Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 The Two Solitudes of Russia Abroad: The Exiled Intelligentsia and the Second World War in France

Tuesday, October 29, 20193:00PM - 5:00PM108N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
M5S 3K7


This talk addresses the tensions which arose in the Russian emigre community in France during and after WWII. These tensions resulted from the divergent experiences and interpretations of the war by the Russian and Russian-Jewish cultural elites who had emigrated to France after the communist coup of 1917. Examining, on the basis of largely unpublished archival materials, attitudes toward Nazi Germany and the Vichy regime among exiled Russian-speaking writers and intellectuals, those who stayed in war-time France and those who took refuge in the United Stated, the talk will focus on Russian reactions to German and French anti-Semitic policies. The goal is to deepen our understanding of the precipitous decline of the Russian emigre cultural community, which thrived in interwar France, by exploring a taboo aspect of its final years, obfuscated in scholarly literature — namely, its fracturing along ethnic lines under the impact of the Holocaust. The talk will argue that traumatic war experience, including the manifest or perceived political attitudes of ethnic Russians in France, modified the cultural identity of the exiled Russian-Jewish intelligentsia, which had been the backbone of interwar Russian emigre cultural life, weakening its commitment to Russia Abroad and thereby accelerating the cultural community’s fragmentation and decline in France.
Leonid Livak is a professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Centre for Jewish Studies, and an associated researcher at the Centre d’études des Mondes Russe, Caucasien & Centre-Européen (EHESS-Paris). He has published extensively on Russian-French and Russian-Jewish cultural history, and on Russian and transnational modernism. Among his books are: How It Was Done in Paris: Russian Emigre Literature and French Modernism (2003); Le Studio franco-russe (2005); Russian Emigres in the Intellectual and Literary Life of Interwar France (2010); The Jewish Persona in the European Imagination (2010); In Search of Russian Modernism (2018). As part of his current research project, “The Final Chapter of Russia Abroad,” he is writing the cultural history of the decline of the Russian emigre community in France.


Leonid Livak
University of Toronto

Main Sponsor

Centre for the Study of France and the Francophone World (CEFMF)


Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies

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