Writing about Japan in Post-Soviet Russia: Nobody to be Afraid of?

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Tymur SANDROVYCH , Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University, Japan
The objective of this paper is to focus on popular literature written about Japan in post-Soviet Russia. Japan has for long time occupied a special place in Russian and Soviet people’s consciousness: this neighbor country was, and still remains, the object of numerous books depicting practically every aspect of Japanese society.

The peak of such literature was in 1970s-1980s, when the rapid economic growth was put in the focus of many writers, journalists and travelers. At some point Japan was even considered to be a model country for perestroika.

Concerning the general tone of those publications, they were ideologically critical of the “capitalistic blunders” of Japanese society, at the same time giving an adequate evaluation of the positive moments such as high standards of life etc.

However, situation changed drastically after the collapse of Soviet Union. Though 1990s witnessed almost absolute lack of literature about not only Japan, but also other foreign countries, travelogues and diaries written in the 21st century have one common feature that distinguishes them from the previous massive of literature. That is, they are written in quite a critical and personal manner.

This critics, however, is not ideologically colored, but rather tends to break numerous myths and stereotypes that prevailed in discourse on Japanese society until now. And personality refers to a very unique personal style that distinguishes practically every literary work from the uniform Soviet-style depictions.

By giving a detailed account of the manner of writing as well as contents of books about Japan in post-Soviet Russia, I aim at offering a new understanding of the place Japan occupies in the consciousness of Russian people in the 21st century.