The Mythologeme of Siberia : On the Concept of a Siberian Motif in Russian Literature

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download


The Mythologeme of SiberiaOn the Concept of a Siberian Motif in Russian LiteratureValerii Tiupa, Russian State University for the Humanities, MoscowTranslated from the Russian by Elena McDonnellThis article deals with the literary image of Siberia in nineteenth- andtwentieth-century Russian literature. Siberia became more than just alocale in both Russian literature and in the public consciousness: it be-came a particular concept, a complex idea. Traditionally associated withsevere weather, long dark winters and later the proverbial place of penalservitudes, Siberia as a topos began to be unconsciously interpreted asthe mythological land of the dead. The author analyzes a wide rangeof examples from texts by Ryleev, Pushkin, Nekrasov, Dostoevsky, Tol-stoy, Chekhov, Erofeev and others, and illustrates that by placing theircharacters in Siberia, Russian writers follow the old archetypal plot ofinitiation. Surviving in Siberia is hence interpreted as coming back fromthe dead a social, psychological or emotional rebirth.By the nineteenth century not only was Siberia developed by the Russian Empiregeopolitically: it was also adopted in Russian culture as a particular concept.Siberia with its history of penal servitude, transit prisons, exiles, and, at thesame time, seekers of fortune (settlers) mythologized in the national perceptionand became the property of a doxa,1 a chronotopic image comprehensible to ev-erybody, of a particular expression of mans presence in the world.One piece of evidence that supports this is, for instance, this phrase from aprivate correspondence of the 1830s: Caucasia here in Russia is reputed worsethan Siberia. Neither in regard to climate, nor to aesthetics (in the same letterthe beauty of gloomy Caucasia surprising any ardent imagination is men-tioned) could Caucasia seem worse than Siberia. It could have been saidmeaning only one thing the mortality of this topos. In another private letter ofthe same period the author says about himself: your Melmoth is alive even inCaucasia; and further: I shall not fail to inform you about myself, whether aliveor killed. This phrase mythologically normalizes the state of death in Caucasia,as if it were the land of the dead.Orbis Litterarum 61:6 443460, 2006Printed in Singapore. All rights reservedThis comparison of Caucasia and Siberia is not accidental; it was Siberia thatacquired the characteristics and qualities of the mythological country of thedead in Russian cultural perception, from the dead commanders2 conquest ofruins of dead civilizations to the absurdist echoes of the Siberian mythologemein the prose poem Moscow to the End of the Line by Venedict Erofeev: A , ? , ? , . , - . , , ... , , , ? , . , . , , . ... (Erofeev 1990, p. 81)(And where is he now, your Evtushenkin?Who knows, where? Either in Siberia or in Central Asia. If he got to Rostov and isstill alive, that means hes somewhere in Central Asia. But if he didnt get to Rostovand died, that means hes in Siberia.Youre right, I backed her up, you wont die in Central Asia, its possible to livein Central Asia. And in Siberia?And in Siberia no, youll die. In general nobody lives in Siberia, only black peoplelive there. Products are not transported in, there is nothing to drink, not to speak of ameal. Only once a year from Zhitomir, in the Ukraine, embroidered towels are broughtin and the blacks hang themselves with them.) (Erofeev 1980, 100)The blackness of the imaginary Siberian blacks is a manifest allusion to deadbodies that do not need any food or water, but do require ritual decoration. If thedead there continue to live, they need the systematic renewal of this decoration.The chronotopic image of Siberia in Russian classic literature presents it asthe land of cold, winter, night (moon) that is death in its mythological under-standing. Even though on that side of the Urals the three summer months arepredominantly very hot, in literary landscapes of Siberia summer and sun areusually ignored. At the same