As many as half a million Russians lived in Germany in the 1920s, most of them in Berlin, clustered in and around the Charlottenburg neighborhood to such a degree that it became known as “Charlottengrad.” Traditionally, the Russian émigré community has been understood as one of exiles aligned with Imperial Russia and hostile to the Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet government that followed. However, Charlottengrad embodied a full range of personal and political positions vis-à-vis the Soviet project, from enthusiastic loyalty to questioning ambivalence and pessimistic alienation.
By closely examining the intellectual output of Charlottengrad, Roman Utkin explores how community members balanced their sense of Russianness with their position in a modern Western city charged with artistic, philosophical, and sexual freedom. He highlights how Russian authors abroad engaged with Weimar-era cultural energies while sustaining a distinctly Russian perspective on modernist expression, and follows queer Russian artists and writers who, with their German counterparts, charted a continuous evolution in political and cultural attitudes toward both the Weimar and Soviet states.
Utkin provides insight into the exile community in Berlin, which, following the collapse of the tsarist government, was one of the earliest to face and collectively process the peculiarly modern problem of statelessness. Charlottengrad analyzes the cultural praxis of “Russia Abroad” in a dynamic Berlin, investigating how these Russian émigrés and exiles navigated what it meant to be Russian—culturally, politically, and institutionally—when the Russia they knew no longer existed.
Roman Utkin is an assistant professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies as well as feminist, gender, and sexuality studies at Wesleyan University, specializing in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Russian culture, literature, and society.
“A groundbreaking book—an innovative, compelling, and important contribution to the study of Russian and Russophone cultural life during the interwar era. This is a bold and necessary corrective to narratives concerning global Russian culture in the postrevolutionary period.”— Kevin M. F. Platt, University of Pennsylvania
“Utkin digs deep into the world of Russian Berlin, a liminal site that allowed Russian artists displaced by the Bolshevik Revolution to begin to imagine what emigration might mean. He reminds us of the fluidity of the historical moment and the diverse choices Russian creators made. A unique and significant study.”—Catherine Ciepiela, Amherst College