Your shopping cart is empty.
Log in

Buddha’s Smile and Its Implications

Marija E. Fedjanina
80,00 ₽


Fedjanina Marija E.,

graduate student

Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA



The article analyzes the imbedded story “The Buddha’s Smile” from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel In the First Circle. The story was told by the engineer Potapov during the celebration of Gleb Nerzhin’s birthday. Focusing on the depiction of the prisoners, which presents them as faceless mass and identifies them as animals, the article follows the plot to the bath which functions as a mean of transformation of the animal-like convicts into anthropomorphic subjects, accepted as humans within the Soviet system. The necessity of this ritual brings to mind the discussion of progress which initiated telling of the story. It is also buttressed by the reference to the times of Katherine the Great when that which came to be Butyrka prison and the setting of the story was erected. The two most famous facts associated with the impress that are also mentioned in the text, are her order to chain the Pugachev, and her correspondence with Voltaire. In other words, the treatment of convicts as animals, and her “progressive” moods. Comparison of these two time periods gives a certain response to the question discussed during the birthday celebration: the development of all the spheres of the human activity is different, but rationalizations and innovations in science and technology are not necessarily accompanied by the positive turn in society.

Keywords: The First Circle, progress, bath house, rituals of transformation, animalistic metaphors, forty barrels of arrestees, mystification



  1. Solzhenitsyn A.I. Sobr. soch.: v 30 t. Moscow: Vremia, 2006– .
  2. Solzhenitsyn A.I. Publitsistika: v 3 t. Iaroslavl’: Verkhniaia Volga, 1997. V. 3.
  3. Birih A.K., Mokienko V.M., Stepanova L.I. Slovar’ russkoi frazeologii: istoriko-etimologicheskii spravochnik. St.-Petersburg.: Folio-Press, 1998.
  4. Dostoevsky F.M. Poln. sobr. soch.: v 30 t. Leningrad: Nauka, 1972. T. 4.
  5. Kasatkina T.N. Sviashchennoe v povsednevnom: Dvusostavnyi obraz v proizvedeniiakh F.M. Dostoevskogo: Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2015.
  6. Vadeisha M.G. Russkaia bania po materialam fol’klora: Ideal'nyi chelovek v ideal’nom mire / Antropologiia. Fol’kloristika. Lingvistika. St.-Petersburg: Izd-vo Evropeiskogo un-ta, 2001. Vyp. 1. S. 125–143.
  7. Baiburin A.K. Ritual 2 v traditsionnoi kul’ture: strukturno-semanticheskii analiz vostochnoslavianskikh obriadov. St.-Petersburg: Nauka, 1993.
  8. Lotman M.Yu. Pushkin: Biografiia pisatelia; Stat’i i zametki, 1960–1980; “Evgenii Onegin”: Kommentarii. St.-Petersburg: Iskusstvo-SPb., 1995.
  9.  Kotkin S. Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization. Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995.
  10. Stalin’s Terror: High Politics and Mass Repression in the Soviet Union / ed. by B. McLoughlin, K. McDermott. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.