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Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry

 | 
Katharine Hodgson
, 
Joanne Shelton
, 
Alexandra Smith

4. Vladimir Maiakovskii and the National School Curriculum

Natalia Karakulina

Texte intégral

  • 1 Vladimir Maiakovskii, ‘Deshevaia rasprodazha’, in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 13 vols. (Moscow: Go (...)

Склонится толпа,
лебезяща,
суетна. Даже не узнаете —
я не я:
облысевшую голову разрисует она
в рога или в сияния.1
The crowd will bow, fawning, fussing. You won’t ever know if it’s me or not: as it will paint over my balding head maybe with horns or maybe with a halo.

1Russians study the works of the Soviet poet Vladimir Maiakovskii throughout their time at school. In this chapter I examine the national school curriculum, focsing on the material covered in the final grade of school education. While this might seem limiting, as students are first introduced to Maiakovskii at a much earlier age, this approach enables me to draw conclusions about the image of the poet that students take with them when they leave secondary education. In order to analyse what this image is, and how it changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I shall discuss the approach to teaching literature in both Soviet and post-Soviet schools. After establishing the framework in which Maiakovskii was and is studied, I will draw conclusions about which of the poet’s works receive most attention in the classroom, what aspects of his life are particularly highlighted, and, ultimately, what role the study of Maiakovskii plays for students who are in their final year of education.

2The chapter is divided into four sections. The first establishes the approach to the study of literature in Soviet schools from the 1960s to the 1980s. As I will show, literature as a subject became increasingly dogmatic, consisting mainly of learning information by heart and repeating interpretations suggested by textbooks. A major aim of literary education was to instil moral and ideological principles in the students, and topics were presented with little room for individual interpretation. Both the dogmatic nature of teaching and the focus on cultivating timeless values resulted in students and teachers who were uncomfortable with independent analysis, favouring instead the repetition of information given in the textbook, which, in turn, reinforced the dogmatism of literary studies.

  • 2 Iosif Stalin, ‘Rezoliutsiia I. V. Stalina na pis′me L. Iu. Brik’, in Svetlana Strizhneva, ‘V tom, (...)

3The second section of the chapter is dedicated to an analysis of how Maiakovskii was represented in the Soviet classroom. Stalin’s resolution in 1935 proclaimed that Maiakovskii was ‘the best, most talented poet’ of the Soviet era,2 and since one of the focuses of literary studies was to provide positive moral and ideological examples to emulate, Maiakovskii’s image had to be flawless. Any details which might be perceived as contradictory to the established code of morality were represented as obstacles that the poet was able to successfully overcome as he developed greater maturity. Similarly, any inconvenient biographical facts (including the poet’s complex personal life and his eventual suicide) were glossed over to present a narrative of his linear progression towards becoming the most talented Soviet poet, and therefore end the representation of Maiakovskii on a high note. It is difficult to tell whether the majority of students believed in this interpretation, as most of their written output reproduced material that they had memorised.

4In the third section I examine the changes that took place in literary education in schools after 1991. One of the main differences was that, whereas in the Soviet Union there was a single textbook used by all teachers and students, after 1991 numerous textbooks were published, often presenting different views and covering different material. Furthermore, during perestroika many new names appeared in the school curriculum — a process which continued throughout the 1990s. Such an increase in material led to a dramatic decrease in the number of study hours dedicated to any one author. However, the one aspect of school education that remained largely unchanged from the Soviet era was the importance of cultivating moral and ideological values in students, and this aspect continues to shape the nature of post-Soviet literary education.

5Finally, the last section of this chapter analyses how Maiakovskii is represented in post-Soviet secondary education, and what are the differences and similarities between the Soviet and post-Soviet representations of the poet. This proved to be a far from straightforward task, as a multitude of available textbooks resulted in many different, and, in some cases, contrasting representations. However, the majority of textbooks offer a similar interpretation of Maiakovskii’s biography, but one that is in stark contrast to the Soviet image of the poet: the idea that the poet was overall a tragic and lonely figure. Post-Soviet representations of Maiakovskii evolved throughout the 1990s: while accounts presented in the early years of the decade resemble in many aspects the Soviet-era canonical image of the poet, by the late 1990s the similarities almost disappear. The single common aspect shared by Soviet and post-Soviet textbooks is the authors’ reluctance to go into the details of Maiakovskii’s private life. It would appear that in an area of school education which aims to cultivate positive traits in students, some aspects of Maiakovskii’s personality still remain too controversial to be discussed.

Literature in Soviet Russian Schools

6For the Soviet government, literature was a tool for propagating certain behaviours and values. When it came to the study of literature at school, the aim was not only to introduce students to authors and literary works, but also, and perhaps more significantly, to provide an example of morals and good behaviour that students were invited to emulate. Literature, therefore, became a primary tool to educate students in how to live their lives. There was little place for ambiguity — textbooks contained all the examples to be studied and emulated, and the students had to demonstrate that they had absorbed them. In this section I will mainly focus on the period between the 1960s and 1980s, as during this time Maiakovskii’s official canonical image was already well established.

  • 3 Valentin Kovalev, Russkaia sovetskaia literatura, 11th ed. (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1989), p. 2.

7On the first page of the 1989 edition of Russkaia sovetskaia literatura (Soviet Russian Literature), a textbook for final grade students, we see the slogan: ‘Beregite knigu!’ (‘Take care of the book!’).3 A book (particularly a textbook) had a very high status in the Soviet system of values:

  • 4 Ibid., p. 2.

Books help us to determine our future careers, teach us to think and to act, to develop our best moral qualities. The whole history of mankind, its ideals and aspirations are reflected and captured in books. Through literature we understand the past and the present, the life of our people and people from all around the world. A. Tvardovskii called literature a ‘kind guide’ in answering the main question for young people: who to become in future? Love your book! Let it be your constant companion. Treat the book with respect, as a source of knowledge and a textbook for life, take care of it.4

  • 5 Noah Norman Shneidman, Literature and Ideology in Soviet Education (Toronto: University of Toronto (...)
  • 6 Ivan Ogorodnikov, Pedagogika (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1964), p. 52.

8Throughout the history of the Soviet Union literature was often referred to as chelovekovedenie (the study of men).5 This term has a two-fold meaning: first of all, literature as a school subject was designed to aid pupils in understanding the social realities of the day, and thus to contribute to students’ ideological education so that they could become worthy, active members of society. Of equal importance to the ideological education of the students was their moral development. Ivan Ogorodnikov, in his textbook Pedagogika (Pedagogy), lists those values and principles which are key for any builder of a communist society. Among the expected devotion to the cause of communism, collectivism and a high consciousness of one’s social duties, are such universal moral values as respect for others, honesty, truthfulness, moral purity, modesty in public and in private life, mutual respect in the family, and concern for the education of children.6 While the list of positive traits and qualities might seem extensive, the method of introducing students to these qualities was strictly defined and left no room for ambiguity: the texts included in the school curriculum depicted desirable values and personality traits; the teacher’s task was to enable students to recognise those traits and values as positive. In turn, the students had to aspire to become as worthy as the protagonists they learned about in their literature classes.

