A Culture of Discontinuity?

Russian Cultural Debates in Historical Perspective

by Olga Tabachnikova (Volume editor)
©2023 Edited Collection XVI, 436 Pages


«Shifting back and forth across centuries, and covering a vast terrain of genres and forms, an expert ensemble of scholars in this rich collection looks incisively at the intricate dynamics of Russian cultural change. Such breadth of scope and multifaceted approach are most illuminating and should help the readers to navigate the complex universe of Russian cultural history.»
(Inessa Medzhibovskaya, Professor of Literary and Liberal Studies, Eugene Lang College and The New School for Social Research)
Russian culture has often been referred to as a culture of discontinuity and abrupt rifts, and the country's past was frequently revised and rewritten, so much so that it is hardly possible to speak of Russian culture as a homogeneous, unified whole. Every turn of Russian history was accompanied by a great cultural upheaval and facilitated fierce cultural debates. The destiny of Russia in the context of its geopolitical position and its cultural role on both domestic and international fronts have been fundamental to these debates. At the same time, such discussions always went deeper, and invariably acquired an existential dimension, probing into the human condition, into the «cursed questions of existence».
This volume brings together diverse contributions from an international team of scholars, asking what has sustained Russian cultural development across the centuries and how Russian culture has evolved to this day. It treats the topic from a contemporary frame of reference, covering a broad range of Russian life, literature and arts, and sets the debates in historical perspective. In doing so, it links the particular with the general, exposing some unexpected connections and thus sheds some new light on Russian cultural trajectory.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • A Note to Reader
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Figures
  • Introduction: Continuity behind Rupture (Olga Tabachnikova)
  • PART I Russian History as Ideological Narrative: Continuities and Breaks
  • 1 Historical Background of Russian Literature (Olha Chervinska and Aleksandr Sych)
  • 2 Athena versus Gaia: Ideology and Being in Russian Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Prishvin, Andrei Tarkovsky) (Aleksandr A. Medvedev)
  • 3 Political Terrorism of the Early Twentieth Century in the Context of Russian Cultural Consciousness (Lidia I. Shishkina)
  • 4 Economic Thought as a Mirror of Cultural Debates: The Ideology of Westernism and Slavophilism in Modern Russia (Natalia Vinokurova and Olga Tabachnikova)
  • PART II Ways and Waves of Cultural Development in the Russian Literary Mirror
  • 5 Rift versus Attraction as the Receptive Motivators of Russian Culture (Olha Chervinska)
  • 6 Marina Tsvetaeva’s Poetry as an Embodiment of Russian Cultural Dialectic of Rupture and Continuity (Sarah Ossipow Cheang)
  • 7 Creative Personality as an Indicator and Formula for the Discontinuity/Continuity of Culture: Yevgeny Zamyatin (Larisa V. Polyakova)
  • 8 ‘Ah, they’ll be driven off to the steppes, my Harlequins…’: Pnin the Wanderer as an Incarnation of Russian Fin de Siècle Culture Abroad (Elena Tchougounova-Paulson)
  • 9 Cultural Transfer and Continuity: Gothic in the Russian ‘Estate Text’ (Elena V. Glukhova)
  • 10 Continuities and Discontinuities of Russian Culture through the Prism of Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (Vladimir Golstein)
  • PART III From Literature to Performing Arts: Shifts of Cultural Paradigm
  • 11 The Problem of Continuity in S. I. Taneev’s Views on the Future of Russian Music (Galima Lukina)
  • 12 Silver Age Aesthetics versus New Conceptions of Soviet Time in Music: Continuity or Discontinuity with the Past? (Elena Artamonova)
  • 13 The Old Roots of the New Era: From Leonid Andreev to Sergei Eisenstein, the Unknown Connection (Natalia Skorokhod)
  • 14 The Phoenix’s Rebirth from Its Ashes: Russian Dance in the Twentieth Century (Elena Yushkova)
  • 15 Russian Drama of the Twentieth Century as an Imported Commodity: The Transgression of Transfer (Lyudmil Dimitrov)
  • 16 Russian Classics in the Mirror of Vasily Sigarev’s Remakes (Margarita Odesskaya)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

A Note to Reader

This volume was written before 24 February 2022 and has not undergone any changes since. This is because a multifaceted evaluation of the questions of Russian cultural continuity presented herein should only increase in value in light of the tragic events that have unfolded since. We hope that the material presented in the book will help to elucidate many cultural underpinnings of the current geopolitical catastrophe.


I hereby gratefully acknowledge the support for this project by the University of Central Lancashire Research Centre for Migration, Diaspora and Exile (MIDEX). I am also very grateful to all the contributors, translators and copyeditors of this volume for their hard work, patience and perseverance.

Olga Tabachnikova

Introduction: Continuity behind Rupture

В России нужно долго жить,

А в ней всё больше умирают.

Отечество не выбирают,

Где вечно ворону кружить,

Где после смерти воскресают

И ткут связующую нить.

И оттого горит окно,

И свет от Бога до порога,

С того и дышится глубóко,

Что здесь в предание одно

Вплелись, кто умерли до срока,

И ниткой стелется дорога

Одна от Пушкина до Блока,

И крутится веретено.


In Russia, you need long life,

But people die instead.

You don’t choose a homeland

with a crow ever overhead,

where after death you rise again

and weave a binding thread.

That’s why a window is lit,

with a candle that always burns,

and it beams all the way to God.

Breathe deep, for the premature dead

are woven into one myth.

The same thread is the path

stretching from Pushkin to Blok,


XVI, 436
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (September)
Russian cultural trajectory Russian history Russian life literature and arts Russian cultural continuity
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2023. XVI, 436 pp., 22 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Olga Tabachnikova (Volume editor)

Olga Tabachnikova is Reader in Russian and the founding Director of the Vladimir Vysotsky Centre for Russian Studies at the University of Central Lancashire (Preston, England). She has published widely on Russian cultural and literary history, with a special focus on Russian cultural continuity and history of ideas. She is the author of Russian Irrationalism from Pushkin to Brodsky: Seven Essays in Literature and Thought (2015), the editor of Facets of Russian Irrationalism between Art and Life: Mystery inside Enigma (2016) and Anton Chekhov through the Eyes of Russian Thinkers: Vasilii Rozanov, Dmitrii Merezhkovskii and Lev Shestov (2010), and co-editor of several scholarly volumes. Olga is also a poetry translator and an award-winning poet, with two books of poetry published in Russian.


Title: A Culture of Discontinuity?