The Poet's lyric "I" stands out in his early poetry as a simple Russian man who embraces Soviet propaganda and Soviet language, but the result is excessive and therefore funny and sometimes absurd. The poet shows involuntarily their hollowness. In one poem the meek poet stands in a queue and reflects on his loss. The impoverished Soviet reality is mixed with grandiose slogans about a new future and the role of the Russian literary tradition in creating this future. The pioneers' song echoes in the background: "Sun forever, happiness forever, this is the commandment of man":
Вот в очереди тихонько стою
И думаю себе отчасти
Вот Пушкина бы в очередь
И Лермонтова в очередь
И Блока тоже в очередь
О чем писали бы? - О счастье!
Here I am quietly standing in line
And in part I think
Now, if you put Pushkin in line
And Lermontov in line
And Blok in line
What would they write about? About hapiness!
The lyric "I" in Prigov's poems seems to be merely a man shaped by the communist propaganda. He bears the name of a poet, but it is still hard to find something autobiographical in the poems. The poet does not appear to us as a person but as a type.
Samizdat, that is, carbon copies of forbidden texts that constructed the typescript, is also exposed to criticism by Prigov in a work of art consisting of one page of text that is unreadable. Here, there is a realistic dimension, because samizdat-texts were often very difficult to read due to the primitive methods of reproduction. The artwork reveals a different era and a vanished problem and a sad questioning of what literature and art actually mean. It might be that this banned literature, which was written and distributed through such efforts and such heroism, including his own poetry, in fact had nothing to say?
Even new liberal political catchwords such as glasnost’ become suspect. In one of Prigov’s artworks Gorbachev's slogan is inscribed on a page of Pravda in huge letters. Does this mean that glasnost' is undermining the totalitarian political discourse? Or is it undermined by another even stronger totalitarian discourse framed in slogans of glasnost' and perestroika?
The undermining process thus includes not only Soviet society, but also the entirety of Russian culture and history. One poem has as its theme the historical concept of Moscow as the Third Rome, but it is developed in such a way that the whole idea is screwed so that it becomes quite absurd:
Кругом же - все Москва растет и дышит
До Польши, до Варшавы дорастает
До Праги, до Парижа, до Нью-Йорка
И всюду, коли глянуть беспристрастно -
Везде Москва, везде ее народы
Где ж нет Москвы - там просто пустота
All around Moscow just grows and breathes
It grows all the way to Poland, to Warsaw
To Prague, to Paris, to New York
And everywhere, if you look at it impassively
Moscow is everywhere, her people are everywhere
Where there is no Moscow, there is simply a void
The Third Rome embraces in the end, the whole world. In addition to the Third Rome-idea, Prigov attempts to come to terms here with Russian Messianism, with the notion that the truely Russian is the true common element in man (words taken from Dostoyevsky) and with the Soviet version of internationalism.
In other poems, the meaning of language, literature and propaganda are called into question by the way in which the text of the poem itself slowly disappears, as in "My Uncle" which quotes one of the most famous passages in Yevgeny Onegin by Pushkin. Phrases from the poem are repeated, but more and more words are missing each time. In two other poems the text is reduced in a similar way: one text is taken from Prigov´s passport, and the other is a propaganda phrase: "A full and final victory of communism throughout the world is inevitable" is reduced in the end to an empty space on the page. Also the poetic voice is questioned in these poems, so that when these three very different pieces of text are jutxaposed and manipulated in the same way, Prigov challenges the literary classic as well as bureaucratic language and propaganda.
He thus deconstructed not only Soviet discourses but also Russian culture in general, including Pushkin and Dostoevsky as well as the Russian avant-garde. He often returns in his operations to texts of Pravda, which acted as a generator of Soviet propaganda language. In a text which is designed as a recipe for installation art "many, many newspapers, especially Pravda" are mentioned as the chief ingredients.
The two discourses, that is the political and the cultural, encounter each other in a fake obituary that pertains to Pushkin:
Центральный Комитет КПСС, Верховный Совет СССР, Советское правительство с глубоким прискорбием сообщают, что 10 февраля (29 января) 1837 года на 38 году жизни в результате трагической дуэли оборвалась жизнь великого русского поэта Александра Сергеевича Пушкина.
