Professor Pavel Khazanov

“The Old Country.” “A terrible country.” “They’re Russian. Well, not really Russian, they’re from the former Soviet Union.” Casual conversations among your peers at Rutgers often bring up lines likes this, because for over a hundred years, wave after wave of Russian Imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet émigrés have ended up in North America, Europe and Israel. Throughout the twentieth century, these communities have counted in the millions. They have cardinally shaped culture, as in the case of New York, Hollywood, Paris, Berlin and elsewhere. They have transformed national political discourse, through the impact of prominent figures like Trotsky, Ayn Rand, Vladimir Nabokov, and Isaiah Berlin. And in the case of the post-Soviet aliyah to Israel in the 1990s they have changed electoral politics. What are the lifeworlds of the Russian-speaking émigrés? What certainties do they seem to agree on when they speak about their origins? To what degree do they speak on behalf of “Russia,” even as so many of them originate from its many imperial peripheries? What truths do the Russophone émigrés think they know about “Western” culture and politics, and what do we ourselves presume to know about such things?  To get at these questions, we will read texts, study artworks and watch films by several generations of Russophone émigrés to France, Germany, Italy, Israel, the United States and Canada. We will carefully learn about the very different national cultures in which such artifacts have been produced and have fallen on ready ears. We will examine works originally written in Russian, as in the case of Nina Berberova, Sergei Dovlatov and Eduard Limonov, as well as texts and films in English, German, French, Italian and Hebrew, by émigrés like Vladimir Nabokov, Alina Bronsky, Andrei Tarkovsky, and most recently Kirill Serebrennikov, among many others. All readings and class discussions in English. This course fulfills the WCd requirement.