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Slavic and East European Journal

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Russian Literature


This essay analyzes Aleksandr Kozachinskii’s 1938 Russian-language novella “The Green Wagon” as a roman à clef and exemplar of the Odesa Myth that has been unjustly neglected in literary scholarship. Reasons for the neglect of “The Green Wagon” include the historical context of its publication, between the Great Purges of 1936–1938 and the outbreak of World War II; Kozachinskii’s untimely death; and the conventional interpretation of the novella that reduces it to a fictionalized account of Kozachinskii’s friendship with Evgenii Petrov in Odesa during the early Soviet period. Against such a reductionist reading, and on the basis of recent archival-based scholarship on Kozachinskii’s biography, I argue that “The Green Wagon” should instead be understood as a double memoir, disguised as a roman à clef, of distinct episodes of Kozachinskii’s past as both criminal element and police investigator. The essay explores the ways in which Kozachinskii simultaneously discloses and conceals the memoiristic character of his text against the background of Stalin-era practices of self-fashioning and police-supervised confessions during the time of the Great Purges.


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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published as: de Oliveira, C. (2023). WRITING OUTSIDE THE SOVIET CANON: ALEKSANDR KOZACHINSKII'S" THE GREEN WAGON" AS ROMAN À CLEF AND ODESA MEMOIR. Slavic & East European Journal, 67(2).

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