Товарища Пушкина А.С. всегда отличали принципиальность, чувство ответственности, требовательное отношение к себе и окружающим. На всех постах, куда его посылали, он проявлял беззаветную преданность порученному делу, воинскую отвагу и героизм, высокие качества патриота, гражданина и поэта.
Он навсегда останется в сердцах друзей и близко знавших его как гуляка, балагур, бабник и охальник.
Имя Пушкина вечно будет жить в памяти народа как светоча русской поэзии.
The Central Committee of the CPUSSR, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, and the Soviet government with great sorrow announce that on 10 February (29 January) 1837, in his 38th year, the life of the great Russian poet Aleksandr Sergeevič Puškin was cut short by a tragic duel.
Comrade A. S. Puškin was invariably distinguished by adherence to principles, demands on himself and those around him. At all posts to which he was assigned he demonstrated selfless devotion to what was entrusted to him, military valor and heroism, the high qualities of a patriot, a citizen, and a poet.
He will forever remain in the hearts of friends and those who knew him intimately as a carouser, joker, womanizer, and troublemaker.
Puškin’s name will live eternally in the memory of the people as the luminary of Russian poetry.
His role as a classic Russian poet is questioned when his name is framed in the style of a Soviet obituary from "Pravda".
This deconstruction extends to his own role as a poet and not least his own poetry. He spoke, for example, about his poetical output in terms of dubious lifetime goals. He published poems under such headings as "Strong poems", "Sil'nye stichi" and "Weak poems" "Slabye stichi". Something similar can be seen in his denial of the importance of the text as such, and his emphasis on the importance of artistic behaviour:
Я же не произвожу текст, я произвожу художественное поведение.
I don’t produce a text, I produce artistic behavior.
Thus the meaning of writing or reading poems is called into question.
In an interview of 1996, in answer to a question about his favourite myths, Prigov himself summarizes the observations we have already made on his texts:
– Да, два любимых. Русско-советский миф. Он может быть более модифицирован в сторону «советского» или в сторону «русско-языческо-государственного мифа». Второй миф – «русская культура». Для меня ближе всего «поэтический миф», с очень сильными цитатами и аллюзиями из Достоевского, Толстого... Такой общелитературный, иногда встраивающийся в «русско-государственно-мифологический» миф, иногда раздваивающийся.
Yes, two favorite ones. The Russian-Soviet myth. It can be modified more toward the “Soviet” or more toward the “Russian-pagan-State myth.” The second myth is “Russian culture.” The most congenial to me is the “poetic myth,” with very robust quotations and allusions from Dostoevskij, Tolstoj… It’s a kind of general literary myth that sometimes becomes embedded in the “Russian-State-mythological” myth and sometimes bifurcates.
Prigov let himself be interviewed often and in different contexts, and he often attached different sorts of commentaries to his texts that themselves fuse with the art of the poetry. We can see this in the quotation given above. It is often difficult to discuss and analyze Prigov because it is impossible to find a stable point of reference and or any constancy in all the roles, discourses, commentaries, deconstructions, and not least deconstructions of deconstructions, found in his works.
This remains an unresolved question in the almost 800-page book on Prigov, which was published in 2010. In this paper I wish to make an attempt both to find such stable points or constants, and to follow a development in his poetry and poetics that represents another controversial point in the study of Prigov's works. At the end of my article I will also discuss the term “deconstruction” and its applicability to the work of Prigov. For the time being, I will use it without such reflection, in the sense of putting into question or destroying a statement or a discourse by showing its illogicality.
