Mikhail Epstein


Labor of Lust: Erotic Metaphors of Soviet Civilisation


In the book: Mikhail Epstein. After the Future: The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary Russian Culture (a volume in the series Critical Perspectives on Modern Culture), Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1995, pp.164-187.

There's a labor of lust and it's in our

blood. . .

Osip Mandelshtam



Sometimes, a single metaphor cuts more deeply to the heart of a matter than do hundreds or thousands of monographs. Here in the Soviet Union, we have written endlessly about the socio-economic nature of labor, about its previous exploitation and current freedom, and about its future transformation into a means of general human development. And yet we still labor badly, although no one can say that we don't labor much.

How we labored from the twenties to the fifties before becoming lazy in the sixties! Day and night, to bloody blisters and an early grave, we burned to work, as they used to say about zealous laborers. But this didn't make us wealthy, even so. What was it we poured our labors into then? What weighty forms and tangible wonders of civilization were produced? Perhaps all we got was a miracle of cosmic weightlessness--almost as if people hadn't burned themselves out in factory and field--laying the land to waste, and wearing out powerful machines. And now, there are shortages of everything: food, clothing, books. And worst of all--we've produced no understanding of how and why we got into this state.

Perhaps our endless labor is of a special type that saps strength and yet gives nothing in return, perhaps it is not really labor at all? If, for example, a little boy digs in a sandbox with his shovel, wouldn't we do better to define his activity with a metaphor like "shovel babble," rather than describe it with statistical measures of productivity or chemical analyses of the sand?

And then along comes a poet who whips off a single line. He connects a couple of previously unconnected words -- "There's a labor of lust, and it's in our blood"--and the political economy of socialism, a shapeless, beggarly science, constantly suffering from its inability to grasp its proper subject, attains its ideal explanation.

Mandelshtam was able to express our eternal relation to labor, quickly and easily, in a single phrase. Homo Soveticus, successor to Homo Russicus, labors long and willingly, but his love for labor somehow lacks foundation. His love is lustful, too quickly bestowed and insufficiently selective, rarely developing into a solid marital union. There is no firm lifelong bond with the object and product of labor. This love is general, public, and belongs to no one, which is why, in the feverish passion of labor, something hopeless and depraved suddenly washes up: you pour your seed together with everyone else's onto the same eggs ("Collective ownership of the means of production"). In this atmosphere, even a truly industrious person feels like a fornicator; and, if he continues to work under these conditions, then he does so in secret, keeping his pet project for himself, not for the common pot. He may still be employed at the engineering firm, but he locks away his favorite, unrealizable blueprint deep inside a desk drawer. Or better yet, he takes his own little drawer away from the collective desk, or withdraws his spit of land from the collective field and carries it into his house, his yard, where he can nurture it away from prying eyes.

At the root of the word "ownership" is the concept "one's own." And the first miracle is that ownership can be not "one's own" but no one's, collective: an oxymoron, equivalent to a white raven or black snow. We Russians didn't invent this most miraculous of miracles, but we have worked hard to make of all humankind a collective miracle worker; and, in the meantime, as an example and a lesson to the world, we have shown what can be done with one remarkable nation. Ownership was removed from the sphere of "one's own" and became "othership": the peasant community or the artel, the mir or the collective farm, the landowner or the party secretary, the pre-revolutionary bailiff or the post-revolutionary bureaucrat--all worked as one, making it impossible for anyone to work for himself. And thus it happened: a nation that had outgrown its innocent childhood did not accede to lawful wedlock, but became careless, undiscriminating, and took up dangerous habits. The love of a lifetime or of a passing moment, brilliant genes or those of an alcoholic--were all thrown into the collective pot, where they congeal into a headcheese--like a welter of gross outputs: cubic meters, tons, calories; into a cartilaginous idiot child with "the face of collective degeneracy." Diseases are the only systematic trait of such a system.

At times in our history, the only people who labored with pleasure were those who for some inexplicable, eccentric, almost sick reason had become addicted to work as to a drug: once having tasted, and you can never get enough. How easy it is to mock these unreasoning workaholics, mired in their hopeless and unrewarding task--as if they had fallen head over heels for a prostitute and taken to writing her exalted poetry, while she continued sleeping with the whole neighborhood. Concern for the fruits of labor disappears in this case as well. All that matters is the bitter satisfaction and oblivion that labor itself provides. And as for what gets produced or who disposes of or uses it--who really cares? The prostitute gives your child up to an orphanage and you'll never know it, nor it you.

Thus, through unyielding obstinacy, we have arrived at an amazing paradox--for want of a clearly delineated purpose, gigantic quantities of labor produce the tiniest of results. If you flail the air until your arms ache in order to oxygenate the air then surely you are just flailing away. What could be the point of digging a canal from which the water evaporates before it reaches the fields you want to irrigate (as happened in Central Asia)? Or building dikes which prevent effluents from washing out to sea, thereby filling the city with dirt and silt, instead of preventing floods, (as happened in Leningrad)?

Needless to say, the principle of disinterested labor has not been foreign to the abstract ratiocinations of other peoples as well. In the "Bhagavad-Gita," Krishna instructs Arjuna to be true to his work, to give himself over to it unreservedly, but not to become dependent on its results. In Kant's "Critique of Practical Reason," activity without concern for results, which finds reason and enjoyment in itself alone, is called play. Nevertheless, no matter how tempting the parallels, our labor-lust has little in common with the Hindu ethics of pure duty or Kant's aesthetic of self-motivated play. In those systems the individual is not dependent on the results, whereas in our system the results do not depend on the individual. There one is liberated from attachment to the product of one’s labor, here one is tortuously attached to the process itself. There he achieves dispassion in work, here the work itself becomes an intoxicating passion.

In other words, when the individual controls his own property, he can dispense it or overcome it, in order to achieve self-transcendence and reach the heights of self-perfection. When nothing of one's own is available or even imaginable, then the process works backwards, and the individual descends to the realm of self-abasement, experienced as an inability to control even oneself. The path from one's own thing leads to one's own soul, but from a thing not one's own, the path leads to someone else's soul, to the soul of a robot that slams its sledge or wedge into whatever object is placed before it. In Russia, we say that this kind of person works as if he has been "wound up" (kak zavedennyi).

Such labor is a convenient way of blinding oneself, satisfying a maniacal need to do something, to be occupied; it is a formula for self-depletion. The individual is not in control, but in thrall to the devil of labor who instructs him: "smash, slash, chop" or "fry, shred, season." The more physically debilitating the work, the easier it is to forget yourself in it, to chase away importunate thoughts of death, to kill exhausting blocks of time. Labor becomes a wonderful means of self-abnegation, the truest desire of a despairing soul. Through intercourse with an object our tormenting humanity is forgotten.