9Graduation from secondary school was the end of literary education for all those who did not specialise in the field. Therefore the objective of the education system was not only to familiarise pupils with selected authors and their literary heritage, but also to give them the necessary tools for understanding and interpreting any works of literature they might encounter in future. In Noah Shneidman’s words,

  • 7 Shneidman, Literature and Ideology in Soviet Education, p. 16.

the pupil must be taught to approach and analyse a work of art from the Leninist point of view. He must learn to appreciate and to like what is necessary to like, and to criticise what the official party line requires him to criticise. It is a difficult task and for many years literature has been taught as a dogma: a subject in which all the answers are given and the pupil has just to remember them.7

  • 8 Skhema programmy po literature dlia srednei shkoly. Proekt. Dlia obsuzhdeniia na biuro otdeleniia (...)
  • 9 Ministerstvo prosveshcheniia RSFSR, Programmy vos′miletnei i srednei shkoly na 1969/70 uchebnyi go (...)
  • 10 See note 2 in this chapter.

10The texts included in the final grade programme were carefully selected with the main focus on the ‘strong ideological level of the texts, their educational meaning for students’.8 This resulted in a fairly limited number of texts and authors studied over a reasonably large number of teaching hours. The bulk of the final-year programme consisted of the study of the lives and legacies of Maiakovskii and Maksim Gor′kii. In 1970, Maiakovskii was studied over fifteen school hours and Gor′kii over sixteen hours. The third most important Soviet author was Mikhail Sholokhov with his text Podniataia tselina (Virgin Soil Upturned), to which twelve hours of study time were dedicated. The rest of the authors, including Aleksandr Blok, Sergei Esenin, Aleksandr Fadeev, Konstantin Trenev, Nikolai Ostrovskii, Aleksei Tolstoi and Aleksandr Tvardovskii, were studied for three to five hours each, with the exception of Tolstoi, who was studied for eight hours, largely due to the fact that his work was represented with the rather weighty novel, Petr I (Peter the First). Many of the later Soviet poets, such as Aleksei Surkov, Konstantin Simonov and Pavlo Tychina, were all studied together under the banner of patriotic works from the period of the Great Patriotic War.9 Thus students had more than a month to familiarise themselves with the works of Maiakovskii and the way he was represented in textbooks to accord with the image of ‘the best, most talented poet’10—a positive character for students to emulate.

Maiakovskii in Soviet Russian Schools

11An analysis of Maiakovskii’s representation in school textbooks will reveals a number of key aspects on which the poet’s image is built: the general description of the poet and his legacy; the description of the poet’s upbringing; Maiakovskii’s relationship with futurism and the avant-garde; the authors with whom Maiakovskii is associated and by whom his work was allegedly influenced; love and work; and finally, his suicide. After analysing the image of the poet which was built on these key points, I will consider how this information was meant to be used by students to fulfil given tasks, and how the students responded to these guidelines.

  • 11 Valentin Kovalev, Russkaia sovetskaia literatura, 11th ed. (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1989).

12I will begin by outlining the canonical Soviet image of Maiakovskii, as presented to Soviet children. I am mainly using one source — the literature textbook Russkaia sovetskaia literatura (Soviet Russian Literature) by Valentin Kovalev11 as during the Soviet period there existed only one official textbook on Soviet literature, which was used in all schools. Although I refer here to the eleventh edition published in 1989, this book is in keeping with the image of the poet presented to several generations of Russian children.

  • 12 Kovalev, Russkaia sovetskaia literatura, pp. 121–22.
  • 13 Ibid., p. 123.

13The first thing students learned about Maiakovskii (besides the fact that he was the most talented Soviet poet) was his biography, starting with his childhood. Students were presented with an idyllic picture of the poet’s early life, with accounts of the young Maiakovskii’s early revolutionary activities, fully supported by his loving parents, set against a backdrop of breath-taking Georgian scenery.12 Unlike the poet’s childhood, his early adulthood and the dawn of his career as a poet is under-represented. This is because futurism and left-wing art movements were viewed in a highly negative light after the initial postrevolutionary period, and therefore Maiakovskii’s association with them were topics with which teachers and textbook authors preferred not to touch upon. Thus David Burliuk and Velimir Khlebnikov, both of whom were crucial to Maiakovskii’s development as a poet, are not mentioned anywhere in the textbook. The authors do suggest, however, that the young poet was somehow tricked into following the futurist movement: ‘The youth [Maiakovskii], whose world view was not yet fully formed, found himself surrounded by artistic bohemia and its typically unstable social ideas and moral principles’.13 Maiakovskii is therefore forgiven for his involvement in futurism, as he was too young to know any better, and other members of the group used his tender age to entice the talented poet under their banner. According to the textbook authors, the works Maiakovskii produced at that time are inferior to his post-1917 works, but nevertheless show great potential:

  • 14 Ibid., p. 124.

In his earlier works we can find various kinds of experimentations in rhyme, the structure of the poem and poetic language, deliberately harsh ‘lowered’ [‘snizhennye’] images […]. At the same time we can see more distinctively the poet’s own voice, a growing interest in social topics, a critical attitude towards the bourgeois world.14

  • 15 Ibid., p. 125.
  • 16 Ibid., p. 126. Gor′kii wrote his short story ‘Chelovek’ in 1903, Maiakovskii completed his long po (...)
  • 17 Ibid., p. 126.

14Even though Maiakovskii’s actual artistic mentors were not included in the textbook, it was important to establish the poet within the accepted literary system, to show his positive relationships with other artists who were accepted and canonised during the Soviet period. ‘During the war the futurist group came apart. A closer relationship with Gor′kii, meetings with […] Blok, A[leksandr] Kuprin, V[alerii] Briusov, the artist I[l′ia] Repin, the literary critic K[onstantin] Chukovskii enhanced Maiakovskii’ s social and literary interests’.15 Particularly important is the influence of Gor′kii, who was considered the leading author of the Soviet prose canon, and became the first President of the Union of Soviet Writers. Parallels are drawn between the two authors’ works, particularly between Gor′kii’s short story ‘Chelovek’ (‘Human’), and the later long poem of the same title by Maiakovskii.16 Maiakovskii is also compared with Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, Nikolai Nekrasov and Aleksandr Blok.17

  • 18 David Burliuk, Aleksandr Kruchenykh, Vladimir Maiakovskii, Viktor Khlebnikov, ‘Poshchechina obshch (...)

15Of particular importance for Soviet literary education was the idea of post-revolutionary literature as a legitimate and worthy successor to early Russian literary tradition. Authors were therefore keen not only to draw parallels between Maiakovskii and his contemporaries, but also with canonical figures of the nineteenth century. However, it is far from easy to draw parallels between the poet who turned away from literary traditions proclaiming: ‘Throw Pushkin, Dostoevskii, Tolstoi, etc., etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity’ and the predecessors he so vehemently rejected.18 According to Soviet textbooks, one of the highlights of Maiakovskii’s art is his long poem ‘Vladimir Il′ich Lenin’, written in 1927. By that time, futurism and its manifestos were a thing of the past. The authors claim that in this long poem:

  • 19 Kovalev, p. 147.

[Maiakovskii] continues the traditions of classical literature, especially the long poems of Pushkin and Nekrasov in which major problems of history and of the life of the common people found an artistic incarnation. Maiakovskii created a deeply innovative text, which became a milestone in his artistic development and in the development of all Soviet poetry.19

  • 20 Ibid., p. 131.
  • 21 Ibid.

