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Home | Studying Russia | Russia and Russian Culture at The Criterion

Russia and Russian Culture at The Criterion

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The subject under consideration is publications on Russia and Russian culture at The Criterion (1922–1939). T.S. Eliot founded The Criterion as an all-European literary review to introduce literature and culture of different countries, discuss cultural, social, political problems important for all Europeans.

When TS Eliot joined The London Library in 1918 he was still working for Lloyd’s Bank. (from

Representation of Russia and Russian culture played an important part in the editorial practice of The Criterion. The main themes of the "Russian" publications were Russian classical and contemporary literature, arts, philosophy, political situation at the USSR, debates on Communism and Socialism, etc. The themes and content of publications, ranges of names, subjects, evaluations were developing alongside with historical and social changes of the time.

"Russian point of view" was been introducing through all the issues of The Criterion starting with the first volume at October 1922 (F.M. Dostoevskii's Plan of the Novel 'The Life of a Great Sinner' translated by V. Woolf and S.S. Koteliansky) up to the last issue presenting a review on S. Bulgakov's The Wisdom of God, a Brief Summary of Sophiology.

Russia and Russian culture were presented in various genres: short stories and letters of Russian writers, poems on Russian themes, essays of literary criticism, publicist and analytical articles on political situation in Russia, notes on Communism and Socialism, Russian chronicles and reviews of Russian periodicals, reviews on books of Russian authors and monographs on Russia by Western scholars, etc. In this context there should be interesting to turn to the Russian authors of The Criterion – D. Mirsky, S. Koteliansky and J. Cournos as mediators between Russian (Soviet) and British cultures.

The Criterion could be regarded as one of the most important forums representing Russian culture to British readers in the 1920-30's. Sixteen years of The Criterion witnessed global changes in the intellectual and artistic output. The new time required new images and words: in the 1930's dancing passages of Russian ballet stars in the reviews on Diagilev's seasons were substituted for beating drums in honour of Stalin and the Arctic heroes on the Red Square (poem Cheliushkin), new songs about Lenin sung by folk bards  (Myth in the Making by John Cournos).

Paper given at the Fifth Fitzwilliam Colloquium in Russian Studies "British Perception and Reception of Russian Culture, 18th-20th Centuries", Cambridge, 2012.

Full text published in  A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture, ed. By Anthony Cross. Open Book Publisher, 2012.