Too frequently in Soviet society labor becomes a form of escape from the freedom that importunately leaves one alone with oneself, with one’s conscience. For if you have a simple, tangible object, the kind that wants nothing but a firm hand, then away with self-consciousness: the world becomes as simple as seduction, the soul as simple as desire. One of Andrei Platonov's principal characters, the engineer Prushevsky, is "desirous of acting firmly, of concerning himself with current subjects and building any building at all for the use of others, just so as not to arouse his consciousness." Lust is a means to escape an unsuccessful or impossible love: the soul can't stand the tension and surrenders to the tender mercy of a basic physical urge. To be useful, to be manly and courageous, to feel your being by the first available means--that's what we call a feat of labor: dive into any opening and stick your finger in the first dike you see.

Gorky's hero Nil, a worker in the play Philistines, considered by many to be the first politically conscious proletarian in Russian literature, says eagerly: "One should love an occupation in order to manage it well. You know I terribly love to forge. A red, formless, wicked, burning mass is before you. . . To beat it with a hammer is delightful! It is alive and resilient. . . And here, with strong blows, you make everything you need from it. . ." One need not be an experienced psychoanalyst to see this forging as an undisguised, yet unconscious, symbol of loveless copulation.

For some reason, in Soviet culture we often combine the words "labor and creativity," "creativity and labor." What we don't seem to realize is that the urge to labor can sometimes arise from creative incapability, from a weakness of imagination, even a kind of impotence--an inability to love. Is it an accident that all totalitarian regimes praise labor as a primary virtue and proclaim that diligent workers are ideal citizens? Of course. The laborer is safe. He works himself to death, never taking his eyes off the ground. When someone works hard, we say he "slaves away." Human beings became the slaves of sin and must slave away by the sweat of their brows on the face of the earth, but does this mean we should turn the curse of humankind into a virtue? If you look for the original meaning of the word "freedom," you'll find that it did not mean "freed labor", but "freedom from labor". How often in the Soviet Union have we bitterly mocked the Biblical parable about the birds that "neither sow nor reap..."--the image of a person redeemed from sin.

Technology gradually frees mankind from the curse of labor, bringing the work process closer to dream, fantasy, the doings of the soul. But labor-lust hates technology, as debauchery hates romance. It is too closely bound to the flesh, to all that is mortal and vicious in it. Better to harvest potatoes by hand for a week than to do it in an hour with a machine. After all, people who bend down to the earth have a harder time forgetting they are slaves. It's rational, of course, to prefer the machine, but the soul demands strain, blisters, friction over the surface of things, in order to calm the physical urge, the devilish itching that tortures so sweetly.

Russian literature offers a host of examples of labor-lust: Turgenev's Bazarov throws himself into "feverish work" after he fails with Odintsova; Nekrasov's Dar'ia chops wood in a frenzy to forget the pain of her husband's death. Here we see none of Arjuna’s stern concentration nor of Kant's self-motivated play. The goal is to strangle something within yourself: "I subdued myself, setting my heel / on the throat of my own song." Some shoot themselves, like Treplev in Chekhov's The Sea-Gull. Others, like Uncle Vanya (in Chekhov's play of the same name), kill themselves through work. Sometimes a person who wants to shoot himself decides that this is not enough and kills himself through work instead, like Korchagin in Nikolai Ostrovsky's novel How The Steel Was Tempered (1932-4). And yet again, the reverse may happen: a person kills himself through work, but it's still not enough, so he shoots himself as well, like Mayakovsky.

In the case of Turgenev's and Nekrasov's characters, the lustful labor binges can be explained with reference to concrete psychological circumstances. But if we recall how Gorky's heroes perform their labor (in My Universities or The Artamonov Business) or Platonov's (in The Foundation Pit or The Sea of Youth), we begin to discern the ever-repeated basis of these situations in the life of the nation as a whole: they allow for an escape from stupefying emptiness through work that leads to stupefaction. There's a kind of gloomy ecstasy achieved in being swallowed up by this intoxicating and terrifying festival known as labor, as if people are heaping logs on a chronic fire that consumes their souls.

In My Universities Gorky depicts his autobiographical hero unloading a sinking barge in the rain:

They worked as though playing, with the gay enthusiasm of children, with that intoxicating zest of labor, than which only a woman’s embrace can be more sweet. . . . I, too, grabbed sacks, dragged, hurled, ran, grabbed again. And it seemed to me that I, and everything about me, had been caught up in some wild and furious dance. . . I tasted that night of joy which I had never before experienced. My heart flamed in the wish that all of life might be spent in such semi-insane ecstasy of labor. . .

Soviet writers often present labor as a temptation, as the promise of some thrilling physical enjoyment. This is quite understandable, since all other motives, such as expectation of deserved reward or effective result, are lacking. The only factor that can inspire such labor is enjoyment for its own sake. Labor is charged with eroticism precisely to the same extent that eroticism is presented in terms of labor. The most famous definition of love in Soviet literature belongs to Mayakovsky: "To love means this: to run /into the depths of a yard and, till the rook-black night,/ chop wood with a shining axe, giving full play to one's strength."

In an attempt to reduce personal relationships to social functions, Soviet literature has always kept silent on the subject of sex. A family has been considered the primary cell of society, where good workers and citizens are fashioned, or as a factory producing the happy generations of the future. The only sexual motifs to be found in many Soviet classics are those implanted in scenes of labor.

In Boris Gorbatov's novel Donbass, the coal miner Victor Abrosimov descends into the mine in order to experience the piercing enjoyment of drilling:

He got down on his knees before the wall of coal and switched on his hammer. A familiar tremor of joy rolled over his hands and then embraced all his body... His dream came true and the body of coal lay before him submissively as the miner was free to let himself go. The solid wall of untouched black forest moved excitingly close to him, enticing and luring him. Suddenly Viktor Abrosimov felt his muscles fill with daring, previously unknown force, his heart was consumed with bold courage, and he believed that he would be able to do everything, to overcome everything, and to achieve everything this night.

Soviet critic Brovman praises Gorbatov for "genuine achievement in depicting the miner's labor. . . The reader spontaneously participates in Viktor's labor, because it is presented in such a vivid, physically tangible manner."

It is doubtful, however, that this fierce, furious labor, which proceeds from desire rather than from dry calculation, could result in anything but destruction. Where lustful labor prevails, many things are done haphazardly, and much is torn to pieces and quickly tossed away. He who lusts takes what he wants--kneading the flesh, grinding out products. Not worried about making sense or taking the measure of a thing--he cuts, or rather, chops it up to fit his Procrustean bed. Does this not characterize all our industry? Our country is filled with hidden Marquis de Sades, who amass heaps of corpses in their castles, fitted out with machines for the voluptuous torture of voiceless victims, like so many untouched veins of ore and metals, virgin mountains and virgin forests. One can guess at the extent of the torture: its traces remain on the faces of our cities and villages, in the broken patterns of our fields and forests, in the gullies and potholes on the body of our exhausted land. Whatever once stood has long since bent to the ground, and whatever lay flat has been raised on its haunches. Whatever had parts has become an unbroken whole, stored in endless morgues euphemistically called warehouses or landfills, but both of which contain, for all intents and purposes, the very same things.


