Writing the past in exile. The interwar Russian émigré historical novel (1917-1939)

Start - End 
2018 - 2022 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research Period 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 
Émigré culture
Interwar period
Historical novel
Russian literature
Cultural history
Cultural identity
Cultural memory
Cultural trauma



The research project aims to scrutinize the interwar Russian émigré historical novel, i.e. the phenomenon itself, how it relates to émigré culture, and its relation to other (older and contemporary) realizations of the (Russian) historical novel. The main focus lies on how the EHN deals with history. What is key here is not the tension between facts and fiction (truthfulness), but the selection and subsequent representation and interpretation of the historical facts. Those, it can be argued, are largely determined by the specific frame of reference of the Russian emigration. Not only does the historical novel suddenly reemerge, it does so in a peculiar context. The Russian emigration and its cultural production originate in a landslide, a chain of disruptive events with far-reaching, even existential consequences: the traumas of the Revolution and the Civil War, the loss of the homeland (both the country and the state), being banished to an essentially alien world, and being expelled by an ideology that opposes or destroys what constituted pre-exilic society, culture and identity. All this suggests that the émigré historical novel may display a particular approach to history which, logically, may also determine its treatment of the historical novel.

What does this particular émigré literary take on history look like? Is it different from its Soviet contemporary or predecessor from the Russian Empire, and if so, how? And how does it manifest itself in the text? These questions are the very core of the proposed research project. In order to answer them, the project will focus on three thematic aspects – history, culture and state. These are essential to the interwar Russian emigration and, assumedly, its approach to the historical novel. Additionally, the project will also scrutinize how these themes are dealt with formally, i.e. – the narrative techniques of the émigré historical novel.



Phd Student(s)