"Comrades! Last night I couldn't sleep, and I thought
about women." - Boris Pilnyak, The Volga Flows into
the Caspian Sea
Completed in
Chevengur ends with a massacre that leaves few sur-
vivors. While it would be too facile to connect the ending of Platonov's
novel with the mass murders that would become all too common under
Stalin, the dating of the novel is, at the very least, fortuitous.! The dreams
of male utopian collectivism survived both War Communism and
but they could not adapt to the industrial literature of Stalin. Though
one must be careful of accepting the standard historiographic assessment
of the First Five-Year Plan as a "great break" with the culture and poli-
cies of the previous decade, there can be little doubt that the symbols
and metaphors prominent in the
would be deployed in entirely
new fashions in the
if not transformed to the point of being un-
recognizable. Appeals to brotherhood and comradeship would continue
long past the
but in a context of implacable hostility toward the
values of the utopian fratriarchal collective. With the onset of the First
Five-Year Plan and the new emphasis on female labor both in indus-
try and on collective farms, women would finally be identified with the
forces of progress rather than symbolizing all the evils of the bourgeoisie.
Meanwhile, Stalin's authority was consolidated on the symbolic as well
as the political level, resulting in an image of the Leader as the ultimate
father figure. Here, too, Chevengur proves prophetic. The commune is
disrupted by the intrusion of women, while its survivors return to the
comfort of patriarchal authority: Dvanov returns to his dead biological
father in Lake Mutevo and Proshka willingly accepts Zakhar Pavlovich's
repetition of his initial offer to pay him to find Dvanov. Of course, the
word "authority" might seem to be an exaggeration in either case, but
the lure of the father-son bond remains strong. In the Soviet imaginary,
fratriarchal communism fell in a two-front war, unable to resist the on-
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