N. V. Gogol, T. G. Shevchenko, J. Rainis, Vazha Pshavela, O. Tumanian, G. Tukai, Ianka Kupala, and other writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In Armenia and in Georgia, literature goes back approximately 2,000 years. The Armenian alphabet was devised in the early fifth century by the Armenian scholar and enlightened thinker Mesrop Mashtots. Movses Khorenatsi’s History of Armenia appeared in the same century; because of its highly literary language and its expressive descriptions of historical events, the work is considered an outstanding monument of ancient culture. In Georgia, the fifth century was marked by the appearance of original hagiographic writings, such as Iakov Tsurtaveli’s The Martyrdom of Shushanika and the anonymous Life of Nina of Cappadocia.
The age of feudalism gave birth to the rich poetic culture of the Tadzhiks. As a result of the common history, culture, and language shared by the Tadzhik and Persian peoples during the Middle Ages, the outstanding literary figures of the period, including Rudaki, Ferdowsi, Omar Khayyam, Saadi, and Hafiz, came to be regarded as classic authors in Persian as well as in Tadzhik literature; their works achieved world renown.
The epic works of antiquity can be traced back to the images of folklore; they were enriched by folkloric thought and by the life experience that was concentrated in them. In his narrative poem Shah-nameh (976–1010), which was of exceptional length (approximately 100,000 lines), Ferdowsi created the many-sided and dramatically complex hero and patriot Rustam as well as images of simple people capable of sublime feelings and deeds in the name of justice and human dignity; Ferdowsi glorified reason as the supreme gift and as assurance of man’s immortality.
Lofty humanistic aspirations, heroic spirit, openmindedness, nobility of thought, and classical clarity of expression distinguish such masterpieces of world literature as Sh. Rustaveli’s The Man in the Panther’s Skin, Nizami’s Quintuplet, and the outstanding work of ancient Russian literature, The Tale of Igor’s Campaign—all of which were written in the second half of the 12th century. These poems had an appreciable effect on the people’s evolving social consciousness and on their notion of goodness, courage, and friendship.
In light musical verses that were joined together in a complex but perfectly harmonious poetic form, Rustaveli sang of love, of comradeship, and of poetry as a “branch of wisdom.” He penetrated the deepest inner essence of phenomena and of the human psyche; he created a world of ideas of universal significance and anticipated the humanistic thought of the early Renaissance. The five narrative poems by Nizami, which influenced the development of many Eastern literatures, demonstrate the author’s exceptional cultural and philosophical range; his bold and original ideas about the world, the state, and man are set forth in verses that are notable for their accomplished poetic technique, complex imagery, subtle lyricism, and epic scope.
The author of The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, having absorbed the riches of Russian folk poetry, conveyed loyalty to patriotic duty and feelings of love by means of eternally valid artistic images. The Tale contains a declaration of the Russian people’s political interests, whose essence was defined by K. Marx as “an appeal to the Russian princes to unite immediately to confront the invasion of the Mongol hordes” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 29, p. 16).
Heroic consciousness and patriotism are featured in many of the monuments of ancient Russian literature, including various “sermons,” epistles, apocrypha, hagiographie works, and chronicles (for example, the Testament of Vladimir Monomakh, the Tale of the Destruction of the Russian Land, the Life of Alexander Nevsky, and the Primary Chronicle). The literature of Kievan Rus’ was the common source of the literature of Russia, of the Ukraine, and of Byelorussia.
The 13th century saw the beginning of the ruinous invasions of the Mongol and Tatar hordes and of the Persian, Turkish, and German conquests. Everywhere, progressive writers and thinkers, together with representatives of artistic traditions and cultural progress, stood in defense of their people’s interests. The course of 15th-century Eastern literature was significantly influenced by the works of the Uzbek poet Alisher Navoi. His verses (approximately 30 collections), his narrative poems—and particularly the poems in his famous Quintuplet (representing his “response” to the analogous work by Nizami)—and his prose works and scientific treatises reveal in detail the spiritual life of Central Asia in the author’s time and affirm the value of man as an individual.
The 16th century was marked by the enlightened activities of Ivan Fedorov, who was the first printer of books in Russia and in the Ukraine, and Frantsisk Skorina, the Byelorussian humanist scholar who first printed books in the East Slavic languages. In the mid-17th century the Ukraine was reunited with Russia, and the songs and dumy (epic-lyric folk songs) of the Ukrainian people glorified comradeship and pobratimstvo (sworn brotherhood), military valor, disdain for personal suffering, and the beauty of the native land. An outstanding 18th-century Ukrainian was G. Skovoroda, enlightened philosopher, man of encyclopedic culture, writer, and teacher; his poetic works, collected in The Garden of Divine Songs, lauded freedom and the power of the human spirit and denounced serfdom.
The humanist traditions of Rustaveli were developed in the didactic educational work On the Wisdom of the Imagination by S. Orbeliani, a Georgian writer and political figure who was one of the founders of the literary languages of modern Georgia; in this work, ignorance was held to be the original cause of social evil. Another poet whose work was in Rustaveli’s tradition was D. Guramishvili, the last important Georgian poet of the 18th century. His narrative poem The Woes of Georgia (1787) recounts a tragic period in the country’s history, when Georgia was devastated by external enemies and internecine strife; here the author openly advanced the idea of the decline of the secular and religious feudal aristocracy, whom he held responsible for the fate of his native land. In the narrative poem The Shepherd Katsviia (1787), Guramishvili revealed himself a master of folk poetry and an expert on the subtleties of folk speech and folk ways of thinking.
The lyric works of the 18th-century Azerbaijani lyric poets Vagif and Vidadi were of a profoundly popular nature in spirit, content, and form; the national political situation, however, gave rise to motifs of pessimism and religious mysticism in their work. The Armenian poet Sayat-Nova was an outstanding improviser of folk songs and a subtle lyricist and thinker; his songs—in Armenian, Georgian, and Azerbaijani—glorified love as the eternal source of life on earth, and human life as the highest value. Others who were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment included the 18th-century Lithuanian poet Kristijonas Donelaitis, whose didactic narrative poem The Seasons of the Year (published 1818) vividly described the people’s way of life, and Makhtumkuli, who reformed the language of Turkmen poetry and whose verses affirmed the principles of folk morality and folk wisdom.
In Russia the reforms of Peter I provided fertile ideological ground for the Enlightenment, which emerged as the major current in 18th-century social thought. The cultural and political concepts of the Russian Enlightenment were based on the idea of civic duty and the general welfare of the nation. The need for a common national literature and for literary reforms was confirmed in the theoretical statements and creative practice of A. D. Kantemir, V. K. Trediakovskii, and M. V. Lomonosov. Lomonosov’s solemn odes, together with the tragedies of A. P. Sumarokov, were the major literary genres of the time and marked the beginning of modern Russian literature.
The works of G. R. Derzhavin represented an important advance in the development of poetry; his verses, in spite of their typical classical didacticism and allegorical nature, were enlivened by the use of personal biographical motifs, concrete descriptions, lifelike images, and elements of everyday colloquial speech. A landmark of Russian literature was The Minor (staged 1782, published 1783)—the first social comedy by D. I. Fonvizin—which played an important role in the development of Russia’s national theater. Brilliant wit was used in the comedy to criticize the social relations engendered by serfdom. A vivid expression of Russian literary satire can be found in I. A. Krylov’s fables, which are imbued with genuine narodnost’, or folk spirit.
A. N. Radishchev’s A Journey From St. Petersburg to Moscow (1790), which is regarded as the revolutionary encyclopedia of the Russian Enlightenment, is distinguished by its wide-ranging depiction of Russian life in the late 18th century and the depth of its penetration into the social conflicts of the times. Elements of critical realism emerged in Kantemir’s satires and in the works of Fonvizin and Radishchev. An emotional and psychological narrative structure that was new to Russian literature appears in the prose of N. M. Karamzin, the acknowledged leader of Russian sentimentalism; his attempts to represent the human personality in all its variety and individual uniqueness were unquestionably influential in the subsequent development of Russian prose. The elegiac poetry of V. A. Zhukovskii exemplified the distinctive mystical and romantic movement toward poetic fantasy.
The literature of the 16th through 18th centuries paved the way for a new phase—namely, for the emergence of various national literatures and literary languages. The 19th-century liberation movement in Russia was a not inconsiderable factor in the process of interaction and mutual influence of the national literatures. At all three stages—the dvorianstvo (nobility and landed gentry) stage, the stage of the raznochintsy (intellectuals of no definite class), and the proletarian stage—the liberation movement molded progressive social thought and determined the content of the national literatures; international literary ties were formed and strengthened in the joint struggle against tsarism. All this was reflected in the development of active romanticism and critical realism and in such ideas as love of freedom, duty to society, patriotism in action, and hatred of any manifestation of evil, violence, obscurantism, and backwardness.
The supreme examples of Russian classical literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries became part of the nonmaterial culture of mankind. In A. S. Griboedov’s comedy Woe From Wit (1824), the ideology of the Decembrists illuminated Russia’s cardinal sociopolitical problems, which were particularly acute in the period from 1812 to 1825. Griboedov’s ability to combine colloquial language and verse, his expressiveness, and his aphoristic skill represented an important stage in the development of Russian realistic language. The achievements of realism, as expressed in the works of A. S. Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov, N. V. Gogol, I. S. Turgenev, M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, N. A. Nekrasov, A. I. Herzen, F. M. Dostoevsky, L. N. Tolstoy, and A. P. Chekhov, were of worldwide historical significance; equally important were the ideological and aesthetic concepts of the revolutionary democrats V. G. Belinskii, N. G. Chernyshevskii, N. A. Dobroliubov, and D. I. Pisare v.
It was in Pushkin that the Russian people first achieved full artistic self-consciousness, as his works expressed the profound moral meaning of popular ideals. When Dostoevsky declared that Pushkin’s genius belonged to “all the world and all mankind,” he had in mind the poet’s place in world culture as well as his organic assimilation of the spiritual experience of mankind; Dostoevsky’s statement was also a reference to the national Russian ideal of the universal brotherhood of all the world’s people—a concept that was an integral part of Pushkin’s view of the world.
The historicism of Pushkin’s thought, together with his attempts to identify the preconditions of social justice in the historical process itself, resulted in his profound interpretation of “human destiny” and of “the people’s destiny.” Aware of the disharmony of the world as a specific historical circumstance, Pushkin counterposed to that disharmony the ideal of a new life. The entire course of Russian literature was illuminated by the light of this ideal, which rested on consciousness of the universality of the world’s history and culture, belief in the unlimited spiritual potential of the individual, and faith in the moral values that are part of the national consciousness.
A romantic conception of the individual was expressed by F. I. Tiutchev, in whose poems the world, nature, and man are in constant conflict, representing the clash of opposing forces. Tiutchev’s tragic motifs are combined with his glorification of the strong in spirit and his poeticizing of the storms and terrors of nature and of the human soul. A romantic new post-Decembrist spirit of revolution and civic-mindedness can be seen to emerge in the boundless maximalism of Lermontov’s world view, which recognized that the ideal was doomed to remain unrealized and at the same time found it impossible to renounce it in principle. The objective historical predeterminism and fruitfulness of the conflict faced by Lermontov’s lyric hero lie in the presentiment of unavoidable spiritual crisis—the crisis in which a new nonrationalist morality and a new nonmetaphysical humanism are born.
The unnaturalness of the social forms prevailing in Russia under serfdom, the pernicious and unbridled power of social privilege throughout the country, the rule of money, and the distorted ideas about the value and dignity of man were subjects of mockery in Gogol’s works; his acute satire was combined with the affirmation of an all-embracing ideal—namely, an ideal way of life presented as an ideal of national rebirth. Gogol saw the Russian people’s prospective spiritual renewal in the very nature of the Russian national character.
