Zabirko, Oleksandr

A War for the Better Past: Political Visions in Post-Soviet Counterfactual Histories


A talk in the framework of the Prisma Ukraïna workshop "When the Muses are not silent: Intellectuals’ and Artists’ Responses to the Ukraine-Russia Conflict and post-Maidan Developments in Ukraine" in Berlin on 19 June, 2018.

As one of the most popular types of speculative fiction, the “alternative” or “counterfactual histories” constitute a literary genre, in which one or more historical events occur differently than in the historical record.

While in the Western fiction the literary models of time travel and counterfactual history function as the elements of the unreal “secondary world” and thus construct a distance between the fantastic and the mundane, contemporary Russophone authors exploit the generic conventions of fantasy or science fiction in order to suggest a continuity between fiction and reality. Being omnipresent in various media, this aestheticized, counterfactual reality captivates its consumers and is arguably capable of substituting the real world, thus making it possible to read and interpret current geopolitical conflicts (like the war in Donbas) through the prism of speculative fiction. Focusing on geopolitical and social modeling in post-Soviet speculative fiction, the paper claims that the images of the Other, the archaic communal structures and the transformations of historical time provide here an aesthetic ground for a large patriotic consensus of a community united by common resentment.

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