«The Bobruisk case» and Alexander Afinogenov's play «The Weirdo»: social and political realities of Stalinism and Soviet dramaturgy

Yurganov A.L.


The article analyzes the contents of «The Weirdo» play by playwright Alexander Afinogenov and its perception in the eponymous stage production. The theater community reacted ambiguously to the play because it showed a positive character, the nonpartisan specialist Boris Volgin, and extremely unattractive representatives of the party and trade union activists in the factory, where the dramatic events related to the workers' anti-Semitism take place. Paradoxically, after the premiere of the play, one of the main ideologues of the Bolshevik Party, A. Soltz, acted as an expert. He did not find anything in the play or the stage production that did not correspond to the «line» of the party's ideological campaign of self-criticism. Such claims came from the public, while the Bolshevik Party saw nothing objectionable. This is especially interesting when one considers that it was the first time that working class anti-Semitism was represented on stage. In order to risk posing such sharp questions, one had to be certain that such topics were tolerated by the party itself. The search for the sources of the play's ideological foundations leads us to Vyacheslav Molotov's speech at the November plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) in 1928. At one point of that speech, he combined three topics that became relevant to Afinogenov: non-partisan enthusiasts, the «purge» of the party and state apparatus, and the anti-Semitism of workers in Belorussia in the so-called «Bobruisk case».


«Bobruisk case»; anti-Semitism; Stalin; playwright A.N. Afinogenov; play «Chudak»; Moscow Art Theater; V.M. Molotov; A.A. Solz.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2023.02.10

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