Burying the Undead: Coming to Terms with the Soviet Past in Novels by Ol’ga Slavnikova and Sergei Lebedev


  • Alena Heinritz Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz


I ask how novels by Ol’ga Slavnikova and Sergei Lebedev reflect the possibility of reconciliation
between the post-Soviet present and the Soviet past in Russia and the contemporary politics of history.
Both novels will be read in the context of “magical historicism” (Etkind), a genre that uncovers
the legacy of traumatic past events in the present time using elements of the grotesque. After
discussing the concepts of spectrality (Marx, Derrida) and hauntings by the “unburied” (Etkind),
I argue that specters and other similar figures reflect mediality. In the two case studies, I present
haunting as a reflection of the problems that arise in the attempt to delineate communism and the
Soviet past in discourse. Discursive delineation, I argue, is a precondition for coming to terms with
the Soviet past.

Keywords: Lebedev; Slavnikova; Russian literature; communism; reconciliation; spectrality;

DOI: 10.14712/23363231.2018.4