Russian Emigres Draws Term Paper

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In Lolita we find a suitable example of this in Humbert's memory of his first girlfriend in the setting of some seaside resort in France, that he later discovered had died several months later. This caused him to seek new relationships that matched this early memory of his first love. However, in Nabokov's earlier work, Russia figures more prevalently into his writing. We see, for instance, Humbert's criticisms of America through his disdainful view of Delores's mother's trinkets and his thoughts on the roadside hotels of middle America in the 50's. These criticisms are more familiar to us in light of European takes on American culture; Jean Baudrillard's America is a great example of such criticism as he describes Ronald Reagan's smile, Salt Lake City's 'Mormon symmetry, and Las Vegas as 'the whore on the other side of the desert.' We can assume that by the 50's, Nabokov has been fully integrated into Europe's culture and sensibilities.

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Memory of places and aesthetics both play a large role in Nabokov's work. Ganin has the ability to dwell on a memory of a garden, or a pavilion or a birch tree, commenting that the only thing that he can't commit to memory are smells. We are given a profound sense of the way the physical world psychologically affects Nabokov through his senses. Return of Chorb strikes us in much the same way; here again the protagonist is Russian, his thoughts are beset by the loss of a woman, and the setting is Germany. Here the protagonist stays in a hotel room that he was first in following marriage to his German wife, who has recently died. He only knows this by recognizing a picture of a pink baigneuse above the bed. Here we see the memory and nostalgia play the key role in the story as the protagonist attempts to fix the memory of his first wife permanently into his mind. In the light of his next novel, "A Guide to Berlin," we get more evidence that Nabokov thinks with his senses, and that exile from Russia represents a sensual estrangement that he must come to terms with in order to establish the primacy of his own happiness.

Term Paper on Russian Emigres Draws Upon a Assignment

Guide to Berlin" gives us a happy image of Nabokov's adopted home and the idea that locations are ephemeral, and their abandonment is necessitated by time as much as it is necessitated by the political need for exile. Nabokov evidences this thought when he comments that "The streetcar will vanish in twenty years or so, just as the horse-drawn tram has vanished." (Nabokov, 1925:92) Nabokov gives the impression that everything decays over time, and that the maintenance of happiness is essential to us in order to understand the process of this decay and to appreciate things that are new. This is reflected in that the narrator is physically handicapped.

It is important to note that in 1925, Nabokov also married Vera Slonim, another Russian Jew that had left the turmoil of Saint Petersburg for a new life in Germany. Vera, who had met Nabokov two years earlier, shared his love for butterflies. Nabokov was to spend 13 years in exile in Berlin; in "A Letter that Never Reached Russia," he insists upon maintaining the courage to maintain a positive attitude even in a world beset by grief and tyranny when he describes the grave of a recently deceased man outside a Russian Orthodox Church where a woman is beside herself with grief:

centuries will roll by...everything will pass, but...my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp...in everything with which God so generously surrounds human loneliness (Nabokov, 1925:87).

Here he shows happiness as an act of defiance, and a triumph of the will. Despite having established himself in Berlin, he faces the necessity of emigration to France in light of the persecution of the Jews, as his young wife and son are both Jewish. Johnson comments that "The story was also historically significant at the time in that it struck a blow against the orthodox notion in the Soviet press that life for all exiles was a 'sterile and bitter purgatory'." (Johnson, 2001) However, in this story he further presents the idea of Russia as a woman.

In 'A Russian Beauty,' a short story written by Nabokov in early 1934, he presents Tsarist Russia as this woman. Here he describes a formerly vivacious woman that has stopped socializing after the death of her father and now, in her 30's, fears that she will never marry. Olga 'was born in the year 1900, in wealthy, carefree family of nobles... Her childhood passed festively, securely, gaily, as was the custom in our country.' (Nabokov, 1934: pg. 3) This reflected the waning belief that tsarist Russia will be resurrected at a time when forced purges were killing millions of independent farmers who had been forced into collectives and penalized for not meeting exploitive quotas with mandatory starvation and exile to Siberia. Although most of these farmers were Ukrainian and not Russian per se, the likelihood that Imperial Russia would be resurrected was now being abandoned. In 1926 in New York, the property of the Russian Orthodox church, including St. Nicholas Cathedral and three million dollars, was handed over to the communists after a New York State Appellate Court found that they were the rightful owners. This was a blow to the Russian community in America, which was now divided along lines of loyalty as many of the former aristocracy continued to use their aristocratic titles in exile. Many of New York's Russian and Georgian emigre communities still use their ducal or princely titles on formal occasions. The tragic middle aged heroine in Nabokov's short story is paralleled by a secondary character in 'We the Living,' a middle-aged woman who was once known in aristocratic circles for her lovely hands. Rand comments that the character's hands had been destroyed by several bitter years of communist oppression.

Nabokov's characters reflect the variety in the lives of emigres. These people varied from nobles who spoke fluent French or English and maintained property outside Russia to general supporters for the Whites or the Czarist regime, including the military, to every variety of intellectuals, economists, artists, and musicians who saw their lifestyles radically compromised under the new regime. It must be remembered that under the soviets, a new reverse-caste system emerged; if one was from a family that supported the Czar or was known to be of an ethnicity that was manifestly anti-communist, such as the Ukrainians. Stalin was particularly brutal to ethnic musicians; in the late 20's he staged a cultural exhibition for wandering balalaika-players and had them all simultaneously executed. It should be remembered that many countries of the west were openly hostile to Russian immigrants. Many of the leftist intellectuals of the west attempted to portray Soviet society as cogent and progressive; the contrarian stories of immigrants required that they be branded as partisans or monarchists. Following the 2nd world war, they were often considered Nazi collaborators, as much of the Soviet Union's population (as well as the rest of Eastern Europe) was under Nazi control.

In the United States in the early 1920's, Harding's administration adopted new immigration measures that restricted the inflow of Russians and other Eastern Europeans, seeking instead to adopt immigration quotas that reflected immigration levels common in 1880. Immigrants were often mislabeled as communists due to the emigration of some radicals such as Trotsky and Emma Goldman. It's understandable why Nabokov's early work primarily reflected the suffering felt by these emigres.

From Nabokov's time forward, the arrival of emigres from Russia took three manifestations; first, Brodsky, Stolzhenizin and other prominent dissidents left the Soviet Union. Often people given the chance to leave as part of a cultural exchange with the west opted to never come back. The Soviet Union provided an answer to this by forbidding entire families to all travel abroad at the same time for fear of them escaping to the west. The KGB would assist in ensuring that Russians returned to Russia; it was not assumed that Russians had the right to leave. Starting in the late 1970's, however, people of Jewish heritage found themselves able to emigrate; many left for Israel whereas others came to the United States. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the Jews would be followed by many others attempting to leave Russia. Among the most tragic group within this last exodus is that of young girls lured abroad and forced into prostitution by the Russian mafia. According to the United Nations, literally millions of young women have been enslaved in this manner; the mafia then burns their documents so that they may not escape. Other Russians are trapped in former Soviet countries such as Estonia and Latvia, where they are officially discriminated against by the government and kept in a perpetual state of quasi-citizenship as a matter… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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