16Another problematic aspect of Maiakovskii’s biography was the poet’s relationship with his lovers, particularly his controversial relationship with Lili and Osip Brik (for many years the three of them lived together in a ménage à trois). Similarly to the awkward question of his relationship to Russian literary tradition, this part of the poet’s biography is also glossed over by the authors: ‘he had complicated relationships, each case different in its own way, with some of his friends (N. Aseev, B. Pasternak, the Briks and others)’.20 However, and this is a key feature of the Soviet image of the poet, which students were invited to emulate: ‘Maiakovskii courageously fought against difficulties, overcoming temporary misconceptions, and openly discussing them’.21 In this way, even the poet’s shortcomings helped to build his image and students were invited to treat Maiakovskii’s life as an example — to be courageous and stoic and to be prepared to discuss and acknowledge any mistakes they might make.

  • 22 Ibid.

17So far, the textbook’s depiction of Maiakovskii’s life and progress as an artist is fairly linear: the talented young man is supported by his loving family despite the difficulties they faced; as he grows up he is faced with challenges of his own and makes some mistakes, however, he outgrows those mistakes and becomes both a better poet and a better man: ‘the revolutionary poet’s many-sided talent developed and strengthened. In his works, the principles of partisanship and national spirit became firmly established’.22 Eventually, the poet writes masterpieces of Soviet literature, including the long poems ‘Vladimir Il′ich Lenin’ and ‘Khorosho!’ (‘Good!’), which change not only his own art, but the whole of Soviet literature. And then comes Maiakovskii’s sudden death. However, suicide does not work as a culmination of the poet’s development. The description of the poet has to end on a positive note if his life is to be treated as a positive example to follow. Yet again, Soviet textbook authors deal with this problem by glossing over this part of Maiakovskii’s biography:

  • 23 Ibid., p. 160. The citation within the quote refers to the poet’s suicide note, where he mentions h (...)

At the Top of My Voice is the last work by Maiakovskii. On 14 April 1930, he departed from this life. Artistic projects were left unfinished, tours and meetings with readers were never realised, the poet ‘did not finish arguing’ with his opponents, who tried to alienate him from the working class. However, Maiakovskii’s poems, infused with ideas of communism, remained.23

18In this way, the authors accomplish the near-impossible task of ending the retelling of Maiakovskii’s biography on a high note.

  • 24 Ibid., p. 138.

19There is one aspect that is entirely missing from this biographical account of the poet’s life: Maiakovskii’s personal relationships with women. Despite this, several of Maiakovskii’s love poems were studied: ‘Pis′mo Tat′iane Iakovlevoi’ (‘Letter to Tat′iana Iakovleva’), ‘Pis′mo tovarishchu Kostrovu iz Parizha o sushchnosti liubvi’ (‘Letter from Paris to Comrade Kostrov on the Nature of Love’), ‘Lilichka! Vmesto pis′ma’ (‘Lilichka! Instead of a Letter’) and the long poem ‘Pro eto’ (‘About This’). Students were directed to approach these works with no particular woman in mind, instead, the focus was on the social nature of love lyrics: ‘Maiakovskii […] dreams of a time when personal feelings would become part of the universal harmony, the happiness of one man would become the happiness of mankind’.24 Thus, even Maiakovskii’s personal feelings turn out to be part of his national spirit and desire for partisanship. Indeed, Soviet textbook writers did not need to go far in their search for facts to support this approach to the poet’s love lyrics: Maiakovskii himself provided them a great source to work with in his poem ‘Pis′mo Tat′iane Iakovlevoi’:

  • 25 Vladimir Maiakovskii, ‘Pis′mo Tat′iane Iakovlevoi’, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, IX, p. 386.

В поцелуе рук ли,
губ ли,
в дрожи тела
близких мне
красный
тоже
цвет
моих республик
должен
пламенеть.25

In the kiss to the hands, or the lips, in the quiver of the body of those close to me, the red colour of my republics also has to blaze.

20Maiakovskii’s own desire to shape his public image provided countless possibilities for adaptations and retellings, and his wish to be seen only as a poet of the people, working for the betterment of the Soviet state gave plenty of material for textbook writers to portray Maiakovskii’s life and art in precisely this way.

  • 26 Kovalev, pp. 162–63.

21In order to complete the image of Maiakovskii in the Soviet school curriculum, I have found it helpful to look not only at accounts of his life, but also at the works which are referred to and analysed in Russkaia sovetskaia literatura. The book names sixty works by Maiakovskii, fifteen of which are analysed to varying degrees. However, out of this group of fifteen only two works, ‘Oblako v shtanakh’ (‘A Cloud in Trousers’) and ‘Chelovek’ (‘The Man’) were written before 1917. Both of them are treated briefly, ‘Chelovek’ mainly in relation to Gor′kii’s story of the same name. Of the rest of the works mentioned, two stand out and claim the most attention: ‘Khorosho!’ and ‘Vladimir Il′ich Lenin’, with separate chapters dedicated to the analysis of each. Of the twentynine revision questions on Maiakovskii, seven relate to the analysis of ‘Khorosho!’ and eight to the analysis of ‘Vladimir Il′ich Lenin’. There is only one question on the poet’s love lyrics and no questions on his pre-revolutionary works.26 Of the twenty-nine questions suggested, only four invite any form of independent analysis, while the majority (fifteen) are memory tasks. The remainder require students either to copy the material given to them, to explain the titles of Maiakovskii’s works, or to trace how his poetic style and topics develop over time.

  • 27 Vladimir Litvinov, ‘Literaturno-tvorcheskie sochineniia v starshikh klassakh’, in Nikolai Kolokol′ (...)
  • 28 Ibid., p. 54.
  • 29 Ibid., p. 56.
  • 30 Ibid, p. 63.

22To find out whether remembering information was all that was expected from students, or whether there was an element of independent analysis which students were expected to demonstrate, I have looked at a selection of essay compositions by school leavers. This task is not only helpful for tracing the extent of the students’ ability to present independent arguments, but also allows us to pinpoint exactly which of the facts relating to Maiakovskii’s life students were expected to remember after they had left school. In his chapter ‘Literaturno-tvorcheskie sochineniia v starshikh klassakh’ (‘Creative Literary Compositions in Senior Grades’) Vladimir Litvinov discusses the type of composition in which students are invited to present their own opinions on a text.27 An example of such an ‘open’ topic, according to Litvinov, would be ‘My favourite poem by Maiakovskii’.28 It is notable that, according to Litvinov, only a small minority of students attempted to write such compositions, most preferring topics which showcased their knowledge of core and supplementary material, but which did not require them to present their own opinions.29 This preference for a lower-risk strategy is an understandable response by students who might have been unsure about a teacher’s reaction to their personal opinions. Despite this, Litvinov states that such topics are necessary, and even suggests that students should not be marked down if their opinions are wrong: ‘it is inadmissible to reduce the mark to a student who produced the answer in good faith, even though he seriously “lost his footing”’.30 The willingness to consider answers from students based on their personal opinion rather than on the textbook created the dangerous possibility that there would be written evidence that students liked what they were not meant to like, and vice-versa.