time Siberia is the land of uninhabited and infinite(the symbol of cosmic eternity) space. As Chekhov writes in his studies FromSiberia: - , , , 2 Valerii Tiupa (Chekhov 1978, 36) (The fascination of the taiga lies not in gianttrees or in silence, but in the fact that perhaps the migratory birds alone knowwhere it ends; Chekhov 1969, 267.)However, with all its fundamental grave-like nature in the same studies weread: , , (Chekhov 1978, 19) (The Irtysh neither booms norroars, but seems to knock on the lids of coffins down at the bottom; Chekhov1969, 284) Siberia is abundantly populated by wild animals again, in FromSiberia: (Chek-hov 1978, 7) (But never in my life have I seen such an abundance of game;Chekhov 1969, 267). It is by no means an infernal chronotope of final and un-alterable death, but a place, pleasing to God, of temporary death a liminal(threshold) chronotope of mortal trial. For: , , (Chekhov1978, 28) (The Siberian highway is the longest and, it seems to me, the ugliestroad in the whole world; Chekhov 1969, 295), and , (Chekhov 1978, 29) (Everybody looks pityingly, as at a dead man; Chekhov 1969, 296) at the author who follows it.In ethnographical research, as is well known, the liminal phase of the initiationrite is the phase of the symbolic death of the initiated (cf. Gennep 1960) thevisit to the land of the dead, the master of which is usually a totemic animal. Itis noteworthy that Chekhov calls taiga (Chekhov 1978,36) ([a] monster of a forest; Chekhov 1969, 305). The youth who has suc-cessfully stood the trial of death, after contact with (often being devoured by)the bestial forefather (or foremother, represented in tales by Baba Yaga) comesback to life reborn into the new social status of an adult, that is a warrior, hunter,and marriageable man.The landscape of the marginal topos of penal servitude, exile, and life indifferent kinds of communitas, 3 with its woods and rivers making an impres-sion on any imagination (crossing a river and going deep into woods are thetraditional components of an initiation rite), and with its half-year-long winterand polar nights in northern regions, turned out to be a fertile field for actual-ization of one of the most archaic cultural models. The unique overlapping ofgeopolitical, cultural, historical, and natural factors resulted in the mythologizingof Siberia as the land of liminal half-death, which opens a problematic possibilityThe Mythologeme of Siberia in Russian Literature 3of personal rebirth in new quality and the corresponding renewal of life. Thereis a remarkable supposition by Chekhov that on the banks of the Enisei , (Chekhov 1978, 35) (life began with amoan, but it will end with such prowess as we havent even dreamed of; Chek-hov 1969, 304).We are, of course, not talking about the Russian cultural figures, and aboveall writers, who consciously and deliberately use the mythological complex ofinitiation motifs. This mytho-poetic undertext, as any other, is a phenomenon ofthe meaning-generating mechanism of transhistoric cultural memory, an artisticform of implicit mythologism, whose prolifigacy was witnessed a number oftimes in the process of development of Russian realistic literature.4The text of Archpriest Avvakums Life is one of the earliest conceptualizationsof Siberia as a liminal chronotope in Russian literature. Voluntarily or not, theSiberian exile in Avvakums writings acquires some symbolic quantitative char-acteristics: ... (Zhitie 1934, 83) (So they sent me thento Siberia with my wife and children it was a journey of 3000 versts, and forsome thirteen weeks we dragged along; The Life 1963, 59). While the spatialdimension three has a positive sacred connotation, the temporal dimensionthirteen (characterizing the human actions) has a negative, demonic one. Sentfrom Tobolsk to the Lena and setting his hopes for Christ (whose death andresurrection are analogous to the initiation rite), Avvakum says: ... (Zhitie 1934, 86) (I confi-dently await His mercy and I believe in the Resurrection from the dead; TheLife 1963, 63). The hardships of the coming Christ-like initiation (the ones whoare punished become Gods sons as opposed to bastards) are foreshadowed:... (Zhitie1934, 89) (We must, through much tribulation, enter the Kingdom of God; TheLife 1963, 67).The factology of Avvakums own real sufferings is abundant in the symbolismof the rite of passage: , , ... . , ... ... ... , . , ... 