Lust is practically indifferent to the qualities of the partner, so long as, in the words of Fedor Karamazov, it's of the right gender. Labor-lust is equally indifferent to its object; so long as you can get into it, work it over, and lose yourself in it. If labor activities are interchangeable, then equally interchangeable are the individuals who labor. "No one is irreplaceable" (nezamenimyx net ) is a favorite Soviet phrase. It entered our language as if from brothel parlance, but what might initially have been a sexual joke has become a dark threat and a solemn curse.

A simple thing, an individual for example, can easily become an algebraic "X". Remember the engineer Prushevsky in Platonov's The Foundation Pit. Since he does not have a beloved woman, he wants, again and again, to expend his unnecessary body for "someone else's good," so he gives himself up to the cold and lazy caress of equipment.

"...Now he wished to concern himself with objects and structures constantly, so as to have them in his mind and his empty heart in place of friendship and attachment to people. His study of the technology of a body in a state of rest, in relation to the future building, provided Prushevsky with an equanimity of clear thought comparable to physical enjoyment. . . External substance, requiring neither movement, nor life, nor disappearance, replaced for Prushevsky something forgotten and as essential as the person of a lost sweetheart."

Indifference comparable to enjoyment, or enjoyment comparable to indifference--this is indeed a most exact formula for lust.

And of course it is not necessary that the object of labor substitute for a lover's body per se. Labor can substitute for anything, as long as the objects are substitutes and enjoyment of them can be combined with indifference to their specific substance. You can command a platoon, build a railroad, lead a propaganda sector, or write an autobiographical novel. You can "work" an epic poem or an advertisement. In Sholokhov's Virgin Soil Upturned, one of the characters, the communist Razmyotnov, refuses to weed the cabbage because in his opinion, this is not a man's job. Another communist, Makar Nagulnov, angrily reprimands Razmyotnov on behalf of the Party:

"This is a man's job if the Party dispatches you to it. They'll tell me, for example, 'Go, Nagulnov, and cut the heads off of counter-revolutionaries,' and I will go with joy! They'll tell me, 'Go dig up the potatoes,' and without joy I'll go just the same! They'll say, 'Go milk the cows, become a milkmaid,' and I'll gnash my teeth, but go nevertheless! I'll pull the hopeless cow's teats from side to side, but I will milk that damned cow to the best of my ability! If I pull the animal down, I will pick her up again, but I will milk her until I have drained the last drop from her."

Labor-lust turns out to be the expression of a kind of higher loyalty--to an idea or an ideal. You can corrupt a thing by exploiting it obscenely, but it is impossible to betray an idea. You can scatter children and old people to the four winds, and God knows you can strain a cow's udder, but you cannot stint when it comes to giving world revolution (in whose name all this is done) your ardent devotion. "Suddenly Nagulnov cried wildly, 'As for me. . . let them stand by the thousands--grandfathers, women and children--. . . and tell me they should be shot. . . If it is necessary for revolution. . . I will mow them all down with my machine-gun!' " One can give oneself promiscuously to any occupation, but during the most accidental of couplings, even in the event of rape, revolution's blue eyes must shine, call out, enrapture. Thus, in Platonov's novel Chevengur, the voluptuous revolutionary woman, represented by Rosa Luxemburg, leads Commissar Kopenkin through the Civil War, promising him a loving Communist heaven in reward for all the bloodshed.

Lust can easily be linked to loyalty through the concept of mania. Don Juan is wholly devoted to women, and that is precisely why he deceives one after another. Labor-lust is loyally devoted to the idea of labor. Since "labor created humankind" and since "the future belongs to those who labor," we must labor wherever the party of "laboring people" sends us. And for us, therefore, labor is as glorious and honorable as the conquest of a woman in the eyes of a fornicator. From all possible types and potentials of labor, we abstracted the idea of labor in and of itself as the most sublime and necessary meaning in life. Ever afterwards this all-encompassing principle has spiraled out of control and taken root in all the various concrete forms of labor: after briefly fertilizing each, it moves on.

Let me cite from memory a song which one could hear on the radio almost every day during the 1960s and seventies, a song that bored its way into our consciousness:

Are we the ones to stand in place?

Right is on our side in all our strivings.

Our labor is our badge of honor, a badge of valor and glory.

Whether toiling at the lathe or entering the mines,

A sublime dream, as clear as sunshine, calls you ever on.

We can't be blocked on land or sea.

We don't fear ice or fog.

We'll carry forth our flaming soul and our country's banner

Through all the worlds and ages.

Here is the poetics of our Principle, its ardent imagination. Lathes and mines are not enough, we need whole worlds to keep the flames of our soul from going out.

An apparatchik, sent out on various missions, first to deal with agriculture, then with propaganda, then with transport, then with education and culture is a kind of idle flaneur who wanders the vice-filled streets from one office to another. Why even call him a flaneur? As a true apparatchik then he's more like the owner of a harem: he can resolve all problems simultaneously without leaving his office, lounging behind his luxurious four-poster desk. He has no need to lower himself to the amusements of the street, since agriculture or education and culture come willingly to his chamber as soon as they are called. The order of their appearance is determined by a eunuch, his so-called secretary, who is in charge of catering to his whims and guarding the secrets of his nights.

One might imagine that these erasures of various separations--in the relationship of labor to property, to object, to type, and reward--were simply the over-zealous invention of a host of former peasants more accustomed to shooting and noise than to rational thought. Look, brothers--it's just the price we had to pay for oversimplification, a falling away from our original program, a distortion, a twisting, or a perversion of the wise commandments of our founders. But when we read carefully, the most authoritative author of all emphasizes the centrality of these very principles, their general and obligatory character:

. . . Communism, if we are to take the word in its strict definition, means unremunerated work for the good of society, without taking account of individual variations, erasing all memory of quotidian prejudices, erasing sluggishness, old habits, differences between separate kinds of work, differences in the size of salaries, etc.

Is it possible to frame a more explicit definition? Lenin enumerates each of the characteristics of labor-lust: it doesn't matter who, with whom, or why. Don't take individual variations into account, erase the differences between various kinds, and don't expect anything in return. But it is also striking to note that some of these words are drawn from a wider cultural context--not from industrial vocabulary, but from that of marital or sexual life. And it is in this context that Mandelshtam's metaphor seems already to have been lurking just around the corner. Because once upon a time, you know, there were "prejudices" that tied a person to his or her one and only beloved. There was "sluggishness" that did not permit the substitution of one woman or kind of work for another. There was the "habit" of expecting a reward, hope for affection in return. Now, this whole familial gemutlichkeit trapped in its individualistic prejudices, is supposed to give way to communal labor for the common good, without distinctions, habits, or memories.