23It is apparent that topics which invited students to share their opinions could be awkward, not only for the students, who could not be sure of being able to express their ideas effectively, nor of how teachers might react to their opinions, but also (and perhaps mostly) for the teachers themselves: how should one mark such a composition? After all, the student’s opinion might not only be different from the teacher’s personal view (and sometimes unsupported by the core text or ideologically unacceptable), but these works might not present a good opportunity for students to actually show their full knowledge of core material. Perhaps this is the reason why so many tasks in the textbook focused on memorising information and only a few on analysing it. Thus, even though it is fair to say that at least some teachers encouraged independent thinking and analysis, school assessments were overall based on the students’ability to memorise and reproduce given facts in order to answer the question correctly.

  • 31 See note 2.

24In summary, Soviet students left school with the impression that Maiakovskii was ‘the best, most talented poet’ of the era, a view supported by an array of memorised quotations.31 Students would have been aware of Maiakovskii’s large poetic corpus, and would have been able to discuss (and quote from) a fair number of poems. Maiakovskii’s best known verses would have been ‘Vladimir Il′ich Lenin’ and ‘Khorosho!’. Of his early works, the most successful was considered to be his long poem ‘Oblako v shtanakh’, in which he heralds the future revolution. His final work would have been ‘Vo ves′ golos’ (‘At the Top of My Voice’). The students would have known that Maiakovskii knew a number of literary figures (though these relationships were complex), and also that he had some good mentors (mainly Gor′ kii). Despite the fact that the young Maiakovskii rejected the Russian classics, his legacy was viewed as a continuation of Russian literary traditions. Students would have learned that Maiakovskii lived a very rich life, always vigilant towards enemies of the young state and always busy creating socialist art; why he died was something of a mystery, but students were not encouraged to consider it too deeply, as the poet left a large volume of immortal works.

Literature in Post-Soviet Russian Schools

  • 32 Natal’ia Volchenko, ‘“A vy noktiurn sygrat′ mogli by na fleite vodostochnykh trub?” O probleme vyp (...)
  • 33 Anatolii Barannikov, Russkaia literatura XX veka. 11 klass. Khrestomatiia dlia obshcheobrazovatel’ (...)
  • 34 Volchenko, p. 2.

25Post-Soviet school education, in contrast to Soviet-era education, is characterised by the availability of a large number of different textbooks. However, all of them to a greater or lesser extent reflect the most obvious change — the school curriculum itself. Many names have disappeared from the curriculum; however, what is more crucial is the fact that a large number of new names have made it into post-Soviet school textbooks. While the 1989 edition of Russkaia sovetskaia literatura lists just nine authors whose works were studied extensively in the final grade, two years later, in 1991, the number of texts included in the school curriculum had become so large that the textbook now comprised two volumes. In an article published by Russkaia slovesnost (Russian Literature), Natal’ia Volchenko notes these changes: ‘in the years of perestroika […] “new names” poured into the school programme like a never-ending stream’.32 By 2000, the list of authors represented in school readers exceeded seventy. Similarly, by this period the majority of textbooks included separate chapters on major literary groups of the twentieth century. Many anthologies also included letters and memoirs.33 With such a drastic increase in the material to be covered and no change in the number of the lessons, the depth in which any one particular author could be studied decreased dramatically. This is a pressing concern for post-Soviet Russian literature teachers. As Volchenko points out in her review of 2004, there are now fewer teaching hours in the final grade than the number of topics presented in the literature exam.34

  • 35 Ibid., pp. 2–3.

26Equally challenging was the fact that there was no longer a single textbook that was adopted by teachers. The rapid increase in available textbooks and study aid materials after 1991 meant that schools had now to decide which ones to use in the classrooms. Furthermore, as textbooks vary in terms of the information provided and in the tasks set for students, discrepancies are likely to arise between the content of textbooks and what is actually covered in final-year examinations. Volchenko presents an example of such a discrepancy in her analysis of the teaching of Blok’s poetry: not only do three textbooks have a different way of presenting the poet and his works, but none includes an analysis of the poem ‘Na zheleznoi doroge’ (‘On the Railway’), which appeared in the 2004 examination.35

  • 36 Gennadii Belen’kii, ‘“Informoprobezhka” ili izuchenie?’ in Literatura v shkole, 9 (2003), 26–29 (p (...)
  • 37 Ibid., p. 27.
  • 38 Ibid.

27Another textbook author, Gennadii Belen′kii, warns that this abundance of recommended reading in the final grade curriculum means that some of the material has to be studied in earlier years, when students are too young to develop a full understanding of the literary material, in particular its complex moral and aesthetic significance.36 Belen′kii argues that a central aim of the study of literature at school should be the cultivation of moral values. This view is shared by the majority of his colleagues, who ‘are certain of the immense educational significance of literature, of its unique role in the process of the formation of individuals, their artistic potential and moral inclinations’.37 Later, Belen′kii elaborates on what he sees as the purpose of literary education at school: ‘it is the task of the literature teacher to shape the students’ attitudes to moral values, patriotism, national duty, work, family, religion, love, language, nature and their own individuality’.38 Many of the textbooks reiterate the importance of moral education to the study of literature, which suggests that while the material taught in the classroom changed after perestroika, the aims of literary study remained the same. Here is, for example, what Galina Lazarenko says in the foreword of her textbook:

  • 39 Galina Lazarenko, Khrestomatiia po otechestvennoi literature XX veka (Moscow: Metodicheskii kabine (...)

I doubt that one can overestimate the importance of the main subject in school —literature, especially in the final year of secondary education, because for the majority of young people the formal study of Russian literature comes to an end at that time. The lessons they have drawn from their work […] (aesthetic, philosophical, moral ideals) will stay with them throughout their adult lives.39

28Although Lazarenko is very critical of the Revolution, the idea that literature should provide students with a moral education in preparation for adult life remains firmly in place.

29The authors of school textbooks find a variety of ways to bring together canonical Soviet writers with a plethora of authors who were not admitted to the official canon in the USSR. Such an attempt to sketch out a broader and more inclusive version of the canon that integrates official and unofficial Soviet literature might be driven by the attempt to provide a sense of unity, in spite of the contrasting legacies of the authors studied. One way to accomplish this task is to draw parallels between work of established canonised authors, such as Maiakovskii, and authors not commonly associated with the official Soviet canon, such as Andrei Platonov or Anna Akhmatova. In addition, textbooks often attributed to them timeless moral values which remained unchanged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, thus reinforcing the idea of common ground between traditionally polarised writers. For example, Anatolii Barannikov writes that:

  • 40 Anatolii Barannikov, Russkaia literatura XX veka. Khrestomatiia dlia 11 kl. sr. shk., 2 vols. (Mos (...)

The numerous and multifaceted [people of] Russia brought forward authors from all social classes; they had polarised opinions on the events of the time, including the revolution, but they were all united in their sincere love for Russia, their reflection of its fate and their desire to better the life of the people.40

  • 41 Feliks Kuznetsov, Russkaia literatura XX veka. Ocherki. Portrety. Esse. Kniga dlia uchascshikhsia (...)
  • 42 Iurii Lyssyi, Russkaia literatura XX veka. 11 klass: praktikum dlia obshcheobrazovatelnykh uchere (...)

30This desire to present authors as positive moral examples is reminiscent of the way in which literature was taught during Soviet times. This approach used to mean that there was generally one ‘correct opinion’ and the majority of questions encouraged students to reproduce information they had learned. However, when we look at post-Soviet textbooks, we see that more value is placed on the students’ personal opinions. In a textbook edited by Feliks Kuznetsov in 1991 we read that ‘the book invites us to think, to develop an independent opinion in the analysis of various literary phenomena’.41 In 1998, in the foreword to his textbook, Iurii Lyssyi wrote: ‘the material presented is not for learning by heart. Reading is a dialogue with the author: agreement, disagreement, sometimes even an argument’.42 This suggests that literature is starting to be taught in a less dogmatic way, with teachers and examiners more interested in students expressing their own opinions about the works they encounter.

