The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture

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A pioneering, richly interdisciplinary volume, this is the first work in any language on a subject that has long attracted interest in the West and is now of consuming interest in Russia itself. The cultural ferment unleashed by the collapse of the Soviet Union reawakened interest in the study of Russian religion and spirituality. This book provides a comprehensive account of the influence of occult beliefs and doctrines on intellectual and cultural life in twentieth-century Russia.

Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal's introduction delineates the characteristics of occult cosmology which distinguish it from mysticism and theology, and situates Russian occultism in historical and pan-European contexts. Contributors explore the varieties of occult thinking characteristic of prerevolutionary Russia, including Kabbala, theosophy, anthroposophy, and the fascination with Satanism. Other contributors document occultism in the cultural life of the early Soviet period, examine the surprising traces of the occult in the culture of the high Stalin era, and describe the occult revival in contemporary Russia. The volume includes bibliographical essays on Russian occult materials available outside Russia.

Contributors: Mikhail Agursky, Hebrew University; Valentina Brougher, Georgetown University; Maria Carlson, University of Kansas; Robert Davis, New York Public Library; Mikhail Epstein, Emory University; Kristi Groberg, North Dakota State University; Irina Gutkin, UCLA; Michael Hagemeister, Ruhr University, Bochum; Linda Ivanits, Pennsylvania State University; Edward Kasinec, New York Public Library; Judith Deutsch Kornblatt, University of Wisconsin; Hakan Lövgren, Independent Scholar; Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, Fordham University; William F. Ryan, Warburg Institute, London; Holly Denio Stephens, University of Kansas; Anthony Vanchu, University of Texas, Austin; Renata Von Maydell, Munich University; George Young, Independent Scholar

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book succeeds in making a strong case for a relatively widespread fad for occult works in pre- and post-industrial Russia. . . . This rich, diverse collection of essays makes an enormous contribution to our understanding of the cultural history of late imperial and Soviet Russia. After reading this book, it will be impossible to approach the thinkers and writers of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries without taking into account the prevalence of mystical and occultist strains of thought."—Valerie A. Kivelson, The Russian Review

"Casting a rather wide net, the essays in this book succeed in documenting an amazing array of occult or occult-like ideas and practices, not only during the symbolist age, but also in the seemingly rational, materialist, and antisuperstitious Soviet period. In this sense, the book offers a contribution to the ongoing reevaluation of the relationship between modernist and Stalinist culture. . . . The main intention of this collection, according to Rosenthal, was 'to raise new issues for research and discussion.' The book certainly fulfills this purpose admirably."—Adrian Wanner, Slavic Review

"A valuable contribution toward a deeper understanding of the intellectual atmosphere in which Communism developed."—Shoshana Keller, H-Net Reviews

"A fascinating exploration of occult themes in Russian culture, from turn-of-the-century modernism to the post-Communist scene, not excluding the nooks and crannies of the Soviet period. Admirable for its range and scholarly detail."—Laura Engelstein, Princeton University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801483318
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Magic and Divination: Old Russian Sources 35
2 Three Instances of the Peasant Occult in Russian Literature: Intelligentsia Encounters Narod 59
3 Russian Religious Thought and the Jewish Kabbala 75
4 "The Shade of Lucifer's Dark Wing": Satanism in Silver Age Russia 99
5 Fashionable Occultism: Spiritualism, Theosophy, Freemasonry, and Hermeticism in Fin-de-Siecle Russia 135
6 Anthroposophy in Russia 153
7 Fedorov's Transformations of the Occult 171
8 Russian Cosmism in the 1920s and Today 185
9 Technology as Esoteric Cosmology in Early Soviet Literature 203
10 The Magic of Words: Symbolism, Futurism, Socialist Realism 225
11 An Occult Source of Socialist Realism: Gorky and Theories of Thought Transference 247
12 Sergei Eisenstein's Gnostic Circle 273
13 The Occult in the Prose of Vsevolod Ivanov 299
14 Daniil Andreev and the Mysticism of Femininity 325
15 The Occult in Russia Today 357
16 Political Implications of the Early Twentieth-Century Occult Revival 379
Appendix: Source Materials 419
Russian Occult Journalism of the Early Twentieth Century and Emigration 419
Russian Occult Journals and Newspapers 423
Literature on Russian Occult Journals 443
Russian Occult Monographs: Titles Listed in Antoshevsky's Bibliografiia okkul'tizma Located in the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) Database 446
About the Contributors 451
Index 455
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