Who simplified whom? Have the negligent, careless laborers simplified Lenin, or did Lenin simplify labor? And doesn't this brave new leap into the future equate human labor with something even worse than debauchery, since, after all, "reward" is individual and human, while only a mechanical arm (or phallus) works gratis? Remember the bear-hammerer, the model proletarian in The Foundation Pit -- this is the only being who could satisfy Lenin's definition in the strictest sense. And even he might fail: he demanded food and vodka. Nevertheless, maybe he will be the first to achieve communist labor, striding directly from a hunting-gathering society to communism.

When a real professional takes up a trade, he takes it up with all his heart, as entering wedlock. Professionalism is a mysterious dedication, a tormenting but happy wedding ring, an unbreakable connection with the world of an object, the mystery of a human being and a transformation into "one flesh." Whatever the professional makes grows out of this vow of fidelity. His product carries the stamp of love, a sign that the object produced is the fruit of privation and a long process of mutual understanding.

Where has that kind of competence gone? In our country the word "competent" has been used appropriately only in the phrase "competent organs" (namely, the KGB), organs that did in fact possess a potent and all-encompassing power. Sporadic and spontaneous dilettantism spreads its nets in all other spheres, entrapping one area after another without methodology, attachments, or obligations. We raise neither seed corn nor children, but we busily squander the common funds of mankind. Our favorite hero, labor's love, is the Jack of all trades: he sews, he mows, and he plays the oboe. Our dream for society is to produce a renaissance man who sews like a clothing factory, mows like a tractor, and plays like a symphonic band. Each hand works miracles: incredible dress designs, incredible harvests, incredible melodies--while in reality we had convicts in rags, starving millions, and an eerie silence in which a single hoarse voice could scarcely be heard.

It is easy to look down from on high and demand that people work more intensively and profoundly. But in order to accomplish anything profound, there must be boundaries. But our country is so gigantic that your legs just carry you farther and farther, "breaking boundaries on all sides (Alexandr Blok)." Our fabled size--is this not just the sweep of lust, a lustful incorporation of space? What, after all, is our gigantic and insatiable desire for territory, but a lust for expansion? We have acquired region after region, kilometer after kilometer, without the strength to stop, to map out a border, to build a solid home of our own. The earth's plain itself, splayed out flat in all directions, is the model of our loose views on labor, for wanderlust is, of course, a kind of lust as well, for the roaming, rolling, unsettled life. Lust is a psychological nomadism, perhaps we developed it from the nomadic tribes and hordes who broke into and overran Ancient Rus in the thirteenth century. "And it's in our blood"--is this not the same blood that streamed into Russia's veins during the Mongol invasion and was later poured out boundlessly and recklessly by bands of rebels and revolutionaries, rising from the farthest reaches of the Volga, from the old enclave of the Golden Horde, to redden the earth and deaden the mind?

Sometimes the leading detachment of an invading army is unable to get out again and perishes, surrounded by the enemy. So are we unable to escape. Our borders, Russian or Soviet, hold us firmly in their grasp, predetermining the whole lustful, nomadic spirit of our historical existence. It is immoral for a man to have ten wives, just as it is immoral for a people to control a territory that would satisfy ten peoples' needs. We have more than we need, and therefore work worse than we should.

And now, the final stage. Everything that we have absorbed and taken over but that we failed to make our own is going to be sold off in secret out from under us. This State, whose legs spread over Siberia and whose elbow leans on the Caucusus (Lomonosov's proud image), is simply too gigantic for the people who own it. So, having lusted over the land, in loveless labor, the people have no choice but to become procurers of land through trade and barter. Procuration is the final stage of lust. Free not only of moral obligations but of physical passion as well, all that remains is an intimate bond stripped of intimacy, as regular and regulated as the state of marriage, but with the plus sign changed to minus.

Psychologically, this is understandable: lust eventually encounters an uncontrollable alien force. This inevitably leads to the temptation to get rid of that uncontrollable thing, but not, of course, without consideration of one's self-interest. The thing that burned our lustful hands must be sold off on the world market. Others won't hesitate to buy, although they know it is stolen property. Lust in production leads to procuration in trade--instead of finished goods you sell natural resources. Why should we sell our work, when we've got goods just lying under foot? And so we sell the guts of our (formerly?) beloved homeland, and they are carted off to satisfy the desires of distant and thriftier industries. Then we can lie down on it and sleep until we die. Lacking the energy to live off our land, maybe we can simply live at its expense.



So we see that Mandelshtam's metaphor has led us into the most hidden corners and revealed the most embarrassing secrets of our relationship to our land.

I can't help recalling that this piquant metaphor was prepared by social "science" many years before that same science was forced to eat its words. In all of the projects meant to save the world, from the earliest socialist teachings and up to the most scientific communism, the collectivization of both property and women have always gone hand in hand. Socialism's detractors are wrong to insist that socialism mandates laziness or abstinence. Rather it mandates work and sexual activity that give up control of their own fruits, allowing a government, in its infinite wisdom, to dispose of them as it sees fit. All must work for all, in the family and in the factory. Collective property as a means for the creation of 'things' and for the recreation of humankind already presupposes and sanctifies the ritual lust that is labor in the absence of the institution of private property, or the conjugal state in the absence of marriage or the family. Mandelshtam's metaphor is not his invention, but the truth of a realized utopia in which socialist production and communal marriage grow organically together.

The ideas of social property and common wives were initially connected in Marx's and Engels' vision of the future. In the "Communist Manifesto" they do not conceal their radical view of increasing promiscuity as a trend toward social progress. Socialization of labor had already been attained inside the capitalist mode of production: the goal of socialist revolution was only to establish public ownership of that which had already developed in huge capitalist enterprises. In the same manner, these two believed that bourgeois society had already socialized the institution of marriage:

Nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce a community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial.

Our bourgeois, not content with having the wives and daughters of the proletarian at their disposal, not to mention common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other's wives.

Bourgeois marriage is in reality a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalized community of women.

Russian socialists held very similar views. In his novel What is to be Done?, which became a manifesto for all Russian revolutionaries, Chernyshevsky also connects these themes through the famous utopian dream of the protagonist, Vera Pavlovna. The crystal palace of the future, where all people will be equal in rights and duties, is not only a gigantic factory, but also a huge brothel. Men and women attend a daily feast, consummating their collective labor, and then with mutual desire, retire to specially designed rooms. And what is more, for Chernyshevsky labor is merely a means for the physical perfection and sexual enjoyment that constitutes the end of human existence.

But why, then, was community of property introduced in the Soviet Union, but never the community of wives? Is it not because common ownership somehow absorbed all other activities, including those once intended for sexual realization? This hypothesis forces us to shift our discussion from Marxist to Freudian terms.