31However, in the final examinations, the notion that an author or a work of literature can inspire a variety of opinions is seemingly forgotten. Each year, publishing houses release booklets on how to write final-year compositions effectively. These booklets provide suggested answers to the most common questions, and in one such publication Evgeniia Basovskaia writes that:

  • 43 Evgeniia Basovskaia, Literatura. Sochineniia. 11 klass. Kniga dlia uchenika i uchitelia (Moscow: O (...)

Most importantly […] one has to adhere to certain ‘safety measures’ during the exam. As your work is going to be marked by a certain ‘Mr X’, it is advisable to remain neutral. You cannot know whether your examiner prefers prose or poetry, Nekrasov or Fet, […] long compositions or short ones… Thus in order to not find yourself in an irreconcilable contradiction with your examiner, not to set yourself up against him, you should not express yourself too emotionally […]. You should not come up with an unconventional compositional structure, create bold metaphors […] Not to irritate your examiner — this is what is extremely important. Indeed, your composition will not be genius […] But it will be what it should be — an entry ticket to university.43

32It seems that discussions and disputes are welcome during lessons, where, if teachers follow the textbooks’ suggestions, students are encouraged to express their own opinions. However, when it comes to the examination, students are encouraged to ignore their own ideas and write an essay that conforms to established orthodoxies, so that it aligns with the examiner’s presumed opinion, or at least does not conflict with it.

33The apparent desire on the part of the examiners to read wellestablished views on literature suggests that there is a considerable mismatch between the method of assessment (still largely unchanged from the Soviet period) and the attempt to promote a less restrictive and prescriptive way of teaching literature seen in the textbooks. Part of the reason for the apparent reluctance to renounce this dogmatic approach may lie in the way in which the aims of literary study are formulated. As well as introducing the lives and works of authors and teaching students to present coherent arguments about what they read, the study of literature is ultimately seen as a moral education, and an important way to inculcate ideas of goodness, patriotism and civic duty. Students and teachers therefore struggle with the idea of voicing personal opinions because, as in the former Soviet Union, it is expected that students will offer up the single ‘right’ answer to questions of national identity and moral values.

Maiakovskii in Post-Soviet Russian Schools

34When looking at the changes perestroika brought to the representation of Maiakovskii in post-Soviet Russian schools, I will focus on the characterisation of the poet and his works, his childhood and upbringing, his relationship with the Russian avant-garde and the futurist movement, and other persons considered influential during the formation of Maiakovskii’s style. I will also consider the other poets to whom he is most commonly compared, the ways in which the textbooks address the poet’s personal life and his love lyrics, and finally, how Maiakovskii’s suicide is portrayed.

35However, the main difference in post-Soviet representations of the poet is that there is no longer a single and uniform approach. While previously all students were required to study the same textbook, in post-Soviet Russia there is a growing list of authors whose work is read and no government control over the precise curriculum covered, so textbooks and supplementary materials have multiplied dramatically. This has resulted in some significant changes in the ways students are introduced to Maiakovskii. Multiple representations of the poet evolved throughout the 1990s and, as yet, no single dominant image has emerged.

36The first difference is that the poet’s childhood and upbringing is hardly ever mentioned in the post-1991 textbooks. It has been noted that in Soviet textbooks it was important to suggest that the poet had a stable and supportive family environment, in which his own views and beliefs, as well as his talent, were rooted. However, hardly any post-1991 textbook mentions the poet’s family beyond the brief mention of biographical details. The studies therefore begin, not with Maiakovskii’s childhood, but at the outset of his poetic career:

  • 44 Kuznetsov, p. 136.

Maiakovskii was a suffering and lonely youth when he began to emerge as a poet. In spite of this, from his first appearances in the press and on stage he was forced into the role of literary hooligan, and, in order to not sink into obscurity, he maintained this reputation with audacious pranks during readings.44

37In fact, the motifs of loneliness and suffering have become key in post-Soviet representations of Maiakovskii.

38Many aspects of Maiakovskii’s representation evolved throughout the 1990s. In 1991, the futurist movement, with which the start of Maiakovskii’s poetic career is associated, was still viewed in a negative light:

  • 45 Ibid., p. 142.

Maiakovskii’s antibourgeois mutiny in this long poem (‘A Cloud in Trousers’) was also a mutiny against salon art, which had been made anaemic by its exclusive concern for aesthetics. Thus, indirectly, acting on the instincts of a healthy, social conscious individual, Maiakovskii was also speaking against futurism with a concept of art which was, in essence, focused on the aesthetic.45

  • 46 Ibid.

39Equally, there is no mention of Burliuk or Khlebnikov and their influence on the poet’s early works; instead, the authors draw parallels between Maiakovskii and other major Soviet writers such as Gor′kii and Blok. Russkaia literatura XX veka (Twentieth Century Russian Literature), on the other hand, proposes that the poet had a lot in common with authors who were not acknowledged during the Soviet era, but who became widely discussed during and after perestroika: ‘Numerous satirical works by the poet (poems, feuilletons, plays) suggest that he saw clearly the many difficulties in the cause of achieving great goals, in the same way as they were seen by [Andrei] Platonov, [Mikhail] Bulgakov, [Mikhail] Zoshchenko’.46 Thus, since affiliation with futurism and the avant-garde was still considered detrimental to the poet’s image, and so was his association with official Soviet culture, textbook authors required new relationships to justify Maiakovskii’s high canonical status and distinguish him from many other Soviet writers who were no longer canonised by the emerging state.

  • 47 Ibid., p. 141.
  • 48 Ibid., p. 142.

40Another similarity between this textbook and the example from the Soviet era is that they both have very little to say about the poet’s personal life. We learn that when Maiakovskii was very young he fell in love with Maria Denisova, and this unsuccessful relationship resulted in the composition of ‘Oblako v shtanakh’.47 However, by the time this poem was finished, the poet was already in love with a different woman — Lili Brik, ‘the character of another love drama, which filled many years, and was much more intense and destructive in its content’.48 That is the only discussion of Lili Brik. Although considerable attention is dedicated to the analysis of Maiakovskii’s love lyrics and the tragedy of the poet’s love, the readers will have very little understanding of why Maiakovskii portrayed love as tragic, or what prevented his relationships from being successful. However, post-Soviet textbooks do not attempt to present Maiakovskii’s personal feelings and lyrical poetry as part of his strong community spirit. Instead, the authors of Russkaia literatura XX veka separate Maiakovskii’s love lyrics from his civic poetry:

  • 49 Ibid., p. 144. The quotations within the citation are from Maiakovskii’s poems, the first two from (...)

As much as the poet tried to ‘tame’ the intimate within himself in the name of the communal, the socially rational, as he was ‘standing on the throat of his own song’, ‘the topic’ (love) ‘ordered’ to write about itself.49

41This is in stark contrast to the Soviet representation of the poet, in which Maiakovskii’s love for women was an aspect of his love for life and humanity, and therefore his love lyrics were considered to have a civic aspect.

