Soviet Civilization: A Cultural History by Andrei Sinyavsky

Just arrived. My first-ever attempt to order from That was easy. After I go through it myself to see how same things are said in English I’ll probably leave it in my Moscow apartment on the same shelf as Stewart Miller’s Painted in Blood: Understanding Europeans, Rancour-Laferriere’s tedious Slave Soul of Russia, humorous Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry by Cilauro &Co, Leaving Katya by Paul Greenberg who actually stayed here years ago, Brodsky’s Less than One and a few other books that attempt to get to the core of things and expose the algorithm that makes Russia what it is. There is a kind of mind that is comfortable with numerous manifestations. It’s owner would prefer how-to instructions to an explanation how things work. No, this selection is for someone who opts for general principles. Someone who is sort of lazy and tries to reduce the infinite number of facts to an idea or a formula. The above selection if for that type of person.


Andrei Sinyavsky. Soviet Civilization: A Cultural History.

sinyavskyRecommended background reading

Beliefs and values at the core of the Russian culture and especially its Soviet version exposed and analyzed. The nature of perestroika, the paradox of freedom ordered from above, and why “a pyramid can’t be upgraded into a Parthenon”. Widely available in English. The book is based on a series of lectures, and reads very easily in Russian. The English translation I’ve looked at is a bit heavy, which is the cost of staying close to the original text. That forces the translator to turn to words rare and obscure to find close equivaletns. Recommended to anyone who needs to understand how things work here on the level of underlining principles and mechanisms.

You may want to take a look at Sinyavsky’s obituary in The Independent for a summary of his life and his works.