4 Valerii Tiupa ... ; . (Zhitie 1934, 9091)(Then my bones began to ache, my veins to grow rigid, my heart to palpitate, verily,I was dying In the morning they flung me on to a small craft5 and carried me away.Then we came to the great rapids6 of the Padun7. They brought me into the rapids the water flowed over my belly and my spine.8 They took me out of the raft and,skirting the rapids, they dragged me over the stones in fetters.9 Verily I was in a sadplight, but with my soul it was well.10 And after that they brought me to the fortressof Bratsky.11 And there I lay till Advent,12 in a freezing tower; these are the seasonswhen winter reigns.) (The Life 1963, 6869)At the end of his sufferings in Siberia Avvakum exclaims: , ! , (Zhitie 1934, 98) (Now glory toChrist! Even if you die the minute after, it will be well with you; The Life 1963,7879). For this kind of (Siberian) death promises or even guarantees the res-urrection.The mythologizing of Siberia as a liminal space in Russian culture was finallyaccomplished thanks to the Decembrists condemnation to penal servitude,which became a paradigmatic phenomenon in Russian history. However, thecorresponding chronotopic image of the behind-the-Ural expanses of coloniza-tion, where the death of the body can become a pledge of the spiritual rebirth,started forming long before this historic event.In a prophetic poem Voinarovskii, by Konstantin Ryleev, Siberia is shownas (wild land of storms and snows; Relaieff131879, 27). Here ... (all is gloomy,nature here / an aspect wears both sad and drear; Relaieff 1879, 27), in themiddle of which, like a chthonic monster, (streams withhoarse and angry cry / rumble terrific; Relaieff 1879, 27). The mytho-poeticsof the poem is constructed in such a way that only the nocturnal landscapes areshown. For instance: ; ... , .(Scarce now appeared the heavens sheen,The night had come, and oer the sceneThe sad moon lonely in the skyThe Mythologeme of Siberia in Russian Literature 5Shone in her silvery majesty,And covered oort and barren wild) (Relaieff 1879, 36)A yurt (an ancient form of dwelling), in the middle of the primeval forest, fitsperfectly the traditional construction for the initiation rite. Voinarovskiis ap-pearance is compared to , , .(as at nightThrough the surrounding murky gloomWhen slumbers all the tempests mightThere burns a fire upon the tomb.) (Relaieff 1879, 31)As for the normal, (living) people, Ryleev says about them: , , , .(To this wild countrys barren plainsNone come save those condemned to chainsWhile the dark winters chilling forceDrags out its long and weary course.) (Relaieff 1879, 2728)Since winter comes regardless of the place, here it obviously becomes somethingelse, that is a mytho-poetic personification.Both Voinarovskii and his wife who foreshadowed the asceticism of theDecembrists wives die in Siberia. However, the initiated in the poem is notthe freedom-loving Cossack himself, but the representative of the author thescientist Mller, who comes into contact with Voinarovskii (as with a culturalhero-forefather). The main character himself had already undergone his symbolicdeath (and simultaneously found his wife the appropriate result of the trans-formation rite) in the Ukraine: ... . , . ; , , ;6 Valerii Tiupa, , .