Lost (m)otherland. The October Revolution and the civil war in interwar Russian émigré literature

Start - End 
2014 - 2017 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 
Civil war
Literary criticism
Skit Poetov
Interwar period
Russian Revolution
Civic poetry
Cultural identity
Émigré culture



The project aims to study the literary works, published in the Russian emigration between 1917 and 1940, in which the October Revolution and the Civil War take up a central place. The project chiefly focuses on literary texts (both prose and poetry), more specifically – the representation of historic events in literary texts. It will examine how the traumatic events of 1917 and its aftermath are narrated and mythologized, on the one hand, and what place the “genre” takes up in the literary production of the Russian emigration, on the other.

The Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War (1917-1922) forced many Russians to flee Russia. Like in other diasporas, the exilic condition sharpened the Russian émigrés’ attention for issues of identity and memory. One of the main things to remember, one would assume, were the events that forced the émigrés to leave their homeland – the Revolution and the Civil War. However, these events never became major literary topics, despite the émigré community’s obvious interest in the events – hence the many non-literary texts on the topic.

This project aims to study those scarce prose and poetic texts telling (parts of) the traumatic events of 1917-1922 which were published in Europe during the interwar period. The project will examine how these literary texts present the key events, figures and places of the Revolution and the Civil War, on the one hand, and the homeland, Russian culture and Russian identity, on the other. Additionally, the project will scrutinize what makes this specific type of war literature, “literature of loss”, different from or similar to other war literatures (e.g., of WWI) and why this genre was so unpopular among émigré writers and critics. The study will build on studies dealing with émigré culture and literature, on the one hand, and with (mythologizing) representations of historical events, figures and places in literary texts, on the other. Additionally, it will draw on studies on diaspora, trauma and collective memory.