Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Russian Life

A Russophile wouldn't be a Russophile if he or she were prone to joy. But imagine my surprise when Google robbed me of my privacy in order to deliver me into the hands of the wonderful bimonthly magazine, Russian Life. Yes, it's true, there is a magazine for people like me, who take Russian literature and culture seriously but aren't academic professionals. If this isn't niche marketing I don't know what it is.

Russian Life is incredible. My inaugural issue came with articles on Chekhov, the legacy of Tolstoy's children, the Russian tradition in Berlin, a history of Pushkin's Literary Gazette, and some fleeting nods to contemporary Russian language, news, and culture. With magazines like this, I'm tempted to discontinue the blog and sign off. After Russian Life, what claim can any Russian history and literature buff have to originality?

I do wonder about the audience. Are ethnic Russians reading the magazine? I note from the letters to the editor that the magazine isn't sold on newsstands even in Moscow, but that American Russian teachers are probably using articles in their classrooms. The magazine's archives are available for sale, and more impressively, Russian Life is publishing some out-of-date Russian novels in translation. I'm especially interested in their sister publication devoted to translating contemporary Russian fiction. Or how about a book on 93 Untranslatable Russian Words?

At any rate, I'm hooked. I suppose the magazine's flaws will turn out to be nostalgia and light-weight literary analysis. But I'm interested to know whether Russian Life courts the favor of the current Russian regime (and related advertising dollars) or merely Russophile geeks like me. And do geeks like me tend to favor White or Red versions of the Russian past?

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