The remarkable story of seven contemporary Russian-language poets whose experimental work anchors a thriving dissident artistic movement opposed to both Putin’s regime and Western liberalism.
What does leftist art look like in the wake of state socialism? In recent years, Russian-language avant-garde poetry has been seeking the answers to this question. Marijeta Bozovic follows a constellation of poets at the center of a contemporary literary movement that is bringing radical art out of the Soviet shadow: Kirill Medvedev, Pavel Arseniev, Aleksandr Skidan, Dmitry Golynko, Roman Osminkin, Keti Chukhrov, and Galina Rymbu. While their formal experiments range widely, all share a commitment to explicitly political poetry. Each one, in turn, has become a hub in a growing new-left network across the former Second World.
Joined together by their work with the Saint Petersburg–based journal [Translit], this circle has staunchly resisted the Putin regime and its mobilization of Soviet nostalgia. At the same time, the poets of Avant-Garde Post– reject Western discourse about the false promises of leftist utopianism and the superiority of the liberal world. In opposing both narratives, they draw on the legacies of historical Russian and Soviet avant-gardes as well as on an international canon of Marxist art and theory. They are also intimately connected with other artists, intellectuals, and activists around the world, collectively restoring leftist political poetry to global prominence.
The avant-garde, Bozovic shows, is not a relic of the Soviet past. It is a recurrent pulse in Russophone—as well as global—literature and art. Charged by that pulse, today’s new left is reimagining class-based critique. Theirs is an ongoing, defiant effort to imagine a socialist future that is at once global and egalitarian.