Watch out — the parade! Oleg Chukhontsev’s poem “A Parade Rehearsal”
À. G. Stepanov
Tver State University (Russia, Tver), Lanzhou University (China, Lanzhou)
Keywords: poetics, study of versification, rhythm, analysis and interpretation, historical commentary, Oleg Chukhontsev
Abstract: This paper discusses Oleg Chukhontsev’s poem “A Parade Rehearsal” (1968). The author analyzes the rhythmic structure of the text, and puts forward an interpretation of it alongside a historical and cultural commentary. The poem arouses emotional and conceptual associations with Vasily Zhukovsky’s ballad “The Castle of Smalgholm”. A common feature of both texts is an atmosphere of apprehension accompanied by motifs of nocturnal tactical movement, victims of war, memories of malefaction, retribution (Last Judgment). I consider the intertextual level of the poem, which is mainly represented by references to Mikhail Lermontov, as well as allusions to political and military events in which Russia (the USSR) participated: on November 4, 1794, the slaughter of Poles by Russian troops during their assault on Praga, a suburb of Warsaw on the Vistula’s right bank; the suppression of the 1830–1831 Polish uprising; the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact armies on the night of August 21, 1968 and the suppression of Prague Spring. In “A Parade Rehearsal” Chukhontsev undermined something considered by most Soviet people as unshakable, almost sacral: the solemn movement of troops with military hardware across Red Square, along the Kremlin Wall and past the Lenin Mausoleum. Watching this event at night, Chukhontsev suddenly recognizes distinctive marks of the Russian (Soviet) imperial consciousness. The principal valor of the latter is military, while its main objective is to expand its territory and preserve its grandeur whatever the cost. The poet perceives this military display as the dominance of the mass over the individual, the state over a person. Oleg Chukhontsev expressed this disquieting idea with great artistic power just before the end of “the Thaw”.
To cite this article: Stepanov, A. G. (2019). Watch out — the parade! Oleg Chukhontsev’s poem “A Parade Rehearsal”. Shagi / Steps, 5(2), 136–148. (In Russian). DOI: 10.22394/2412-9410-2019-5-2-136-148