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.


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