On Russian Soil

On Russian Soil

Myth and Materiality

Mieka Erley


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Blending close readings of literature, films, and other artworks with analysis of texts of political philosophy, science, and social theory, Mieka Erley offers an interdisciplinary perspective on attitudes to soil in Russia and the Soviet Union from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. As Erley shows in On Russian Soil, the earth has inspired utopian dreams, reactionary ideologies, social theories, and durable myths about the relationship between nation and nature.

In this period of modernization, soil was understood as the collective body of the nation, sitting at the crux of all economic and social problems. The "soil question" was debated by nationalists and radical materialists, Slavophiles and Westernizers, poets and scientists.

On Russian Soil highlights a selection of key myths at the intersection of cultural and material history that show how soil served as a natural, national, and symbolic resource from Fedor Dostoevsky's native soil movement to Nikita Khrushchev's Virgin Lands campaign at the Soviet periphery in the 1960s. Providing an original contribution to ecocriticism and environmental humanities, Erley expands our understanding of how cultural processes write nature and how nature inspires culture.

On Russian Soil brings Slavic studies into new conversations in the environmental humanities, generating fresh interpretations of literary and cultural movements and innovative readings of major writers.


Mieka Erley:

Mieka Erley is Assistant Professor of Russian and Eurasian Studies at Colgate University. Erley's work has been published in Slavic Review and Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie (NLO).