Fighting for Princess Russia: Fairytale Representations of Political Forces in Modern Russian Literature

This article explores one particularly widespread literary plot involving the gendered rendition of the relations land-intelligentsia-state: the metaphorical representation of Russia as a sleeping beauty held captive by a powerful male figure, which stands for Russian state authorities. In this metaphor, the intelligentsia functions as the potential male saviour and beloved of the captivated feminized Russia. Its outlines are often strongly reminiscent of the legend of St. George and the Dragon, which was of topical interest for many twentieth-century Russian authors, as Senderovičs study of 1994 has shown (Senderovič 2002, 231-323). Thus, the hero representing the intelligentsia can acquire chivalric characteristics, and the incumbent state is metaphorically depicted in terms of a monster or a dragon.

Relying on an intertextual approach that draws inspiration from Russian semiotics, the article presents a comparison of selected texts from five Russian authors in whose works the metaphor plays a particularly dominant role. The authors in question are Alexandr Blok, Maksimilian Voloshin, Boris Pasternak, Viktor Erofeev and Viktor Pelevin. The aim of the comparison consists, firstly, in tracing some of the stock elements of the metaphor and, secondly, in reconstructing the transformations which it underwent between the early twentieth century and the present day. It is argued that in contemporary literature, the function of the metaphor has shifted from thematic towards strictly esthetic.


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picture: viktor vasnetsov's painting ivan tsarevich riding the grey wolf (1889)