(Deep silence reigned; about the moundScarce did the winds sad moaning sound,Soon lighting up the shades of nightThe crescent moon appeared to sight,Swimming athwart the silent skies,All still and motionless I layLike one whose soul had passed away,Above me gloating oer my eyes Full oer my doomd eyeballs view The carrion crow impatient flew.) (Relaieff 1879, 4445)The crescent moon (two-horned in the original Russian text), especiallyaccompanied by the carrion crow, can easily be read as an image of thechthonic deity of the nocturnal land of the dead. All the more so, as the characterbecomes motionless on the mound, which talks to the wind. Finally, afterthe saving interference of the future wife of the character, his postliminal trans-formation occurs: (From my sick bed I roseat length, / My force renewed, restored my strength; Relaieff 1879, 47). Theritual and the mythological complex of motifs of the initiation rite and the imageof cold and nocturnal Siberia as the marginal land of the dead in Ryleevs poem,are still not combined in one connotative whole, but are already in position.Thus formed, and fixed in intertextual repetitions, mytho-poetic context ap-pears to be a significant key to a number of Russian classic texts. In particular,to Pushkins well-known message to Siberia (1827), where after the three-timesrepeated (in three stanzas) poetic euphemism of the grave of those buried alive (deep in the Siberian mine), (under-darkness dumb), and (your prisonburrows, or, as Avrahm Yarmolinsky puts it in his translation, your galley-beds (Pushkin 1964, 62, 63)), the bravura suddenly sounds in the final stanza: , , .(The heavy-hanging chains will fall,The walls will crumble at a word;The Mythologeme of Siberia in Russian Literature 7And Freedom greet you in the light,And brothers give you back the sword.) (Pushkin 1964, 63)It would be nave to think that Pushkin is hoping for a more successful attemptof the coup dtat. More likely, the poet, as in The Stanzas (1826), proceeds fromthe historic parallel between the Emperor Nikolai and Peter I. In the poem Pol-tava (18271828) Peter realizes who really cared about the good of the father-land: , . . , , . , , .(Back from the wastes of Yenisei,The exiled kin of KochubeyAnd Iskra are brought home, reprieved:Tsar Peter joins them in weepingAnd renders wry atonement, heapingNew land and rank on the bereaved.Mazepas foe, fierce old commanderOf raids, rides up to Peters standard,Paley, from penal exile spared:Rebellion quakes as if uprooted.) (Pushkin 1984, 363)Something similar could have happened to the Decembrists, should Nikolay ap-preciate their , , and (Patience proud, bitter toil and rebel thought; Pushkin 1964,62). This model, explicit in the poem, and desired by Pushkin for the return ofthe Decembrists to a new status as national heroes, is nothing but the last phaseof the initiation rite.The significant stages of the build-up of the Siberian motif in Russian literaturewere marked in the works of Nikolai Nekrasov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy,and Anton Chekhov.In the poem Russian Women, besides the descent of the angel (PrincessVolkonskaya) to hell (the underground city of shadows), Nekrasov presents8 Valerii Tiupaa series of scenes of liminal nature, easily perceived as traditionally Siberianlandscapes:... , , ; - , , ? , . , ... ; . ! . , , !... , ..., , ? , , , .! , , (The further East the more severeThe frost has hourly grown,Three hundred versts again Whats here?A wretched little town!But even that is good to see:A row of houses dark,But where can all the people be?Not een a watch-dogs bark On the rightThe river and the mountains frown,The Mythologeme of Siberia in Russian Literature 9The forest, black as night,Lies on the left The mountains vanish. She can seeA plain on either hand,Entirely dead. No living treeUpon its bosom stands But oh the mines, the mines are worse,Deep down beneath our feetNo ray can pierce that stifling dark,No sound can bring relief,Accursed land! Why did YermakReveal thee to our grief? ...The moon was sailing overhead,Twas dull, and threw no ray,To left the gloomy forest spread,To right the Yenissey.How dark! No living soul they meet,The driver slumbers on his seat,In forest depths as they go byA wolf sets up a famished cry.) (Nekrasov 1977, 1115)Dostoevskys The House of the Dead is an obvious chronicle of the life ofcommunitas (in Turners understanding), existing beyond life and awaiting theright to return there. It is even more interesting to focus on the liminal motifs ofthe epilogue of Crime and Punishment, which starts with the words: . , . (Dostoevsky 1957, 557) (Siberia. On the banks of abroad solitary river stands a fortress, in the fortress there is a