Dreaming in Russian

[ Latin American Studies ]

Dreaming in Russian

The Cuban Soviet Imaginary

By Jacqueline Loss

This intriguing book provides an extraordinary tour of the Eastern European influence on Cuban culture and the multifaceted legacy of Soviet oppression and idealism.

April 2013


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6 x 9 | 264 pp. | 36 b&w photos

ISBN: 978-0-292-76203-9

The specter of the Soviet Union lingers in Cuba, yet until now there has been no book-length work on the ways Cubans process their country’s relationship with the Soviet bloc. Dreaming in Russian at last brings into the light the reality that for nearly three decades, the Soviet Union subsidized the island economically, intervened in military matters, and exported distinct pedagogical and cultural models to Cuba. Drawing on interviews with Cuban artists and intellectuals, as well as treasures from cinematographic and bibliographic archives, Jacqueline Loss delivers the first book to show that Cuba remembers and retains many aspects of the Soviet era, far from shedding those cultural facets as relics of the Cold War.

Weaving together intriguing, seldom-seen images, Dreaming in Russian showcases the ways in which Cuba’s relationship to its Soviet benefactors lingered after the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. Analyzing numerous literary texts and works of visual art, Loss also incorporates aspects of architecture, popular culture, the space race, and other strands to create a captivating new perspective on Cuban society. Among the luminaries featured are poet Reina María Rodríguez, writer Antonio José Ponte, visual artist Tonel, and novelist Wendy Guerra. A departure from traditional cultural history, Loss’s approach instead presents a kaleidoscopic series of facets, reflecting the hybrid nature of the self-images that emerged in the aftermath of the Soviet aegis. As speculations about Cuba’s future under Fidel Castro’s heir apparent continue, the portrait that emerges in Dreaming in Russian is both timely and mesmerizing.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Koniec
  • Chapter 2. Crossed Destinies
  • Chapter 3. Cuban Intermediaries
  • Chapter 4. “Made in USSR”
  • Chapter 5. The Phantasmagoric Sputnik
  • Coda. The Soviet Theme Park
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index

Jacqueline Loss is Associate Professor of Latin American and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her previous publications include Caviar with Rum: Cuba-USSR and the Post-Soviet Experience (with José Manuel Prieto), Cosmopolitanisms and Latin America, and the coedited collection New Short Fiction from Cuba.

“An extraordinary book. . . . There is a spectacular amount of material here . . . underscoring the fact that the [Soviet] period flows like an underground river within the recent history of Cuba.”
—José Quiroga, Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature, Emory University

"This insightful work examines the influence of Russian-Soviet culture on revolutionary Cuba...The book makes a significant contribution to the field of Cuban studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
—Y. Fuentes, Nova Southeastern University, Choice

"Jacqueline Loss has taken on the job of gathering, comparing, analyzing, and finally displaying that irregular though inevitable trace on the island map that still keeps the dreams and nightmares of several generations: we, the children and siblings of the muñequitos røsos [Soviet cartoons that Cuban children grew up on; literally, Russian dolls] feel a profound gratitude."
—Mabel Cuesta, Review: Literature and Art of the Americas