Victims of Soviet Terror in the Prose of Sergey Lebedev and Nikolay Kononov: The Prism of Postmemory




21st-century Russian literature, victim, perpetrator, postmemory, terror, trauma, Nikolai Kononov, Sergei Lebedev


This article discusses the prose of the Russian writers Sergey Lebedev and Nikolay V. Kononov, who address state terror and violence. The aforementioned authors take into account the experience of the post-Holocaust European culture of remembrance, which is constituted by the figure of the victim and tends to interpret the tragic events of the Soviet past using the concepts and theoretical frameworks of memory and trauma studies. In this article, Lebedev’s and Kononov’s prose is seen as an integral part of the Russian liberal-oriented memory project, which is based on late-Soviet dissident culture, the perestroika “culture of repentance,” and Western cultural models of “working through the past.” In rediscovering the topic of Stalinist terror, Lebedev and Kononov reassert its ideological and moral significance and attempt to place it on the current public agenda. Both writers proceed from the need to redress injustices against the victims of state violence, whose suffering was long silenced in the USSR. They work with documents, personal testimonies, and family history to tell stories of victims missing from the historical record and thus undermine the dominance of the state-supported heroic narrative. Such an approach brings Lebedev and Kononov closer to the tradition of Soviet camp prose, but this was prose of testimony, created by survivors of camps: the modern novelists have no such experience and rely on their imagination, documents, and previous representations of Stalinist terror. They consider the historical experience of state terror and the figure of the victim from the perspective of postmemory (M. Hirsch), which prompts them to postulate the existence of so-called “inherited trauma” and explore its social and emotional consequences in the lives of different generations. Thus, they observe the “post-existence of the GULAG” and paradoxical interactions between victims and perpetrators through the prism of “inherited” trauma and memory.

Author Biography

Anna Razuvalova

PhD (Philology), Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

4, Makarov Embankment, 199034, St Petersburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-5446-587X


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How to Cite

Razuvalova, A. (2021). Victims of Soviet Terror in the Prose of Sergey Lebedev and Nikolay Kononov: The Prism of Postmemory. Quaestio Rossica, 9(4), 1332–1352.



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