The distinguishing marks left by Pushkin and Gogol on Russian literature were synthesized in the realism of Turgenev, who painted a broad canvas of the intellectual movements, conflicting ideas, and spiritual life of Russian society. Turgenev revealed the tragic discord between thought and action among the best and most progressive members of the dvorianstvo (nobility and landed gentry), and his fictional characters embodied his concept of a new type of hero, or protagonist.
The innovative work of Nekrasov, who seemed to speak in the name of the enslaved peasantry, gave full expression to the revolutionary democratic view of Russian reality and of the paths of development of Russian life. The grotesque and fantastic literary forms of Saltykov-Shchedrin showed the illusory nature of life in Russia in the postreform period—a reactionary, exploitative, hypocritical, and unprincipled world. A prominent place in the establishment of Russian realistic drama belongs to A. N. Ostrovskii; his plays, which denounced contemporary morals and social conditions, were regarded by Dobroliubov as “plays of life.”
The works of L. N. Tolstoy represent a unique phenomenon in Russian and world literature; they are distinguished by their epic scope and unparalleled penetration into the human psyche, their capacity to show national history reflected in people’s private lives, and their unprecedented intensity of spiritual striving. Pronouncing a stern sentence on a world wallowing in sin, falsehood, and crime, Tolstoy called for a moral rebirth. “The epoch of preparation for revolution in one of the countries under the heel of the serf-owners became, thanks to its brilliant illumination by Tolstoy, a step forward in the artistic development of humanity as a whole” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 20, p. 19).
The driving energy and drama of Dostoevsky’s ideological and sociophilosophical novels disclosed the key ideological and social conflicts of Russian history and of the transitional era through his depiction of “the depths of the human soul.” Dostoevsky was totally uncompromising on the issue of social injustice; while rejecting the possibility of changing the world by revolutionary means, he nevertheless revealed the inevitability of the idea of revolt against a world of suffering.
A new stage in the development of critical realism was reached in the works of Chekhov, with their extreme objectification of fictional characters and events. Chekhov’s short stories and plays are marked by the idea that man can be crushed to death by the dreariness of the commonplace; they also convey the author’s sense of the inevitability of change in Russian society.
From Griboedov to Chekhov, the Russian writers of the 19th century always believed in the country’s future, even as they denounced tsarist Russia’s dreadful world of “dead souls.” The profoundly symbolic image of the “winged troika” embodied the Russian notion of the country’s lofty historic destiny. Some of the themes of 19th-century Russian literature—to mention only a few—were the defense of the “common” man and of his sovereign individual rights, the tragic inner conflict of the “superfluous people,” or “heroes of our time,” the protest against the foundations of the “dark kingdom,” the persistent striving to understand “who is guilty” and “what is to be done,” the ways in which man ascends the ladder of moral perfection, life in Russia during “war and peace,” the search for the “positively beautiful man” who stands up against all the force and vileness of “Karamazovness,” the emergence of “new people” as vehicles of revolutionary consciousness, the sociohistorical aspect of the conflict between “fathers and sons,” the defense of human dignity and women’s rights, and the spiritual death of “people in boxes.” These, together with the many other issues examined in the literature of the time, constituted an inexhaustible source of ideas and images, a school of realism, and a model of high public service for progressive writers of all the nationalities within the Russian Empire.
The creative writers of the various national literatures were confirmed propagandists of progressive Russian literature, and they were the first to translate the latter into their native languages. As A. N. Tolstoy wrote in this regard, “If we turn to the biographies of the leading national figures of the middle and end of the last century, it becomes obvious that their progressive ideas and their understanding of life and history were drawn from our classical literature.” The names of the great Russian writers are what “we will find in notebooks and letters, in admissions to friends, and finally in the works of the writers themselves: for example, Il’ia Chavchavadze and Akakii Tsereteli in Georgia; Mirza Fatali Akhundov in Azerbaijan; Nalbandian, Sundukian, and Ovanes Tumanian in Armenia; Lesia Ukrainka, Kotsiubinskii, and of course Shevchenko in the Ukraine; Kupala and Kolas in Byelorussia; Furkat among the Uzbeks; Sharif Kamal among the Kazan Tatars; Kosta Khetagurov among the Ossets; and Peretz and Sholem Aleichem among the Jews” (A. N. Tolstoy, Chetvert’ veka sovetskoi literatury, 1943, pp. 31–32).
Among others who benefited from the influence of Russian literature were the outstanding Ukrainian, Georgian, Armenian, Latvian, and Estonian writers who spoke out for friendship between the peoples of Russia, for union with Russian democracy, and for access to the achievements of progressive Russian culture—specifically, such writers as I. Franko, M. Bogdanovich, J. Žemaitè, Rainis, E. Veidenbaum, F. Kreutzwald, E. Vilde, V. Alecsandri, M. Eminescu, A. Isaakian, G. Tukai, G. Ibragimov, Dzh. Mamedkulizade, M. A. Sabir, and Mendele Mocher Seforim. These writers’ work was related to the movement for national liberation and democracy and, in some instances, to the socialist movement.
Belinskii, Herzen, Chernyshevskii, Dobroliubov, Pisarev, and their followers in the literatures of the various nationalities repeatedly pointed out that the question of nationality was subordinate to the social question and that the former could only be resolved in the context of social liberation. V. I. Lenin revealed the social contradiction within each people’s national culture under the conditions of the class-antagonistic struggle between “the two cultures” existing in every national culture—namely, the democratic and socialist culture on the one hand and the culture of the bourgeoisie, dvorianstvo, and clergy on the other. As Lenin demonstrated, it was objectively inevitable that new patterns should emerge in the arts on the basis of the new historical order as a whole.
In “The Party Organization and Party Literature” (1905), Lenin indicated the historical conditions that would give rise to a new literature, inspired by the idea of socialism and addressed to “the millions and tens of millions of working people”—a literature that would enrich progressive revolutionary thought “with the experience and living work of the socialist proletariat” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 12, p. 104).
The works of M. Gorky vividly expressed the social upsurge of the 1890’s, which was associated with Russia’s entrance into the third, or proletarian, stage of the liberation movement. Gorky subjected prerevolutionary Russian life to an accurate and thorough artistic analysis; he celebrated the people’s boundless talent, created vivid images of heralds of the revolution, and demonstrated the historical lawfulness and justice of a revolutionary break against the “leaden weight of the abominations” of the tsarist regime. A patriot and a humanist, Gorky used living examples of heroic feats and human beauty drawn from the activities of the Bolshevik Party as well as from the social practice of the Russian proletariat and of workers of other nationalities. Gorky’s novel The Mother, as a classic example of the literature of socialist realism, marked a new phase in Russian and world literature.
The realist literature of the peoples of Russia took shape in the 19th century as the nation’s outlying territories were incorporated into the Russian state and drawn into the nationwide historical development of capitalism and into the growing movement for national liberation.
In the first half of the 19th century the Ukrainian nation produced Shevchenko—the author of Kobzar’ (1840) and founder of modern Ukrainian literature, which took its place in world literature. The distinguishing features of Shevchenko’s writing are his profound penetration of the ideological and figurative structure of the people’s thought, the universal significance of his subjects, and his ability to represent life with uncompromising realism, colored with the revolutionary romantic spirit of individual freedom and freedom of the people. The works of such writers as Marko Vovchok, L. Glebov, S. Rudanskii, I. Franko, A. Svidnitskii, O. Iu. Fed’kovich, M. Kotsiubinskii, Lesia Ukrainka, P. Grabovskii, and V. Stefanik followed the path of critical realism and narodnost’ paved by Shevchenko.
In Byelorussia, the work of F. Bogushevich, M. Bogdanovich, A. Tetka, Ianka Kupala, and Iakub Kolas was representative of the democratic content and realistic orientation of literature in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The progressive tendencies of 19th-century Armenian literature were expressed by Kh. Abovian, who celebrated the feeling of national dignity and patriotism; the writer’s historical optimism and his faith in the national, political, and cultural rebirth of the Armenian people were based on his realization of the necessity of fraternal friendship with the Russian people. Realism and progressive romanticism became firmly established in Armenian literature in the 1860’s. This period was marked by the work of M. Nalbandian, one of the foremost representatives of the revolutionary democratic movement. The prose and dramatic works of M. Shirvanzade painted a satirical and psychologically authentic picture of the replacement of patriarchal relations by the capitalist system, which in its turn was beginning to feel the destructive effect of revolutionary forces.
Scenes from the history of the Armenian people, their philosophical and ethical searchings, and the social and psychological conflicts of Armenian life were re-created in the epic poetry of O. Tumanian, who affirmed the exalted role of art in the transformation of the world and of man. The writings of A. Isaakian, full of mournful and agonizing meditations on the fortunes of man and the injustice of life, were profoundly linked to the history and culture of the Armenian people and the best traditions of Russian and world literature. The poetry of A. Akopian, which began to appear shortly before the October Revolution of 1917, was in many ways akin to the work of Dem’ian Bednyi.
In the 19th-century literature of Azerbaijan, the need to struggle against despotism, feudal backwardness, and religious superstition was declared by the playwright Mirza Fatali Akhundov, the scholar and educator A. Bakikhanov, the poet Mirza Shafi (Vazekh), and the satirical poet Zakir. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw increasing activity on the part of writers associated with the journal Molla Nasreddin—for example, Dzh. Mamedkulizade, Sabir, A. Akhverdov, and M. Ordubady.
The romantic poets were the dominant influence in democratic social thought in 19th-century Georgia. The poetry of N. Baratashvili was imbued with the idea of national liberation, political freedom of thought, faith in the triumph of reason, and consciousness of the tragic incompatibility between the mind and the surrounding reality. The uniqueness of the Georgian national character, the dramatic episodes of Georgian history, the hard lot of the peasant, the wisdom and beauty of folk art, and the purity and nobility of the aspirations of progressive mankind were imaginatively explored by such writers as A. Chavchavadze, G. Orbeliani, R. Eristavi, G. Tsereteli, A. Kazbegi, Vazha Pshavela, E. Ninoshvili, I. Evdoshvili, and L. Kiacheli. The foremost Georgian writers of the 19th century were I. Chavchavadze and A. Tsereteli, who were strongly influenced by the ideas of the Russian revolutionary democrats and who came to the fore as leaders of the movement for national liberation.
The achievements of the realist Latvian literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were associated with the names of A. Pumpurs, the brothers M. Kaudzit and R. Kaudzit, R. Blaumanis, and above all J. Rainis and A. Upīts, whose work reflected the stages of development and the revolutionary struggle of the Latvian proletariat as part of the proletarian movement in Russia as a whole. These, together with such writers as V. Lācis, J. Śudrabkalns, and A. Caks, were the founders of Soviet Latvian literature.
In Lithuania, the short stories and novellas of J. Źemaité, the short stories of J. Biliūnas, and the poetry of J. Janonis represented the democratic current in the realist prose of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The democratically oriented progressive Lithuanian writers who after 1940 joined the ranks of Soviet writers included A. Vienuolis, P. Cvirka, L. Gira, V. Montvila, S. Nėris, A. Venclova, T. Tilvytis, and V. Mycolaitis-Putinas.
Estonian writers of the second half of the 19th century, such as F. R. Kreutzwald, V. Vilde, and A. Tammsaare, were concerned with the question of the peasant liberation movement. During the Revolution of 1905–07, a proletarian literature emerged in Estonia; its major representatives were J. Lilienbach and V. Juhkum. With the restoration of Soviet power in Estonia in 1940, such democratic writers as J. Sütiste, J. Vares, J. Semper, and A. Jakobson shifted to socialist positions.
The incorporation of Middle Asia into Russia in the second half of the 19th century resulted in a movement of enlightenment that sprang up under the influence of progressive Russian culture. A galaxy of writers, publicists, and scholars came to the fore and dedicated themselves to the tasks of national enlightenment; they included the Uzbeks Mukimi and Furkat, the Tadzhiks A. Donish and S. Aini, and the Turkmen Mollanepes. Analogous developments were observed among the Kazakhs (A. Kunanbaev and Ch. Valikhanov), the Ossets (K. Khetagurov), the Chuvash (K. Ivanov), the Komi (I. Kuratov), and the Yakuts (A. Sofronov and N. Neustroev).