Marcuse remarks that "in psychoanalytic literature, the development of libidinal work relations is usually attributed to a 'general maternal attitude as the dominant trend of a culture,'" in another striking, if unintended, allusion to Soviet society. The USSR rejected the father principle and established itself on the basis of pure maternity. Materialism and atheism are important components of this self-indulgent civilization which recognizes only one reality besides its own, Mother Earth. The feminine and specifically maternal basis of Russian civilization has been grasped by many Russian poets and philosophers. Alexandr Blok addressed Russia as "O, my Rus, my wife . . ." (O Rus' moia, zhena moia...). Georgi Fedotov argued that "at every step in studying Russian popular religion one meets the constant longing for a great divine female power . . ." Nikolai Berdiaev believed that "the fundamental category in Russia is motherhood." It was the extension of the Mother cult in Russia that provided for the triumph of materialism after the Christian religion of the Heavenly Father was overthrown by the Bolshevik revolution.

We will attempt to explicate some of the historical premises of this vision. Russia's vast expanses of open plains have often been compared to a womb that must be defended from invasion. For many centuries, Russia was an agricultural society, hence the mythological images of the earth as divine mother. A peasant who plowed and fertilized his fields could metaphorically see himself as a man impregnating his wife. Ritual fertilization of the earth survived in Russia into the twentieth century, despite almost a millennium of Christian tradition. Finally, the very names Rus' and Rossiia are of feminine gender, lending themselves naturally to such phrases as "Mother Russia" and "Rus-Wife" (Rossiia - matushka, Rus' - zhena ).

One can be certain that the mythological relics of femininity and maternity are still relevant to twentieth century Russia, regardless of its obsession with political, social, economic and technological issues. But, characteristically, even in the most comprehensive Western investigation of feminine themes in Russian culture, the ideology and practice of Russian communism is not considered at all. In particular, the concept of matter is never mentioned in Mother Russia. Materialism, however, is the most important outcome of worshipping Russia as mother.

Lenin's book, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1908), defended materialist philosophy against what was termed "physical idealism," a philosophy that had been elaborated by western European scientists (Mach and Avenarius), and by their Russian followers (Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, and Bazarov) in the early decades of the twentieth century. The main thrust of Lenin's book is that matter is primary, and consciousness secondary. He denies the subjective and ideal qualities of knowledge, insisting that material objects are directly and naturally "copied," "reflected," and "photographed" in human consciousness.

I will not discuss the philosophical aspects of Lenin's work per se. Instead my question is: did the Leninist doctrine of Soviet materialism arise spontaneously, or did it have roots in earlier Russian thought and in the national character? One often encounters the view that materialism was alien to Russian philosophy and was mechanically borrowed from western European thought. Russians allegedly are natural-born spiritualists and do not perceive matter as a specific, separate reality; they supposedly lack western European sobriety and the habit of relying on objective laws which operate beyond one's subjective will or wishes. Russians are a mystical people, for whom rational knowledge of the objective world is alien.

The element of truth in these characterizations should not lead us to confuse materialism with rationalism or empiricism. Indeed, a classical, archetypal Russian is neither a rationalist nor an empiricist, but is nevertheless a materialist, and the most unyielding materialism does not prevent him from proclaiming the mystic qualities of matter. Materialism proceeds from the ancient assumption about nature's priority over man, of its maternal rights over man, and the reciprocal duty of man towards Mother Nature.

Yet it is well-known that Marxist-Leninist materialism is not merely worship of matter: it struggles in alliance with atheism against religion or (perhaps) against God Himself. Materialism is a form of theomachy (bogoborchestvo) that rejects worship of the Father in favor of worshipping Mother Nature. Lenin announced that "all worship of a divinity /bozhen'ka/ is necrophilia--be it the cleanest, most ideal, not sought-out but built-up divinity, it's all the same."

Of primary significance is the desire to declare in mocking tones with traces of a lisp that God is nothing but a godlet, to turn Him from the Father into a baby, to eliminate the rival in this love-struggle for the mother. In this way the child attempts in fantasy to trade places with his father. It is interesting in this context to compare two of Lenin's neologisms, in which the diminutive suffix -en'k and the augmentative suffix -ishche turn out to be antonyms not only on the grammatical plane, but also in terms of worldview: on the one hand, the contemptuous "godlet" (bozhen'ka), and on the other, the crudely elated "What a man!" The latter description of Lev Tolstoy--"What a full-blown man!" ("Kakoi materyi chelovechishche")--attested by Maksim Gorky in his sketch "V. I. Lenin," has often been quoted as an example of Lenin's "activist" or even "fighting" humanism. Inclusion of the epithet "full-blown" (materyi), derived from the root mat' and denoting the highest level of sexual maturity, also unconsciously points to the Oedipal subtext of Lenin's materialism. In his competition for the mother, the son imagines himself a "full-blown man" and the father, a powerless "godlet."

Any attentive psychoanalyst will identify this "militant materialism" and its furious scorning of a "damned God" as the Oedipus complex elevated to the stature of philosophy. Materialism, when coupled with atheism, is nothing but the conscious projection of this childish complex: the son's striving to take his mother away from his father by killing the father or, better yet, simply by announcing his death. This is why Lenin considered love for the Father to be a necrophilic perversion. Soviet materialism as a mother-cult is, strictly speaking, not philosophy, but mythology.

A psychoanalytic interpretation of materialism can go still further to explain a paradox which cannot be solved in the framework of Marxist philosophy: why did the consistently materialistic approach lead to an unprecedented violence of man over nature and over society in the Soviet era? Soviet ideology allegedly proclaimed the priority of matter, but, in actuality, such entities as the "planned economy" and "ideological and Party commitment" devastated living matter: Chernobyl is only one example. As early as the beginning of the 1930s, Andrei Bely remarked that the triumph of materialism had abolished matter itself. Now, in the early 1990s, we are able to witness the last stage of materialism's destruction of matter in the USSR: there is nothing to eat and no clean air to breathe, many natural resources are exhausted, and agricultural production is marginal at best.

All this can be explained again in terms of the Oedipus complex. In reality, the son kills his father, not to worship his mother religiously, but to master her sexually. In the same way, materialism-atheism dethrones God the Father, not for the sake of the maternal superiority of Nature, but for the son's superiority over his mother. For example, Stalin in his work "Dialectical and Historical Materialism" (1938) which for many years became the Holy Scripture of Soviet ideology, proceeds from Engels's aasumption that "the materialistic outlook on nature means no more than simply conceiving nature just as it exists, without any foreign admixture," which means "without God" or "without spirit." In the same work, however, Stalin asserts that "men carry on a struggle against nature and utilize nature for the production of material values..." The son abducts Mother Nature from the Father ("foreign admixture") in order to intrude into the womb from which he was born and to become her master and the spouse. This is the incestuous essence of materialist civilization.

