• Gyöngyi MIKOLA
Keywords: Guzel Yakhina, hybrid identity, the metamorphoses of self-awareness, imperial narratives, postcolonial theories


Guzel Yakhina of Tatar descent is one of the most popular contemporary Russian writers today. Her novels Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes and Children of the Volga, which are available in Hungarian as well, have been awarded numerous national and international prizes. The latter, among others, won the Ivo Andrić Award in Serbia in 2019. Both novels unveil stories of representatives of the minority in the historical context of the Soviet era of the 1920s and 1930s. Zuleikha is a Crimean Tartar woman who was deported to Siberia during dekulakization, and the teacher Jacob Ivanovich Bach was a descendant of the German settlers along the Volga, whose life was turned upside down by the 1917 Bolshevik takeover. In my presentation, I look for an answer to what literary codes Yakhina’s prose utilizes to construct the unique, constantly changing, and “hybrid” identity of her characters, and how the literary methods used by her relate to ethnically themed works of classical Russian literature, Romantic Orientalism, or the tradition of “imperative” narratives often present in her works. I also analyse how this prose reflects (if it reflects) on the contemporary Western post-colonialist literary discourses, and to what extent can this hybridity be interpreted in the context of literary theoretical concepts. In Yakhina’s prose, the questions of female identity and the literary representation of gender roles that change in extreme ways during historical cataclysms are unavoidable, and with them the appearance of and focus on the closely related children’s perspective. While I reflect on the discussions surrounding Yakhina’s works in the circles of Russian critics and audience, with special regard to minority readers, the focus of my inte- rest is not primarily on the political and socio-cultural approach to dealing with the traumas and highly controversial legacy of the Soviet era, but rather on Yakhina’s unique conception of consciousness, and the narrative procedures through which the metamorphoses and transformations of human self-perception and self-awareness become perceptible in the midst of crucial social changes. These are not understood by the characters engulfed by them in the given moment at the time of the events and, even if they are able to comprehend their situation relatively quickly, the experienced traumatic events present a huge mental challenge that threatens to shatter even the strongest individuals. The most exciting chapters of the novels reveal those who were able (if they were able) to redefine themselves, how that changed (if it changed) their story, and if all that helped the survival of the characters.

Author Biography

Gyöngyi MIKOLA

Szegedi Tudományegyetem, Társadalom- és Bölcsészettudományi Kar
Szláv Intézet, Orosz Filológia Tanszék
Szeged, Magyarország


Jahina, Guzel. 2017. Zulejka kinyitja a szemét. Ford. Iván Ildikó. Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó.

Jahina, Guzel. 2018. Szad na granyice. Realnoe vremja. articles/97672-rannee-esse-guzeli-yahinoy (2022. ápr. 7.)

Jahina, Guzel. 2020. A Volga gyermekei. Ford. Soproni András. Budapest: Helikon. Kalafatics, Zsuzsanna. 2021. Travmatyicseskij opit sztalinizma v romanah Guzeli

Jahinoj. SlavVaria 1/2021. DOI: 10.15170/SV.1/2021.181 (2022. ápr. 8.)

Savkina, Irina – Rosenholm, Аrja. 2016. Szekret jejo uszpeha: razmislenyija o romanye Guzel Jahinoj «Zulejha otkrivajet glaza». Лабиринт. No 3–4. 22–25
16. 09. 2022.