On Self and the Era: Literary Exploits of Russian Émigrées in Africa


Natalia Krylova


Within the general array of the studies on the issues of immigration during the era of intensive migration processes induced by the Russian revolution of 1917, the approach of researching into cultural self-preservation and cultural identity of the immigrants is used to a considerably lesser extent. At the same time, such an approach, especially if supplied with evidence in the form of fictional and journalistic works, is extremely important for understanding the socio-cultural adaptation of an individual to the new environment and determining the specifics of cultural integration associated with the inevitable and dramatic clash of different cultural stereotypes.

The emigrant generation of Russians of the “first wave”, who found themselves in Africa, had the ability to create literature. There were many women among them, for whom literary testimony, poetry, and journalism were important. Epistolary became one of the ways of cultural expression, recreating the history of communities whose existence for a long time remained little known. The use of these sources opens up new areas of life and history of Russian emigration.

Life at the crossroads of different cultural traditions, tragic awareness of their isolation from the native culture, challenging experience of learning a foreign culture, as well as the existence within the space of different traditions of life – all these marks of the cultural composure of a Russian emigré of the first half of the 20th century can be found in their journalistic and fictional works.

In the works of Russian emigrants, there is a special subtlety of psychological mood, a special insight into their own lives, their “I”, and a special piercing compassion for the world around them.

Hence the special lyricism of the women’s prose and poetry, despite the dramas of life reflected in them, and the specialness of their position in this world. Their literary samples are a vivid evidence of a bygone era and represent fresh inclusions in the general literary process. Combining with the poetic and prose streams of Russian emigrant literature, they join together in the general world literary process that was experienced by the 20th century.


Africa, compatriots, women, creativity, Russian emigration, literary process, prose, emigrant culture, multiculturalism, adaptation




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