Vasilii Shukshin rose from a Siberian village to become one of the late Soviet Union’s most celebrated talents. In the paper for this colloquium, Jordan Center visiting scholar Joy Neumeyer draws on previously untapped archival sources to examine his life, work, and significance. Shukshin won a mass following with stories and films featuring rural eccentrics and city transplants who struggled to find individual freedom in a standardizing age. His characters reveled in life’s beauty but agonized over its meaning; those who couldn’t find any chose suicide. The sensation surrounding Shukshin’s 1974 death (shortly after his onscreen murder) led to conflicting interpretations of his legacy. While the culture establishment hailed him as a model socialist success story, some read his life as the tragedy of the uprooted Russian muzhik (peasant man). Shukshin’s mourning fans joined his characters in questioning the achievements of Soviet modernity and wondering why and how to live.
Joy Neumeyer is a PhD candidate in History at UC Berkeley, where she is completing a dissertation about death in late Soviet culture. In 2019-2020 she is a Visiting Scholar at the Jordan Center and affiliate of Columbia’s Slavic Languages and Literatures Department. Her writing has appeared in publications including Vice, the Guardian, ARTNews, and the Calvert Journal.
This event is a workshop with a pre-circulated paper. Please contact Joy Neumeyer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Anne Lounsbery (email@example.com) for a copy.