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Postmodernism gained popularity as a new literary trend in post-Soviet Russia, but this came to a tentative end in the late 1990s. In the 2000s, a movement to revive realist literature called “new realism” emerged among a younger generation of writers. Zakhar Prilepin (b. 1975), the focus of this essay, is a representative writer of this movement. Since his debut novel The Pathologies (2004), based on his experience in the Chechen military campaign, he has produced one work after the other with
his characteristic vibrant and energetic prose steeped with heavily biographical elements. He has been awarded numerous prestigious literary prizes in Russia, including the National Bestseller Award.
Prilepin is also known as an extreme nationalist and is a member of the National Bolshevik Party founded by writer Eduard Limonov and philosopher Aleksandr Dugin. These activities are described in his novel Sankya (2006). Interestingly, the protagonist in the novel, a young party member named Sasha, admits that he acts out of instinct rather than party ideology. Non-ideology is also the essence of Prilepin’s own politics. Critic Mark Lipovetsky argues that Prilepin’s nationalism, which engenders a split between enemy and friend, resembles the characteristics of sociologist Lev Gudkov’s advocacy of “passive identity.”
In his “A Letter to Comrade Stalin” (2012), Prilepin provokes Russian liberal intellectuals by praising Stalin in the name of liberalism. At the same time, the essay also evokes the trauma of totalitarianism that still haunts post-Soviet Russia. Matsushita considers the significance of Prilepin’s activities in contemporary Russian society.