The cultural heritage of the peoples who had no written language before the October Revolution (namely, some of the peoples of the Caucasus, Siberia, the Volga Region, and Middle Asia) consisted primarily of oral folk art.
Soviet literature is the child of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 and of the economic, social, and cultural transformation of Soviet society—a transformation that expressed the objective laws governing the country’s historic move toward socialism and communism. Soviet literature represents the ideological and aesthetic unity of dynamically interacting national literatures, as the artistic experience of each literature becomes the property of all.
The path of Soviet literature is determined by the general historical laws of development of the socialist society and by the Leninist national policies of the Communist Party; these policies and objective laws ensure the flowering, the drawing together, and the mutual enrichment of the cultures of the socialist nations and nationalities. As the literature of socialist realism, Soviet literature is based on the principles of Marxist-Leninist partiinost’ (party spirit), narodnost’ (folk spirit), communist ideology, and socialist internationalism, and it reflects the governing laws of the age of transition to communism. Therein lies its irrepressible vitality and historical optimism.
The early years and the 1920’s. From the first days of Soviet power, the peoples of the USSR have shared a common political ideology and common cultural aspirations, such as the defense of the achievements of the Revolution, the socialist reconstruction of the entire society and way of life, the restoration of the national economy destroyed by World War I and by intervention and counterrevolution, and the establishment of a socialist society and a new culture.
What was determined in the course of the October Revolution and Civil War was the need to struggle against tendencies that were ideologically hostile and aesthetically alien to the basic line of development of Soviet culture. There were, among writers, some who frankly opposed the revolution, some who espoused the ideology of the petite bourgeoisie, and some who with great effort found their way to the realization of the socialist character and moving forces of the Revolution.
The people who stood at the sources of Soviet literature were closely associated with the revolutionary struggle; they included Gorky, Dem’ian Bednyi, and A. S. Serafimovich in Russia, Upīts in Latvia, Akopian in Armenia, Ordubady in Azerbaijan, V. Blakitnyi-Ellan in the Ukraine, S. Seifullin in Kazakhstan, S. Gadiev and Ts. Gadiev in Ossetia, G. Saidov in Dagestan, and J. Virtanen in Karelia. Such prominent revolutionaries as A. V. Lunacharskii, V. V. Vorovskii, S. Shaumian, A. F. Miasnikov, F. Makharadze, N. Narimanov, V. Mickevičius-Kapsukas, and A. Arais-Berce were actively involved in working out the theoretical and practical foundations of the various national literatures. Young writers were drawn to literature from different milieus—the working class, the peasantry, the working intelligentsia, and the ranks of the Red Army.
Most of the national literatures of the early postrevolutionary period were characterized by a romantic perception of reality that was born of life itself; they were forged by the great revolutionary break and by the resulting lofty ideas about heroic deeds to be accomplished in the name of the final triumph of a new world order. This emotional atmosphere found its foremost response in the lyric genres.
V. V. Mayakovsky said that “the literature of revolution began with verse” (Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 12,1959, p. 142). The revolutionary stride of a risen people was stamped in Mayakovsky’s poems (for example, “Ode to the Revolution” and “Left March”) and in the inspired lyric poems of A. A. Blok (The Twelve, 1918), Dem’ian Bednyi (Main Street, 1922), V. V. Khlebnikov (Night Before the Soviets, 1921), V. Sosiura (Red Winter, 1921), E. Charents (Panpoem, 1922), M. Charot (The Barefoot Fire-Walkers, 1922), L. Kvitko (The Red Storm, 1918), and S. Kudashev (October, 1920).
Poetry—from propaganda verse to the lofty ode—turned to the artistic use of extreme contrasts in comparing the past to the present; it used symbolic images of the elements—the world on fire—and was marked by stylistic expressiveness. The poets’ use of folkloric, mythological, and biblical images and formulas of poetic thought had the purpose of re-creating the grandeur, uniqueness, and universal significance of the events that were taking place. The innovative character of the poetry of the 1920’s was engendered by the need to find artistic means of a scale commensurate to the times. It should be noted, on the other hand, that the “cosmic” imagery employed by the Proletkul’t (Proletarian Cultural and Educational Organization) school of poetry and by leftist deviationists of all kinds, including the poets who relapsed into futurism, was in reality far from true innovation.
Such poets as Mayakovsky, P. Tychina, E. Charents, G. Tabidze, M. Charot, Kh. Taktash, and S. Vurgun created a new poetic language to express the feelings and thoughts of their contemporaries; they expressed the ideals and goals of the Revolution not as perceived in the abstract but as concretely refracted in the contradictions of everyday reality. Many poets accomplished these tasks by turning to the traditional genres of folk poetry and to the always living sources of the language of the people, as in the songs of Ianka Kupala and in I. Kulik’s collection of poems My Kolomyiki (1921). Such was the genesis of the best of the political satires and satires of daily life, as exemplified by Dem’ian Bednyi.
The ideological and aesthetic evolution of S. A. Esenin was epitomized in the collection Soviet Russia (1925), which expressed the poet’s acceptance of the new Russia “upheaved by the Soviet commune.” As a result of the October Revolution, the people’s historical experience assumed nationwide significance; this was illustrated by the quest for ideological and thematic unity—a quest that was particularly manifest in portrayals of the heroic Baku Commissars. Their tragic death was the subject of poems by Mayakovsky, N. N. Aseev, Esenin, S. I. Kirsanov, P. Khuzangai, Akopian, Charents, N. Zar’ian, S. Vurgun, M. Miushfik, S. Rustam, Tychina, and Bazhan. The internationalist aspirations of the Soviet people were mirrored in M. A. Svetlov’s poem “Grenada” (1926).
The foundations of multilingual Leniniana were laid in the 1920’s; in the consciousness of the masses the image of Lenin was a symbol of the Revolution, an embodiment of hopes, a guarantee of victory in the arduous battle for a new life, and a pledge of the fraternal unity of the peoples of the Soviet Union. “We are related through Il’ich,” wrote the Tatar poet Kh. Tufan. By portraying the greatness of Lenin’s deeds, poetry achieved “communion” with the revolutionary movement and with “the great feeling that goes by the name of ’class’” (Mayakovsky).
The path of prose writing in the 1920’s was a difficult one. The romantic generalizations of the period, the sometimes schematic principles applied in the portrayal of postrevolutionary life, and the ideological and aesthetic influences of modernism were successfully overcome, and Soviet literature pursued the organic blending of romantic zeal and realist authenticity in representing the confrontation and struggle between two antagonistic worlds. This tendency is evident in Iu. N. Libedinskii’s The Week (1922), V. Ia. Zazubrin’s Two Worlds (1921), Vs. V. Ivanov’s Partisan Stories (1923), A. G. Malyshkin’s The Fall of Dair (1923), B. A. Lavrenev’s The Wind (1924), Artem Veselyi’s Rivers of Fire (1924), the novellas of L. N. Seifullina and A. S. Neverov, and the short stories of A. Golovko. Serafimovich’s novel The Iron Stream (1924) presented a historically and psychologically authentic picture of the transformation of the masses into a revolutionary collective entity, welded together by a lofty idea and by the will to achieve victory. D. A. Furmanov, in his novel Chapaev (1923), created a strikingly individualized image of a legendary divisional commander who personified the characteristic traits of a people aroused by revolution.
The literary and artistic periodicals that first appeared in 1921 included the “thick” journals Krasnaia nov’ (Red Virgin Soil; founded on Lenin’s initiative), Kniga i revoliutsiia (Books and the Revolution), Pechat’ i revoliutsiia (The Press and Revolution), Sibirskie ogni (Siberian Lights), Molodaia gvardiia (Young Guard), Novyi mir (New World), Oktiabr’ (October), and other all-Union and regional publications, which molded and guided the literary process.
Literature was faced with the task of embodying the sociohistorical uniqueness of the age and creating a new social atmosphere through art. Works that were widely read at this time were those based on actual events, conflicts, and people’s destinies—that is, on what was actually experienced, sometimes by the author himself. Such works included A. A. Fadeev’s The Rout (1927), F. V. Gladkov’s Cement (1925), F. I. Panferov’s Bruski (1928–37), V. P. Kin’s On That Side (1928), Red Cavalry by I. E. Babel’ (1926), Golovko’s Tall Weeds (1927), K. Chornyi’s Earth (1928), G. Ibragimov’s Deep Roots, D. Demirchian’s Rashid (1935), and B. Mailin’s Raushan, a Communist Girl (1929). These works are inspired by a true vision of the future and are permeated with the spirit of revolutionary socialism; the figures of Kozhukh, Chapaev, and Levinson, which had enormous import from the educational standpoint, embodied the characteristic traits of the new hero—the bearer of revolutionary consciousness.
Complex moral and philosophical questions were posed in the novels and novellas of L. M. Leonov, K. A. Fedin, Iu. K. Olesha, M. L. Slonimskii, P. Panch, M. Dzhavakhishvili, S. Zor’ian, A. Kadyri, and M. Auezov. In the romantic fantasy Red Sails (1923), A. S. Grin told of the triumph of mankind’s dream of happiness.
The playwrights of the 1920’s derived their subjects from the sharply dramatic conflict between the new and the old and from the national destiny as reflected in the destinies of individuals; the dramatic hero was he who realized the greatness of the Revolution and became its defender and ideologist—for example, in V. Ivanov’s Armored Train 14–69 (1922), K. A. Trenev’s Liubov’ Iarovaia (1926), Lavrenev’s The Break (1928), V. M. Kirshon’s The Rails Are Humming (1928), The 97 (1924) and Commune in the Steppes (1925) by M. Kulish, I. Mikitenko’s Dictatorship (1929), Dzh. Dzhabarly’s Sevil’ (1928) and Almas (1931), Kh. N. Khamza’s Landowner and Farmhand (1918), K. Iashen’s Two Communists (1928), and Old Kamali (1925) by F. Burnash. Two plays by M. A. Bulgakov, Days of the Turbins (1926) and Flight (1928; staged 1957), showed the historically doomed White Guard movement and the inner crisis of the White émigrés’ milieu.
The Soviet historical novelists of the second half of the 1920’s (for example, O. D. Forsh, A. P. Chapygin, Iu. N. Tynianov, N. Lordkipanidze, and Z. Biadulia) developed such themes as the way in which human destinies are socially determined by specific historical conditions, the intricate processes of life as they involve man’s fortunes, and the lasting spiritual riches contained in the Motherland’s past.
Gorky’s works of the 1920’s, such as the last part of his autobiographical trilogy My Universities and the novel The Artamonov Business, are distinguished by broad historical and philosophical generalizations and a panoramic portrayal of prerevolutionary life. Iakub Kolas, in the first and second books of his trilogy At the Crossroads (1923–27), sought to present reality in epic and historic terms, as did various other authors, including A. Veselyi, S. N. Sergeev-Tsenskii, T. Gartnyi, A. Bakunts, Aini, Kadyri, Ordubady, and Sh. Kamal. One of the achievements of socialist realism, already manifest in the best works of the 1920’s, was the conscious realization of life’s inherent dramatic contradictions—life seen in historical perspective and in its revolutionary development.
A novel that gained world renown was the first book of M. A. Sholokhov’s The Quiet Don, published in 1928 (fourth book published 1940); this was a historically and psychologically true story of the lives and fortunes of the Don Cossacks, and it grew into a national epic about the difficult road to a new life through the crucible of the Revolution. The Quiet Don is particularly notable for its undeviating pursuit of truth in life and its representation of reality, including the contradictions and bitter conflicts that arise in the complex and difficult birth of a new world—the communist world.
