Organized Panel Session
Japan has long had a tendentious relationship to its vast neighbor to the North. From geographic disputes to ideological differences, Japan and Russia are commonly perceived as political adversaries. Yet such a view ignores the rich history of literary, linguistic, and artistic cross-pollination between the two world powers. This panel remedies a common misconception of Russo-Japanese relations by offering an alternative viewpoint, instead highlighting the connections between them across time and media. Such influences are especially felt in the realm of popular culture, language, and intellectual life.
Importantly, this panel illuminates commonalities between both imperialist and anti-imperialist cultural production in Russia and Japan. First, Brian Kim isolates the importance of the Japanese language within a set of dictionaries published in late 18th-century imperial Russia, pointing to a burgeoning political and cultural relationship between the two world powers. Next, Bota Ussen analyzes Dazai Osamu’s wartime work, arguing that the Japanese writer used the metaphor of Siberia to foreshadow the end of Japan’s imperial project. Finally, Anastasia Fedorova examines Japanese cinematic distribution in the Soviet Union, highlighting the value of film as a vital cultural artifact on the postwar diplomatic stage.
These papers attest to influences and collaborations between Russia and Japan which stretch back to Japan’s Edo period, and continue through the contemporary landscape. By depicting these connections in a number of fields, from literature to linguistics and media, the panel portrays the relationship between Japan and Russia as both productive and deeply complex, politically tense yet rich and continuously evolving.