prison. In theprison the second-class convict Rodion Raskolnikov has been confined for ninemonths; Dostoevsky 1956, 479). The number of months among other things,divisible by three is, of course, not accidental. It signals the approaching birth(rebirth) of the character. The miracle of this resurrection ( , , - (Dostoevsky 1957, 573) (How it happened he did not know. Butall at once something seemed to seize him and fling him at her feet; Dostoevsky1956, 492) happens after Raskolnikovs long and painful illness a frequentimage of a symbolic death on the bank of the Siberian river. It is there that hiscertain rebirth occurs: , , 10 Valerii Tiupa . , : ? (Dostoevsky 1957, 573) (all the convicts who had been hisenemies looked at him differently; he had even entered into talk with them andthey answered him in a friendly way it was bound to be so. Wasnt everythingnow bound to be changed?; Dostoevsky 1956, 492).A split second before the peculiar act of initiation that is happening to him,Raskolnikov looks at the other side of the river, as if he were looking beyondthe liminal border: . . , , , , . (Dostoevsky 1957, 572)(From the high bank a broad landscape opened before him, the sound of singing floatedfaintly audible from the other bank. In the vast steppe there was freedom, thereother men were living, utterly unlike those here; there time itself seemed to stand still,as though the age of Abraham and his flocks had not passed.) (Dostoevsky 1956, 491)Gloomy Siberia turns out to be the threshold that places the character on the edgeof the eternal (biblical) and, for the first time, sunny life after which the story ofthe renewal of a man, his passing from one world into another (Dostoevsky1956, 493) has to begin.In his creation of a novel about a similar spiritual transformation of the fallencharacter, in part three of his Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy fully uses the mytho-poetic resource of liminal symbolism accumulated by the Siberian text ofRussian literature. We will address only the most significant episodes.In Siberia, Katusha Maslova undergoes spiritual initiation: , , . . , (Tolstoy 1964, 409) (Therenow, and to think that I cried when I was sentenced! she would say. Why, Imust thank God for it to the end of my days. I have learned things I should neverhave heard of in a whole lifetime otherwise; Tolstoy 1966, 471). In particular,she learned from Simonson that , (Tolstoy1964, 412) (everything in the world is alive; there is no inert body; Tolstoy1966, 474), and from Nabatov that , The Mythologeme of Siberia in Russian Literature 11 , (Tolstoy 1964, 439) (nothing ceasesto exist but is continually being transformed from one thing into another soman does not perish but only undergoes a change; Tolstoy 1966, 504). Thesethoughts are easily read as liminal experience of death-birth.Those who work in Siberia speak about themselves as if they were grave-diggers, or mortuary workers: , -. , , (Tolstoy 1964, 427) (Living as we do here in Siberia,14 it warmsthe cockles of ones heart to come across an educated man. There is no need totell you how dreary our work is; Tolstoy 1966, 491). At the same time thegovernor in the novel calls Siberia (the thrice ninthkingdom, the kingdom of far away), that is, a place where the characters of amagic tale, as was shown by Vladimir Propp, undergo trial by death, based onthe initiation rite, and thus obtain some new quality. The last chapters of the novelshow how this rite affects Nekhludov. On the eve of the conclusive transforma-tion of the main character he, as well as Raskolnikov, is granted the opportunityto see the sun, which, as mentioned earlier, is a rarity for literary Siberia. Fur-ther the allusion to Elysian Fields overshadowed with mountain peaks andsymbolizing (along with the sunrise) the coming spiritual ascent, is introduced: , (), . , , , , , , . , , . (Tolstoy 1964, 464465)(When they were about half-way to the next halting-station the forest ended, fieldsopened on either side and the gilded crosses and cupolas of a monastery appeared inthe distance. The day had turned quite fine, the clouds had dispersed, the sun