Russian Literature of the XX century

Russian literature of the XX century absorbed the grand experience of two world wars, three revolutions, the collapse of the empire, the Civil War, the construction of socialism with a «totalitarian face» and further attempts of its «improvement», which led finally to the break-up of the Soviet system at the end of the century. Together with an officially recognized Soviet literature the one in internal opposition existed, for the most part not having any access to the open press, and also the literature of three generations of Russian emigration. With the dissolution of the Soviet state, the literature called Soviet became a historically completed phase of the development of Russian XX century literature. It contributed to the world its own models of artistic values, created a gallery of the epoch types captured the reference of the artistic word to the events, which had shaken our country and the entire world during the century.

Compared to its great predecessor, the classical literature of the XIX century, Russian literature of the XX century grew larger in quantity, became even more multifarious and varied, capable to satisfy aesthetic tastes and predilections of different groups of readers. The fact that it lacked a universal artistic genius like A.S.Pushkin or novelists like F.M. Dostoevsky and L.N.Tolstoy could not be considered an evidence of its inferiority and lameness. The XX century of Russian history generated its own classics of literature, which embodied in the artistic word a much more complicated picture of the world, swiftly developing social processes with tragic breaks and turns in the fate of the entire mankind as well as those of an individual, which were characteristic for the period. M.Gorky and M.A.Sholohov, M.A.Bulgakov and A.P.Platonov, A.N.Tolstoy and I.A.Bunin, I.S.Shmelev and V.V.Nabokov, A.A.Blok and A.A.Akhmatova, M.I.Tsvetaeva and B.L.Pasternak, S.A.Yesenin and V.V.Mayakovsky, A.T.Tvardovsky and A.I.Solzhenitsyn - here is an incomplete list of prose writers and poets, with whom the XX century of literature in Russia is first of all associated. In this index of outstanding names there is no personality of a playwright congenial to them (except Bulgakov), correlating with them in the mightiness of individual gift, although Russian dramatic art in the cultural context of this century is immanently interesting and significant. We should also add to the index of the aforesaid names that of so-called second- and third-rate writers, the number of whom increased noticeably particularly in the XX century and whose absence would have made the literature, functioning as a mobile hierarchical system of artistic values, unthinkable.

We cannot also let aside the fact that Russian literature of the XX century in many respects failed to realize its opportunities, to discover talents in full-scale. It numbers a good amount of writers' fates ruined and restrained by the repressive regime. The conditions for developing a satire genre were especially unfavorable in the Soviet era. Despite Stalin's sly appeal that «we need our own Gogols and Schedrins», there was no way for satirists of similar caliber to rise in the XX century. This, however, does not at all depreciate creative accomplishments in this walk of life of V.V.Mayakovsky, M.M.Zoschenko, M.A. Bulgakov, I.Ilf and Y.Petrov. Literary critics marked long ago the unique, in-comparable combination of humor and dramatic qualities in the works by M.A.Sholokhov, of satiric and tragic in those by A.P.Platonov.

Positive values of the «Silver Age» culture forced out with the struggle for «proletarian literature» and afterwards - for the literature of socialistic realism, existed latently during the Soviet era, i.e., in the works by L.M.Leonov. In the last decade of the XX century when censorial obstacles disappeared and the principle of creative freedom was established, Russian literature for the first time in its history (a censorship in Tsarist Russia always existing) got an opportunity to refer to the real wealth of its own and world's experience in the variety of literary tendencies, currents, styles and traditions.

Archive funds of Pushkinsky Dom, representing the history of Russian XX century literature, embrace chronologically all important literature periods of the century – from «Silver Age» to our contemporary literature. The purposeful collecting of literary documents concerning post-October period had already been started in the first half of the 1920s. The first contribution to this collection included manuscripts, books, portraits and photos, which were displayed at an exhibition «Russkaya Khudozhestvennaya Literatura za Revolutsinonnye Gody (1918-1923)» («Russian Fiction of the Revolutionary Years (1918-1923)») organized in Pushkinsky Dom in autumn of 1923 by the Institute first directors N.A.Kotlyarevsky and B.L.Modzalevsky.

A considerable amount of manuscripts (by N.A.Klyuev, B.L.Pasternak, and N.S.Tikhonov) were received via a literature critic P.N.Medvedev. In 1930 M.L.Slonimsky presented the Institute with some autographs of «Serapionis Brothers» - V.V.Ivanov, M.M.Zoschenko, L.N.Lunts - together with his own manuscripts. In 1934 the personal fund of N.S.Tikhonov, who afterwards donated a substantial part of his late archive as well, was founded. A large collection of Leningrad writers' and poets' manuscripts arrived from the State Institute of History of Arts after its liquidation in 1936. Among them there were manuscripts of works by A.A.Akhmatova, V.A.Kaverin, O.E.Mandelstam, A.N.Tolstoy, and V.Y.Shyshkov. From the 1950s the collecting activity interrupted by the World War II and the evacuation of Pushkinsky Dom became consistent and permanent. Nowadays more than a hundred archives of writers of different literary currents and tastes are stored there, including those of M.A. Bulgakov, M.M.Zoschenko, S.A.Yesenin, B.A.Lavrenev, Y.N.Libedinsky, P.N.Luknitsky, O.D.Forsh, and A.P.Chapygin. A whole series of materials of A.A.Akhmatova, O.F.Bergholts, N.S.Gumilev, E.I.Zamyatin, B.L.Pasternak, and K.A.Fedin were included into the single in-comings collection of historical and literary documents of the XVIII - XX centuries.