  • 50 Ibid., p. 165.
  • 51 Lili Brik, Pristrastnye rasskazy (Moscow: Dekom, 2011), p. 181.

42While we learn very little about Maiakovskii’s complex relationship with Lili Brik, the textbook provides more substantial detail about Maiakovskii’s later romantic entanglements with Tat’iana Iakovleva and Veronika Polonskaia. The tragic end to Maiakovskii’s love for Iakovleva and the unstable nature of his relationship with Polonskaia are presented as among the reasons for the poet’s suicide, a topic which, in post-Soviet textbooks, is openly discussed and analysed. In Russkaia literatura XX veka, it is suggested that the cause of Maiakovskii’s decision to take his own life is not obvious, although the authors list a variety of unfortunate and tragic events that occurred in the months leading up to the poet’s suicide.50 One theory which the textbook disputes, however, is that the poet’s psychological state contributed to his death. After the poet’s suicide, this idea was cultivated by Maiakovskii’s closest friend and ex-lover, Lili Brik, who suggested that even though Maiakovskii loved life, he was paranoid about getting old, and often had suicidal thoughts.51 Despite the indisputable fact that Brik knew the poet very closely, the authors of Russkaia literatura XX veka suggest that her opinion was unfounded:

  • 52 Kuznetsov, p. 169.

What fear of old age when you are thirty-six! What suicidal tendency in a person, who so passionately rejected such action in the poem ‘Sergeiu Eseninu’ (‘To Sergei Esenin’), so passionately, so impatiently looked forward into the future! In a person who was obsessed with the notion of immortality!52

  • 53 Maiakovskii attempted suicide in 1916, but the gun misfired. Lili Brik notes this in her diaries; (...)

43The authors present their view as correct, even though one does not have to spend long looking for evidence that supports Brik’s arguments. 14 April 1930 was not the first time Maiakovskii attempted suicide.53 In his work, the poet described thoughts of suicide and his fear of imminent old age. For example, in 1925 during his trip to America Maiakovskii wrote:

  • 54 Vladimir Maiakovskii, ‘Melkaia filosofiia na glubokikh mestakh’, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, VII, (...)

жил,
работал,
стал староват…
Вот и жизнь пройдет,
как прошли Азорские
острова.54

I lived, worked, became a bit old… Thus life too will pass, just as the Azores have passed

44And a year later he created these troubled lines:

  • 55 Vladimir Maiakovskii, ‘Razgovor s fininspektorom o poezii’, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, VII, p. 12 (...)

Все меньше любится,
все меньше дерзается,
и лоб мой
время
с разбега крушит.
Приходит
страшнейшая из амортизаций —
амортизация
сердца и души.55

I fall in love less, I dare less, and my brow is crushed by time as it runs at me. The most terrifying of erosions is coming — the erosion of heart and soul.

45There are more examples to support Brik’s idea that Maiakovskii was prone to suicidal thoughts, equally there is also evidence for the textbook’s version that the poet despised such ideas. Maiakovskii’s work was contradictory and it invites contrasting interpretations.

  • 56 Anatolii Karpov, ‘Vladimir Maiakovskii’, in Vladimir Agenosov, Russkaia literatura XX veka (Moscow (...)
  • 57 Lazarenko, p. 5.

46The vast majority of textbooks agree that Maiakovskii was a great poet: ‘Maiakovskii was and remains one of the most notable figures of twentieth-century poetry… it is impossible to brush Maiakovskii aside, to categorise him as one of the poetic trimmers with little talent’.56 However, they do not praise him unreservedly. One striking example of a negative point of view can be found in Lazarenko’s textbook, Khrestomatiia po otechestvennoi literature XX veka (Twentieth Century Russian Literature Reader). In her introduction, Lazarenko suggests that the social ills of contemporary Russia can be solved by providing students with Christian ideals to which they should aspire in their everyday life.57 Maiakovskii’s critical statements towards religion and God are well documented, so it is not surprising that he is not one of Lazarenko’s favourite authors. Lazarenko’s book does not provide biographical details about Maiakovskii, however, it does contain guidance notes and lesson plans to establish an image of the poet. Lazarenko’s representation of Maiakovskii is therefore created substantially from her selection of his works, which are all focused on the ideas of violence and egocentrism, the two aspects of Maiakovskii’s art that Lazarenko condemns:

‘The butterfly of the poet’ s heart’should not hate. And in the long poem Oblako v shtanakh the grown-up poet goes to fraternise with the ‘tongueless’ street, in order to give it voice… Why not the Pushkin voice? (‘For having awakened noble thoughts with my lyre’ —for many decades keeps ringing on the lips and the ears of ancestors)? According to Maiakovskii, to give the street a voice means to arm it with the following slogans:

  • 58 Ibid., p. 21. The first citation within the quote refers to Maiakovskii’s poem ‘Nate!’ (1913) and (...)

‘Власть
к богатым
рыло
воротит —
чего подчиняться ей?!.
Бей!!’58
The authorities turn their mugs to those who are rich — why follow them?! Strike!!

  • 59 Iurii Karabchievskii, Voskresenie Maiakovskogo (Moscow: Enas, 2008), p. 290.
  • 60 Ibid., p. 22.

47Notably, this combines lines from three different poems: ‘Nate!’ (‘Here you are!’) (1913), ‘Oblako v shtanakh’ (1915) and ‘Khorosho!’ (1927), thus eliding different periods of the poet’s career. Throughout her section on Maiakovskii, Lazarenko provides excerpts from poems without explaining when and why they were written, in order to support her image of the poet as a violent revolutionary without moral or aesthetic principles. It is possible that Lazarenko’s opinion of Maiakovskii was influenced by the highly contradictory, widely known book by Iurii Karabchievskii, Voskresenie Maiakovskogo (Maiakovskii’s Resurrection), which was first published in Russia in 1991. Karabchievskii argues that Maiakovskii’s best poems are those in which the main theme is hate, and concludes that Maiakovskii is ‘an anti-poet. His mission in this world is substitution: culture with anti-culture, art with anti-art and spirituality with anti-spirituality’.59 Similarly to the authors of the 1991 textbook Russkaia literatura XX veka, Lazarenko finds Maiakovskii’s life highly tragic. However, she claims that his was not the tragedy of being misunderstood and lonely, as other textbooks suggest, but rather that of a young poet severing his connections with the aesthetic roots of Russian literary traditions.60

  • 61 Karpov, p. 286.

48Lazarenko’s textbook is more the exception than the rule. In order to get a better idea of the image of the poet that students might have learned at school, I will focus on topics suggested for revision, starting with Karpov’s chapter on Maiakovskii in the more commonly used Russkaia literatura XX veka, edited by Vladimir Agenosov, which was first published in 1996. The revision questions mainly focus on the historical background of various works by Maiakovskii, although we also find the following topic: ‘the image of the poet in Maiakovskii’ s work (based on two or three poems, selected by the student)’.61 While this question appears to seek the students’personal opinions, if we examine the textbook’s presentation of Maiakovskii we will see the information on which their answers are based.

  • 62 Ibid., pp. 256–57.
  • 63 Ibid., p. 255.

