Accepted paper:

Literature ad Marginem? Imagining National Territory in Post-Soviet Kazakhstani Russophone Writing


Dmitriy Melnikov (KAZGUU University)

Paper abstract:

"Literature ad marginem"- this is how Pavel Bannikov, one of the informal leaders of the younger generation of contemporary Kazakhstani writers, refers to Russophone Literature in Kazakhstan. This definition plays with hierarchical ideas about the center and periphery, the superior and inferior. By invoking the sense of being on the edge that refers to stereotypical and imperial geographical imagination this qualification rejects a subordinate view of Central Asian literature as a cultural province of Russian literature. Growing interest in Russophone Kazakhstani literature exhibited by some well-known Russian journals and literary awards speaks to an important change: Kazakhstani writers are no longer on a literary periphery; they are now in a new developing center of Russophone literature. The reconsideration of the notion of the center and periphery impacts the writers' self-consciousness and identification. I realized this during my interviews with some of the Kazakhstani authors who said that they feel quite independent of what is going on in Moscow both politically and aesthetically. A new vision of Kazakhstani national territory one can find in a recent book by one of these authors, a Russian Prize winner Iurii Serebrianskii. His Kazakhstani Fairy Tales demonstrate the author's fascination with the country's landscapes as his native environment and show that he does not perceive himself as a representative of diaspora. In my paper, I emphasize the difference between the younger and older generations of the contemporary Russophone Kazakhstani writers and argue that the post-traumatic sense of loss and absence is more typical of the latter that has more negative sort of identification focused on trauma, while the former is characterized by more positive identification concentrated on the new national post-independent realities of Kazakhstan. The younger writers create their own spatial metaphors and geographies to expresses their Kazakhstani or global identities, and by that they contribute to decentralization of the Russophone world.

panel LIT-05
Soviet and Post-Soviet Literature