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Lu Xun in the Rhetoric of the Sino-Soviet Split: A View from Contemporary Russia

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

The historical role of the prominent Chinese writer, social activist and thinker Lu Xun (1881–1936), is difficult to overestimate. His works influenced social change within China and became recognized internationally. For these and other reasons, he was of particular interest in the Soviet Union. Since 1932, his works have been published in numerous editions in Russian and have received a great deal of scholarly attention in the Soviet Union. Such unprecedented attention was initially based on the idea that he held similar revolutionary sentiments to those prevailing in the Soviet Union. Later, from the second half of the 1960s to the early 1970s, the ideological disagreements between the Soviet Union and China influenced the direction of Lu Xun studies in the Soviet Union. Soviet leader Khrushchev called for peaceful coexistence with the capitalist West, while Mao Zedong stressed the universal character of the proletarian revolution. Lu Xun was highly respected in both the USSR and China, and thus became an influential tool in this polemic. But, for Soviet scholars, this renewed focus on Lu Xun offered an opportunity to provide a new perspective on the writer’s works. This paper analyzes how the Sino-Soviet split influenced Russian academics’ positions on Lu Xun. The focus is on the three main points of contention in the ideological disagreements between the PRC and the USSR. First, Soviet critics focused on the psychological aspects and individualism in the Lu Xun’s works. Second, a special focus on humanistic elements in the writer’s ideas can be seen as a result of the Soviet disagreement with the Cultural Revolution’s period. Third, by pointing to the internationalist aspects of Lu Xun’s writings, Soviet scholars attempted to expose the Sinocentric political attitudes of the ruling circles in China.


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