In 1976 the Nobel Prize winner M.A.Sholokhov contributed separate pages of his «Tikhy Don» («And Quiet Flows the Don»), part 3 and 4 - rough manuscripts, salvaged after the destruction of the writer's archive in Veshenskaya village during the World War II. Saved by a miracle, these manuscripts formed the basis of Sholokhov's fund, later supplemented with other materials: a typewritten (with the author's correcting) first part of «Podnyataya Tselina» («Virgin Soil Upturned»), previously stored in the archive of magazine «Novy Mir», and also a draft manuscript of a chapter from the second part of the above-mentioned novel. In addition there are family photos in the fund, as well as the writer's replies for questionnaires, where the unfulfilled conception of the 1950s novel «Lyubov» was first mentioned, and his mail.

Besides personal funds received in whole complexes, there are funds consisting of single in-comings of different years. In S.A.Yesenin's fund created in 1982 the autographs of his 1914-1925 poems were inserted, including the death poem «Dosvidanya, drug moy, dosvidanya…» written with Yesenin's blood, along with letters, photos, articles about the poet and memoirs concerning him by A.A.Akhmatova, N.D.Volpin, etc. Among other things of great value there is a collection of the poet's handwritten verses and materials about him (posters, obituaries, notices of his death, memoirs), which was formed by a poet and a founder of Petrograd Militant Order of Imaginists E.B.Shmerelson and arrived at Pushkinsky Dom along with his archive. Yesenin's letters to L.N.Andreev, E.V.Ivanov-Razumnik, A.M.Remizov, and D.V.Filosofov are stored in the addressees' personal funds.

In 1977 A.P.Platonov's manuscripts of 1926-1945 - representing exclusive textual study interest - were purchased from his widow M.A.Platonova. They include draft copies of the late 1920s stories, flayed by RAPP (Russian Association of Proletarian Writers), i.e. that of a story «Usomnivshiysa Makar», which incurred Stalin's anger, and the absolutely complete text of the tale »Kotlovan» and the novel «Chevengur» not published during their author's life. Important additions to the fund were received in the 1980s from the writer's daughter M.A.Platonova.

The archive of a poet A.A. Prokofyev, which arrived in 1972 from his relatives, contains creative manuscripts of 1916-1970 and a large amount of letters to him (from A.A.Akhmatova, N.A. Klyuev, K.A.Fedin, M.A.Sholokhov, etc.). Creative, social and political, everyday atmosphere of Leningrad writers' surroundings was reflected in the mail of Prokofyev, a head of the Leningrad's Branch of the Soviet Writers' Union in 1945-1948 and 1955-1965.

Many funds include various collections, selections of topic material, characterizing not only literary, but also historic and social processes of the modern era. Materials on the history of the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905, established by A.S. Novikov-Priboy, remain in the writer's archive, which he transferred for storage in 1933 with creative manuscripts (the famous novel «Tsusima» among them) and his correspondence included. Major problems disturbing the society in the 1980s such as turning northern rivers to the South, the ecology of Lake Baikal and other were reflected in the archive of the writer S.P.Zalygin, founded in 1988 by his initiative.

The archives of such writers as F.A.Abramov, V.I.Belov, Y.V.Bondarev, D.A.Granin, Y.M.Nagibin and others give evidence of the 1970s literature processes. In the last decade of the XX century the Manuscript Division was replenished with more than twenty funds including those of A.I.Solzhenitsyn and A.A.Tarkovsky.

Collaborators of the Institute had warm relationship with V.P.Astafyev, who created his own fund there in 1979 and had been filling it up. The last manuscripts were received in October 2000 and August 2002 after the writer's death. The things of special value are numerous rough notebooks and variants of his pieces, such as «Tsar-Ryba», a tale «Posledny Poklon», a novel «Proklyaty i Ubity».

Documents on the history of periodical press and publishing industry are also of considerable interest. The archives of the majority of Leningrad's publishing houses and magazines, received predominantly in the 1930s, contain correspondence with the writers which reflected the history - sometimes a very complicated one - of the way that some works made to their reader. Manuscripts by M.M.Zoschenko, O.E.Mandelstam, V.V.Mayakovsky, K.I.Chukovsky and others have been also kept in these archives.

Pushkinsky Dom stores the archives - with its full complement of documents - of Leningrad writers' organizations and unions in the late 1910s - 1930s: the Union of Fiction Workers, the Leningrad Branch of the All-Russian Writers' Union, the Association of Proletarian Writers, the Federation of Soviet Writers' Alliances, etc. Almost all of them arrived in the early 1930s. The materials of these funds represent uneasy processes of the Russian intellectuals' surviving on the history break and the stages of forming of Soviet literature.

Russian emigrant literature of the XX century is featured in the funds of P.M.Bitsilli, E.A.Lyatsky, and A.M.Remizov. The poetess I.V.Odoevtseva, Gumilev's follower and a wife, to G.V.Ivanov - a poet-acmeist - returning home in 1987, transported her archive from France to the Institute for storage.

Long since Puskinsky Dom has been carefully collecting archives of scientists and historians of literature. The pre-revolutionary school of native literature studies as well as the literature science of the post-October era is widely represented in the archives of literary critics. The archives of Pushkinsky Dom researchers are also kept there, i.e., those of its founders academician N.A. Kotlyarevsky and a Correspoding Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences B.L.Modzalevsky, academicians M.L.Alekseev, D.S.Likhachev, P.N.Sakulin, researches of Gorky's legacy S.D.Baluhaty and K.D.Muratova, a specialist in folklore V.Y.Propp.

The most valuable historic and cultural documents, concentrated in Pushkinsky Dom nowadays, constitute a rich basis of scientific sources for studying different phases and events in the process of literature.

T.A.Kukushkina, V.P.Muromsky