had risenabove the forest, and the wet leaves, the puddles, the cupolas and the crosses of thechurch glistened bright in its rays. In the blue-grey distance ahead on the right15 therewas a gleam of white mountains.) (Tolstoy 1966, 532)However, before the renewal Nekhludov enters his symbolic death: . , , (Tolstoy 1964, 481) (The weather had changed. Snow wasfalling in heavy flakes and already lay thick on the road, the roof, the trees in thegarden; Tolstoy 1966, 550). After the canonic Siberian winter weather had12 Valerii Tiupaset in, Nekhludov felt . , (Tolstoy 1964, 484) (terriblytired of living. He closed his eyes and instantly fell into a deep slumber;Tolstoy 1966, 554). In the next chapter, he follows the guide in the prison(Dostoevskys house of the dead) , , (Tolstoy 1964, 487)(as in a dream, lacking the strength to excuse himself and go away, and withthe same feeling of weariness and hopelessness; Tolstoy 1966, 558). Next hecomes to the mortuary, where it seems to him , , (Tolstoy 1964, 490) (that there was nothing butdeath,16 and he felt faint; Tolstoy 1966, 561). Unconsciousness and faintness,as well as sleep, is a reduced image of death.Only in the final chapter, with the words from the Gospel that tell him tobecome like little children (an allusion to birth), does the character have hisliminal discernment: . (Tolstoy 1964,495) (his soul was swept by an ecstasy It was as though, after long piningand suffering, he had suddenly found peace and liberation; Tolstoy 1966, 566).The finale of the novel sounds almost like a paraphrase of the finale of Crimeand Punishment: , . , . , , , , , , , . , . (Tolstoy 1964, 496)(This then must be my lifes work. One task is completed and another is ready to myhand!That night17 an entirely new life began for Nekhludov, not so much because he hadentered into new conditions of life but because everything that happened to him fromthat time on was endowed with an entirely different meaning for him. How this newchapter of his life will end, the future will show.) (Tolstoy 1966, 568)Chekhovs short story In Exile absorbed all the liminal Siberian motifs thatwere established by his predecessors. But Chekhov gave them a different twist.The scene of action in the story is the ferry (the liminal motif of the first impor-tance) on the dark, cold river, which makes everything around damp andcold (Chekhov 2000, 161, 162). On the far bank, like symbols of hell,The Mythologeme of Siberia in Russian Literature 13 (Chekhov 1977, 42) (lights crawled snakelike;Chekhov 2000, 161). One of the characters says: , , , , (Chekhov 1977, 42)(Its sure no paradise here water, bare banks, clay everywhere and nothingelse; Chekhov 2000, 161). Here even the sky is different, not as it is above theterritory of life at home (Chekhov 2000, 162).Not only does the view of the ferry unfold the motif of the river separating therealms of life and death, it also hints at Baba Yagas dwelling. We can see only , , , (Chekhov 1977, 47) (the osier bush-es in the rippling water and, looking back, there was the clay cliffside, the hutroofed with brown straw below; Chekhov 2000, 166). In the same passage it ismentioned that the cocks were already crowing; casting on the hut the semanticreflection of hens feet. The crowing, which is supposed to scare away the evilspirits, here only intensifies the corresponding motif , (catch the devil by his tail; Chekhov 2000, 166, 168), says the old man.At the same time the hulk of the ferry looks like some threatening animal,probably a totemic one: , - , , (Chekhov 1977, 48) (In the darkness it looked as if peoplewere sitting on some antediluvian animal with long paws and floating on it to-wards some cold, gloomy land such as one sometimes sees in nightmares;Chekhov 2000, 167). The motifs of a nightmare and dark, gloomy cold are highlysignificant for the actualization of the mythologeme of the land of the dead. Thereis a hint of the endlessness of the Siberian dead season winter: , , (Chekhov 1977,42) (Easters long past, but theres ice drifting on the river, and it snowed thismorning; Chekhov 2000, 161). The snow continues to fall during the