Various poetic works reflect the broad range of their authors’ historical thought. Mayakovsky’s narrative poems Vladimir II’ich Lenin (1924) and It’s Good! (1927) affirmed the traditions of a civic-minded social poetry permeated with the lyricism of the poet’s “personal” approach to the subject. Poets who wrote about the Revolution and about the people as founders of their own history included Esenin in Anna Snegina (1925), E. G. Bagritskii in Ballad of Opanas (1926), Aseev in “Semen Proskakov” (1928), B. L. Pasternak in Nineteen Hundred Five (1925–26) and Lieutenant Shmidt (1926–27), I. L. Sel’vinskii in The Ulialaev Revolt (1927), M. Ryl’skii in “Sashko” (1929), Ia. Kupala in Anonymous (1925), Ia. Kolas in New Plot of Land (1923) and Symon, the Musician (1917–25), Charot in The Redwinged Soothsayer (1923), P. Trus in The Tenth Foundation (1928), Seifullin in Sovetstan (1926) and Kokchetau (1924), and Dzhansugurov in Steppe (1930).
The satirical works of the 1920’s are noted for their uncompromising denunciation of bourgeois survivals both in people’s psychology and in some aspects of social life. The figure of the sovmeshchanin (Soviet philistine)—a dangerous internal enemy of the Revolution—was thoroughly explored and unmasked in Mayakovsky’s comedies and satirical poems. Philistinism, timeserving, self-seeking, careerism, and other such traits were ridiculed in the comedies of A. M. Faiko, V. P. Kataev, A. I. Bezymenskii, I. Kocherga, Kulish, K. Krapiva, Sh. Dadiani, P. Kakabadze, and Demirchian, in the satirical works of M. M. Zoshchenko, I. A. Il’f and E. P. Petrov, Gladkov, M. E. Kol’-tsov, and O. Vishnia, and in the poetry of Blakitnyi-Ellan, G. Tsadasa, Kh. Namsaraev, and A. Shogentsukov.
The 1920’s were notable for the intensive development of the art of literary translation. Many of the works of Russian writers were published in the various languages of the peoples of the USSR.
Certain trends that emerged in the national literatures of the 1920’s were frequently represented by antagonistic groups and organizations advocating deliberate abstruseness, sometimes apolitical attitudes, the “autonomy” of literature, and a leftist rejection of classical traditions; certain writers were under the influence of bourgeois and petit bourgeois ideologies, as exemplified by imaginism, constructivism, the Society for the Study of Poetic Language, the Pereval group, and the Serapion Brothers in Russia; the “neoclassics” and VAPLITE (Free Academy of Proletarian Literature) in the Ukraine; the Academic Group in Georgia; the Armenian Literary Fellowship; the Chelabai Conversations group in Uzbekistan; and the Alka group in Kazakhstan.
Literature’s concrete sociohistorical experience was acquired in the bitterness of the class struggle—a struggle that was fought on the literary front as well; here ideological purity was not only upheld in theoretical polemics against various formalist and vulgarizing concepts and against aestheticism and national narrowmindedness but was also reinforced by the creative achievements of the national literatures. The possibilities of the method of socialist realism indicated the right path to those writers who were engaged in the sometimes agonizing search for a way out of the blind alleys of various aesthetic programs.
Lenin and the Communist Party were of enormous assistance in strengthening the ideological, artistic, and material foundations of the new literature. Both Lenin and the party’s Central Committee played a cardinal role in the struggle for the ideological purity of Soviet literature by opposing the theories of Proletkul’t—specifically, in the letter of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) concerning the Proletkul’t organizations (1920); by means of the letter and other pertinent statements, they substantiated the proposition that socialist culture was to follow in the best traditions of the culture of the past, in opposition to futurism and all other sorts of modernist currents impeding the fruitful development of Soviet literature.
The resolutions on the national question adopted by the party’s Tenth and Twelfth Congresses (1921 and 1923, respectively) were of immediate relevance to the literary process. The resolution On Party Policy in Literature adopted in 1925 by the Central Committee of the RCP(B) summarized the general course of literary development, pointed out the need to take a firm stand in the area of literature, and placed special emphasis “on the development of a national literature in the multinational republics and oblasts of our Union.”
An important aspect of the nationwide cultural revolution was the creative ferment attendant on the establishment of new literatures among various peoples who before the October Revolution had no written language or developed literature of their own. The new national literatures, through interaction with the literatures of other peoples in the course of the building of socialism and the strengthening of international tendencies in the socialist culture, were launched on the path toward an art that could meet the requirements of the present—the art of socialist realism. By the end of the first Soviet decade, Gorky was already aware of the stormy “process of creating the kind of unified socialist culture that without erasing the individual features of all the races would give birth to a single, majestic, formidable, and world-rejuvenating socialist culture” (Sobr. soch., vol. 30, 1956, pp. 365–66).
The 1930’s. The period from the late 1920’s to the mid-1930’s was the time of the country’s industrialization; in the rural areas, it was the time of the decisive turn toward socialism and establishment of new social relations. Literature was confronted with the need to penetrate to the core of life processes and to represent them truthfully—a need engendered by the new and unprecedented opportunity to participate in the people’s creative activity as well as by the revolutionary energy of the masses who through the building of socialism became part of a historic creative process.
The natural inclination of writers was to use the epic form of narration—narration on a grand scale, capturing in writing the evolution of a new social consciousness and the psychology of a new type of man. Sholokhov’s novel Virgin Soil Upturned (books 1–2, 1932–60), which is full of reflections on true humanity, the ways of progress, and historical necessity, shows a profound artistic perception of the complex phenomena of the time; the author’s position is clearly expressed, and the account of the great revolutionary turning point in village life is marked by the highest degree of historical concreteness. The great problems associated with the transition of the village to the new life were raised by A. T. Tvardovskii in the narrative poem The Land of Muraviia (1936), an innovative work that nevertheless carried on the traditions of Russian classical poetry.
Among the works that gained nationwide readership were such novels as Leonov’s Sot’ (1929), K. Ia. Gorbunov’s The Ice Drift (1929), and L. Kiacheli’s Gvadi Bigva (1938), V. P. Stavskii’s sketchlike novella The Running Start (1930), and such narrative poems as Bezymenskii’s Tragic Night (1930) and Ia. Kupala’s Over the River Oressa (1933). The great enthusiasm with which changes were welcomed and the unparalleled new plans and tempos typical of the first five-year plans inspired writers to preserve in their works the vivid pages of Soviet history; such works include Gladkov’s Power (1932–38), V. P. Kataev’s Time, Forward! (1932), I. G. Ehrenburg’s The Second Day (1933), M. S. Shaginian’s Hydrocentral (1930–31), Ia. N. Il’in’s The Great Conveyor (1934), and N. Zar’ian’s Atsavan (1937–47).
A distinguishing feature of the literature of the 1930’s was the writers’ interest in events taking place in the fraternal republics. The growing extent of contacts between writers (as illustrated, for example, by the writers’ brigades that toured the country) and the strengthening of ties between the national literatures resulted in such works as N. S. Tikhonov’s Verses on Kakhetia (1935), V. M. Inber’s Travel Diary (1939), K. G. Paustovskii’s Kara-Bugaz (1932) and Kolkhida (1934), V. A. Lugovskoi’s To the Bolsheviks of the Desert and the Spring (books 1–3, 1931–48), B. Jaseński’s A Man Changes His Skin (books 1–2, 1932–33), I. Le’s Intermontane Novel (books 1–2, 1929–34), and E. Samuilenok’s The Future (1938).
In 1932 the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR adopted a resolution setting up the M. Gorky Institute of Literature to provide specialized training in the multinational literature of the Soviet Union. Through the intensive development of the art of literary translation, the best works from the various national literatures were made available to the world.
In essence, the task of building socialism in the USSR had been accomplished by the mid-1930’s, and the sociopolitical unity of Soviet society was firmly established. The link between literature and people’s lives, the struggle to raise the people’s artistic and literary level, and the strengthening of the principles of historicism, social analysis, narodnost’, partiinost’, and communist ideology constituted the real substance of the multinational literary process of the 1920’s and 1930’s, so that the creative voices of the various Soviet literatures spoke from a single platform.
Through their efforts to achieve the ideological consolidation of creative forces, the Communist Party and leading Soviet writers, headed by Gorky, succeeded in overcoming group conflicts. A special role was played in this process by the resolution of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) On the Restructuring of Literary and Artistic Organizations (1932); its stated goal was “to unify all writers who support Soviet power and wish to participate in socialist construction [by forming] a single union of Soviet writers with a Communist faction” (O partiinoi i sovetskoi pechati: Sb. dokumentov, 1954, p. 431).
The First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers (Moscow, Aug. 17 to Sept. 1, 1934) was attended by 582 delegates representing more than 40 Soviet peoples’ literatures. Gorky, in his report to the congress, noted the growing international prestige of Soviet literature and also pointed out a very important fact—namely, that Soviet literature is “not just the literature of the Russian language [but rather] an all-Union literature,” and that “the literature of the different races and different languages of all our republics represents a unified whole in the eyes of the proletariat of the Land of the Soviets and in the eyes of the revolutionary proletariat of all countries” (M. Gorky, Sobr. soch., vol. 27, 1953, pp. 324 and 296).
In the charter of the Writers’ Union of the USSR adopted by the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers, socialist realism was defined as the fundamental method of Soviet literature and literary criticism; in the words of the charter, socialist realism “requires of the artist a truthful and historically accurate depiction of reality in its revolutionary development. Furthermore, the truthfulness and historical accuracy of the artist’s representation of reality must be combined with the goal of the workers’ ideological conversion and education in the spirit of socialism. Socialist realism offers artists an exceptional opportunity to show creative initiative and to choose among diverse forms, styles, and genres” (Pervyi Vsesoiuznyi s”ezd sovetskikh pisatelei: Stenograficheskii otchet [First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers: Stenographic record], 1934, p. 716). Gorky was elected chairman of the board of the Writers’ Union of the USSR. The establishment of a single union of writers was the fruit of social aspirations; it was achieved through Lenin’s national and cultural policies and was a natural result of the artistic process.
One of the most important and immediate results of the activities of the new writers’ union was the expansion of reciprocal contacts between the literatures of the peoples of the USSR. This had a fruitful effect on each of the national literatures, and especially on the newborn literatures that had emerged with a new written language shortly before the October Revolution or in Soviet times. In the period that followed the first congress of the Writers’ Union, the literatures of the Soviet peoples were faced with common problems—namely, the development of a literary language, the mastering of realism, the enrichment of literary genres, and the creative use of folklore as well as of the classical heritage.
The literary process acquired its specific nationwide character through the creative use of the experience of Soviet Russian literature, which in turn was enriched by its close contact with cultural regions new to it. The first of the ten-day and one-day art and literature festivals of the peoples of the USSR were held in Moscow in the 1930’s; at this time, too, various literary debates assumed a nationwide character (for example, debates concerning the creative method in Soviet literature, formalism, the survival of vulgar sociologism in criticism, and attitudes toward the national classical heritage). Another notable development was the celebration of the anniversaries of national literary classics on an all-Union basis.
Gorky, the indisputable literary authority and solicitous mentor of young writers, inspired many important and fruitful undertakings. Through his prose, drama, and journalistic writings of the 1930’s, Gorky encouraged breadth of historical thought and boldness in the formulation of the major questions of the day. His epic novel The Life of Klim Samgin (1925–36) was a multilevel representation of prerevolutionary Russian life and a convincing demonstration of the objectively lawful nature of the October Revolution.
A feeling of historical depth and of striving toward the future permeates the large-scale epic narratives by such writers as Fadeev, V. Ia. Shishkov, K. Gamsakhurdia, Golovko, O. Desniak, A. Shiian, Ia. Kolas, Chornyi, Aibek, S. Mukanov, D. Shengelaia, and D. Bergel’son. A. N. Tolstoy, in his trilogy Road to Calvary (1920–41), painted a multilayered canvas describing the road traveled by the best of the old Russian intelligentsia in the Revolution and Civil War and showing the movement of the masses under the Bolsheviks’ leadership.