Probably the only solid monument to this epoch of militant materialism will be the underground palaces of the metro systems in Moscow, Leningrad, and other large cities. In Russian, the formal term for "metro" is Metropolitan, but this is not just a system of transportation, it is also the Matropolitan, the city or even shrine of the Mother. The first metro stations were built in Moscow in the mid-thirties, while the anti-religious political campaigns were reaching a climax, and Christian temples to the Heavenly Father were being destroyed all across Russia. To replace these temples, new ones were constructed that were dedicated to the earth and were built into, not above, the earth itself. These underground temples were symbolic both of the new predominance of materialism as an anti-religion and of the reborn religion of the mother.

Anybody who has descended into the Moscow metro has noticed the abundance of beautiful Soviet emblems that decorate its walls. Portraits and statues of Soviet leaders surrounded by the reverent masses, overflowing cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables, heavily armed men and women ready to protect the state, workers and peasants clasping hands in eternal friendship, representatives of various Soviet nationalities all seated together at one table, toasting their Party--such are the icons and frescoes of sacred events in Soviet history. In addition to functional transportation purposes, space was wisely reserved in these tunnels for transcendental, religious depictions, such as these.

It is fitting that stones removed from ransacked churches were deliberately used in the construction of these churches of the underworld. The destruction of the Father's temples and building of the Mother's temples essentially formed a single process. The first church of the Mother, the Revolutionary Square metro station in central Moscow, was partially constructed from the stones of the Danilov monastery. (Ironically, the latter is now a centerpiece in the current revival of the Father’s church: the patriarch and hierarchy of Russian Orthodoxy have recently moved from provincial Zagorsk to this urban monastery.)

In his book Poeziia rabochego udara (Poetry of the worker's blow, 1918), proletarian poet and thinker A. K. Gastev prophetically points to the new turn in civilization: from the heavens to the underworld.

"We won't strain toward these pathetic heights, known as the sky. The sky is a creation of idle, lay-about, lazy and timid people.

We will dash below!

. . .For long years we will go away from the sky, from the sun, from the twinkling of stars, and pour into the earth: she into us, and we in her.

We will go into the earth by thousands, we will go in by millions, we will pour in as an ocean of people! And from there we will not come back, we will never come back. . . There we will perish and bury ourselves in the insatiable rush and the laboring blow.

Born of the earth, we will return to her, as the ancients used to say; but the earth will be transformed. . . When she can bear no more and rends her steel armor, in an ecstacy of labor's outburst, she will birth new beings, whose name will no longer be man.

Such is the frenzied erotics of labor: man's re-entry into his mother's lap. He no longer wants to depend on the father, to cringe before the sky. Rather, he is filled with passion for his mother and determines to possess her, to pour into her the "ecstacy of labor's outburst," so she will conceive new, superhuman beings. "Born of the earth, we will return to her"--precisely the formula of Oedipus' desire. The entire lexicon of this passage by Gastev, despite the ostensible topic of "labor," is filled with openly erotic metaphors reminiscent of whole works by such authors as D. H. Lawrence or Henry Miller. Further on we read: "Let us dig into the depths and cut them open. . . let us lay bare the under-earth caverns. . . in the insatiable rush and the laboring blow. . . she'll be full with an unquieted storm. . . moved to ecstacy by the outburst." Materialism, with its revulsion for the sky and frenzied love of the earth, shows its incestuous underside.

If we consider materialism a certain type of mythology, it might well arise of its own accord from the soil of any national culture on the basis of ancient pagan beliefs.

What were the sources of the Soviet materialist bias? Was it imposed on our society by foreign thinkers, by German scientific materialists such as Ludwig Buchner, Karl Vogt, and Jacob Moleschott? (They were admired by Chernyshevsky, Pisarev and other revolutionary democrats.) Or did our materialism come from Marx and Engels, the founders of dialectical materialism, via Lenin and the social democrats?

Perhaps the roots of Soviet materialism are deeply native. Recall the furious curse with which Lenin condemned German professors, admonishing them to return to their mothers' vaginas. These grandiose materialist teachings, exaltedly accepted by the lower classes after the October Revolution, revert back to that favorite expletive, "Fuck your mother!" (. . . tvoiu mat'!), which in Russian is a familiar and virtually all-purpose saying.

This curse of sending the son to the same womb that gave him birth originates in the ancient tribal practice of incest as an accepted type of relation. Marxism-Leninism teaches that the future of communist society will be to revive on the highest technological level the primitive communal structure. The importance of this statement has been underestimated: does it not mean that patterns of behavior forbidden by civilized societies will also be revived under communism as accepted social practice?

In Russian, such foul language is called mat, which has the same roots as the words "mother" (mat’ ) and "matter" (materiia ). In the late 1920s and early thirties a pun was in vogue among the Soviet intelligentsia: the party chiefs adore dialectical materialism, while the masses prefer the maternyi dialect. This pun is more than a simple joke: it does not so much underline the difference between the party’s and the people’s understanding of the basic category of mother-matter, as it stresses their essential unity. Is not dialectical materialism a philosophical modification of mat ? Doesn’t it worship matter in the same way that a son may abuse and denigrate his mother? Proclamations of the priority of matter over the spirit or the struggle of materialism against idealism may be regarded as equivalent to the obscenity of pushing a son back into his mother’s womb.

Should the mother enjoy this rape, or writhe in pain and lose the will to live? The reaction of nature to the incestuous drive of Soviet man is the answer to this question. . .

It is commonly thought that incestuous relationships are taboo in civilized societies because inbreeding can cause genetic mutations. The Soviet Union seems to be the first instance of a civilized society that is founded on the concept of incest: an exception that proves the rule. The Soviet Union has retreated back to barbarism and has been overtaken by unprecedented forms of social, physical, and environmental degradation.

Medicine knows only too well the type of fruit that issues from the union of mother and son. Among the innumerable pathologies known to materialist civilization, suffice it to mention patho-economics, patho-sociology, patho-pedagogy, patho-aesthetics, and patho-linguistics. Violence against nature and the exhaustion of her life-giving womb beneath the blows of an iron sledghammer, causing continuous miscarriages, harvests hastily extracted from nature, without coming to term, and the despoiling of rich underground resources . . . Violence against one's own people through the mechanical division into classes and then infecting some classes with hatred for others . . . Violence against art, whereby images born of life itself are replaced by the artificial insemination of future homunculuses with the abstractly correct ideas of socialist realism . . . Violence against language and its perversion into an instrument, a bayonet for the class offensive, fashioned of words that don't grow from the root but are mechanically stuck together from bits and pieces: "Komsomol," "kolkhoz," "partkom". . . These are some of the consequences of this epoch-making and all-embracing incest.

It is not coincidental that the Bible of this new incestuous materialism is Gorky's novel, Mother (1906). The hero of the novel turns out to be the son, Pavel, who subjugates the will of his mother, Nilovna, and leads her into revolution. At first, she is a Christian believer, but her belief in Father and Son gives way to passionate support for revolutionaries the world over, as if they were all her sons.