wholestory.The antagonistic characters on the ferry are called the old man and theboy, and the former says about the young Tatar that he is not dry behind theears (Chekhov 2000, 162). This generational antinomy, obviously, contributesto the activation of the complex of life-death motifs. Remarkably, the old manalso calls the youth his brother (as all communitas, they are related through14 Valerii Tiupatheir belonging to the liminal chronotope). The nobleman exiled to the gloomySiberian river also - (Chekhov 1977, 43)(quarreled with his brothers over something; Chekhov 2000, 163), and he callsthe ferryman (brother Semyon). And the young Tatar, likeIvanushka from a Russian folk tale, is the youngest of three brothers (and themost innocent of them, too).At first sight, the old man advocates initiation as transformation, which wasstandard for Dostoevsky and Tolstoy: - , , , , (Chekhov 1977, 44) (Give up the old things, forget them as if theydnever been, as if it was only a dream, and start a new life; Chekhov 2000, 163).However, in Siberia he believes it to be impossible. He says about thenoblemans daughter: , , ? (Chekhov 1977, 45) (her blood is high, she wants to live, and whatkind of life is there here?; Chekhov 2000, 164). And further: . (Chekhov 1977, 46) (Shell die any-way. Shes absolutely sure to die; Chekhov 2000, 165).The ideological argument in the story is whether people live (in darknessand dampness, like in a grave) or do not live in Siberia. The grounds for thissomewhat unusual question, as we can see, were predetermined by all the pre-vious Siberian texts. However, Chekhov claims that there is no one mytho-poetic universal answer: it depends on ones existential position.The old Explainer, in a sense the ideologist of the lifeless existence, is likea dead man: ! , , , , , ! (Chekhov 1977, 43) (need nothing! Nofather, no mother, no wife, no freedom, no bag, no baggage! You need nothing,damn it all!; Chekhov 2000, 162). On the contrary, the Tatar boy believes that , (Chekhov 1977, 46) (better a singleday of happiness than nothing; Chekhov 2000, 165). Scared of being buried inthe cold, rusty earth and standing up for Vassily Sergeich, he shouts to theferryman in his Siberian realm of death: , , ,18 ! , , , , , , , , , , ! (Chekhov 1977, 4950)(Gentleman a good soul, excellent, and you a beast, you bad! Gentleman aliveThe Mythologeme of Siberia in Russian Literature 15and you dead God created man for be alive, for be joy, and be sorrow, and begrief, and you want nothing, it means you not alive, you stone, you clay!; Chek-hov 2000, 168). Further in the text the symbolic confirmation of this verdict ispresented: . , . : . ! . . , , . . (Chekhov 1977, 50)(They all lay down. The wind forced the door open, and snow blew into the hut. Nobodywanted to get up and shut the door: it was cold and they were lazy.And Im fine! Semyon said as he was falling asleep. God grant everybody sucha life.We know you, a convict seven times over. Even the devils cant get at you.)(Chekhov 2000, 169)The old man, having become accustomed to the grave-like topos of winter, stone,and clay, is not a stranger for the devils. He himself rejects the possibility of theresurrection, whereas the Tatars crying resembling a dogs howling (the anti-thesis to the wild beast, the Explainer) proves that he belongs to the realm oflife. It is not accidental, that he echoes the gentlemans howling, who wantedto live by [his] own labor and later he revived (Chekhov 2000, 163, 165) escaping the symbolic death.The series of examples discussed above of the actualization of the liminalmythologeme of Siberia in literary texts seems to provide evidence of the pres-ence of a goup of texts in Russian literature that are connected not only themat-ically but also mytho-poetically, and represents the main argument for theexistence of a particular Siberian theme running through the literature.NOTES1. I kept the original usage of the Greek word doxa meaning opinion, reputation,glory. (E. M.)2. It was commonly believed that, killed in the battle with Siberian Tatars, Yermak (Ermak)had taken over the whole of Siberia.3. Victor Turner uses