Slavic C134N: Russia and Asia

TuTh 12:30-2, Dwinelle 109. Instructor: Edward Tyerman.

Units: 4 Satisfies L&S Arts & Literature or Historical Studies breadth requirement.

Cross-listed with East Asian C134.

Russia straddles the geographical border between Europe and Asia, and modern Russian culture has developed a complex sense of identity between “East” and “West.” While many approaches to Russia focus on its connections to the West, this class offers a cultural history of Russia’s relationship with Asia. We will explore cultural explorations of this relationship in literature, film and visual art, focusing on Russian encounters with three spaces: East Asia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Russia has approached Asia as an imperial colonizer; as an anti-imperialist revolutionary ally; and as a Eurasian relative. Accordingly, this course employs three interpretative lenses to investigate the Russian relationship to Asia: Orientalism, Eurasianism, and Internationalism.

From the Russian side, we will consider works by classic Russian writers (including Lev Tolstoy, Alexander Blok, and Andrei Platonov) as well as films (Vsevolod Pudovkin) and visual art (Vasilii Vereshchagin, Natalia Goncharova). The second half of the course will explore responses to Russian culture, Russian imperialism, and socialist internationalism from China (Lu Xun, Xiao Hong), Japan (Akira Kurosawa), Central Asia (Chingiz Aitmatov) and the Caucasus (German Sadulaev). At the conclusion of the course, we will use the work of contemporary writers (Viktor Pelevin, Vladimir Sorokin) to consider Russia’s post-Soviet search for its role in the world alongside the economic and political rise of China.