The works of the 1930’s took as their subject the spiritual biography of the new type of hero (sometimes based on the author’s own life) and the making of the character of a contemporary—the character of one who takes part in great events; such were S. Zor’ian’s The Story of One Life (1934–38), Mir Dzhalal’s A Young Man’s Manifesto (1940), A. A. Perventsev’s Kochubei (books 1–2,1937), and works by Iu. Smolich, S. Aini, and Mukanov. N. A. Ostrovskii’s novel How the Steel Was Tempered (1935), which exerted enormous educational influence on many generations of Soviet and foreign youth, was taken as a summons to heroic deeds in the name of revolution and as a graphic demonstration of the communist view of the meaning of life and man’s place in it.
Man’s transformation through socially useful labor was shown in Leonov’s novel Road to the Ocean (1936) and in his plays, as well as in such novels as A. S. Makarenko’s Pedagogical Poem (parts 1–3, 1933–35; additional chapters, 1936), Malyshkin’s Backwater People (1937–38), Iu. S. Krymov’s The Tanker Derbent (1938), A. Kopylenko’s A City Is Born (1932), I. Le’s Story of Joy (1938), and A. Kutui’s My Contemporaries.
The short stories of the 1930’s dealt with the complex problems of human relations and the powerful transforming effect of the new social atmosphere on human psychology as reflected in everyday life and work; the authors of such stories included A. P. Platonov, I. I. Kataev, Olesha, I. Senchenko, A. Kakhkhar, and N. Sarykhanov. Using images and motifs from the folklore of the Urals, P. P. Bazhov glorified the worker in The Malachite Box (1939). Lyric tendencies appeared in prose writing, as exemplified by M. M. Prishvin’s Ginseng (1933), Paustovskii’s Summer Days (1937), and the short stories and essays of I. S. Sokolov-Mikitov.
The artistic interpretation of the sources of the people’s social energy led to the rapid development of the historical novel. The question of the legacy of the heroic past took on a special meaning; in attempting to portray the times as mirrored in the character of the positive hero, writers were forced to examine the progressive qualities of the national character—qualities that most fully manifest themselves in the course of major historical changes. Such questions were explored in the works of Sergeev-Tsenskii, Novikov-Priboi, S. P. Borodin, Chapygin, D. Gulia, Aini, Mukanov, Z. Tulub, and Ia. Kachura. A major achievement of the historical genre was A. Tolstoy’s novel Peter I (1929–45).
The epic principle was the basis of various historical and revolutionary-historical dramas, such as Vishnevskii’s The First Cavalry Army (1929) and An Optimistic Tragedy (1933), A. E. Korneichuk’s The Destruction of the Squadron (1933), Iu. Ianovskii’s Poem About Britanka (1938), Krapiva’s The Partisans (staged 1937), S. Shanshiashvili’s Arsen (staged 1936), and Auezov’s Night Thunder (1934).
Searching for ways to interpret the broad social and philosophical aspects of reality, the poetry of the 1930’s discovered the possibilities of new genres and extended the range and depth of its thematic layers. The problems of day-to-day existence, the difficulties encountered in the course of revolutionizing people’s lives, the daily working routine in the city and in the village, the heroism that was the new standard of behavior, the affirmation of socialist humanism, and the fate of the country’s and the world’s culture—all this was part of the decade’s varied poetic panorama.
The grand scale of the writing of the 1930’s is exemplified in such narrative poems as Bagritskii’s Death of a Pioneer Girl (1932) and The Last Night (1932), B. P. Kornilov’s Tripol’e (1933), N. I. Dement’ev’s The Mother (1933), P. N. Vasil’ev’s The Kulaks (1936), Aseev’s Mayakovsky Begins (1940), S. I. Kirsanov’s The Five-year Plan (1932), Bazhan’s The Death of Hamlet (1932), The Date, and Immortality (1937), Brovka’s Katerina (1938), “The Letter Carrier” by M. Dzhalil’ (published 1940), Vurgun’s “Basti” (1937), and T. Zharokov’s The Stream (1937). The motifs and subject matter of such works as Zar’ian’s The Rushan Cliff (1930) and A. Kuleshov’s In a Green Oak Woods (1939) are akin to those of Tvardovskii’s narrative poem The Land of Muraviia. Suleiman Stal’skii’s chronicle-like narrative poem Dagestan (1935–36) followed the traditions of folk poetry.
The new hero of Soviet lyric poetry was the man whose activities and attitude toward the world demonstrated the lofty moral and philosophical meaning of the achievements of the Revolution. Tychina’s poetry collections The Party Leads (1934) and The Feeling of a United Family (1938) were outstanding examples of the Soviet poetry of the time. The songs of M. V. Isakovskii were distinguished by his precise knowledge of the people’s daily language and psychology as well as by wealth of emotion and moving lyricism. Isakovskii and V. I. Lebedev-Kumach were the fathers of the Soviet popular song. A distinct genre—that of the lyric poetry cycle steeped in intellectualism—was represented by Pasternak, O. E. Mandel’shtam, Charents, P. Iashvili, V. Gaprindashvili, Miushfik, and S. Z. Galkin.
An important aspect of the poetry of the 1930’s was its incorporation of the popular legends, tales, songs, poetic forms, and imagery of folklore—for example, in the narrative poems of L. N. Martynov, D. B. Kedrin, Isaakian, Dzhansugorov, and Kh. Alimdzhan. The aesthetic contributions of the country’s multinational literature were organic expressions of the principle of narodnost’. The intensive artistic quest along the line of socialist realism contributed to the creative individuality of poets from diverse artistic traditions and generations.
Gorky’s plays Egor Bulychov and the Others (1932), Dostigaev and the Others (1933), and the second version of Vassa Zheleznova (1910–35) occupy a special place in the theater of the 1930’s. The developing multinational Soviet theater was based on a new type of dramatic action motivated by sociohistorical conflict, a new approach to history and to the conditions of the revolutionary period, and new heroes who came to the fore as creators of and participants in the revolutionary renewal of the world.
The playwrights’ main subject in the 1930’s was the hero-creator, the doer, the man who embodied the sweep and constructive energy of the Revolution. These were the qualities of the protagonists in such plays as Leonov’s The Gardens of Polovchansk (1938), N. F. Pogodin’s Tempo (staged 1930) and My Friend (1932), Kirshon’s The Miraculous Alloy (1934), Korneichuk’s Platon Krechet (1935), K. Iashen’s Defeat (staged 1934), S. Kldiashvili’s Generation of Heroes (1937), M. Ibragimov’s Khaiat (staged 1935), and S. Ulug-zoda’s Shodmon (1939). At the same time, Soviet drama was successfully presenting complex moral and ethical conflicts and portraying subtle spiritual experiences, as exemplified by A. N. Afinogenov’s Mamshen’ka (1940).
The glorious pages of the people’s history, the people’s struggle for freedom and independence, and their staunchness, heroism, and patriotic spirit were laid bare in such plays as Sel’vinskii’s The Knight John (1937), Korneichuk’s Bogdan Khmel’nitskii (1939), Auezov’s Summer Lightning (1934), Vurgun’s Vagif (1937), Alisher Navoi (1940) by Uigun and I. Sultanov, and Khamza (1940) by Iashen and A. Umari. Pogodin made a significant contribution with the first parts of his trilogy about Lenin, Man With a Gun (staged 1937), and with The Kremlin Chimes (staged 1942, revised version 1956). Other plays about Lenin were Trenev’s On the Bank of the Neva (1937), Korneichuk’s The Truth (1937), and Afinogenov’s Moscow, the Kremlin. Like prose and poetry, Soviet theater expressed the creative and constructive progress of the people and the leading tendencies of the day through a variety of individual characteristics, artistic traditions, and dramatic genres and forms.
Children’s literature experienced rapid growth. Mayakovsky had already set forth the fundamental principles that make it possible to converse seriously with young readers and inspire their confidence. Both in poetry (for example, by K. I. Chukovskii, S. Ia. Marshak, A. L. Barto, and S. V. Mikhalkov) and in prose (B. S. Zhitkov, V. V. Bianki, L. Panteleev and G. Belykh, and L. A. Kassil’), artistic means were convincingly used to cultivate in children the patriotism and high moral qualities of future builders of communism and to develop their aesthetic sense. The gripping novellas and short stories of A. P. Gaidar raised questions related to self-education, a responsible attitude toward one’s own actions, Soviet humanism, and personal fortitude.
In 1939 and 1940, a new force of revolutionary writers from the Baltic region, from the western portions of the Ukraine and Byelorussia, and from Bessarabia came to swell the multinational ranks of Soviet literature; these were the writers who in the 1920’s and 1930’s, under bourgeois rule, had continued to defend and assert the ideals of the October Revolution.
In the second half of the 1930’s, because of the worsening international situation, Soviet literature was particularly concerned with the themes of patriotism, internationalism, and antifascism. This concern was reflected in the poems of A. A. Surkov, K. M. Simonov, Lugovskoi, Tychina, R. Rza, Alimdzhan, Dzhalil’, and Leonidze; G. Tabidze’s narrative poem Four Days was permeated with the anxious perception of impending war. Loyalty to revolutionary traditions on the part of a new generation of defenders of the Motherland was voiced in Soviet literature through various antifascist novels, including Pavlenko’s In the East (books 1–2, 1936–37), B. Jaseńtski’s I Am Burning Paris (1928), and Ehrenburg’s The Fall of Paris (1940–41). The theme of solidarity with embattled Spain was characteristic of such works as the series of reports by Kol’tsov published in book form as Spanish Diary (1938) and the dramas European Chronicle (1935) by A. N. Arbuzov, Salute, Spain! (1936) by Afinogenov, and A Lad From Our Town (1941) by Simonov.
The war years. Throughout the brutal ordeals of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the peoples of the Soviet Union defended the freedom and independence of their multinational socialist state. The Soviet people’s nationwide unity was clearly expressed in the further rapprochement of fraternal literatures. Soviet literature made an important contribution to the struggle against fascism. Soviet writers reinforced the Soviet people’s sense of patriotism, pride, and historical righteousness—the feeling of being engaged in a lofty mission. More than one-third of the members of the Writers’ Union of the USSR went to the front as volunteers, and many of them gave their lives for the Motherland, including Gaidar, D. Altauzen, I. P. Utkin, Krymov, B. M. Lapin, Petrov, Stavskii, Musa Dzhalil’, O. Desniak, A. Ushakov, P. Stradzyn’, F. Karim, and B. Bulkishev.
Journalistic writing and pamphleteering grew in importance during the war, especialy during its initial period, and effectively served to mobilize the people’s total nonmaterial resources for the struggle against fascism—for example, through Ehrenburg’s articles exposing the man-hating essence of fascism and the myth of “the invincible Third Reich”; articles by A. Tolstoy invoking the Motherland’s heroic past, the national tradition, and the sources of the Russian national character; and the public-minded work, differing in genre and subject matter, by such writers as Sholokhov, Leonov, Fadeev, A. P. Dovzhenko, Ia. Galan, Ia. Kolas, V. Vasilevskaia, P. Panch, A. Alle, Śudrabkalns, and Demirchian.
From the very onset of the war, Soviet poetry made use of traditional folkloric forms (including invocations, oaths, spells, curses, charms, and laments) that drew a live response from the mass reader. The people’s vow to purge the native land of invaders and save the world from the brown plague of Hitlerism resounded in such poems as Simonov’s “Wait for Me,” Surkov’s “The Dugout,” A. A. Akhmatova’s “Courage,” Dzhambul’s “Leningraders, My Children!”, D. Bednyi’s “I Believe in My People,” M. Ryl’skii’s “Ukraine,” Bazhan’s Oath, Ia. Kupala’s “Partisans,” Leonidze’s “Do Not Grieve, Mother,” Isaakian’s “Call to Arms,” Alimdzhan’s “Take Your Gun in Your Hands,” and G. Guliam’s “You Are Not an Orphan.”
