Representation of History in Brothers Strugatsky's novel Hard to be a God

  • Julia Gerhard University of Colorado - Boulder


Brothers Strugatsky's popular science fiction novel Hard to be a God, which depicts the appalling consequences resulting from the interference of a group of historians from Earth who arrive on a distant planet Arkanar in order to speed up its course of history and help to establish communism, not only critiques the Stalinist repressions of the Soviet intelligentsia of the 1930s, but also provides an interesting socio-political commentary on the life and role of intelligentsia during the 1960s. Similar to the situation in which the Soviet intelligentsia found itself in the 1930s where they were persecuted for their art, the citizens of Arkanar are also faced with repressions: anyone who is literate or shows any artistic talent are exterminated on a mass scale. In addition, Strugatskys seek to disprove the dominant in Soviet Union Marxist theory of history and propose that contrary to Marxist perception of history as a linear, predetermined sequence of events that will undoubtedly lead to communism, history is cyclical and in fact tends to repeat itself. A telling example of their view on history is their depiction of a Fascist coup that anachronistically occurs in the medieval Arkanar, suggesting that Fascism is not merely a phenomenon of modernity and, in fact, can reappear at any time. For Strugatskys, Fascism acquires a broader meaning: it is any totalitarian regime that oppresses the masses, annihilates culture, and controls the intellectual thought. Ultimately, Strugastkys propose that intelligentsia is the main source of resistance to a Fascist regime. It is the intelligentsia, who still hasn't lost its critical thinking capacities and is not afraid to question the status quo, who has the potential and power to stop the oppression and defy the Fascist state.

Author Biography

Julia Gerhard, University of Colorado - Boulder
Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature