“Guilty of Being Free”: An Intellectual vs. Soviet Penal System (Prison Letters and Drawings of Sergei Parajanov)
Sergei Parajanov was one of the most innovative directors of postwar Soviet cinema, which made him suspect to the Soviet authorities and eventually led Parajanov to serving a prison sentence. This article discusses how the trauma of Parajanov’s prison experience was reflected in the textual and visual output (letters, drawings and collages) that he created during his imprisonment out of the materials at hand. The study relies on comparative-historical and semiotic methods. Parajanov’s homosexuality made his position in prison precarious and ambiguous. He went through a variety of occupations and laboriously navigated both the prison hierarchy and Soviet penal system’s vigilant control. However, by his own count, Parajanov crafted 800 objects during his imprisonment. The article explores the recurring motives such as the crane hook, halo, and a hunched posture. This imagery is placed in the context of Parajanov’s everyday life in prison and is interpreted in the light of his textual documents from that period.
- Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison [A. Sheridan, Trans.]. Penguin Books. (Originally published in French 1975)
- Gorky, M. (1957). Sobranie sochinenii v 30 tomakh (stat'i, doklady, rechi, privetstviia, 1933–1936) [Collected works in 30 volumes (articles, reports, speeches, welcome addresses, 1933–1936)] (Vol. 27). Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury.
- Grigoryan, L. (2011). Paradzhanov [Parajanov]. Molodaia gvardiia.
- Healey, D. (2001). Homosexual desire in revolutionary Russia: the regulation of sexual and gender dissent. The University of Chicago Press.
- Healey, D. (2018). Russian homophobia from Stalin to Sochi. Bloomsbury. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350000810
- Ivanov, V. A. (2013). Kontrrevoliutsionnye organizatsii sredi gomoseksualistov Leningrada v nachale 1930-kh i ikh pogrom [Counterrevolutionary organizations among Leningrad’s homosexual population during the early 1930s and their destruction]. Noveishaia istoriia Rossii, 3, 126–144.
- Karapetyan, G. (2004). Sergei Paradzhanov/Eduard Shevarnadze. Kto, gde i kak prerval 15 let molchaniia Mastera [Sergei Parajanov/Eduard Shevarnadze. Who, where and how broke the 15 years of the artist’s silence]. Druzhba narodov, 3.
- Karapetyan, G. (2006). Sergei Paradzhanov [Sergei Parajanov]. Kreshchatik, 4.
- Katanyan, V. V. (2001). Paradzhanov. Tsena vechnogo prazdnika [Parajanov. The price of an eternal holiday]. DEKOM.
- Kon, I. S. (2010). Klubnichka na berezke: seksual'naia kul'tura v Rossii [Strawberry on a birch tree: sexual culture in Russia] (3rd ed.). Vremia.
- Korchinsky, A. (2008, January 30). Vsia pravda o sudimostiakh Paradzhanova [All the truth about Parajanov’s convictions]. Segodnya.ua. https://ukraine.segodnya.ua/ukraine/vcja-pravda-o-cudimoctjakh-paradzhanova-91288.html
- Mikaelyan, A. G. (2019). Etnografiia zony po Paradzhanovu [Ethnography of prison according to Parajanov]. Kritika i semiotika, 2, 100–113. https://doi.org/10.25205/2307-1737-2019-2-100-113
- Parajanov, S. (Director). (1964). Teni zabytykh predkov [Shadows of forgotten ancestors] [Film]. Kiev-film.
- Parajanov, S. (Director). (1968). Tsvet granata [The color of pomegranates] [Film]. Armen-film.
- Parajanov, S. (Director). (1985). Legenda o Suramskoi kreposti [The legend of the Surami fortress] [Film]. Gruzia-film.
- Parajanov, S. (Director). (1988). Ashik-Kerib [Film]. Gruzia-film.
- Razlogov, K. (2018) Parajanov in prison: an exercise in transculturalism. Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, 12(1), 37–57, https://doi.org/10.1080/17503132.2018.1422223
- Reich, W. (1966). Die sexuelle Revolution: Zur charakterlichen Selbsteuerung des Menschen [The sexual revolution: on the self-control of human character]. Europäische Verlagsanstalt.
- Sarkisyan, Z. (2014, February 19). Khot' neponiatnyi, no i neponiatyi [Though incomprehensible but also unappreciated]. Colta.ru. https://www.colta.ru/articles/specials/2109-hot-neponyatnyy-no-i-neponyatyy
- Shirman, R. (2008). The dangerously free man. In S. Zakharkin (Ed.), Sergei Parajanov. Collages. Graphics. Works of decorative art (pp. 11–16). Dukh i Litera.
- Simyan, T. (2019). Sergei Paradzhanov kak tekst: chelovek, gabitus, inter'er (na materiale vizual'nykh tekstov) [Sergei Parajanov as a text: man, habitus, and interior (on the material of visual texts]. PRAKSEMA. Problemy Vizual’noi Semiotiki, 3(21), 197–215. https://doi.org/10.23951/2312-7899-2019-3-197-215
- Starkov, O. V. (2010). Kriminal'naia subkul'ura: spetskurs [Criminal subculture: special course]. Wolters Kluwer Russia.
- Steffen, J. (2013). The cinema of Sergei Parajanov. The University of Wiscontin Press.
- Tsereteli, K. (Ed.). (2008). Sergei Paradzhanov. Kollazh na fone avtoportreta. Zhizn' - igra [Sergei Parajanov. Collage against the self-portrait. Life is a game]. DEKOM.
- Valodzin, U. (2020). Criminal prosecution of homosexuals in the Soviet Union (1946–1991): numbers and discourses (Working Paper, EUI HEC, 2020/02). European University Institute, Department of History and Civilization. https://hdl.handle.net/1814/67530
- Zakoyan, G. (Ed.). (2020). Sergei Paradzhanov. Pis'ma iz zony [Sergei Parajanov. Letters from the prison]. Antares.
- Zelenina, G. S. (2020). “«Eto—izvrashchenie, Eto nenormal'no”: ratsionalizatsiia Esteticheskogo shoka v manezhe 1 dekabria 1962 g. [“This is perverted, this is not normal”: Rationalizing aesthetic shock in the Manezh on December 1, 1962]. Shagi, 6(4), 52–70. https://doi.org/10.22394/2412-9410-2020-6-4-52-70