“The Holy War” (1941), a song by Lebedev-Kumach, became a kind of hymn of the Great Patriotic War. The traditional themes of friendship and love, soldiers’ loyalty to their duty, and heroism in the name of the Motherland appeared in Soviet poetry in a new guise. From the torture chambers of Moabit (a fascist prison in Belgium), Musa Dzhalil’ wrote of the individual’s responsibility for the fate of the Land of the Soviets, of the world’s beauty, and of the beauty of human feelings.
The predominant theme in literature was that of the war as a feat of arms by the entire nation. Writers turned to the theme of the Motherland in poetry and prose; they celebrated the richness of the nation’s nonmaterial and material culture, the people’s way of life, and the picturesqueness of popular speech, and they constantly emphasized Soviet man’s internationalist turn of thought and the feeling of the common historical paths of the peoples of the Soviet Union. The historical-heroic theme, which became very important from the educational standpoint, appeared in such works as Isaakian’s poem Armenian Architecture, L. Gira’s verse collection Grunewald’s Lithuania (1942), Sel’vinskii’s tragedy in verse The Livonian War (1944), the narrative poems Song About David Guramishvili (1942–46) by S. Chikovani and George the Sixth (1942) by G. Abashidze, Ragimov’s novella Ainaly, Alimdzhan’s play Mukanna (1942–43), and the heroic drama Takhir and Zukhra (1943) by Tursun-zade.
Audiences were immensely responsive to the sharply dramatic and profoundly contemporary plays The Front (1942) by Korneichuk, Invasion (1942) by Leonov, and The Russian People (1942) by Simonov. Faith in victory animated many of the plays of the war years—Vishnevskii’s At the Walls of Leningrad (1944), Lavrenev’s Song of the Black Sea Sailors (1943), Afinogenov’s On the Eve (1941), Iu. P. Chepurin’s Stalingraders (1944), Ikrami’s A Mother’s Heart, M. Amirov’s Minnikamal (1944), and Krapiva’s Ordeal by Fire (1943).
The nation’s historical experience, the inexhaustible force of the revolutionary traditions that nourished the people, and the Soviet character in all its many-sided complexity, unshakable firmness, and beauty—all this was treated in epic terms in such narrative poems as Tikhonov’s Kirov Is With Us (1940), O. F. Berggol’ts’ February Diary and Poem of Leningrad (1942), P. G. Antokol’skii’s Son (1943), Inber’s The Pulkovo Meridian (1943), Kuleshov’s The Brigade Banner (1943), M. Tank’s lanuk Sialiba (1942), Tychina’s The Funeral of a Friend (1943), G. Abashidze’s The Unconquerable Caucasus (1943), A. Osmonov’s Who Is It? and A. Khavpachev’s The Partisans of Kabarda. In Vasilii Terkin (1941–45), Tvardovskii created the immortal image of the Soviet fighter who embodied the deep humanity, patriotism, and strength of the national spirit; this profoundly truthful and humorous narrative poem was distinguished by its classical clarity of form.
The great epic novels written during the war dealt with the important historical events that had predetermined the unity of the Soviet peoples in the face of the invaders; such works included Shishkov’s Emel’ian Pugachev, Auezov’s Abai (1942–47), Aibek’s Navoi (1945), Demirchian’s Vardanank (1943–46), Upits’ The Green Earth (1945), Ragimov’s Shamo (1931–64), Musrepov’s The Awakened Land (1953), Zor’ian’s King Pap (1944), A. Beliashvili’s Besiki (1942–47), and A. A. Antonovskaia’s The Great Mouravi (1937–58).
A general practice of the national literatures of the time was the use of documentary material. Poets of various nationalities were inspired by the feats of the partisan heroine Zoia Kosmodem’ianskaia; poems were written about her by Aliger, Zharokov, N. Arslanov, Z. Khalil, P. Khuzangai, and A. Lakhuti. Kirsanov was the author of the narrative poem Aleksandr Matrosov (1946). The death of the soldier-poet Abdulla Zhumagaliev was the subject of Legend of a Poet’s Death (1944), a narrative poem by K. Amanzholov.
Many of the novellas of the war years were based on events that were seen through the eyes of participants and eyewitnesses—for example, Simonov’s Days and Nights (1943–44), V. S. Grossman’s The People Are Immortal (1942), Gorbatov’s The Unsubdued (1943), Vasilevskaia’s The Rainbow, Dovzhenko’s Ukraine on Fire, and Abul’gazan’s Sons and Fathers (1944). By the end of the war, novels about the Great Patriotic War were popular in many literatures; they included Smolich’s They Didn’t Get Through (1946), Chornyi’s Skip’evskii Forest (published 1955), Musrepov’s A Soldier From Kazakhstan (1949), and G. Mustafin’s Shiganak (1945). Writers continued to elaborate the multifaceted and inexhaustible theme of a people at war, portraying the exploits of Soviet man as the natural result of the character-forming social conditions created by the October Revolution.
The postwar period. The world view that inspired the literature of the early postwar years was one that the victorious people had fought for and won through their suffering. The ideological goal of postwar literature was to create a favorable moral and psychological atmosphere of nationwide working zeal so that the wounds inflicted by the war could be healed in the shortest possible time.
As a result of the special place that the liberator country now occupied in the world, Soviet literature was faced with a broader range of issues and of sociopolitical objectives. Under the conditions of the “cold war” unleashed by the imperialists against the USSR, Soviet writers creatively developed the traditions founded by the verse of Mayakovsky, raising their voices in passionate public appeals for world peace and human happiness and campaigning for the Soviet way of life and internationalism; such were the voices resounding in the verse cycles of Bazhan, Vurgun, Rustam, Simonov, Surkov, Tikhonov, Tursun-zade, and Chikovani.
Ehrenburg’s multilevel novel The Storm (1946–47) shed light on the fundamental conflict of the age—namely, the opposition between fascism and antifascism; the book examined the individual’s view of the world during a period of major social displacements and sought to instill the idea of each person’s individual responsibility for anything that happens anywhere in the world. Iakobson’s dramatic novellas Life in the Citadel (1946) and Struggle Without Front Lines (1946) were based on the acute ideological and political conflict of antagonistic classes. Novels devoted to political problems included The Day Will Come (1948) by M. Ibragimov and Tehran (1952) by G. Sevunts.
The genuine dramatic quality and gripping authenticity of the material accumulated from life over the war years led to the intensive development of a documentary literature imbued with a noble aspiration—to make known throughout the Motherland the unparalleled exploits of its partisan heroes; examples of such documentary writing are P. P. Vershigora’s People With a Clear Conscience (1946), S. A. Kovpak’s From Putivl’ to the Carpathians (1945), A. F. Fedorov’s The Underground Oblast Committee Is Operating (books 1–2, 1949), I. A. Kozlov’s In the Crimean Underground (1947), and D. N. Medvedev’s That Was at Rovno (1948).
Drawing on actual human destinies, writers progressed to great artistic generalizations and revealed the deep philosophical meaning of the victory over fascism—a victory achieved on the military, political, economic, and moral fronts. Portraits of actual heroes of the Great Patriotic War, embodying in their character and daily conduct the typical traits of Soviet man, were drawn in such works as B. N. Polevoi’s novel The Tale of a Real Man (1946) and the novellas The Gold Star (1946) by A. Kakhkhar and A Soldier From Kazakhstan (1949) by Musrepov. Fadeev’s novel The Young Guard (1945–51) was devoted to the unexampled feats of the underground Komsomol organization; here documentary truth, combined with truth of artistic imagery, illuminated the essential moral and philosophical nature of a heroic generation—the generation brought up by the party—and the character of those who had fought unyieldingly for the power of the Soviets.
Like a requiem, the theme of eternal remembrance of the dead and grievous pain for the sufferings of the Motherland was sounded in poetry; it was heard, for example, in Tvardovskii’s The House by the Roadside (1946) and “I Was Killed at Rzhev” and in Isakovskii’s “The Enemy Burned Down Our House.” Wartime ordeals were the subject of such narrative poems as A. S. Malyshko’s Prometheus (1947) and M. Ragim’s Over Leningrad (1948). The war was a determining factor for the creative efforts of writers just starting out on their literary journey—a group that included K. Ia. Vanshenkin, E. M. Vinokurov, S. P. Gudzenko, V. Davtian, Iu. V. Drunina, M. A. Dudin, M. K. Lukonin, A. P. Mezhirov, S. S. Narovchatov, S. S. Orlov, R. Parve, E. Rannet, B. A. Slutskii, and G. Emin.
Panova’s Traveling Companions (1946), E. G. Kazakevich’s The Star (1947), M. S. Bubennov’s White Birch (books 1–2, 1947–52), O. Gonchar’s trilogy The Standard-bearers (1946–48), I. P. Shamiakin’s Deep Current (1949), and I. P. Melezh’s The Minsk Direction (1952) were among the novels and novellas that presented full-blooded portraits of Soviet fighters, patriots, and humanists; these works showed how the world was perceived by people who throughout the most difficult trials kept faith with the ideals forged in the great days of the October Revolution. The artistic cogency with which life conflicts were portrayed in these works was in contrast to the false monumentalism that was in evidence in other works of the same period.
At all stages, Soviet literature set itself the task of creating the image of the positive hero. The hero of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s was the Communist who went through the war and brought back to the peacetime world his own and the entire country’s accumulated experience of heroic daily struggle for that very world. The theme of the return to peaceful work was heralded in V. V. Ovechkin’s novella Greetings From the Front (1945) and was developed in a series of novels that included Pavlenko’s Happiness (1947), Aibek’s Wind of the Golden Vallev (1950), Mustafin’s The Millionaire (1948), G. D. Gulia’s Spring in Saken (1948), S. P. Babaevskii’s Bearer of the Gold Star (books 1–2, 1947–48), S. Khanzadian’s The Land (1954–55), Day Is Breaking in Zabolot’e (1950) by Bryl’, and Great Events in Naujamiestis (1951) by J. Dovidaitis. The same theme runs through various narrative poems, such as A. I. Nedogonov’s Flag Over the Village Soviet (1947), N. M. Gribachev’s Spring in the “Pobeda” (1948), Lukonin’s Working Day (1948), M. Tank’s Morning Over Minsk, and A. Kuleshov’s A New Course (1948).
Many of the postwar novels were devoted to the theme of work in wartime and in peacetime, to constructive work as the creative essence of Soviet man and Soviet society, and to the worker’s pride in his work. Among such novels are V. N. Azhaev’s Far From Moscow (1948), A. Sakse’s Up the Mountain (1948), G. Bashirov’s Honor (1947), Mukanov’s Syr Darya (1947–48), Sydykbekov’s People of Our Time (1948), Gorbatov’s Donbas (1951), A. N. Rybakov’s The Drivers (1950), E. Z. Vorob’ev’s Height (1952), A. D. Koptiaeva’s Ivan Ivanovich (1949), Gusein Mekhti’s Apsheron (1947), and Mustafin’s Karaganda (1952).
Postwar Soviet literature was marked by its stronger multinational unity and by the variety of its aesthetic methods and possibilities. This very process of development, however, was beset with rather complex problems. Principles, ideals, and political content were lacking in some of the works appearing under the difficult conditions of the postwar period. There was, at the same time, an overt tendency toward light-minded poetic generalization in portraying the daily working routine, as well as a tendency to attribute psychologically simplistic motives to the actions of heroes.
In defining the immediate ideological tasks, the Central Committee of the ACP(B) adopted a series of resolutions that took note of the achievements of Soviet culture while pointing out shortcomings in the fields of literature and art. The party’s resolutions and the editorials published in the newspaper Pravda from 1946 to 1952 represented a particularly timely affirmation of the unshakable principle of partiinost’, or party spirit, in literature; their objective was to encourage writing that would combine lofty ideological content and perfection of artistic form.