this term to denote a group of social outcasts being in a state of tran-sient humility and modelessness, unstructured social relations, and actualizing theessential and generic human bond, without which there could be no society (Turner1995, 97).4. My translation of the authors quote from Markovich 1982, 22. (E. M.)16 Valerii Tiupa5. Craft crossing (the reaching of the land of the dead) is one of the most significant motifsof the initiation rite.6. The reaching of the liminal border.7. The Russian padun means the falling one. Falling is one of the symbolic synonyms ofdeath (cf. the phraseologic to fall victim, to fall dead).8. This is an analog of the funeral ablution.9. Analog of the funeral procession.10. A hint at the resurrection that is getting closer with the funeral rite.11. The name of the fortress has a root brat (brother), which would be a good name for thefortress for the initiated, because originally all of them were brothers, the youths of thesame tribe.12. Fasting is one of the symbolic forms of death.13. The 1879 publisher of Ryleev transliterates his name as Relaieff, based perhaps on thephonetic principle.14. Living in Siberia sounds in this context like a latent oxymoron.15. Positive direction according to mytho-poetic symbolism.16. Anti-discernment, as opposed to that of Katusha Maslova.17. Cf. The day had turned quite fine in the above-quoted fragment as the promise of thecoming resurrection.18. This animal-like character says about himself I can sleep naked on the ground and havegrass for my grub, compares himself to pike and white salmon, and wishes death toa shaggy lapdog on the sofa. He can definitely be interpreted as a parody figure of thehalf-animal predecessor.BIBLIOGRAPHYChekhov, A. 1969, Across Siberia in The Unknown Chekhov: Stories and Other Writings,trans. A.Yarmolinsky, Funk & Wagnalls, New York.Chekhov, A. 1977, Polnoe sobranie sochineniy i pisem v 30 tomah, vol. 8, Nauka, Moscow.Chekhov, A. 1978, Polnoe sobranie sochineniy i pisem v 30 tomah, vols. 1415, Nauka, Mos-cow.Chekhov, A. 2000, In Exile in Stories, trans. R. Pevear and L. Volokhonsky, Bantam Books,New York.Dostoevsky, F. 1956, Crime and Punishment, trans. C. Garnett, Random, New York.Dostoevsky, F. 1957, Prestuplenie i nakazanie in Sobranie sochinenii v 10 tomah, Gosu-darstvennoe Izdatel'stvo Khudozhestvennoi Literatury, Moscow.Erofeev, V. 1980, Moscow to the End of the Line, trans. H. W. Tjalsma, Taplinger, New York.Erofeev, V. 1990, Moskva Petushki, Vagrius, Moscow.Gennep, A. 1960, The Rites of Passage, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.1963, The Life of Archpriest Avvakum by Himself, trans. J. Harrison and H. Mirrlees, Archon,Hamden.Markovich, V. 1982, I. S. Turgenev i russkiy realisticheskii roman XIX veka, Izdatel'stvoLeningradskogo universiteta, Leningrad.Nekrasov, N. 1977, Russian Women in Poems, trans. J. M. Soskice, Hyperion Press, West-port.The Mythologeme of Siberia in Russian Literature 17Pushkin, A. 1964, Deep in the Siberian mine in The Poems, Prose and Plays of AlexanderPushkin, ed. A.Yarmolinsky, Random, New York.Pushkin, A. 1984, Poltava in Collected Narrative and Lyrical Poetry, Ardis, Ann Arbor.Relaieff, K. 1879, Voinarofskyi and Other Poems, trans. T. Hart-Davies, Thacker, Calcutta.Tolstoy, L. 1964, Sobranie sochineniy v 20 tomah, vol. 13, Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel'stvoKhudozhestvennoi Literatury, Moscow.Tolstoy, L. 1966, Resurrection, trans. R. Edmonds, Penguin, Baltimore.Turner, V. 1995, The Ritual Process: Structure and Antistructure, Aldine de Gruyter, NewYork.1934, Zhitie protopopa Avvakuma, Academia, Moscow-Leningrad.Dr Valerii Tiupa is a professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow,and a head of the Department of Theoretical and Historical Poetics. He has a PhD in Literature.Dr Tiupa specializes in theory of literature, historical aesthetics, rhetoric and theory ofcommunication. He is the author of 133 works, including The Aesthetics of Self-Consciousnessof Russian Culture, Theory of Literature, and The Analytics of the Artistic: Introduction toLiterary Analysis.18 Valerii Tiupa


View more >