Pavel's father, the tyrant Mikhail Vlasov, appears in the first pages of the novel, only to die promptly from alcoholism. Gorky rejects faith in the Father, the opiate of the people, in order to position the son closer to his mother instead. Here they are, Pavel and Nilovna, alone, and what does their situation represent if not Pavel's attempt to dominate Nilovna and her willingness to submit to his will?

She clung to his every word with fear. The eyes of the son burned beautifully and strongly. 'What choice have you ever known?' he asked her. 'What can you recall of your life?' It was sweet for her to see that his somber blue eyes now burned so softly and gently. He took her hand and firmly clenched it in his hands. She was stricken by the word 'mother,' which he pronounced with hot passion, and by this clenching of her hand, which was new and strange. And embracing his strong, well-proportioned body with caressing, warm glances, she began to speak swiftly and quietly. . .

This episode with its "strange groping" and "hot passion," is reminiscent of Turgenev's love scenes, but of course here the lovers are mother and son. "It's magnificent--mother and son together. . . !" Soviet students learned these lines in school, year after year, without comprehending the perverse underlying meaning of such stirring episodes. We wrote compositions about how the thoughts and deeds of the son made his mother's heart overflow, and how, under Pavel's influence, her soul straightens and her body becomes young again.

Later on, Gorky let slip the secret of his worldview, as so often happens with dangerous, "repressed" erotic themes, in a reference to another writer. In Mikhail Prishvin's works, Gorky found and ardently approved the spirit of all-embracing incest with Mother Nature:

In your books, this sense of the earth, as of your own flesh, sounds to me remarkably comprehensible, as you are husband and son of the Great Mother.

Does this sound like a mingling of the blood? But, after all, that's just what it is: man, born of the earth, makes her fruitful with his labor. . .

Here we see clearly stated what the subconscious lay down in the image of Pavel Vlasov--"husband and son of the Great Mother"--and this image acquires archetypal depth. Gorky realizes that he has made it "sound like a mingling of the blood," but since this is already the archetype of the entire new Soviet civilization, any shamefulness disappears from his admission, written almost 30 years after "Mother." On the contrary, pride takes its place in the man who attains to the level of "making fruitful" his own mother. Labor, thus, is considered not a form of obedience to the Father, not His curse laid upon the son in consequence of the first sin, but the piercing joy of copulation with Mother Nature.

Lenin's high regard for Mother as a "necessary and ultimately timely book" is known by every Soviet student. It is not by chance that this novel was written at almost the same time that Lenin's own treatise, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, was being written in 1908--just as the first Russian revolution was being put down by the tsar. Actually, Lenin’s treatise tries to argue in theoretical terms precisely what Gorky's novel portrays: that the Mother is completely independent of the Father (be he God or tsar) and would be infinitely happier in union with sons who are revolutionaries and materialists.

The Russian language is comparatively gender-conscious, and Lenin’s philosophical views are sexually highly charged. Lenin denigrates those concepts which are masculine in the Russian language, such as God (Bog ), spirit (dukh ) , sign (znak ), symbol (simvol ), hieroglyph (ieroglif ), while matter (materiia ), reality (real'nost'), nature (priroda ), truth (istina ) and factual data (ob"ektivnaia dannost' )--his terms of positive valence--are feminine.

In Lenin's view, nature is not just the spouse of man, but rather his mother. This view is the basis of the polemical chapter "Did Nature Exist Before Man?" in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Here Lenin attacks those empirio-monists and empirio-criticists who defended the simple "conjugal" relationship of the "central member," man, to the material world. They defended the "principal coordination" between the human sensibility and the material world, which in mythological terms is more similar to a spousal relationship than to that of a mother and son.

In a psychoanalytic sense, the materialistic teachings of Lenin represent a fascination with the mother's womb and lead to his formula of philosophical seduction: "Matter is a philosophical category for the designation of objective reality, which is given to a man through his senses. . ." A man, bereft of his Father, remains alone with undifferentiated feminine matter, which surrenders to him sensually. In Russian, every principal word in Lenin’s definition, except "man," is feminine.

Thus we can understand the origins of Gorky's and Lenin's vindictive ideology of incest which emerged as a reaction to the Father tsar defeating the sons (1906--1908). Upon attaining power, they successfully avenged themselves on this earthly father as well as on the Heavenly one. All mechanisms of psychological and social self-restraint were destroyed and primordial polymorphous sexuality, lust in the broadest sense, became evident, as we have seen, in all types of social relationships.

And now we can begin to define communist labor not only as the promiscuity of collective ownership, but also as an incestuous attitude toward Mother Nature. Our labor was furious and frenzied, as if we were possessed by insatiable desire. The all-time favorite Soviet saying became the maxim of agronomist Ivan Michurin: "We cannot wait for favors from nature; to take them from her is our task." I remember school teachers constantly repeating this sentence to us with a proud, ardent emphasis on the verb "to take." Labor became a sort of rape: taking by force from Mother Nature those favors she was not inclined to relinquish.


The translation of Marxist categories into the language of Freudianism and the interpretation of of Soviet civilization in terms of psychoanalysis--these become rather popular motifs of the humanities in contemporary Russia. The Oedipus complex, as presented in this chapter, is by no means the only key to the Soviet unconscious.

Georgy Gachev has worked out the concept of a "Rustam complex," whereby youth is offered in sacrifice to age, as the father kills his own son. In Gachev's estimation, this gerontocratic complex is characteristic of the Eastern unconscious, including that of Russia, whereas the Oedipus complex, with its cult of triumphant youth, characterizes European and, broadly speaking, Western civilization in which the new vanquishes the old. The archetype of filocide, as Gachev formulates it, explains Russia's perpetual return to archaic ways of life, from capitalism to feudalism and even the primitive communal system: the father "devours" his children, as elderly inertia wins out over the energy of the young.

Boris Paramonov has worked out a different psychoanalytical theory which views Bolshevism as the perversion of natural relations between man and woman, man and nature, in preference for a homosexual Utopia. In this context "comradship," the society of like-thinkers of the same sex, becomes the source of ideologically sumblimated pleasure. Paramonov emphasizes the homosexual basis of Plato's "ideal republic" and finds corresponding motifs in the work of leading Soviet writer Andrei Platonov.

Nonetheless, the current trend toward psychoanalytical interpretations of Soviet phenomena has nothing in common with the Freudian-Marxist Utopias of Reich, Marcuse, Fromm and other New Left theorists of the 1960s. Freudian-Marxism was a typical manifestation of the modernist paradigm, striving to unite these two types of "radical critical" discourse in order to build a metanarrative of liberation. Social revolution was augmented by sexual revolution, as creative ecstasy and promiscuity were postulated in the economic and erotic spheres alike.

