Evgenij Zamjatin, We and Tatjana Tolstaja, Kys’: A Century of Envisaging a Dystopian Future

  • Petra Hesse Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt


After World War I, the new Soviet government propagated one principal option to replace nationalism and its emotional appeal: Socialist rationalism was to inform all aspects of individual and social life.

One of the first dystopian novels of the Soviet period, Evgenij Zamjatin’s We (1920), takes this idea to the extreme, thus warning the young state against the consequences of exclusive rationalism. After the end of the Soviet Union, another negative utopia, Tatjana Tolstaja’s Kys’ (2000), deals with the return of emotional nationalism at the cost of rationality. Both novels use the genre of dystopia as laboratory: With a starting point in their respective present, they outline a possible future development of individual man and mankind. The latter´s reduction to either reason or emotion results in the individual´s social de-contextualization and a loss of cultural competence, and both turn out to be hotbeds of violent upheaval and devastating insanity.