Political Fractions of Oil: Between Socialism and Neoliberalism

Ilya Kalinin
St. Petersburg State University

25. Juni 2018
12:15 Uhr

V. Elkin:
Je mehr Öl, desto stärker ist unsere Heimat”. (1946)

Soviet and Post-Soviet culture is famous for an entire stratum of texts by completely dissimilar authors, belonging to radically different artistic traditions, and encompassing both prose and poetry. One feature, however, all these texts have in common: a metaphorical ‘complex’, united by the motif of oil. This motif functions simultaneously as a chief energy resource of the 20th and 21st century and as a symbol for all kinds of natural energy sources concealed in the depths of the earth. Rendered as cultural metaphors such as “blood of the earth” and “black gold,” these texts – and I will focus authors such as A. Platonov, I. Babel, K. Paustovsky, A. Prokhanov and V. Pelevin – define oil no longer only as the modern world’s main source of energy, but also as the driving force of history itself, as a resource for putting into practice specific political and social agendas. At the same time, in these texts, oil is conceptualized as a catalyst of human memory and as an organic source of poetic language. Last but not least, in some of the texts the motif of oil reaches out beyond the boundaries of a mere plot element or an object of reflection, becoming a much broader basis for a peculiar “poetics of oil”, a petropoetics with petropolitics. Within this cultural space oil has become a substance that condenses historical energy and various ethical values as well as cultural, social and political economical concepts.