The Type of “Cultural” (A. Block) Character and Its Historical and Literary Antipodes in the 20th Century

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2018, Vol. 4. №2

The Type of “Cultural” (A. Block) Character and Its Historical and Literary Antipodes in the 20th Century

For citation: Burova S. N. 2018. “ The Type of “Cultural” (A. Block) Character and Its Historical and Literary Antipodes in the 20th Century”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 4, no 2, pp. 106-123. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2018-4-2-106-123

About the author:

Serafima N. Burova, Cand. Sci. (Philol.), Associate Professor, Department of Russian and Foreign Literature, Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tyumen;


This article highlights the historical experience of the “social archaeology” in the Russian literature of the 20th century and deals with the typological varieties of literary characters, bearing the stamp of this principle, the post-revolutionary heritage of A. Blok, who romanticized the image of the participant of the revolutionary events in Russia (“the man-artist”, the representative of the “barbaric mass”). A. Block associated the characterization of the revolutionary era with “culture” as a process both impulsive and natural.

The article establishes the similarity of this character type with the romantic heroes of the post-revolutionary works by E. Zamyatin, V. Mayakovsky, and S. Yesenin among others. The article reveals the regularities of the transformation of the “cultural” character, who loses his or her heroic aura as historical events develop. The author argues that the attempts to return the former status of “cultural” character ends with the development of standard techniques, the purpose of which is to offer a contemporary role model and artistic “model of the enemy”, an antipode designed to show the “cultural” character favorably. These “antipodes”, have the only task to survive at any cost (“survivors”): S. Rusanov in O. Forsh’s novel “Dressed in Stone”, I. Maltsov in “The Death of Vazir-Mukhtar” by Yu. Tynyanov, and others acquire over time the status of an “objective witness of history”. That includes the image of the layman in the works of M. Gorky (for example, “About the Grey”, “Karamora”, “Life of Klim Samgin”) and the “lord of everything”, or a tradesman in the works of Vladimir Mayakovsky (“The Man”, “About IT”, “Bedbug”, and “Bathhouse” among others).

In the final part of the article, the author explains the idea of justification of the most gloomy hypotheses of the Soviet writers of the first half of the 20th century allowing the thought that carriers of historical truth, witnesses of history will be the “survivors”, who did not just misunderstand what had happened to them and the country in the past, but who also perverted and humiliated the sense of history. Worthy successors of these heroes will be “witnesses of history” in the works of the second half of the 20th century: the narrator in the novel by B. Okudzhava “Breath of Freedom”, Yuri Trifonov’s characters of P. Letunov in the novel “The old Man” and Glebov in “House on the Embankment”, Ageev in V. Bykov’s novel “Quarry”, and L. Odoevtsev in the novel by A. Bitov “Pushkin House” among others.


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