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Russian Empire determined to retain colonies, seeks to maintain control — Rice University Slavic Studies Professor Ewa Thompson

29 January, 2024 Monday
14:37

Ewa Thompson, a Professor of Slavic Studies at Rice University (USA) and the author of "Troubadours of Empire: Russian Literature and Colonialism," examines the role of Russian literature as an instrument of imperial policy

She shared her opinions with Espreso TV.

"The bottom line is that all empires generate imperial knowledge and vision. We can talk about the British and French empires; they have their own rhetoric, their own narratives about the colonies, and how they civilized the processes. Again, the question here is that they have grown to a certain level, that their colonies have now gained sovereignty and they are no longer empires. Empires do not allow peoples who want to be free to achieve this sovereignty, but we see that after the fall of communism, this maneuver was not enough. So it seems that the Western European empires have come of age and let their colonies go free, while the Russian Empire has not yet grown to that point," explains the Rice University Slavic Studies professor.

According to Thompson, Russia is holding onto the lands it once conquered, believing that, for some reason, it is necessary to maintain this state of affairs and keep these states under its flag to preserve its "greatness."

Regarding the literature of imperial Russia, she said that the world can no longer change history: "What happened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries resonates. We understand that this literature is and has been imperial, the literature of the Russian Empire. That is why we should wait for new works by authors who will understand what colonialism is, what imperialism is, and why it should be banned in the twenty-first century."

Russian works were popularized thanks to the power of the Russian Empire in the world at the time.

"Our ability to perceive the broader context is hindered because, while reading, we often simply agree with the text—it resonates with us, and there's no reflection. That's why it really works with Dostoevsky, with Tolstoy. Readers derive meaning, reach a certain understanding after engaging with these works, and that's what captivates us—the greatness we discuss, why we really share their phenomenon and these writers really wanted to reach us somehow," Thompson summarized.

  • The professor also expressed her opinion that Russian literature is not first-rate literature, but is a product of imperial policy.
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