Kirill Korchagin. Conservative Revolution in Viktor Krivulin’s Aesthetic As a Form of Cultural Resistance

In 1968, Mikhail Lifshitz published his book The Crisis of Non-Figurativeness («Кризис безобразия»), in which he attacked European contemporary art originating from fin de siecle’s modernist practices. This book was widely discussed by many cultural and literary authorities, and young Viktor Krivulin, who became a prominent underground poet at a later time, participated in one of these discussions. In the transcript of this meeting the early Krivulin’s aesthetic credo was preserved: “We need standards both in our lives and art”. Years later, Krivulin published a number of papers in samizdat magazines, in which he examined the crucial standards of Leningrad underground literature. He posited ‘a revolution in the poetic language’ connected with what he called ‘the principle of the folding of historical experience in the personal word’, which implies the rejection of individual experience in favour of historical, which exceeds any individual existence. In fact, Krivulin’s aesthetic revolution proved rather conservative: he borrowed his crucial points from Lifshitz’s aesthetics, although he supported them with different names (the authors he chose were modernists, which was definitely unacceptable for Lifshitz). For two decades, this aesthetic system became essential for Leningrad underground literature and formed the core identity of many underground artists and authors.  The basis of this similarity between Lifshitz and Krivulin might have been the unorthodoxy and radicalism of Lifshitz’s aesthetics: for him official Soviet literature was as far from the ideal as modernist art. This allowed Krivulin to retain the structure of Lifshitz’s antimodernist aesthetics, although in Krivulin’s literary canon major roles were played by modernist authors, but only those who did not participate in official Soviet literature. Krivulin also borrowed from Lifshitz the totality of his aesthetic program: this totality helped undergrounds authors not just resist official literature, but rather, ignore its existence and create their own literary canon which had nothing to do with the official one. This kind of aesthetic conservatism allowed underground literature to preserve its independence from the official institution for almost two decades.