CHARLESTON — What do the lives of free thinkers look like under an oppressive regime? In the 1960s and 1970s, a Russian professor named Viktor Duvakin set out to interview hundreds of artists, authors, and philosophers who survived the Russian Revolution, Stalin’s purges of the 1930s, and World War II, lest their experiences be lost over time to censorship and the threat of imprisonment. The resulting trove of knowledge was eventually locked away in a library by the KGB until after the Soviet Union’s fall in the early 1990s — and the interviews remained unavailable to English-speaking audiences until only recently.
On April 25, Marshall University professor Slav Gratchev will share insights into his recent ongoing project, translating the “Duvakin Interviews” from Russian into English for the first time. Gratchev has published several books containing significant portions of the interviews, many of which include recollections of some of Russia’s most famous artists and thinkers, such as Boris Pasternak, Mikhail Bulgakov, Maxim Gorky, Sergei Eisenstein, Marina Tsvetaeva, and more.
Gratchev’s work has been supported throughout by Humanities Council fellowship grants. Titles containing excerpts of the Duvakin interviews include Russian Modernism in the Memories of the Survivors (University of Toronto Press, 2021), Dialogues with Shklovsky (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019), and Mikhail Bakhtin: The Duvakin Interviews, 1973 (Bucknell University Press, 2019).
During his lecture, which will be broadcast virtually on YouTube, Facebook, and the Council’s website, wvhumanities.org, Gratchev will talk about the origins of this remarkable undertaking, the process of translating and annotating the words of some of the world’s best-known Russian intellectuals and artists, and some insights into the books themselves.
The lecture, which is free to watch and participate in, will premiere online at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 25.