It is not inconceivable that future historians will read accounts of Russia’s recent history and assume that it was the work of some forgotten satirist: a political system that swung from fervent communism to rampant capitalism, a society with huge extremes of decadent wealth and abject poverty, and a ruling tandem that features a dancing president and a singing prime minister. Surprising then that today’s Russian satirists have failed to make a bigger impact on the international scene.
Many people will be familiar with books and plays from the 20th century’s ‘Golden Age’ of Russian satire. Writers such as Mikhail Bulgakov and Vladimir Mayakovsky were busy at work during this period pulling apart Soviet power structures to reveal the folly and brutality of what lay beneath the surface.
These authors themselves owed much to the work of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Nikolai Gogol. But the revolution of 1917 had thrown new and pressing threats on the literary community. Satire became a means of expressing and challenging not just an oppressive system but the trials of everyday life under it.