Understanding Voinovich’s place in Russian literature might well begin with understanding the historical and cultural circumstances that have surrounded writers in the Soviet period. Many of these writers, Voinovich included, are regarded as belonging to one of three waves of émigrés, artists, and thinkers who fled or were forced to leave Russia in consequence of the establishment of the Soviet state. The first wave left during or immediately following the civil war of the early 1920’s. The second wave left following World War II, and the third wave (including Solzhenitsyn and Voinovich) left in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The political regime responsible for these departures also led to an ordering of literary works by three categories: “gosizdat,” or state-sponsored publications; “samizdat,” or self-published works that do not have official sanction; and “tamizdat,” or works published outside Soviet Russia. Voinovich, who during the Soviet regime was forced to publish in the West, belonged to the body of writers and writing categorized as tamizdat.
That Russian writers have had to live as émigrés is at least partly a result of the decision made by Communist officials as early as the 1930’s that the proper function of literature was to promote socialist realism. Proletarians and their achievements were to be presented in flattering terms, while people representing bourgeois culture or attitudes were to be drawn as class...
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