Evgeny Dobrenko

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Literature
Professor Russian Studies, University of Sheffield

Research project

Literary Pax Sovietica: Socialist Realist Episode in Central and Eastern European Literatures, 1945-1956


Literary Pax Sovietica is an intentionally provocative way to refer to the establishment of socialist writing in post-war Eastern Europe as an attempt to create a unified cultural space under the Soviet rule. The timespan covers the first post-WWII decade, since the introduction of socialism and until the first signs of change that followed the death of Stalin.


The proposed project looks at the role that different forms of contacts between writers, readers and functionaries played in the institutionalisation of literature and the propagation of socialist ideology in both national and international perspective; at the channels through which these contacts were established and maintained; at how the general politics of literature in the Eastern Bloc was adjusted, based on experiences in specific countries and on the changing perception of the USSR; and at how all these processes fit into an alternative model of modernity which emerged as a rival to the capitalist one.


In the present-day reality, where nearly all major cultural and political projects have an international character, it is all the more vital to examine past attempts at the creation of a unified cultural and political sphere. The expansion of socialist rule into Eastern Europe after World War II was not exclusively a political enterprise; to no smaller an extent was it an exercise in transforming the national consciousness of the societies involved in the spirit of (forced) internationalism. In so far as literature is at the core of a nation’s identity, it is important to examine steps taken towards a unification of literary production and consumption following the introduction of socialist rule in East European countries, during the formative years of the new world order.


Concentrating on one particular national framework cannot give a full idea of the cultural and political mechanics involved in the construction of the new social and political reality. For that reason this project examines processes related to the institutionalisation of the production and consumption of literature during the first post-WWII decade in different East European countries, which exemplify different literary and political traditions—primarily the GDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. It looks at how similar, because initiated and implemented by Soviet authorities, events and procedures were adapted to specific cultural contexts and how, in turn, the centralized cultural policy responded to the particularities of each country.




Evgeny Dobrenko is Professor and Head of Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield and Co-Director of the Prokhorov Centre for the Study of Central and Eastern European Intellectual and Cultural History. He holds a Ph.D in Russian Language & Literature from Odessa State University. His research interests lie in Soviet and post-Soviet literature and culture, Socialist realism, Soviet national literatures, Russian and Soviet film, critical theory, and Soviet cultural history.


Selected publications


Russian Literature since 1991, with M. Lipovetsky (eds), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2015.


A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism: The Soviet Age and Beyond, with G. Tihanov (eds), Pittsburgh University Press, Pittsburgh, 2011; Russian edition, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Moscow, 2011.


Stalinist Cinema and the Production of History: Museum of the Revolution, Edinburgh University Press & Yale University Press, Edinburgh/New Haven, 2008; Russian edition, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Moscow, 2008.


Political Economy of Socialist Realism, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007; Russian edition, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Moscow, 2007.


Aesthetics of Alienation: Reassessment of Early Soviet Cultural Theories, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 2005.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Philosophy