The best of postwar Soviet literature proved the inexhaustible vitality of socialist realism. The inner world and social relations of Soviet man were depicted in their various aspects in such novels as V. F. Panova’s Kruzhilikha (1947), G. E. Nikolaeva’s Harvest (1950), V. K. Ketlinskaia’s Days of Our Life (1952), V. A. Kochetov’s The Zhurbins (1952), Lācis’ The Storm (1945–48), and Lordkipanidze’s The Dawn of Kolkhida (1931–52). Epic grandeur and subtle lyricism were combined in two novels by Fedin, First Joys (1945) and An Unusual Summer (1947–48), later followed by the concluding novel The Bonfire (1961–65). What gave Fedin’s heroes their vitality, representativeness, and depth was the scale of the conflicts of the age—an age that demanded to be viewed in absolutely clear-cut terms. In Gladkov’s autobiographical trilogy consisting of A Story of My Childhood (1949), The Freemen (1950), and An Evil Year (1954), the story of the hero’s childhood grew into an epic account of the people’s struggle for a better life.
The historical and historical-revolutionary genres were represented by writers whose works shed light on the objective laws governing the course of their peoples’ progress, the origin of their peoples’ internationalist strivings, and the question of national consciousness; among such works were Gamsakhurdia’s David the Builder (1946–58), S. P. Zlobin’s Stepan Razin (1951), F. Pestrak’s We’ll Meet at the Barricades (1948–52), K. Nadzhmi’s Spring Winds (1948), and Gudaitis-Guziavicius’ The Justice of the Blacksmith Ignotas (1948–49).
The journey of the Ukrainian peasantry from the Revolution of 1905–07 to the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 was portrayed by M. Stel’makh in the trilogy A Big Family (1949–51), Blood Is Thicker Than Water (1957), and Bread and Salt (1959). Other novels, such as G. M. Markov’s The Strogovs (1939–46), S. V. Sartakov’s The Saian Mountains (1940–54), K. F. Sedykh’s Dauria (1942–48), N. P. Zadornov’s Amur the Father (1941–46), and T. Z. Semushkin’s Alitet Goes Off to the Mountains (1947–48), which belonged to the genre of the family chronicle, inclined toward epic sociohistorical accounts of Siberia’s past and present.
Among the works that greatly contributed to a full understanding of historical issues were the plays of Sel’vinskii, I. Kocherga, and Shanshiashvili, as well as such narrative poems as Antokol’skii’s 1848 (1948), Berggol’ts’ Pervorossiisk (1950), S. P. Shchipachev’s Pavlik Morozov (1950), Ia. Kolas’ The Fisherman’s Hut (1947), Tank’s Diary of Peace, Rasul Rza’s Lenin (1950), Vurgun’s Mugan’ (1949), G. Leonidze’s Portokhala (1951), Tursun-zade’s Khasan-arbakesh (1954), A. Tokombaev’s With One’s Own Eyes (1952), G. Meniuk’s Song of Dawn (1948), T. Tilvytis’ On the Lithuanian Land (1949), and V. Valsiūniene’s Veronika (1952).
New writers came to the fore, bringing into literature and especially into poetry the question of nationality and a revived poetic tradition, whose new subject matter expressed the principle of internationalism; R. Gamzatov, K. Kuliev, M. Karim, D. Kugul’tinov, S. Maulenov, and Dzh. Muldagaliev were some of the writers whose creative talent was given full scope. The need for an artistic synthesis of the new processes of the contemporary world was felt with increasing urgency. In the novel Russian Forest, Leonov successfully examined, from a profoundly historical and philosophical perspective, the specific nature of the difficult period that the country had lived through.
Notable changes took place in the world during the 1950’s; the Communist Party embarked on the course of further social democratization—an important aspect of which was the effort to overcome the consequences of the cult of personality—and reaffirmed the need to live by Leninist standards. All this determined the subject matter and orientation of literature, which reflected society’s developing social needs.
Tvardovskii’s narrative poem Distance Beyond Distance (1950–60) was a lyric diary, as it were—a citizen-poet’s intense meditation on the historical significance of his Motherland’s postwar journey. Ovechkin’s Workdays in the Raion (1952–56) was a concretely analytical work devoted to issues of public interest; it sought to illuminate life’s contradictions from a party position and looked for ways to overcome them. The same qualities distinguished the problem-oriented sketches of A. V. Kalinin, G. N. Troepol’skii, V. F. Tendriakov, S. Zhurakhovich, A. Mikhalevich, Ia. Bryl’, A. Kulakovskii, J. Avižius, J. Dovidaitis, F. Mukhammadiev, A. Sidki, and I. Antonov.
The question of man’s place in society and of his civic consciousness was discussed in sharply polemical terms in Tendriakov’s novella Not Suited (1954), in the novels The Four Seasons (1953) by Panova and The Searchers (1954) by D. A. Granin, and in the plays Good Luck! by V. S. Rozov (staged 1954) and A Personal Case (1954) by A. P. Shtein. A keen sense of contemporary reality, lyricism, and subtle humor marked the short stories and novellas of such writers as Ch. Aitmatov, V. P. Aksenov, S. P. Antonov, T. Akhtanov, I. Guseinov, Iu. M. Nagibin, and D. Shengelaia. P. F. Nilin’s novellas Cruelty (1956) and Trial Period (1956) and Iu. P. German’s trilogy, consisting of the novels The Cause You Serve (1957), My Dear Fellow (1961), and I Am Responsible For Everything (1964), posed the question of socialist humanism and faith in mankind.
Nikolaeva’s novel Battle En Route (1957) was notable for attempting to portray as fully and objectively as possible the sociohistorical development of the modern world. An important literary event of the mid-1950’s was Auezov’s completion of the epic novel The Path of Abai (1942–56), in which a scrupulous examination of the socioeconomic life circumstances of the Kazakh people was combined with a subtly realistic portrayal of human destinies. Equally important was the publication of the concluding novels in Kataev’s tetralogy The Waves of the Black Sea (1936–61), Kaverin’s trilogy The Open Book (1949–56), and A. Hint’s tetralogy The Windy Coast (1951–66).
The 1960’s and 1970’s. The decade of the 1960’s saw the establishment of the necessary conditions for the final development of the contemporary stage of Soviet literature; the determining factors were the country’s sociopolitical processes marking the start of the period of mature socialism, the profound interpenetration of national and international principles in artistic and literary creativity, the level of artistic development of Soviet literature, and the accumulated experience whereby that literature was able to reflect the various aspects of fundamental and vitally important conflicts.
The major changes taking place in Soviet literature were expressed in the revival of unions of creative artists and writers, in sharp debates, and in increased activity on the part of journals and publishing houses. After the second congress of writers of the USSR, held in 1954 (followed by congresses held in 1959, 1967, 1971, and 1976), there was a sharp increase in the number and circulation of journals and anthologies, and the range of their distribution expanded. The anthology Druzhba narodov (Friendship of Peoples) changed into a monthly literary, artistic, and sociopolitical journal. A new publishing house, Sovetskaia Rossiia, was founded in Moscow, and others were established in the Kalmyk, Kabarda-Balkar, and Chechen-Ingush autonomous republics, as well as in various oblasts. Another literary newspaper, Literatura i zhizn’ (Literature and Life), appeared in Moscow in 1958 and later became the weekly Literaturnaia Rossiia (Literary Russia). The one-day festivals of Soviet literature held in the republics, krais, and individual oblasts of the USSR became a permanent fact of literary life.
The emergence and development of the literatures of the Soviet Union—a process that is inseparably linked to the social, historical, and cultural development of the USSR—and their steady quantitative as well as qualitative growth are an important and legitimate feature of the spiritual life of Soviet society and represent a characteristic typological trait of the literary process.
Objective study of all the strata and social groups in society, truthful disclosure of the conflicts of the past and of the present in the spirit of partiinost’ and narodnost’, and conformity to the principle of historicism resulted in the flourishing of the national literatures, revealed their deepest potentialities, and established the solid foundations of their international unity.
In the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s, the achievements of Soviet poetry were primarily associated with works that dealt with the major questions and cardinal problems of the modern age. The history of our own time, the course of the new society, the individual in relation to history—these were the themes explored in such epic poems as V. A. Lugovskoi’s Midcentury (published 1958), Ia. V. Smeliakov’s A Stern Love (1956), B. A. Ruch’ev’s Liubava (1958–62), I. V. Abashidze’s Palestine, Palestine, Tursun-zade’s The Voice of Asia (1956), J. Marcinkevicius’ Blood and Ashes (1960) and The Wall (1965), V. D. Fedorov’s Venus Sold (1958), and E. I. Isaev’s The Judgment of Memory (1962). The same themes are found in many of the big poetry cycles aspiring to profound philosophical and social generalizations—for example, E. Mieželaitis’ Man (1961), Ryl’skii’s Roses and Grapes (1957), and Pasternak’s When the Skies Clear (1956–59); in many poetry collections, including N. A. Zabolotskii’s Poems (1957), Aseev’s Harmony (1961), Martynov’s Poems (1961), Marshak’s Selected Lyrical Verse (1962), Svetlov’s A Hunter’s Cottage (1964), Akhmatova’s The Flight of Time (1965), S. Eraliev’s White Odors (1969), Tank’s Trace of Lightning (1957), and Brovka’s As the Days Go By (1961); and in the works of such poets as Leonidze, G. Tabidze, Chikovani, K. Kaladze, A. Sagiian, S. Kaputikian, V. Mykolaitis-Putinas, A. Lupan, L. Deleanu, B. Shinkuba, I. Drach, V. A. Rozhdestvenskii, A. A. Tarkovskii, Vanshenkin, D. S. Samoilov, Gamzatov, Kuliev, and Kugul’tinov.
B. A. Akhmadulina, A. A. Voznesenskii, E. A. Evtushenko, N. N. Matveeva, M. Machavariani, B. Sh. Okudzhava, R. I. Rozhdestvenskii, and D. Charkviani were among the poets whose work reflected the spiritual wealth of contemporary youth, their sensitivity, their diversity, and the complexity of their intellectual and emotional reactions.
At each stage of development of Soviet society, it was natural for writers to return to the theme of Lenin. The multinational community of Soviet literature is mirrored in the variety of genres and diversity of subject matter that mark the body of literature devoted to Lenin—a literature that showed the way for writers to achieve a qualitatively new level of understanding in their attempt to draw a representative portrait of man. Outstanding examples of such works are the last part of Pogodin’s dramatic trilogy Third Pathétique (1959), M. S. Shaginian’s chronicle-like novels The Ul’ianov Family (1938, rev. ed. 1957) and The First All-Russian Exhibition (1965), Kazakevich’s novella The Blue Notebook (1961), Kataev’s poetic diary The Small Iron Door in the Wall (1964), and E. Ia. Drabkina’s fictional-documentary work Black Biscuits (1957–60).
The greater concern with historicism in Soviet literature caused a new upsurge of historical-revolutionary prose in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Writers working in this genre have raised the topical question of an active and heroic attitude toward life; their works, which reveal important social tendencies in a broad historical and philosophical context, include such novels as Markov’s Father and Son (1963–64) and Siberia (1969–73), V. M. Kozhevnikov’s Toward Dawn (books 1–2,1956–57), V. A. Zakrutkin’s The Creation of the World (books 1–2,1955–67), R. Sirge’s The Land and the People (1956), Iu. K. Smolich’s Dawn Over the Sea (1956), D. Ikrami’s The Twelve Gates of Bukhara (1967–68), Melezh’s People in the Marshes (1962), and A. Nurpeisov’s Blood and Sweat (1961–70). The sharp drama of the class struggle in a postwar Lithuanian village was depicted in M. Sluckis’ novel Stairway to the Sky (1963).
