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Accepted Paper:

Horrors of the Soviet Nuclear Bomb and Post-Soviet Selective Nostalgias  
Azhar Dyussekenova (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)


In 1991, a writer named Roza Mukanova was attending a photo exhibition dedicated to the victims of the Semipalatinsk Testing Site, where the first Soviet Union’s nuclear bomb was detonated. A native of Eastern Kazakhstan herself, Mukanova was deeply affected by a photo of a fourteen-year-old girl, to whom she dedicated a novella titled Mäńgilik bala beyne (eng. “the eternal face of a child”). The text attracted the interest of a famous Kazakhstani film director Satybaldy Narymbetov, who then turned the novella into Qızjilağan (2002) (eng. “girl cried/about whom a girl cried”) - one of the first post-independence films about the effects of the Soviet bomb on the population of a nearby village, Degelen. In a Tarkovskian manner, the last scene of the movie poses Leila as Benoit’s Young Madonna. With a baby in her tiny hands, the girl prays for the salvation of her village. While preserving major elements of Mukanova’s plot, Narymbetov introduces additional characters and portrays Leila’s home as a microcosm of Soviet Internationalism. This paper presents a comparative analysis of the novella and the film; building on the notion of selective nostalgia, I argue that the two mediums achieve drastically different effects primarily through two distinct depictions of collective suffering.

Panel T80LIT
Literary Representations of Central Asian Ecocatastrophes: Orientalist Imagination, Collective Trauma, and Post-Soviet Nostalgias
  Session 1 Friday 7 June, 2024, -