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Title: The Soviet-Afghan War in Russian literature
Author: Swartz, Howard M.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1992
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This thesis is an historical and literary investigation of the treatment of the 1979- 89 Soviet-Afghan War in contemporary Russian literature. The texts chosen for study include official and unofficial literature, written within the former USSR as well as abroad, and cover publicistic writing, poetry, and prose fiction. These works are described and analyzed with a two-fold purpose: to explore creative trends found in the literature of this subject, and to evaluate the extent to which the genre of Afghan War literature in Russian has changed over the past decade. In order to provide a context for this literature, the introduction describes the method of socialist realism as it applies to military themes, and the legacy of World War Two novels in Russian. The first chapter provides a brief history of Russian-Afghan relations, and an account of the ten-year intervention. The second chapter documents the dissolution of official censorship during the 1980s, revealing dissent over the Soviet military role in Afghanistan. Chapter Three discusses the evolution of the genre of publicistic writing, and documents its unprecedented frankness through revelations made in Soviet journalistic investigations. Chapter Four provides an overview of song and poetry about the conflict, beginning with magnitizdat produced by amateur songwriters, and later including works by professional poets. Chapter Five discusses novels and short stories about the war. A range of fictional works is traced, from propagandistic portrayals, both pro-and anti-Soviet, to non-ideological, personal interpretations which incorporate lyricism, satire, and fantasy. Chapter Six focuses on the works of Aleksandr Prokhanov, a writer who initially used his fiction to support the war effort, and whose oeuvre charts the disintegration of Party consensus on interpretation and depiction of the events in Afghanistan. The final three chapters treat the works of Oleg Ermakov, whose lyricism and stylistic experimentation mark a new direction for recent Russian war fiction. The analysis shows Afghan War literature to signal a radical break with recent official Soviet military writing as shaped by socialist realism. This break is evident in the frankness and subjectivity of publicistic writing, and the anti-war sentiment found in a significant minority of published songs and poems. In particular, Oleg Ermakov's prose continues the past legacy of unofficial, dissident war fiction.
Supervisor: Smith, Gerald S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Russian literature ; Russia ; contemporary literature ; USSR ; Soviet-Afghan War ; Literature