Peasant Dreamers, Shattered Dreams: Village Utopians
Village prose of the late fifties, sixties, and early seventies had forced the Soviet reader to reassess former preconceptions about the backwardness and "idiocy of peasant life," preconceptions formed largely due to the victory, after the "duel of utopias" in the twenties, of the Bolshevik Utopian model in Soviet literary and social discourse. The Utopian dream of the village prose writers is a rich mixture of sources—from prerevolutionary peasant utopias to the Scythian vision of the victorious village to the myths and legends found in Russian folklore. Sergei Zalygin's Commission was one of the first works of village prose in which Utopian and fantastic elements were combined to draw a picture of the vanishing world of the Russian peasant. In Farewell to Matera Valentin Rasputin addresses the issue of the legitimacy and consequences of people's efforts to supplant traditional, organically evolved society with their own manufactured model for happiness.