The author of The Firebird and the Fox: Russian Culture under Tsars and Bolsheviks (Cambridge University Press, 2019) responds to comments of Michael David-Fox, Muireann Maguire, Kevin Platt, William Mills Todd, and Olga Velikanova. He expresses appreciation for the reflections provided and elaborates on several points raised by the commentators individually and collectively: the theoretical framing of the work and the importance of agency; continuity of culture over episodes of political disjuncture; the applicability of the term “cultural ecosystem;” an alternative treatment of the topic that would have accorded greater emphasis to political power and the life cycle of revolutions; and the relationship of the work to analysis of institutional history and cultural theory. He finds the five commentaries to be valuable companion pieces for readers of The Firebird and the Fox and stimulants to further scholarship.
This essay responds to Jeffrey Brooks’ 2020 monograph The Firebird and the Fox, drawing attention to Brooks’ emphasis on a set of cultural symbols persistent during the historical period he surveys, and on the social activism which he identifies with leading Russian cultural figures such as Tolstoi and Chekhov. In support of Brooks’ argument, I present the example of Aleksandr Chaianov (1888–1937), a specialist in agronomy and amateur writer whose reputation as a driver of early Soviet agricultural policy was overshadowed by his arrest in 1930 and subsequent exile and execution. Chaianov’s social activism, as expressed in his short fiction and historical essays, took the form of reminding his readers about the cultural continuities between Russia’s past, present, and future.