Bolshevism and Religion in Italian Travelogues about Soviet Russia from the 1920s and 1930s
This article analyses religious themes and motifs in travelogues by Italian authors who visited the USSR between the 1920s and 1930s. Their writings deal with religion from two different points of view: first, the authors use religious images and allusions to the Bible and other Christian texts as a common cultural code, which helps them comprehend various phenomena of Soviet reality; second, they explore different ways in which religion is present in Soviet society, which was (as the Italian authors saw it) simultaneously strictly atheistic and permeated with religious spirit. The analysis of these two aspects allows the author to point out some important features of the Italian reception of the Soviet Union and to study the influence of fascist propaganda and the European “Russian myth” on the image of the USSR in Italy. This can help us understand the mechanisms underlying the formation of the image of the “other” in intercultural contacts between Russia and the West. The research is based on studying the travelogues by the Italian writers Curzio Malaparte, Vincenzo Cardarelli, and Corrado Alvaro, who visited the Soviet Union between the 1920s and 1930s when political, economic, and cultural contacts between the USSR and other countries were expanding rapidly after the Civil War. Among other testimonies of the Italian “guests” in the Soviet Union, travelogues created by prose writers and poets are of particular interest as an example of how reality is transformed by literary imagination. These sources are mostly unknown in Russia and have not attracted the attention of researchers. However, they have been studied abroad from the 1980s in several articles and monographs dealing with the image of the USSR in Western culture; recent years have witnessed the publication of several works especially dedicated to Italian writers travelling to the Soviet Union. However, non-Russian researchers mostly regard these texts as historical sources without considering their literary structure: a “philological” approach is crucial for an adequate understanding of such a complex of both fictional and documentary sources. In the long run, the results of this research may contribute to the development of new efficient strategies for intercultural communication in the modern world.
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