• Can the Post-Soviet Subaltern Speak? Silence, Women Emancipation and Postcolonial Discourse in Guzel Iakhina's Zuleikha Otkryvaet Glaza

      Lucey, Colleen; Shvyrkov, Alexey; Weiner, Douglas; Jens, Benjamin; Caffee, Naomi (The University of Arizona., 2020)
      In 2015 the first book of a young Tatar writer Guzel' Iakhina Zuleikha otkryvaet glaza received two main Russian literary awards: “Bol'shaia kniga” and “Iasnaia poliana.” Her novel depicts the process of dekulakization, mass deportations and life in a labor camp under Stalin. Success of the book was not limited to Russia as it was translated into eighteen languages. Through the analysis of the subalterns in the novel, I am aiming to deconstruct contemporary Russian (neo)orientalism to argue that the postcolonial discourse is constructed for them and not by them. Firstly, relying on Alexander Etkind’s framework of “internal colonization,” Michael Foucault's analysis of power, knowledge and “silence as a discourse;” Gayatri Spivak and Edward Said’s postcolonial critique I will argue that Iakhina’s characters are internally appropriate colonizer’s discourse that is exemplified and communicated through three forms of “silence:” Zuleikha’s reticent silence, Ignatov’s silence of memories and Professor Leibe’s Chekhovian-like silence. Secondly, constructed in terms of binary oppositions, counter-history told by Zuleikha au contraire to the dominant discourse is, in reality, conveying a colonizer’s rhetoric. The hybrid story of her emancipation is told in terms of creating a New Soviet Woman, who had to adopt “masculine” qualities to be able to work and fight, at the same time preserving “feminine” traits necessary for duties at home. This story is constructed through binary oppositions of colonizer/colonized, civilized/primitive, advanced/backward, where life in the camp is contrasted to a traditional Tatar way of life. Subjugation to the colonial rhetoric further perpetuates the existing dominant discourse of the exceptionality of the Soviet past in terms of its civilizing attempts. Thus, reproducing the same patterns of thought and behavior towards the ethnic minorities in contemporary Russia.