Out of the Unknown and into the Limelight: The Case of Estonian Russian Literature

Anneli Kõvamees

Abstract


In the era of hyphenated identities, one’s identity may not be as clear as decades before; the same applies to culture and literature. Over the past years, there have been discussions about the exact definition of national literature. In Estonia there have been debates surrounding the definition of Estonian literature: is it a literature written in Estonian or is it a literature written in Estonia? One of the most interesting literary debates erupted in connection with the Estonian Russian writer Andrei Ivanov (born 1971), whose novels in many cases have been written in Russian but published first in Estonian. The first part of the article deals with the definition of Estonian literature and the position of the Estonian Russian-language literature. It may be noteworthy that only at the beginning of the 21st century did Estonian literary criticism start to deal with the Estonian Russian-language literature as part of Estonian literature. The authors of the younger generation (born in 1970 and later) or the so-called noughts-generation are the first credibly taken authors as part of Estonian literature. The position of Estonian Russian literature has shifted from rejection and periphery to the spotlight. The works by Andrei Ivanov have played an important role in that process. The second part of the article analyses the depiction of Estonian Russians in Ivanov’s A Handful of Dust and Ashes using the branch of comparative literature called imagology or image studies. The Estonian Russian background proves to be a useful tool for creating a character who is alienated, who is an existential outsider. The author deals with existential questions and depicts tendencies in the 21st century society. As many other Estonian Russian writers, Ivanov does not deal specifically with the issues of Estonian Russians and that is one of the reasons of his popularity and one of the reasons why Estonian Russian literature has attracted so much attention.

Keywords


Estonian Russian literature; Andrei Ivanov; Estonian Russians; image studies

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/IL.2015.20.1.7

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ISSN 1406-0701 (print)
ISSN 2228-4729 (online)