Russia in the 20th century
Civics and Citizenship History Modern history
The 20th century was a transformative period for Russia as the nation went through revolution, industrialisation, the Great Purge, space race and Cold War. Explore the rise and fall of the USSR here.
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54:01 | English

Today's Russia: A Literary Landscape


After the collapse of the USSR, the world stopped hearing so much about Russian writers. But that doesn't mean they stopped writing. This eye-opening film allows us to reconnect with what makes Russian literature so remarkable. With dramatic readings by Stephen Fry and award-winning original animations, the distinct worlds of some of Russia's most powerful imaginations are bought to life. Six contemporary Russian authors take us on a journey through the country's literature, its influences, its role in shaping social and political change and its relationship with power. This program showcases some of Russia's most remarkable modern talent with intimate personal encounters with Russia's most talented contemporary authors. In Moscow we march with the poet who leads many of the anti-Putin demonstrations, and we sit in the flat of the former scientist who only turned to writing after she fell afoul of the KGB in the 1970s. We meet the former Special Forces officer who writes touchingly of provincial life, but idolises Mickey Rourke, 50 Cent - and Stalin. We are taken by a master of chilling horror stories to the secret spot in Moscow's Gorky Park where the old Soviet-era rides of her childhood are being dismantled. Audiences will discover writers like the astounding Armenian writer, Ludmila Ulitskaya, who spent her entire adult life writing an 1000-page fantasy masterpiece. Lastly, the film treats audiences to an exclusive interview with Russia's most scandalous and violent literary novelist Vladimir Sorokin (critically acclaimed by the New York Review of Books) who compared the ruling Putin clique to the medieval torturers who served Ivan the Terrible. This program allows audiences to question not only what they thought they knew about Russian literature but also what they think they know about Russia. Each writer has their own surprising voice, often with more in common with Julian Barnes and Jonathan Franzen than Gogol or Tolstoy.

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