In the 1970s and 1980s, many Soviet unofficial (underground) writers communicated regularly with their friends who had emigrated to the West – writers, journalists, literary scholars. Hundreds of such letters are preserved in the archives of the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. These letters are characterized by the quest for cultural legitimacy: they demonstrate their authors’ desire for understanding and recognition of the work of Soviet unofficial writers. While corresponding with their colleagues abroad, Soviet unofficial writers pursued not only personal recognition, but acknowledgement of the whole unofficial literature as an independent cultural institution. In my talk, I will try to demonstrate how the letter writers’ choice of and manner of relating the latest literary news resulted from unofficial authors’ views of how Soviet underground literature should be presented and legitimized abroad.
Ilya Kukulin is a cultural historian and cultural sociologist. Until 2022 he taught at the National Research University - Higher School of Economics in Moscow, but in March 2022, he emigrated with his family due to political reasons. Currently, he is a research fellow at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture.