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Miriam Finkelstein

Miriam Finkelstein studied Russian and Czech Literature at Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Germany, where she received her PhD entitled In the Name of the Sister. Studies on the Reception of the Regent Sofiia Alekseevna by Catherine the Great, Evdokiia Rostopchina, and Marina Cvetaeva] (München 2011).

She has published articles on translingual Russian-American and Russian-German literature and their postcolonial narratives, on Russian-Jewish literature and on contemporary Russian poetry and prose. She co-edited the volume Proceedings of the Second International Perspectives on Slavistics Conference (with I. Mendoza and S. Birzer, München 2009) as well as the forthcoming volume Slavische Literaturen als Weltliteratur [Slavic Literatures as World Literature] (with Diana Hitzke). In the years 2012-2016 she worked as the Chair for Slavic Literatures and Cultures at the University of Passau. Currently she is an Assistant Professor (Universitätsassistentin) at the Department of Slavonic Studies at the University of Innsbruck (Austria), and is writing her second book The Migrant Remembers Back. Memory and History Narratives in Contemporary Literature on Russian Migrants (Habilitation thesis).

Soviet Colonialism Reloaded. Encounters between Russians and Central Europeans in Contemporary Literature about Berlin

The paper will address the reciprocal representations of migrants from Russia and different Central European states in fictional texts about the Berlin, written by authors from the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovenia and the former Soviet Union. My main assumption is that in diaspora migrants encounter not only the inhabitants of the host country but also migrants from other countries, with whom they share – obvious differences notwithstanding – many similar mostly migration-related experiences. In particular, writers from Central Europe and the former Soviet Union exhibit a large variety of commonalities and thus constitute a distinct and recognizable group. Under these conditions, an asymmetrical relation becomes visible between the representation of Russian and Central European migrants in the texts by writers from the Soviet Union and in those by writers from Central European states. While texts about present-day Berlin written by the latter frequently feature Russian migrant characters, texts by the former are populated by many migrants from all continents but are free of Central Europeans. I will argue that these texts depict an aggressive ‘occupation’, or following post-colonial thought, a ‘re-colonization’ of Berlin by Soviet/Russian migrants. The process is accompanied by the claim of these ‘colonizers’ to an uncontested and exclusive authority in the matter of the interpretation and explication of history, in this case of Russian/Soviet and Central European history. Following the Soviet experience of the colonization of Eastern Europe, Eastern Europeans in diaspora are yet again the first to fall victim to Russian migrants’ colonial aspirations. Their and their countries’ historical experiences are again subsumed under Russian authority and primacy. The hierarchy of nations prevalent in the Soviet Union, a hierarchy that assumed the superior position of the Russian nation, is transferred without much modification to Berlin.