49The motif of loneliness and the tragedies that the poet experienced are the central components of Karpov’s presentation of Maiakovskii, as they were for other authors of post-Soviet textbooks. This sense of tragedy is related mostly to the latter part of Maiakovskii’s life in the late 1920s: ‘together with sharp criticism of the present, a certain anxiety about the future, which has no place for true humanity, is discernible. This anxiety becomes more and more prominent in the poet’s work […] which affirms […] the motif of loneliness’.62 The motif of loneliness identified by Karpov appears not to be supported by the biographical details he gives about Maiakovskii’s life. For the first time, a plethora of the poet’s friends and acquaintances are named, including Burliuk, Khlebnikov, Aleksei Kruchenykh, and his less well-known lover, Ellie Jones. His non-futurist acquaintances, who all praised his talent, are also mentioned within the chapter, such as Gor′kii, Repin, Akhmatova and Osip Mandel′shtam.63

  • 64 Ibid., p. 258.

50Maiakovskii’s feelings of loneliness and his eventual suicide therefore need some explanation, and Karpov supplies two main reasons. Firstly, he cites the political atmosphere in the country: ‘the era in which revolutionary ideals got dimmer and dimmer was indeed understanding the poet less and less (to be precise, it accepted him less and less)’.64 Secondly, in the months leading up to Maiakovskii’s suicide the poet had an unhappy relationship with the actress Polonskaia, who, according to Karpov, refused to marry him despite Maiakovskii’s love for her:

  • 65 Ibid., p. 259.

the poet’s demand to immediately unite their fates provoked a highly nervous reaction from Polonskaia. The final discussion happened in the morning of 14 April 1930: Polonskaia refused to choose a single role — that of the poet’s wife — over everything else.65

51Like many textbook authors, Karpov tends to gloss over the intricacies of Maiakovskii’s relationships with women, and he does not mention Brik’s or Polonskaia’s husbands, since this compromises Maiakovskii’s reputation and does little to promote the image of the tragic, lonely and misunderstood poet.

  • 66 Aleksandr Arkhangel’skii, Vladimir Agenosov, Metodicheskie rekomendatsii po ispol’zovaniiu uchebni (...)

52In the step-by-step guidebooks for using Agenosov’s textbooks, Maiakovskii is allocated four study hours, which would have taken just over a week of classroom time. While this is much less than the month he was allocated during the Soviet period, this is still a good number of hours considering the density of the post-Soviet literary curriculum. Of other twentieth-century poets only Blok enjoys the same amount of classroom time, while the majority of authors are studied for just two or three hours. More time is dedicated to the study of prose: Gor′kii is given five hours, Bulgakov and Sholokhov, six.66

  • 67 Aleksandr Kniazhitskii, Metodicheskie rekomendatsii i prakticheskie materialy k provedeniiu ekzame (...)

53Looking at some typical exam questions, we discover that a considerable amount of attention is given to Maiakovskii’s life and work. The questions are rather varied, from an analysis of Maiakovskii’s earlier poetry (for example, the poem ‘Skripka i nemnozhko nervno’ (‘A Violin, and a Little Nervous’), to images of the loudmouth ringleader (gorlan-glavar’) that appear in Maiakovskii’s works, to the place of revolution in his poetry.67 Typically, Soviet exams omit the long poems ‘Khorosho!’ and ‘Vladimir Il′ich Lenin’ —instead, questions on his prerevolutionary works are much more common. Students are thus much more likely to be familiar with these poems, in which Maiakovskii’s emotions and personal tragedies take centre stage. Feelings of loneliness, which are often expressed in the early poetry, therefore became key aspects of Maiakovskii’s life and legacy. Other characteristics of the poet might vary from textbook to textbook, but these aspects are commonly highlighted.

  • 68 See note 2.

54Maiakovskii’s portrayal in post-Soviet Russian schools is shaped by several factors. Literature is viewed not only as a subject designed to enhance students’ knowledge of texts and authors, but to cultivate their moral and civic values, so protagonists and authors are depicted with virtues to which students are encouraged to aspire. Although in post-Soviet education there appears to be an understanding of the importance of the students’ own opinions, the final examinations are still structured in much the same way they were during the Soviet period — students are actively discouraged from saying anything that does not conform to the ideas set down in textbooks and supplementary materials. The post-Soviet representation of Maiakovskii, however, differs from his Soviet-era image as ‘the best, most talented poet’.68 Perestroika brought an end to the single, unified image of the poet and the various textbooks that appeared after 1991 createdseveral images of Maiakovskii, some of them contradictory. On the basis of these presentations it is difficult to identify the place in the canon that Maiakovskii is thought to occupy. His is a key name in the curriculum, but the nature of his significance is unclear, as he does not easily fit the image of a role model for students. The only aspect that the majority of post-Soviet textbooks agree on (as well as the main difference from the Soviet-era image of the poet) is that Maiakovskii was a tragic poet, who, for large parts of his life, suffered from loneliness and misunderstanding. It was, according to the textbooks, largely, misunderstanding (whether by a single person, like Polonskaia, or a group of people, like the militant Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), which was active in the late 1920s and early 1930s) that led to the poet’s suicide, another topic which became widely discussed only after 1991.

55There are also similarities between Soviet and post-Soviet representations of the poet. For example, Maiakovskii’s association with futurism and the avant-garde was not evaluated positively until the second half of the 1990s. Other similarities persist today, and are rooted in the idea that literature is a source of moral improvement. Thus, even though his love lyrics are among those most studied, students still have little idea about the complexities of Maiakovskii’s love affairs.

56The understanding of Maiakovskii and his place in the school curriculum is still evolving, and different textbooks present contrasting opinions. Maiakovskii’s place at the top of the poetic canon has certainly been challenged and largely revoked, however, at the same time we can see a more humanised and sympathetic image of the poet emerging. With literary education increasingly focused on the importance of discussion and differing views, perhaps it is only natural that no single image of the poet exists, and the post-Soviet generation of students will not necessarily believe Maiakovskii to be at the head of the poetic canon. They will, however, have a broader and more nuanced view of the poet’s life and legacy.

Notes

1 Vladimir Maiakovskii, ‘Deshevaia rasprodazha’, in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 13 vols. (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1955), I, 116. Unless noted otherwise, all translations from Russian are my own.

2 Iosif Stalin, ‘Rezoliutsiia I. V. Stalina na pis′me L. Iu. Brik’, in Svetlana Strizhneva, ‘V tom, chto umiraiu, ne vinite nikogo’?… Sledstvennoe delo V. V. Maiakovskogo (Moscow: Ellis Lak, 2000 and 2005), p. 317.

3 Valentin Kovalev, Russkaia sovetskaia literatura, 11th ed. (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1989), p. 2.

4 Ibid., p. 2.

5 Noah Norman Shneidman, Literature and Ideology in Soviet Education (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1973), p. 57.

6 Ivan Ogorodnikov, Pedagogika (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1964), p. 52.

7 Shneidman, Literature and Ideology in Soviet Education, p. 16.

8 Skhema programmy po literature dlia srednei shkoly. Proekt. Dlia obsuzhdeniia na biuro otdeleniia didaktiki i chastnykh metodik (Moscow: Akademiia pedagogicheskikh nauk SSSR, 1983), p. 2.

