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Moskovskaya D.S. Shakespeare and the Fight for Promfinplan, or How High Voltage is Made. Studia Litterarum, 2017, vol. 2, no 3, pp. 220–235. (In Russ.) DOI:10.22455/2500-4247-2017-2-3-220-235

Author: D.S. Moskovskaya
Information about the author:

Darya S. Moskovskaya, DSc in Philology, Deputy Director of the A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature, Head of the Manuscript Department, А.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarska- ya 25 a, 121069 Moscow, Russia. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Received: April 20, 2017
Published: September 25, 2017
Issue: 2017 Vol. 2, №3
Department: Russian Literature
Pages: 220-235

UDK: 821.161.1
BBK: 83.3(2Рос=Рус)6
Keywords: manufacture art, Andrey Platonov, Stalin, drama, Shakespeare, documentary, prototype, discussion, RAPP, criticism, existential situation, dramaturgical knot, allegory.


In his play Announcement of Death (the initial title of the play High Voltage), Platonov used documentary facts he observed in 1929–1930s while staying at the Leningrad metal factory. The play was intended to fulfil the political order of RAPP to represent “a live example of a specific enterprise and specific individuals.” Platonov coped with this task. The play tells the story of heroic struggle of engineers and workers endeavoring to implement the factory’s work plan. It shows a sharp conflict of characters and worldviews. In the replicas of the main characters, engineers of the “old school,” one can recognize vocabulary and style of the harsh reviews of Platonov’s work by literary critics and Stalin. In the characters themselves, one can recognize their alter egos — representatives of the
so called creative intelligentsia of the reconstruction era, Mayakovsky and Zelinsky. The motif of love plays a special role in the play in that it introduces a new level of meaning. The “manufacture play” reveals a tragedy that stages the “borderline” situation and places a free-willed person at the center of the represented events as the only true value of the world. The essay argues that Platonov was aware of the discussions around Shakespeare unfolding in 1931. RAPP critics encouraged authors “to catch up with and overtake not only some Pilnyak — this it is not a great honor, the proletarian literature has already caught up with him and overtaken him. The challenge is to catch up with and overtake Shakespeare.” Platonov succeeded in combining the high tone of Shakespearean tragedy with the plot of the  “manufacture play” despite the general sneer at RAPP’s attempts to shakespearize plays about Soviet factory leaders — the so called “udarniki.”