On 19 December at 14:15 Ekaterina Iaschuk will defend her doctoral thesis “Проблема “Россия и Европа” в русских литературных путешествиях (Фонвизин – Карамзин – Достоевский)” (“The Issue of Russia and Europe in Russian Literary Travelogues (Fonvizin, Karamzin, Dostoevsky)”).
Emeritus Professor Ljubov Kisseljova, University of Tartu
Professor Wasilij Szczukin, Jagiellonian University (Poland)
Associate Professor Pavel Lavrinec, University of Vilnius (Lithuania)
The main aim of the study was to show how Mikhail Zagoskin’s (1789–1852) prose, primarily his novels, were related to the ideology of Russian nationalism. Such research concerning the writer’s activity was undertaken for the first time. Zagoskin’s creation developed against the background of intensive ideological construction in Russia – addition of the national ideology, declaration of the official doctrine of the nation, which was expressed in Sergey Uvarov’s triad in 1833 “Orthodoxy – autocracy – national ethos”, to the theory of Slavophiles in the 1840s. Entering literature in the period of opposition between the “archaists” (Shishkov’s followers) and the “innovators” (Karamzin’s followers), Zagoskin, as shown in the thesis, remained true to the ideas of archaism during his whole literary career. The task of the study was analysis and detailed explanation of Zagoskin’s creative system, which was reflected primarily in his historical novels.
In the thesis, the hypothesis is posed that the exceptional popularity of Zagoskin’s works cannot be explained only by his application of fashionable genres or the artistic qualities of his prose but also by the writer’s distinctive nationalism, which is difficult to fit into the complicated philosophical constructions of his contemporaries. Zagoskin was a “second-rate” writer; philosophy was alien to him, but namely his system proved to be very attractive for the historical imagination of the average reader.
Particular attention is paid in the thesis to the description of the writer’s creative strategies which, relying on historical and contemporary examples, attempted to show what the Russian people is. Considering the popularity of his books, Zagoskin can be said, using Benedict Andersen’s term, to be one of the “inventors” of the Russian nation for the average layer of the Russian people. In his vision, the national and the imperial are not contrasted but supplement each other. Despite their seeming simplicity and limitations, the narrative schemes and historical myths created by the writer turned out to be fascinating not only for his contemporaries who impatiently waited for the new books of the “Russian Walter Scott” but also for the broad readership of our times whose vision of the historical past and the present greatly depend on romantic nationalism and imperial ideology even now.