2017 is the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. This panel marks that anniversary by exploring the reverberations of revolutionary Russia in the politics and culture of Japan in the first half of the twentieth century.
2017 is the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. This panel marks that anniversary by exploring the reverberations of revolutionary Russia--1905 and 1917--in the politics and culture of Japan in the first half of the twentieth century. We approach this centenary from a broad, transnational perspective, exploring the works of both Japanese who visited Russia and Russians who traveled to Japan. Beyond literary interaction, we also consider the reverberations of the Russian revolution in Japanese music, film, and other arts. Although Japan and Russia followed very different trajectories in the 20th century, their fates were intertwined from the time of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. While the Japanese government remained hostile to Russia for most of the century, Japanese radical intellectuals often turned to Russian anarchists and communists as thinkers who offered a path out of the impasses of Japan's modernization. With the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia became the world headquarters of revolution and a model for the radical transformation of society, offering inspiration to an entire generation of proletarian writers. As Michael Finke shows, Russian writers from the Soviet period shared a fascination with Japan, perhaps in part because the two nations shared a common outlier status in the Western imaginary. Marvin Marcus examines the writings of Futabatei Shimei (1864-1909), novelist and accomplished translator of Russian fiction. Focusing on his writings on Russian affairs for the Asahi shinbun, he places them in the broader context of the upsurge of political idealism and activism inspired by the first Russian revolution. Michael Finke studies travel writings by Boris Pilnyak (1894-1938), an early Soviet writers who was first invited to Japan by the Asahi shinbun in the 1920s and traveled there a second time in the wake of the Manchurian Incident. Hailed everywhere as a representative of the Russian revolution, Pilnyak discovered a potential for revolutionary change in his host country. Finally, Robert Tierney focuses on the reception of the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich in Japan, particularly during the early post-war period when his works had a catalyzing effect on social movements affiliated with the then powerful Japan Communist Party.