Drama in Siberia

Dr. Maia Kipp

Dr. Kipp pictured with John Van Orman, Cultural Anthropology professor at Ozarka College in Arkansas (a partner in our Gorno-Altaisk exchange program).

(Thanks to Cheyne Worley for taking notes)

Aleksander Vampilov 1937 – 1972 

Nina Sadur, 1950 – 

In thinking about material for this class, Dr. Kipp was inspired to think of Russian drama in a different perspective. 

These writers grew out of Siberian culture. Reflecting what they create. Everything is connected to everything. Siberia is a huge territory. Connected to Russia strategically, ecologically, etc. Religions, culture, etc, connected.                 
Siberian fiction writers?? Not yet. 

Siberian drama is important. Moreso than in America because of the lack of free press, censorship etc. In the 21st century we talk about the free press of Russia.

The writers of fiction, poets were often sent to exile in Siberia. 100’s were imprisoned or executed, works non-published or pulled from circulation. 

Periodically, during upheavals, Russians did souls searching. Often in plays.

Dersu Uzala. Based on book of memoirs from 1923 by Vladimir Arsenyev, about an expedition between 1902 and 1910. A flashback story. The book and the story have a melancholy mood. Dersu being destroyed, dying, his grave and natural habitat being destroyed. A village took the place of the grave site. Construction was taking place. 

The longest railroad was being built across Siberia. The second line of the railroad was being constructed during the setting of Dersu Uzala. The taiga is being removed from the pathway of the railroad. 

Dersu is Nanai. His people have experienced many tragedies. Man of the Land. Man belongs with the land. Conquering nature. Nanai respect nature and want to live in harmony with it. He insisted to leave things behind; matches, dry wood, salt, meat, etc. he refers to everything in nature animate or inanimate as people. Angry, kind, good, bad, people. Everything has a soul. 

The Imperial Russian government wanted to Russianize the Nanai, convert to Russian Orthodoxy, etc. They really did not care what happened in Siberia, only along the railroad and in the cities. That changed after the revolution. In 1928, and by the time it got to the people of Dersu, they were destroyed by the thousands. 

The Nanai did have some good things from the Russians, but mostly bad; small pox, the home and the family were burned to destroy the pox. He believed the family were still alive. The evil spirit or Umba haunted Dersu. The Umba could also kill the soul or you. The evil spirit could assume any form; either animal or man. It can make you sick or kill you or your soul. 

With all the ups and downs, When Stalin dies, and in 1956, the revelation of his crimes were exposed. Intellectuals begin to write about all types of subjects; particularly the abuse of power and corruption by officials. Taboo topics like personal freedoms and free speech are taboo. Minorities are taboo. It is forbidden to write about the plight of minorities. 

Some plays appear, famous poem about Jews killed in Ukraine. It was received by great enthusiasm. The Soviet intelligentsia were mostly Jewish. Yiddish was also forbidden. Some Siberian writers would appear; interested in those questions. The first was Alexander Vampilov, both mother and father taught literature and Russian language in Irkutsk. Loved Siberia with a passion, graduated from the History and Philology Faculty of the Irkutsk State University, worked at newspapers and published papers in journals. Went to Moscow, but could not wait to return to Siberia. He knew a lot abut myths, traditions, and local people. In 1970, he wrote the play, “Duck Hunting”, giving evidence of his knowledge of Siberian culture and myths, regarding the death of the soul. The principle character is a young engineer, 30 yrs old, manipulates the system, but despises the system,. He know right from wrong and despises himself and everyone. Person ethics are wrong. Major motif of forgetting traditions, language, moral and ethical behavior and so on. 

There is no God. His wife, who he wants to love, is trying remind him of an earlier time when they were in love. Reminding him of a church. Mostly converted to planetariums. A headless church without cupola. 

The major motif, the character walking around dead or already dying. Another character is Umba or demon pushing him into things he does not want to do. 

Hunting can save his soul. Talks about the river he will go hunting as a paradise. The soul felt alive. Is he going to save his soul or not. Evidence of heritage in Umba or dead soul. 

He writes another play; Last Summer in Chulinsk. She keeps repairing the gate, believing people will learn not to destroy the gate. Characters have telling names. Possible seeing the awakening of the soul of Shamanoff? He was an investigator. 

When a party official learns of a murder, he is forced to leave the city because it is a party official's son. 

He is forced to leave the city to Siberia. He encounters love towards a girl. She tries to fix the dark gate over and over again. He is the only one who want to her. He meets a trapper, Yiamadov. Similar to Dersu. Talks abut the Taiga having enough of animals to survive. Dersu felt trapped by the city. 

Yamonov has nowhere to go, sleeping on the streets. He was told he could get a pension. He had done work as a guide, but no papers to verify service. He could not get pension. He tried to get around the dilemma, he was told he could sue his daughter to get money.

He feared this and returned to Taiga. Shamanoff?? Does not belong there either; he understands his soul has been dead, He wants to go to Moscow and testify about the murder. 

New Generation 

Died on thirty-fifth birthday drowning in Lake Baikal, boat overturned and drowned. 

Nina Sadur, born in 1950, from a minority population. Her father was Kalishnikova, but wrote under a pen name. He was a hero of WWII, ended up in Siberia for some reason. 
Nina loved Siberia. Graduated from University and high school from Sobersk? She could not get anything published in Siberia so she went to Moscow. In 1989, she published several plays. The are mysterious unless you know something about Siberian mythology. 

A Strange Creature. It tells the name of the murderess. The character is a very strange creature, convinced it is an Amba, assuming the appearance of a woman. Two one act plays connected. Woman sent to harvest to dig potatoes, to keep everyone disciplined. 

Lydia comes to harvest potatoes and she cannot find her way, and only sees the strange woman. The woman tells Lydia is actually dead. Look into the eyes of the people and she tells everyone they are dead, asking them to prove they are not dead. 

When the Soviet Union fell apart, minorities could finally be discussed. The First Swallow: Aleksander Kosenkov. 

The bank of the Seagulls, in pink. Ross gulls. 

A small expedition, lost in the tundra, saved by a woman shaman. Lives with her granddaughter. Keeper of the only Russian orthodox church in the area. Village, town are completely destroyed but she is attempting to save the church. 

The expedition had no knowledge or concern of nature, or concern for other people. The shaman tries to save the souls of the members of the expedition.