Slavische Philologie - Slavistik



Modelling Counterfactual History in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia


The goal of this project is to examine the pragmatics of counterfactuals, i.e. of scenarios that take the question "What would have happened, if ..." as a starting point, on the macro level of cultural processes. In this project, cultural conditions and functions as well as structural characteristics of counterfactual narration of the past will be explored. The project will equally focus on history, especially on its historiosophical component, and on fictional alternate histories in literature. We will examine the exemplary case of Soviet and post-Soviet culture: Its historical-cultural characteristics with the rejection of counterfactual thinking in the Soviet era followed by a strong propagation of conjectural history in post-Soviet Russia allow us to study the cultural mechanisms that foster the emergence of counterfactual models of history. Furthermore, in Russia, counterfactual scenarios are closely connected to cultural memory, whereby their social and historical-political function becomes clearly visible. Moreover, with a part of the project comprising a comparative perspective, more general literary and cultural theoretical conclusions can be drawn.

By answering the following questions, the project will provide a new view of counterfactual models of thinking and writing and their to date unexplored cultural dimension:

  1. Which historical-philosophical and literary conditions enable a culture to create counterfactual scenarios? Which is the relation of determinism and contingency, of idiographic and nomothetic approaches in and towards history and how are these aspects relevant for the emergence of counterfactual literature?
  2. Which are the cultural functions performed by counterfactual scenarios? The project starts from the working hypothesis that historic and fictional enactments of unrealized possibilities are at the same time constitutive and dynamic elements of a cultural memory.
  3. The aforementioned question regarding the cultural function of counterfactual speculations is closely connected to the question regarding their narrative structures: In what way are devices such as selection, segmentation, arrangement and presentation of unrealized events influencing the restructuring of elements of the cultural memory in thought experiments? And how do specifically fictional techniques like narrative conveyance, focalization or semantization of time and space in turn matter in literary uchronia?
  4. Why does Russian culture of the 20th and 21st century show peculiar difficulties in dealing with the concepts of unrealized past? The examination of these to date unnoticed specifics of Russian culture is to allow for new conclusions regarding its handling of history.

Interdisziplinärer Workshop "UNGESCHEHENE GESCHICHTE UND IHRE ERINNERUNGSKULTURELLE DIMENSION. Kontrafaktische historische Narrative zwischen Literatur und Geschichte in Ost und West"

Interdisziplinärer Workshop an der LMU MÜNCHEN 7.-9.Juli 2016
Künstlerhaus am Lenbachplatz, Lenbachplatz 8, 80333 München, Club-Raum 1

In Kooperation mit dem Institut für Slavische Philologie der LMU München und der Graduiertenschule für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien der Universitäten Regensburg und LMU München.