My Soviet Youth: A Memoir With Critical Introduction To The Post-Soviet Cultural Identity

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Literature and Languages

Date of Award

Spring 2020


This dissertation proposes the analysis of the Russian memoirist tradition and its key trends. It includes a creative component representing memories of life during the late Soviet and post-Soviet period and explores how this creative work fits into the tradition of Russian life-writing and what gaps it fills. Chapter 1 (introduction) explains how the creative portion reflects the tension between the collective identity and individual strive for self-expression prominent in the Russian literature since its early beginnings. The work represents a category of the “every person” memoir - a term I propose to substitute the “nobody memoir” definition suggested by Couser to refer to the work authored by a common person, non-celebrity. While many memoirists from the Soviet period position themselves as active fighters for or against the political cause, or victims of the regime, I assume the stand of a detached participant, without claiming an overly active role in shaping or influencing socio-political events. The memoir continues the Russian literary tradition of “fictions of the self” (autobiographical statements combining elements of fiction and documentary with an element of self-imaging and self-evaluation)1 affected, although not completely governed, by the unstable and brutal socio-political environment and censorship. Additionally, I will explore the motif of cultural and spiritual continuity guarded and preserved mostly (but not exclusively) by women in a politically oppressed society, and how this motif is revealed in my creative portion. I will also explain a different angle of my memoir, which, in contrast to most post-Soviet memoir works focusing on the fiction of the Russian or Jewish ethnical self, attempts to reflect a construction of a Russian-Ukrainian cultural identity in complex geo-political environment. It also attempts to paint a relatively balanced picture of the late Soviet reality.


Susan Stewart

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature