Georgian Literary Life in the Epoch of Social Realism from the Prism of Comparative Literature

The formation of the method of Social Realism is rather logical for the Soviet Union, because the Soviet government needed art that would be oriented on the creating a happy and careless future, where the analysis of realism would be successfully replace by the faith in communism and the party, where would no place for avant-garde, and realist art would be subordinated to Social Realism and its code. 

Social realism was the method that was in harmony with the requirements of the Soviet government would spread Soviet policy in the field of culture throughout the country.

Although the classical era of Social Realism in Soviet culture was until the 1950s, it is noteworthy that Social Realism in general lasted until the 1990s.

Despite the above mentioned information, it can be argued that the 1930s and 1950s were not entirely the era of Social Realism. This period saw the creation of avant-garde as well as realist pieces of art: G. Tabidze, K. Nadiradze, K. Gamsakhurdia, Terenti Graneli, Niko Lortkipanidze, Bulgakov, Pasternak, Akhmatova and others. For nearly 70 years the organic immanent development of culture was taking place, although this was some kind of hidden development. Social Realism stood on the proscenium of cultural and social life.  Social Realism was the one defining the characteristics and structure of culture in those times and what is more caused the deformation of aesthetic consciousness in several generations of people. During this period a number of activities were carried out against those people who did not obey the principles of Social Realism. This very period saw the creation of such concepts in the History of Culture whose overcoming is even nowadays impossible and in which the culture of XIX-XX is rather deformed. In these years were formed Soviet stereotypes towards western culture and many writers were banned. Many true artists underwent Scary "Transfiguration".  It is enough to compare some writer’s later works with their works created in the 20-30s, to make it obvious and clear how "Taming of the writing" was arranged by the administrative system.

On 18 October 1930 the newspaper “Communist” published an open letter of Georgian Proletarian Writers that workers should be recruited in the field of literature. Workers recall in the writings of Soviet ideology was a rather specific "finding", on which high hopes were laid. In this regard, the opinion of the critic Valerian Lursamidze expressed the spirit of the era: “The Bolshevization of Proletarian Literature and bringing in rows of workers is out general motto, the increase of workers kernel – our main goal, and this is why recruiting of workers should start in Proletarian Literature’’ [Luarsamidze, 1931: 123]. By making “workers” writers Bolsheviks were against writers without any affiliation towards the party.   This latter is defined by Akaki Bakradze as follows: “Todays reader should be aware that the previous "non-partial writer" in reality means a real writer. The conclusion is clear: By multiplying workers among writers they wanted to subdue real writing. Beliefs are clearly expressed. Writing is not a talent. It does not need thinking. It is simple propaganda. Propaganda is open to anyone who knows how to write-read and understand the meaning and purpose of the Directive. Writing was given the function of agitation of the Soviet Union Communist Party” [Bakradze, 1990: 43].

The second half of the late 1950s of the XX century, saw a new era of Soviet culture. The Organic Development of the hidden stages of the development of art from the development stage moved to the more obvious one and in some ways it became possible for the avant-garde, as well as realistic art function together. However, it should be said that the true cultural values ​​of the return process was of a too skidded and controversial character. The party apparatus sometimes slowed attention and sometimes with whole force continued to put pressure on art and literature.

The Literature of the Soviet period is characterized by the coexistence of three types of art: Avant-garde, realism, and, of course, socialist realism. In the 1950s-1980s socialist realism was no longer the sole creative method, but stubbornly tried to maintain its obtained positions and to stay dedicated to their principles.

       For the defining of the characteristics of social realism essential is the fact that according to the Bolshevik policy art must depend entirely on ideology. The art does not need to conduct the nation's spiritual life, but the party's policy to establish and define the form and content of art creations. The handling of Bolshevik ideal-aesthetic concept in art meant that the arts become "intellectual" ideology, which happened so in some cases. This position has been displayed several times in literature. For example, the poet proudly says :

“The obtainable

We obtained,


Buzz the times of empowerment….

Calls up to poets

Calls up to poets

Stairs of Communism” [Noneshvili 1982:181].

The main goal of the party leadership was to transform art into a "partial case" and set it as part of the organizational, ideological and political education of the masses of workers and use it as a training tool.

Nonetheless, socialist realism (especially in early stages of its development) would respond to the interest of certain groups of people. It would answer to the mood of the masses, who in the name of the "bright future” prevailed during the Revolution and its universal values ​​were identified with the values ​​of the class. The ideology of revolution generated enthusiasts who were passionate in destroying the old society and with the same passion fought for the victory of communism. In this regard, numerous declarations of party ideology corresponded to the revolutionary masses. The declarations of the party, on the one hand, relying on this type of viewpoints and, on the other hand, pursuing the political ideology in culture, establishing ideological system of law in the field of culture. Marxist ideology claimed class and party ideology as a criterion of truth in art. It can be said that the ideology of socialist realism was particularly furious at the dawn of its history.

At the protection of the created socialist realism for decades stood the repressive bodies of the Administrative system, which defended socialist realism just as the administrative system. This unnatural situation was rather organic for Soviet Officials.

Additionally to the original writing of the republics within the Soviet Union, the specifics of Soviet Literature were defined by the translated literature as well. The attitude of researchers of translation and literary relations, repeats the existing model, and displays a radical approach – full delight and apologetics in the Soviet Period and complete neglection and nihilism [Neliubin...  2008: 316] _ and objective.  Totalitarian culture in essence is monolingual, which prevents or limits its openness.  However development of literature without culture dialogue is unimaginable and cannot operate even in the condition of totalitarian and authoritarian regime.

The nations of the Soviet Union, including Georgian during centuries established great literary contacts and translational traditions. The development of these traditions had its cultural and historic reasons.   K. Kekelidze wrote: “The translation of the works does not appear randomly and for no reason in any of the literature, they are caused by the social and cultural historical needs, which puts thought of the course, translates should be done as required to the essential daily needs, loads of foreign material are being translated, and the selection process, translation and appropriation is done in accordance with national specifics and understanding; in other words, translates is what we need and demand arises when in the translating country such  overwhelming sentiments occur, which are depicted in the work that is being translated" [Kekelidze 1956: 185].  This argument of Korneli Kekelizdze of course is right, but this model could not be transferred directly into Soviet Georgian Reality. In very totalitarian-authoritarian State, and including Soviet Union, Translation and Literary Relations were controlled by the state; if the censorship did not regard them as reliable it would be blocked.   

Literary-Cultural Relations is essential for the formation of aesthetic values in the nation, spreading aesthetic ideas, enrichment of its culture and literature. In this respect, any binary literary relation is a positive factor, even if it is established between geographically and culturally distant nations. Soviet ideologists were aware of the relationship between literature and translation activities are an integral part of literature, and therefore tried to use them for their purposes and their service.

The Soviet translational school policy will greatly determine by Maxim Gorky's activities. According to his plan, the Soviet reader should have the opportunity to get acquainted with world literature. This plan was a logical continuation of the 1919 edition "World Literature" whose establishment was supported by Lenin from the very beginning. It should be noted that at first this edition included diverse works, but later the ideological pressure tensioned and the selection mechanism "improved", censorship address this issue more vigilant and carefully.

Practical translational activity became particularly diverse at the time of “Nepi”. During this period, many private publishing houses worked. They along the original works also published translations. After the liquidation published literature was entirety under State control. As for the quality of the translations during the Soviet period, many honourable and highly qualified translators worked. Writers and poets should be noted, whose works were not printed due to the political untrustworthiness of the works. Therefore, these authors were mainly engaged in translation work. It should also be said that a lot of random people, who do not meet the requirements of translator worked as translators; they did not meet the basic guidelines, had no in-depth knowledge of languages, had no necessary background knowledge, and so forth. Correspondingly, a lot of mistakes used to speak in Translations, in the early period of the Soviet era, there were no qualified editors who cared for text editing and so on. [Neliubin... 2008: 316-321].

The Soviet culture respect to literary relations and artistic translation compiled of two important aspects: foreign cultural-literary policy and domestic cultural-literary policy.

Foreign cultural-literary policy was largely determined by the Soviet government and foreign policy vector of the Communist Party. The faster the Soviet Government became stronger entered "maturity period" of socialism, the less acceptable and reliable foreign authors seemed for Soviet authorities. Reliable writers the Communists called "progressive writers" and their works were translated, freely printed in millions of copies and the Soviet Union was engaged in their advertising process. The Social Realistic law only knew and recognized realistic art. Therefore, unrealistic art and literature were also persecuted and unrealistic foreign literature that was being translated was forbidden. Particularly, this affected foreign writers of the XX century. Accordingly, readers and literature were damaged because many gifted writer failed due to an ideological untrustworthiness and therefore were not able to break through the "Iron Curtain”. This is why for a long time Soviet literature stayed without the translation of the works by Joyce, Kafka, Nabokov, Robakidze, Margvelashvili. The situation is somewhat better in the case of great writers of ancient times: Homer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Goethe, and others. Their works were not banned; however, sometimes they were distorted, deformed and interpreted in accordance with the aesthetics of social realism, often created funny situations.

 The domestic cultural-literary policy was fully defined by the Soviet government and Communist Party. Soviet Union was a union which was created on the basis of mechanic, forceful unifying of different states, which by the means of ideology tried to get a new cultural phenomenon, namely Soviet Culture.  Therefore, they were more interested until achieving the final goal (of cultures merger) firstly finding out about each other and nearing their national culture and literature. Thus, they needed special care to enhance literary relations of the Soviet people and translational activity; show literary-cultural aspects of "People's Friendship" and the potential that the Soviet regime had in the case of development of national cultures.

In the 30s of XX century Maxim Gorky organized writer’s exchange between the republics of the Soviet Union. For example, in 1935, the Georgia was visited by the Belarus Writers (M. Khvederovich, B. Mikulich, V. Samiulionok, and others). B. Buachidze, R. Gvetadze, K. Lortqifanidze, I. Mosashvili went to Belarus and got acquainted with Belarusian literature and life. In Tbilisi Ukrainian writers arrived: A. Korneichuki and I. Senchenko. These types of events were often held. At different times, Georgia was visited by Azerbaijanian, Armenian, Russian, Estonian, Lithuanian writers' delegations. The writers got acquainted with the literature and fiction writers of Soviet Republics, their creative achievements, their traditions, moral-customs, history, culture, and then seen and sustained was reflect upon their work of fiction; they also translated literary works.

The decades and days of National Literature, writer’s anniversaries conferences and other scientific-creative measures was an effective tool to get acquainted with Soviet Republic’s culture and literature and to deepen interest in them.  In terms of propaganda, most significant event of the promotion of Georgian literature was in 1937, when Moscow held Georgian art decade. In the same year throughout the Soviet Union 750 anniversary of Shota Rustaveli’s poem “The knight in the panther’s skin” took place, which was of a great importance to promote Rustaveli and his creation not only on local, Soviet but on a global scale as well. Almost every Soviet Republic published full or partial translations of the poem “The knight in the panther’s skin” and lots of scientific articles were dedicated to Rustaveli’s artistic works especially the poem itself.

Georgia developed interesting group of professional translators who collaborated with publishing houses ("Soviet Georgia", " Merani", "Nakaduli" ), magazines (" Saunje”, " "Dila ", " Literaturnaia Gruzia", "Mnatobi", "Tsiskari"), newspapers ( "Literary Georgia "), and the editorial board literary Translation and literary Relations of the Writers' Union of Georgia.

The Perestroika epoch opened new opportunities for translators and readers. Many of the truly highly literary works that had been tabooed and banned returned to its place. Many banned works were translated and published. At the same time a sad trend was also revealed: works of questionable value and compositions and their clumsy translations showed up. These products are by no means of any aesthetic or literary importance.

Thus, in the Soviet era, among the peoples of the Soviet Union there were intense literary-cultural relations, which was rather ideological; it was quite often that works with questionable features of literary value were actively promoted and works of true values ​​ were underestimated, but positively sometimes Soviet writers and translators were to break through the grip of censorship and provide genuine ideological-aesthetic values.

The fate of Writers and their individual works were largely dependent on the official critique, attitudes and beliefs of the party workers; if any employee or communist party trustee or literary critic appraised the work as not appropriate for People it could play a tragic role in determining the fate of the writer as well as his work. Typically, such references were given to such works, which opposed or did not fit the ideal of socialist realism. Such work would no longer be printed, but if it had already been printed, it would be "arrested"; this meant that such book would not be placed on the shelves of libraries and bookstore, but instead on special shelves, which in widely prevalent opinion has the same function for books as gulag for people with different ideas. The writer would also share the fate of his work. Different problem would arise in his private life: repression, discretization, and prohibition, imprisonment in the gulag or other similar facility. The writer would not be accountable for his own life due to his different position.[1] In contrast to them the Bolsheviks supported proletariat and peasants, revolutionary people, and the art of political workers whose imperfect works were compensated by their “ideological perfection”. In the records of the XIII meeting of Russian Communist Party we read: "Our work in the field of literature should be focused on the creation of peasants and the workers, who will become peasant and worker writers. The Workers and peasants should be considered, as rural correspondents, and should be regarded as a huge reserve from which in the future we will get new writers” [О литературе... 1960: 139].

The literary-translational relations of the Soviet era should be re-considered and should be evaluated from contemporary approaches and positions.


[1] Soviet literary criticism and literary criticism of the Soviet Union was largely silent on these problems and believed that such barbarism is only a characteristic to the western states: "In some countries, whose governments has a racist and revisionist policy, many of the books are banned or even burned. For example, in South Africa which is considered as the "free world" by Western countries, evidently, more than 20 thousand books are on the list of banned and “subversive” books. Among them is Gorky, Faulkner, Colduel and other writers. People reading of banned books are being fined with £1,000 or five years imprisonment or in same cases even both” [Bogdanov, Viazemsky 1975:  135-136].



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