Dystopia in Russian and Soviet Fiction
The Russian writer Evgenij Zamyatin depicts a future “world of square roots of minus one” in his banned novel We, written as a response to the October Revolution and its aftermath. Scholars agree that this early sci-fi dystopia influenced H G Wells and his 1984, however the roots of science fiction in Russia reach back to the late 18th century when contact with European ways of life were truly established. The utopian “Dream, Happy Society” of 1759 starts our journey with its prophetic proposal of separation of church and state. As we enter the 19th century, Dostoevsky’s provides a depiction of an untenable utopia in “Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” and Odoevsky’s “Town Without a Name” shows the negative results of scientific rejection of ethics.
This theme continues into the 20th century in Kuprin’s “Toast” set in the year 2905, when universal harmony is not all it was intended to be, and in Valery Bryusov’s “Republic of the Southern Cross,” where we see the consequences of dictatorship versus basic human desire. Our exploration of the 20th century will include We and grim stories by the Strugatsky Brothers, credited with reestablishing sci-fi after the Khrushchev Thaw. What we dream of and what we can have may be two entirely different things, and even with the most careful attention to logic and reason, things can go very wrong. Honors credit is available.