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Between National and Multinational Soviet Literature: Self-Censorship and Canonisation in Mkrtich Armen’s Work

Sona Mnatsakanyan, RA 1: "Competing Communities" 

Doctoral Research Project

The project, as part of a broader corpus entitled (Post-)Soviet Literary Cosmopolis, examines the Soviet reality of periphery authors through themes such as “center vs periphery”, “avantgarde vs socialist-realism”, “censorship vs self-censorship”, “actual translator vs formal translator”, “national language vs Russian as lingua franca”, “deportation and canonisation” and “trauma and testimony”. 

The case study will focus on the works of the Soviet-Armenian writer Mkrtich Armen, concentrating on his novels, mainly Yerevan (1931, Moscow), Yaswa (1953, Yerevan) and Zhirayr Glents (Yerevan, 1967). The author’s diaries, memoirs and articles, housed at the National Archives of Armenia in handwritten and typed form, will serve as an additional basis for the analysis.

The research will address the following questions: Why was the avantgarde style un/consciously linked to the issue of nationalism by Soviet literary policies? What factors played a role in the canonisation process of an author or a work? How did the trauma of deportation shift the aesthetics and style of an author? How does the opening of archives reshape the existing canon of literature? By answering these questions, the project aims to understand the interrelations of Soviet and Post-Soviet literary communities within and beyond the national context.