9 Ministerstvo prosveshcheniia RSFSR, Programmy vos′miletnei i srednei shkoly na 1969/70 uchebnyi god. Russkii iazyk i literatura (Moscow: Ministerstvo prosveshcheniia RSFSR, 1969), pp. 59–64. Also in Shneidman, Literature and Ideology in Soviet Education, pp. 91–92. The portion of World War Two in which the Soviet Union was involved (1941–1945) is known in Russian as ‘Velikaia otechestvennaia voina’, translated either as the Great Patriotic, or the Great Fatherland War. The use of this name connects the 1941–1945 war with Russia’s participation in the Napoleonic wars, known to Russians as ‘Otechestvennaia voina’ (the Fatherland, or Patriotic War).

10 See note 2 in this chapter.

11 Valentin Kovalev, Russkaia sovetskaia literatura, 11th ed. (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1989).

12 Kovalev, Russkaia sovetskaia literatura, pp. 121–22.

13 Ibid., p. 123.

14 Ibid., p. 124.

15 Ibid., p. 125.

16 Ibid., p. 126. Gor′kii wrote his short story ‘Chelovek’ in 1903, Maiakovskii completed his long poem ‘Chelovek’ in 1917. Note that Gor′kii’s short story is traditionally translated into English as ‘Human’, and Maiakovskii’s long poem as ‘The Man’.

17 Ibid., p. 126.

18 David Burliuk, Aleksandr Kruchenykh, Vladimir Maiakovskii, Viktor Khlebnikov, ‘Poshchechina obshchestvennomu vkusu’, http://www.futurism.ru/a-z/manifest/slap.htm

19 Kovalev, p. 147.

20 Ibid., p. 131.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid., p. 160. The citation within the quote refers to the poet’s suicide note, where he mentions his argument with Vladimir Ermilov, a literary critic who wrote several negative articles about the poet’s last play Bania. For further details see Vasilii Katanian, Maiakovskii. Khronika zhizni i deiatel’nosti (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1985), p. 491.

24 Ibid., p. 138.

25 Vladimir Maiakovskii, ‘Pis′mo Tat′iane Iakovlevoi’, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, IX, p. 386.

26 Kovalev, pp. 162–63.

27 Vladimir Litvinov, ‘Literaturno-tvorcheskie sochineniia v starshikh klassakh’, in Nikolai Kolokol′tsev, Sochineniia v obshcheobrazovatel′noi politekhnicheskoi shkole (iz opyta raboty uchitelei-slovesnikov) (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe uchebnopedagogicheskoe izdatel′stvo ministerstva prosveshcheniia, 1961), pp. 54–63 (p. 54).

28 Ibid., p. 54.

29 Ibid., p. 56.

30 Ibid, p. 63.

31 See note 2.

32 Natal’ia Volchenko, ‘“A vy noktiurn sygrat′ mogli by na fleite vodostochnykh trub?” O probleme vypusknogo sochineniia’ in Russkaia slovesnost’, 6 (2005), 2–7 (p. 5).

33 Anatolii Barannikov, Russkaia literatura XX veka. 11 klass. Khrestomatiia dlia obshcheobrazovatel’nykh uchrezhdenii, 2 vols. (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 2000). An overview of the material supposed to be covered in lessons can be gained by viewing the contents pages: I, 379–81; II, 349–51.

34 Volchenko, p. 2.

35 Ibid., pp. 2–3.

36 Gennadii Belen’kii, ‘“Informoprobezhka” ili izuchenie?’ in Literatura v shkole, 9 (2003), 26–29 (p. 26).

37 Ibid., p. 27.

38 Ibid.

39 Galina Lazarenko, Khrestomatiia po otechestvennoi literature XX veka (Moscow: Metodicheskii kabinet zapadnogo okruga g. Moskvy, 1995), p. 5.

40 Anatolii Barannikov, Russkaia literatura XX veka. Khrestomatiia dlia 11 kl. sr. shk., 2 vols. (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1993), I, p. 4.

41 Feliks Kuznetsov, Russkaia literatura XX veka. Ocherki. Portrety. Esse. Kniga dlia uchascshikhsia 11 klassa srednei shkoly, 2 vols. (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1991), I, p. 3.

42 Iurii Lyssyi, Russkaia literatura XX veka. 11 klass: praktikum dlia obshcheobrazovatelnykh ucherezhdenii (Moscow: Mnemozina, 1998), p. 3.

43 Evgeniia Basovskaia, Literatura. Sochineniia. 11 klass. Kniga dlia uchenika i uchitelia (Moscow: Olimp, 1997), pp. 9–10.

44 Kuznetsov, p. 136.

45 Ibid., p. 142.

46 Ibid.

47 Ibid., p. 141.

48 Ibid., p. 142.

49 Ibid., p. 144. The quotations within the citation are from Maiakovskii’s poems, the first two from ‘Vo ves′ golos’, the last two from ‘Pro eto’.

50 Ibid., p. 165.

51 Lili Brik, Pristrastnye rasskazy (Moscow: Dekom, 2011), p. 181.

52 Kuznetsov, p. 169.

53 Maiakovskii attempted suicide in 1916, but the gun misfired. Lili Brik notes this in her diaries; see Brik, p. 181.

54 Vladimir Maiakovskii, ‘Melkaia filosofiia na glubokikh mestakh’, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, VII, p. 19.

55 Vladimir Maiakovskii, ‘Razgovor s fininspektorom o poezii’, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, VII, p. 124.

56 Anatolii Karpov, ‘Vladimir Maiakovskii’, in Vladimir Agenosov, Russkaia literatura XX veka (Moscow: Drofa, 1996), pp. 252–88 (p. 252).

57 Lazarenko, p. 5.

58 Ibid., p. 21. The first citation within the quote refers to Maiakovskii’s poem ‘Nate!’ (1913) and the image of the tongueless street is from ‘Oblako v shtanakh’ (1915); however, the final citation (the slogan: ‘The authorities turn their mugs to those who are rich — why follow them?! Strike!!’) is from ‘Khorosho!’ (1927). The line from Pushkin is from the poem ‘Exegi Monumentum’, Pushkin: Selected Verse, ed. and trans. by John Fennell (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2001), pp. 75-76 (p. 76).

59 Iurii Karabchievskii, Voskresenie Maiakovskogo (Moscow: Enas, 2008), p. 290.

60 Ibid., p. 22.

61 Karpov, p. 286.

62 Ibid., pp. 256–57.

63 Ibid., p. 255.

64 Ibid., p. 258.

65 Ibid., p. 259.

66 Aleksandr Arkhangel’skii, Vladimir Agenosov, Metodicheskie rekomendatsii po ispol’zovaniiu uchebnikov ‘Russkaia literatura XIX veka’ pod redaktsiei A. N. Arkhangel’skogo, ‘Russkaia literatura XX veka. pod redaktsiei V. V. Agenonosova (Moscow: Drofa, 2006), pp. 61–62.

67 Aleksandr Kniazhitskii, Metodicheskie rekomendatsii i prakticheskie materialy k provedeniiu ekzamena po literature, 2 vols. (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnaia shkola distantsionnogo obucheniia, 2003), passim.

68 See note 2.

Auteur

Completed her PhD at the University of Exeter. Her thesis ‘Representations of Vladimir Maiakovskii in the Post-Soviet Russian Literary Canon’ assembled evidence from a range of post-1991 publications to show how Maiakovskii’s position has been affected by the wide-ranging rejection of writers strongly associated with the official Soviet culture. The thesis contributes to the body of research analysing the development of the Russian literary canon in the post-Soviet period. Email:

N.Karakulina@exeter.ac.uk

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