Many of these works go to the sources of people’s lives, as writers seek to explore the roots and premises of a historic new community of people and to examine its problems and prospects for the future. The same is true of the novels and novellas The Cherry Whirlpool (1961), Bread—A Noun (1964), and Kariukha (1967) by M. N. Alekseev, The Salty Dell (parts 1–2, 1967–68), and The Commission (1975) by Zalygin, and Shadows Disappear at Noon (1963) and The Eternal Summons (1970) by A. S. Ivanov.
The maturity of Soviet multinational literature as a whole is demonstrated by the scope of the epic literatures created by nationalities that have relatively small populations; this category includes novels and prose works by the Chuvash writers V. Krasnov-Asli and N. Il’bekov, the Kabardins Kh. Teunov and A. Shortanov, the Adygeian D. Kostanov, the Ossets D. Mamsurov and N. Gagloev, the Chechen M. Mamakaev, the Kara-Kalpak T. Kaipbergenov, the Mordovian K. Abramov, and the Khakass N. Domozhakov.
Detailed studies of the complex postrevolutionary situation in the villages are combined in Soviet literature with the attentive examination of man’s personality, his moral makeup, and his place in the system of social relations. The fiction of this period is distinguished by the writers’ accurate knowledge of the language and way of life of the kolkhoz village, their comprehensive analysis of people’s lives, characters, and reciprocal relations, and their subtle understanding of Russian nature, of the poetry of the peasant’s labor, and of the moral values based on such labor. These qualities characterize F. A. Abramov’s trilogy The Priaslins (1958–73) and the novels Bitter Herbs (1964) and Fate (1972) by P. L. Proskurin and Village at the Crossroads (1964) by Avizius, as well as such works as S. A. Krutilin’s Lipiagi (1963–65), E. Ia. Dorosh’s Rural Diary (1956–71), V. G. Rasputin’s Money for Mania (1967), V. I. Belov’s A Usual Affair (1966), Troepol’skii’s In the Reeds (1963), and the short stories of I. E. Nosov and V. P. Astaf ev. An extensive gallery of memorable popular characters was created by V. M. Shukshin, whose works represent an affirmation of moral maximalism and earnest spirituality.
What is known as “wartime prose” still holds an important place in literature. A wealth of factual material is presented with artistic accuracy in Simonov’s trilogy The Living and the Dead (1959–71), which is marked by the author’s profound meditations on the four tragic and heroic years of war and their place in history. The inner world of men at war and the social and moral motivations of their behavior are analyzed with deep psychological truthfulness in various works, including Sholokhov’s short story “Fate of a Man” (1956–57); the novellas An Inch of Land (1959) and The Dead Know No Shame (1961) by G. Ia. Baklanov, The Last Salvos (1959) by Iu. V. Bondarev, Our Parting Is Not for Long by A. Kulakovskii, The Dawns Here Are Quiet (1969) by B. L. Vasil’ev, The Shepherd and the Shepherdess (1971) by Astafev, and The Third Rocket (1962), Sotnikov (1970), and To Live Until Daybreak (1972) by D. Bykov; the short story “Ivan” and the novel In August of Forty-four (1974) by V. Bogomolov; and individual chapters from Sholokhov’s novel They Fought for Their Fatherland (1943–69).
The works of K. D. Vorob’ev, A. A. Anan’ev, N. Dumbadze, R. Dzhaparidze, O. Ioseliani, A. Abul’gasan, S. Veliev, P. Kuusberg, F. Niiazi, P. Tolis, R. Kochar, M. Shatirian, Ia. Bryl’, I. Shamiakin, B. Ovsepian, and T. Akhtanov represented a significant contribution to the body of epic war literature. The Great Patriotic War was viewed from a variety of perspectives in such novels as Bondarev’s Hot Snow (1969) and The Shore (1975), Melezh’s The Breath of the Thunderstorm (1965), A. B. Chakovskii’s The Blockade (1968–75), and I. F. Stadniuk’s War (1970–74).
A distinguishing feature of various other novels is their formulation of complex social problems, as exemplified in V. Beshliaga’s The Cry of the Swifts (1969), S. Shliakhu’s The Moon, Like the Muzzle of a Gun (1970), U. Abdukaimov’s The Battle (1961–66), I. Indräne’s A Hatful of Chestnuts (1966), V. Petkevicius’ Of Bread, Love, and a Rifle (1967), V. Bubnis’ The Thirsty Land (1972), E. Vetemaa’s Small Requiem for Harmonica (1968), and A. Beekman’s The Silent Bells (1968); these novels seek to penetrate the national psychology, to demonstrate its class-conditioned nature, and to portray the new character of man.
The question of socialist humanism and internationalism is raised in a particularly pointed fashion in Avizius’ novel Without Shelter (1970), which is based on the Lithuanian people’s struggle against fascism. Aitmatov’s widely read novellas and short stories—for example, Dzhamilia (1958), The First Teacher (1962), and Farewell, Gul’sary! (1966)—are notable for their highly ideological content, the scale of the problems they pose, and their vital links to the national creative experience.
Documentary prose, enriched by lyricism, extends over a widening spectrum of genres and styles; it is characterized by profound philosophical generalizations and a passionate concern with public issues. S. S. Smirnov made an important contribution to the chronicle of the Great Patriotic War with such books as The Brest Fortress (1957) and Tales of Unknown Heroes (1963). A tragic episode of the war is depicted in A. M. Adamovicn’s The Tale of Khatyn’ (1973).
A distinctive genre—that of the “lyric novella”—was created by writers who sought to communicate more fully to the reader, in direct conversation, their personal experience and attitude toward life; Berggol’ts’ Stars by Day (1959), Iu. Smuul’s The Ice Book (1959), V. A. Soloukhin’s A Dewdrop (1960), and Iu. P. Kazakov’s Northern Diary (1961) are representative of the genre. In the lyric prose work My Dagestan (1968), Gamzatov reflects on the beauty of his Motherland, the fate of its history and culture, and the place of tradition in the spiritual makeup of contemporary man.
Memoirs proper have their own place in literature; Ehrenburg, Paustovskii, Marshak, Kaverin, and V. B. Shklovskii are among those who have published their memoirs. N. I. Rylenkov, P. Kozlaniuk, Leonidze, G. Maari, and Aibek are other writers who have written books that may be said to fall in this category. Childhood is the subject of many popular novels and novellas, including V. A. Smirnov’s The Discovery of the World (1947–67) and S. Saryg-ool’s The Tale of a Happy Boy (1961–66).
A literary category that has made significant gains in proportion to other genres is that of international literary, scientific, and scholarly publicist writings and sketches (that is, works devoted to current social problems and events); within this genre, the most varied aspects of life are explored by such writers as Gribachev, Iu. Zhukov, A. Krivitskii, B. G. Strel’nikov, and M. Sturua.
Successful new children’s books include works by N. N. Nosov, N. N. Dubov, M. P. Prilezhaeva, S. A. Baruzdin, A. N. Rybakov, and V. Iu. Dragunskii. The novels of I. A. Efremov, A. N. Strugatskii, and B. N. Strugatskii are examples of the developing genres of social science and science fiction.
In dealing with social and moral issues, writers make use of such devices as “polyphonic” narration, which makes it possible to contrast different viewpoints, characters, and beliefs about life, and the “unshackling” of fictional time, so that the heroes’ intensive self-analysis and “confessional” meditations may be more fully expressed. Among the writers who have used such devices are A. G. Bitov, Iu. V. Trifonov, and Sluckis. Analogous processes can be observed in the drama as well. In the plays of A. V. Vampilov, acute conflict situations are used as a test of the protagonists’ moral and volitional potential and inner culture.
By waging a decisive struggle against surviving vestiges of patriarchal relations and against disguised philistinism, Soviet literature has specifically demonstrated its closeness to the life of the people (for example, in the works of M. Ibragimbekov, R. Ibragimbekov, El’chin, D. Doszhanov, and A. Taganov).
The works of such writers as Belov, Drutse, S. Kurilov, G. I. Matevosian, Rytkheu, Iu. N. Shestalov, F. A. Iskander, G. G. Khodzher, and V. M. Sangi express a new awareness of national traditions and the desire to be guided by the values that are preserved in those traditions, rejecting the impermanent and soon-to-be-obsolete.
Soviet literature reveals the full philosophical, cultural, and economic significance of the changes taking place in society and reflects the new production relations that affect people in the moral and ethical sphere of their existence; this may be observed in such novels as V. Kozhevnikov’s Get Acquainted, Baluev! (1960), G. N. Vladimov’s Large Ore (1961), A. E. Rekemchuk’s Young and Green (1961), O. Gonchar’s Tronka (1963), G. I. Konovalov’s Sources (1959–67), Sartakov’s Barbin’s Novellas (1957–67), Granin’s I Am Going Into a Storm (1962), V. V. Lipatov’s The Tale of Director Pronchatov (1969), and O. M. Kuvaev’s Territory (1975), as well as in works by Sh. Rashidov, R. Fáizi, and A. Mukhtar.
As literature searches for new and more effective means of depicting the individual, the citizen, and the fighter, the acute problems related to modern production and the relationships of the working environment are becoming increasingly attractive as literary subject matter. Plays that have evoked a notable public response include A Man From the Side (1972) by I. M. Dvoretskii, The Steelworkers (1973) by G. K. Bokarev, The Meeting of the Party Committee (1975) by A. I. Gel’man, and Day of Arrival—Day of Departure (1976) by V. Chernykh.
The literature of the period of mature socialism has been a sounding board for the fundamental problems of life in society—problems that are part of the destiny of the Soviet people. What is known as the “production” theme has been developed in literature with great expressiveness. Writers have produced profound and moving works that explore in detail the exploits of the Soviet people during the Great Patriotic War. Literature has been greatly concerned with reinforcing the moral beliefs of Soviet man. A constant literary theme has been the struggle for peace and national liberation and the struggle for the working people’s international solidarity in pursuance of these goals.
The achievements of Soviet literature are highly valued by the party, which has noted the more intensive activity on the part of the creative intelligentsia as the latter makes an increasingly important contribution to the party’s and the people’s common task of building a communist society. The party is calling for further enhancement of the role of socialist culture and art in the Soviet people’s ideological, political, moral, and aesthetic upbringing and in the development of their nonmaterial interests.
The decree On Literary and Art Criticism (1972) of the Central Committee of the CPSU calls for higher ideological and artistic levels in Soviet art and literature; it urges consistent opposition to bourgeois ideology and a bolder exploration of social processes. The decree has been a determining factor in the development of literary theory and criticism—an area in which efforts are being made to influence the course of the literary process and mold readers’ tastes and convictions in a more active fashion and in line with party positions. Works of literary criticism are acquiring greater social authority; they have become more effective as weapons of Marxist-Leninist methodology and have attained a higher level of professionalism.
The party emphasizes the education and training of the next generation of creative talent as one of the major tasks for the fruitful growth of Soviet art and literature. The decree On Work With Creative Youth (1976) of the Central Committee of the CPSU outlined a far-reaching program for perfecting the entire system of professional education and training in political ideology for the younger generation of the literary and artistic intelligentsia.
The emergence of Soviet literature as a new stage in the non-material culture of mankind has always attracted the attention of the progressive literary and artistic intelligentsia abroad. H. Barbusse and R. Rolland, B. Brecht and J. Becher, T. Dreiser and M. Andersen Nexö, Premchand and Lu Hsün, R. Fox and Nazim Hikmet were only some of the prominent 20th-century literary figures whose public lives and creative work confirmed the universal historical significance of the revolutionary experience of Soviet writers—the experience of creating a united socialist multinational literature; their lives and their work illustrated the paths that Soviet literature was to follow as it exercised its decisive influence on the course of development of “the international culture of democracy and of the world working-class movement” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 24, p. 120).
As embodied in Soviet literature, the ideas of socialist internationalism have armed foreign writers with a new vision of the world, showing them the real possibility of a way out of the blind alleys of bourgeois society. The triumph of Lenin’s national policy is abundantly evident in the growing international prestige of Soviet literature.
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