The aim of Freudian interpretations of Marxism in post-Soviet Russia is entirely different: not to strengthen but to annihilate these two discourses by imposing them on each other. On the face of it, contemporary Freudian interpretations of Marxism intend to substitute one discredited discourse for another which still appeals to contemporary Russian theorists because of its longtime repression under the Soviet regime. However, the far-reaching goal of these interpretations is not to demonstrate the superiority of Freudian discourse over Marxist discourse, but rather their essential similarity. Postmodern anti-utopian impulses are in effect: in these newest interpretations, one of which is offered here, Marxism and Freudianism mutually mock one another, revealing the contingency of their "liberating" and "unmasking" lexicon. Freudianism emerges not as a necessary addition but as a grotesque and laughable discreditation of Marxism. Translation from Marxist language into Freudianism serves not as a verification but rather as a falsification of both languages: precisely because they speak in the same way, they describe not so much reality itself as the very mechanism of such speaking, a model of deterministic prophesy. By harmonizing with each other they elucidate the interplay of sister languages, a double solipsism from which there arises no reality whatever other than that of language and metanarrative structures which reflect and repeat each other endlessly. Translatability is a sign of stereotypification which becomes an object of theoretic irony; repetition and bare quotation are the device of parody. Marx and Freud unintentionally repeat, and thereby parody, each other's gestures; they are two great actors playing out one and the same comedy on the postmodern stage--the modernist project of the "liberation of humankind."


Parts 1-2 are translated mostly by Andrew Wachtel. Part 3 is written in English.




An early Russian version of this study was published in Syntaksis, 1989, no. 25. Sections 1 and 2 were translated from the Russian by Andrew Wachtel; parts of section 3 were first presented at a conference on "The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture," at Fordham University, New York, June 1991. An English version appeared in Common Knowledge, 1992, vol. 2,no. 3.

Translator: "Est' blud truda i on u nas v krovi." A literal translation of this passage would read, "there's a whoring after labor, and it's in our blood." From the poem "Midnight in Moscow. A sumptuous Buddhist summer" (1932). Complete Poetry of O. E. Mandelstam, trans. B. Raffel and A. Burago (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1973), 212.

Andrei Platonov, The Foundation Pit, trans. Thomas P.Whitney (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1973), 34.

Maxim Gorky, Philistines, cited in Brovman, Grigory, Trud. Geroi. Literatura. Ocherki i razmyshlenia o russkoi sovetskoi khudozhestvennoi proze (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1974), 146.

Vladimir Mayakovsky, "At the Top of My Voice," quoted from the translation by Max Hayward and George Reavey in The Bedbug and Selected Poetry, ed. Patricia Blake (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1975), 223-225.

Maxim Gorky, My Universities, from Collected Works in 10 Volumes (Moscow: Progress Publishers, v.7), 402-403.

Vladimir Mayakovsky, "Letter from Paris to Comrade Kostrov on the Nature of Love," in The Bedbug and Selected Poetry, 213.

Cited in Grigory Brovman, Trud. Geroi. Literatura. Ocherki i razmyshleniia o russkoi sovetskoi khudozhestvennoi proze (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1974), 146.

Brovman, Trud. Geroi. Literatura, 148.

Platonov, Foundation Pit, 36.

Mikhail Sholokhov, Sobranie sochinenii [Collected works] in 8 volumes (Moscow: Pravda Publishing House, 1962), v.7, 45.

Sholokhov, Sobranie sochinenii, v.6, 62.

V.I. Lenin, "Political report to the Central Committee of 2 December, 1919", Complete Works, v. 39, 360.

From "Retribution" by Aleksandr Blok.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970), 50.

The goddess of love, who has "the sensuality of Astarte" and "Aphrodites' infatuated regard for beauty," reveals to Vera Pavlovna: "Think of those burning cheeks and shining eyes you saw in the dance hall, think of the comings in and goings out. It was I who called them away, for I dwell in the room of every maid and man where curtained doors and sumptuous carpets keep the silence and my secret inviolable. . . .Mine, I tell you, all is mine. Labor lends its strength and vigour to my enjoyment, revelry the making-ready and restful afterglow. I am the end and all in life". Nikolai Chernyshevsky. What Is to Be Done? Tales of New People. A Novel (Moscow: Raduga Publishers,1983), 408.

Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (New York: Vintage Books,1962), 197.

G. P. Fedotov, The Russian Religious Mind (New York,1960), v. 1, 362.

Nikolai Berdiaev, The Russian Idea, trans. R. M. French (Boston, 1962), 6.

Joanna Hubbs, Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press,1988).

For Lenin the most authoritative source is Engels' formulation which also deduces materialist teachings from the worship of nature: "Those who assumed that a spirit existed before nature comprised the idealistic camp. But those who considered nature the primary element formed various schools of materialism. At first the expressions 'idealism' and 'materialism' implied nothing else." From K. Marx and F. Engels, Sochineniia (2-nd edition, Moscow: Politizdat, 1961), vol. 21, 283.

A letter to Maxim Gorkii, 13 or 14 November, 1913. Lenin V.I. "On Religion" (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), 39.

Frederic Engels. Ludwig Feuerbach, as cited in Joseph Stalin. Dialectical and Historical Materialism, in his Selected Writings. New York: International Publishers, 1942, 412.

Stalin, op.cit., 421.

Gastev cited in I. R. Shafarevich, Russofobiia [Russophobia] (Moscow: Tovarishchestvo russkikh khudozhnikov, 1991), 119.

Maxim Gorky, Mother (part 2, chapter 3), Sobranie sochinenii [Collected Works] in 18 volumes (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1960), v. 4, 161-163.

Gorky, Mother, 398.

Maksim Gorky, "O M. M. Prishvine" [On M. M. Prishvin], in Prishvin's book Zhen' shen' [Ginseng] (Moscow, 1937), 650.

Lenin, Sochineniia [Works] 4th edition (Moscow: Politizdat, 1952), v.14, 117.

Russian-English Dictionary of Winged Words, (Moscow: Russkii iazyk, 1988), 126. This maxim was advanced by Michurin in 1934, as if to confirm Mandelshtam’s metaphor of labor-lust, fashioned in 1932.

Gachev derives the name of this complex from that of the Persian epic hero of the Shah-nama by the Firdousi (941-1020). As Russian examples of filocide he cites Ilya Muromets, hero of the well-known cycle of bylinas, and Gogol's epic character Tarac Bulba, both of whom murder their own sons. In Russian history, the best-known tsars, Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, committed filocide, as, in a sense, did Stalin since he refused to exchange prisoners in order to gain his son Yakov's release from the Nazis, thereby condemning him to death. See Georgy Gachev, "Natsional'nye obrazy mira" Voprosy literatury, 1987, no. 10; English translation forthcoming in Re-Entering the Sign: Voices From the New Russia, ed. Ellen Berry and Anesa Miller-Pogacar (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995).

See Boris Paramonov "Chevengur i okrestnosti." Kontinent, 54, (Paris, 1984), 333-372.



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