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Stalin’s Ghosts

Gothic Themes in Early Soviet Literature


Muireann Maguire

Stalin’s Ghosts examines the impact of the Gothic-fantastic on Russian literature in the period 1920-1940. It shows how early Soviet-era authors, from well-known names including Fedor Gladkov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Andrei Platonov and Evgenii Zamiatin, to niche figures such as Sigizmund Krzhizhanovskii and Aleksandr Beliaev, exploited traditional archetypes of this genre: the haunted castle, the deformed body, vampires, villains, madness and unnatural death. Complementing recent studies of Soviet culture by Eric Naiman and Lilya Kaganovsky, this book argues that Gothic-fantastic tropes functioned variously as a response to the traumas produced by revolution and civil war, as a vehicle for propaganda, and as a subtle mode of unwriting the cultural monolith of Socialist Realism.


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This book began life as an MPhil thesis at the University of Cambridge, and later became a PhD dissertation there: gratitude for early support and guidance is therefore due to my quondam thesis supervisors Emma Widdis and Alexander Etkind, and my external examiner Mike Nicholson. Without funding for graduate study from the Cambridge European Trust, the Cambridge Le Bas Research Studentships, and the AHRC, the research for Stalin’s Ghosts would not have been possible. I warmly thank Peter Lang’s external reviewers for their insightful and encouraging comments, including Eric Naiman for his feedback on the revised version of this book. Sincere thanks are also owed to my other readers, including Julie Curtis, Colin Higgins, my colleague and editor Andrew Kahn, and not least the editorial staf f at Peter Lang. Much progress was enabled by the resources of many libraries, and the generous help given by their staf f. I wish to thank especially the following institutions: Cambridge University Library, the Quincentenary Library of Jesus College, Cambridge, the Russian State Library in Moscow, and the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI). Some sections from this book (including parts of Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5 and the Conclusion) have previously appeared in slightly altered form in New Zealand Slavonic Journal (43: 2009; pp. 23–54) and Gothic Studies (13:1, May 2011; pp. 75–94), in my articles entitled respectively ‘Post-Lamarckian Prodigies: Evolutionary Biology in Soviet Science Fiction’ and ‘A “dreadful predilection”: The Gothic-Fantastic in Soviet Socialist Realist Literature’....

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