Aare Pilv (Under and Tuglas Literature Centre): Estonian Red Exile Literature: Entangled Alienation

The time after World War I and the changes it brought was a period of fierce development of new avant-garde ideas in both politics and culture. For some time it seemed that a vast area full of new possibilities had been opened on the ruins of the old culture and society. One node of these searches was the circle of Estonian literary people who lived in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. They had their own literary life that had common features with both the avant-garde literature in Estonia and different streams in the young Soviet literature which was very heterogeneous in the beginning, before the dogma of Socialist Realism came to predominate. The fate of this circle was tragic because they could not participate in the literary life of Estonia, while in Russia they were bound within their language borders, and then a lot of them were subject to the repression in the 1930s, so that their influence on Estonian literature in Soviet times from the 1940s was also limited, though they were reintroduced into the literary canon in 1960s and 1970s, but by then it was already too late as they had become museum curiosities. So this was a laboratory which had several inputs, but proportionally small output in terms of cultural influences and exchanges, rendering it alien in many ways. At the same time the utopian and creative potency of this phenomenon cannot be denied.

The paper tries to outline the literature of Estonian Red exiles as a limited model of an internally entangled cultural phenomenon that externally was quite disentangled from possible counterparts and contexts.


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