The dissident is dead. Long live the dissident – Boris Akunin and popular literature as counterculture under Putinism
This paper explores the reappearance of the dissident in Russian contemporary literature followingPutin’s rise to power, focussing in particular on how the country’s formerly highbrow dissident counterculture is now moving closer to the realm of popular culture. Tracing the link between the intelligentsia, literature, and dissent all the way up to the supposed death of all three phenomena in the post-collapse years, this article argues that a dissident revival is not only ongoing but directly linked to Putin’s manipulation of historical consciousness and the nostalgia discourse in Russia. Using Boris Akunin, one of Russia’s most popular contemporary writers, as an example, this paper demonstrates how his activity as an author and a public figure has changed in reaction to Putin’s totalitarian turn in politics, resulting in an increasingly pointed counter-narrative to theKremlin’s hegemonic discourse on history. Through sketching Akunin’s artistic principles as a writer and addressing the importance of the nostalgia discourse for post-Soviet Russia’s identity struggles, this article discusses how Akunin’s exploration of the intersection between popular culture and highbrow literature may be indicative of a modernisation of the entire Russian intelligentsia tradition, pointing towards the future of literary dissent in Russia.
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