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The frontoviki: soviet soldier-poets

Les frontoviki : écrivains combattants soviétiques
Frontoviki: Soviet schrijvers-soldaten
Luba Jurgenson
Traduction de Sarah Voke
p. 173
Cet article est une traduction de :
Les frontoviki : écrivains combattants soviétiques

Texte intégral

1This word refers to those who experienced the front, more specifically the front lines of the “Great Patriotic War” (the Soviet and then Russian name for the Second World War), whether they took part in the fights or accompanied the army as correspondents. Within the immense flow of texts which take the war as subject, we can thus distinguish the ones which, independently from their form (news reports, fiction, poetry), are legitimized by personal experience and for which their authors exposed themselves to life-threatening risks. Right from the beginning of the war, writers were called upon to produce a unifying speech with the aim of consolidating the alliance between Soviet citizens and the government in the face of the threat of radical destruction. This alliance was made within the context of Russian Orthodox identity, clearly emanating from Stalin’s famous speech dating from 3 July 1941 in which he revived the salutation “Dear brothers and sisters” addressing Soviet citizens as a priest would his parishioners. This new identity concerned the entire Union taken in its imperial dimension. It shaped the context of the ethnic deportations which were being carried out at the same time and announced already the anti-Semitic campaign which was to follow the war.

2The task of literature was to explain, but also to justify, the defeat of the first year of the war, to show the Soviets’ heroism (inspired by the Party and the figure of Stalin), and to call for revenge against the Germans (Simonov, Ehrenbourg). A certain number of tenacious taboos were necessary, namely regarding the massive collaboration of populations in Western territories, recently annexed by the USSR. However, the “step backward” taken by the ideology was perceived as a certain form of liberalization, thus creating a brief sense of hope for a reconciliation between the power and the people, as well as an end to the repression. A light wind of freedom thus blew over the trenches, favoured by the total violence faced by the Frontoviki. This explains the (relative) audacity certain writers took, as did Tvardovsky with his epic poem Vassili Tyorkin in which Stalin’s name was not mentioned, or Nekrassov with his work Front-line Stalingrad which deviated from the official line.

3The label frontovik appeared within the Soviet literary sphere as ensuring factual and psychological truth, so long as they were attested by an eye witness and controlled by higher places. War literature was thus an occasion to perfect the canon imposed on written testimonies considered from the start as a construction (and always supervised by a working writer), never as a spontaneous expression of a subjectivity dealing with lived experiences. However, if most of the time the “real war” was silenced or confined to personal journals, the trial of the truth led some of these writers toward protest movements (Tvardovsky), dissidence (Nekrassov), even to direct confrontation with the party (Grossman).

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Bibliographie

Nekrassov, Viktor, Front-line Stalingrad, translated by David Floyd, London: Harvill Press, 1962.

Simonov, Konstantin, several works available in English on http://www.simonov.co.uk/ (accessed 21 October 2014).

Tvardovsky, Aleksandr, Vasily Tyorkin: A Book about a Soldier, translated by Jill Higgs, Spalding: Hub Editions, 2003.

Grossman, Vasily, Life and Fate, translated by Robert Chandler, New York: New York Review of Books, 2006.

Grossman, Vasily, The Road, Stories, Journalism and Essays, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Mukovnikova, New York: New York Review of Books, 2010.

Grossman, Vasily, A Writer at War: a Soviet Journalist with the Red Army, 1941-1945, edited and translated by Antony Beevor & Luba Vinogradova from Grossman’s wartime notebooks, New York: Vintage Books, 2013.

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Référence papier

Luba Jurgenson, « The frontoviki: soviet soldier-poets », Témoigner. Entre histoire et mémoire, 119 | 2014, 173.

Référence électronique

Luba Jurgenson, « The frontoviki: soviet soldier-poets », Témoigner. Entre histoire et mémoire [En ligne], 119 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2016, consulté le 19 octobre 2017. URL : http://temoigner.revues.org/1502 ; DOI : 10.4000/temoigner.1502

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Luba Jurgenson

EUR’ORBEM.

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