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Andrei Sinyavsky and the Legacy of Soviet Dissident

Speaker: Natalia Rubinstein

Language: Russian

Critic Andrei Sinyavsky burst onto Russian literary scene in the second half of 1950s. Together with his friend and fellow writer Iuli Daniel, Sinyavsky was sentenced for his writing and publishing activity in 1966 to seven years of 'strict regime' in the Gulag.

Sinyavsky wrote under the pen-name Abram Tertz, while his friend Iuli Daniel used the pen-name Arshak – both of them smuggled their books out of the Soviet Union and published them abroad. Their show trial, which lasted from September 1965 to February 1966, marked the end of Khrushchev’s Thaw and was the starting point for the Soviet dissident movement.

On the last day of the trial the counsel asked Sinyavsky’s wife Maria Rozanova: 'Do you know what your husband is doing while waiting for the sentence?' 'Must be writing an appeal,' Rozanova answered. 'No, he is writing about Pushkin, some notes on Pushkin.' And so Pushkin became Sinyavsky’s companion in Gulag. He was released in 1971 and published 'Strolls with Pushkin' under his pen name.

Do we still read Abram Tertz? Do we remember Andrei Sinyavsky? Do we know what we owe to both of them?

We repeat very often Tertz-Sinyavsky’s famous quip: 'My disagreements with Soviet rule are all about style', but do we now understand why these 'disagreements about style' have survived Soviet rule?

Natalia Rubinstein is a freelance journalist and literary critic. She was born in Leningrad and got her degree there. She then taught Russian language and literature and worked in Pushkin’s memorial  museum at the Moika embankment, 12. After she left the Soviet Union (1974) she was editor of and contributor to numerous émigré publications in Israel, France, Germany, UK.  She has been a BBC Russian Service producer for over 20 years.

Between 2005 and 2011 she organized three  Sinyavsky Conferences in the Russian  Library of Foreign Literature in Moscow. She has edited 2 volumes of Sinyavsky Symposium and is hoping to see the third volume soon.