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Russia on the EdgeImagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity$
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Edith W. Clowes

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801448560

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448560.001.0001

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Illusory Empire

Illusory Empire

Viktor Pelevin’s Parody of Neo-Eurasianism

(p.68) 3 Illusory Empire
Russia on the Edge

Edith W. Clowes

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on the themes crucial to Viktor Pelevin's Chapaev and the Void, the deconstruction of the Soviet mass psyche and the search for identity. Set partly in a Moscow mental hospital, Pelevin's Chapaev parody lends itself to a psychoanalytic challenge to the repressive neo-Eurasianist view of human nature. Here the focus is on the constructions of self of the four inmates in the psychiatric hospital story, each of whom is viewed as an allegorical component in something we can call the “national-imperial psyche.” Contemporary neo-Eurasianism with its national-imperial idea is an ideological straw man that receives wonderful philosophical and psychological satirical treatment in this novel. Chapaev also features a series of zany philosophical dialogues variously about consciousness, ethics, and metaphysics—and always about identity. Thus the post-Soviet tendency to link identity to spatial-geographical metaphor becomes here the object of a fundamental philosophical challenge.

Keywords:   Viktor Pelevin, Chapaev and the Void, Soviet mass psyche, spatial-geographical metaphor, neo-Eurasianism, satire, national-imperial psyche

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