Buryat Literature as a Political and Cultural Institution from the 1950s to the 1970s

Melissa A. Chakars, Saint Joseph's University


This article explores the history of Buryat literature as an institution in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Buryat literature was not simply the creation of Buryat writers. Local Party and government officials, censors, editors, publishers, and others made a substantial contribution to the direction, promotion, and content of Buryat literature. Buryat literature, as well as writers, was widely promoted by local media. Literature was also taught regularly at all levels of education. Buryat writers did not produce any samizdat and they generally did not use literature as a way to explore their pre-Soviet or pre-Russian history and culture as did other Soviet nationalities. Instead, Buryat literature generally emphasised topics that promoted and supported the project of Soviet modernisation. It promoted the value of Soviet leadership, the importance of the friendship of nations and in particular the friendship between Buryats and Russians, and it promoted the idea that life was better for the Buryats in the Soviet Union than it had been in the past or could be anywhere else. In addition, it helped create a new Buryat history that showed how the Buryats played an important role in Soviet historical events such as the Civil War, the October Revolution, the collectivisation of agriculture, and the Second World War. Buryat literature was a place to define and promote the new Soviet Buryat nation and all its modern attributes.