Of the three discourse components: the Soviet, the statist and the poetic, the Soviet lost its topicality after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when this discourse disappeared from society or at least lost its hegemony. This loss of the main target of his poetry and art might be expected to lead to a crisis for Prigov. A hint of such a crisis can indeed be discerned in the 69 so-called Alphabets, which he wrote between 1980 and 1992. In these texts he modelled the Soviet language, as can be seen in this example from the first of them, which uses a Soviet "enemy discourse":
Американец- это враг
Агличанин – тоже враг
Бедуин – уже не враг
Болгарин – друг и младший брат
Венгр живет, забот не знает
ВЦСПС трудящихся защищает
ГОЭЛРО – гордость страны/…/
The American is an enemy
The Englishman is also an enemy
The Beduin is no longer an enemy
The Bulgarian is a friend and little brother
The Hungarian lives and knows no cares
The All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions defends the workers
The State Commission on the Electrification of Russia is the pride of the country
In the last such text, that is number 69, this language has collapsed and been transformed into some sort of Futurist transmental language or perhaps rather into a nonsensical, helpless stuttering.
This crisis seems to have been quite temporary and, as far I can see, is not further reflected in his poetry. He makes some attempts to deconstruct the post-Soviet public discourses in the same way as he deconstructed the Soviet one:
Вот компанья НТВ
Вот компанья ОРТ
Вот компанья РТР
Вот компанья ТВЦ
Кто их, к черту, разберет
There’s the NTV (Independent Television) company
There’s the ORT (Public Russian Television)company
There’s the RTR (Russian TeleRadio) company
There’s the TVC (TV Center) company
These three-letter words--who the hell knows what they stand for !
The abbreviations of the names of the different television companies mark not a new freedom of expression, but a new political or public discourse that is as meaningless, irritating and hegemonic as the Soviet obsession with abbreviations such as KGB or USSR. This is how the deconstruction process functions in Prigov. In another case, the growing problem of prostitution in Moscow is described in the language of capitalism with words such as "spros", "supply", and "uslugi", "service":
На услуги московских проституток
Наблюдался этим летом
Отмеченный не только
Самими жрицами любви
Но и жителями окресных домов
И те, и другие говорят
О настоящих очередях клиентов
Чем объяснить это экстраординарное явление? –
Наверное, все возрастающею тягой
К невоплотившейся любви
The services of Moscow prostitutes
were observed to enjoy unusual demand this summer.
An unprecedented flurry of activity was noted
not only by the priestesses of love themselves,
but also by the residents of the neighborhood buildings.
They both speak of regular lines of clients.
How to explain this extraordinary phenomenon?
It’s probably due to a steadily growing attraction to non-incarnate love.
These two examples follow the same line of deconstruction as Prigove’s dismantling of the Soviet discourse, but they do not represent the main thrust of his development after the fall of the Soviet Union. He does not seem to have exploited in his poetry to any considerable degree the new political language of Putin – that is, the post-Soviet statist discourse—among whose keywords one finds such words as "siloviki" or "power verticals".
In some of his commentaries in the mid-80s Prigov began talking about a "new sincerity", that is, a kind of simplicity of expression beyond all deconstruction, as in the following poem on the important use of household work in achieving the divine energy, one of the key concepts of Orthodox mysticism:
Я с домашней борюсь энтропией
Как источник энергии божественной
Незаметные силы слепые
Побеждаю в борьбе неторжественной
В день посуду помою я трижды
Пол помою-протру повсеместно
Мира смысл и структуру я зиждю На пустом вот казалось бы месте
I struggle with domestic entropy
As the source of divine energy
I conquer imperceptible blind forces
In an untriumphant struggle
I wash dishes three times a day
I wash and polish the floor all over
I erect the meaning and structure of the world
On a spot that would seem to be empty
The problem is that this new sincerity can also be viewed as just another discourse, as just another deconstruction. That is precisely how it is understood in a dictionary of conceptualism, “Slovar´ terminov moskovskoj konceptual´noj školy”. 
Hence it is difficult to believe in this new sincerity as a constant, but the element of deconstruction is nevertheless much weaker in Prigov’s late work than in his early examples.
The parasitic relation to earlier poetry, which we could observe in his remake of a passage from Evgenij Onegin, grows even stronger in Prigov’s later poetry. This is one of the most important facts in the development of Prigov´s work. One entire volume: Neložnye motivy, Unfalse motifs, published in 2002—consists of manipulations of texts by other, often second-rate poets. In a recent cycle of poems he substitutes the first person singular of classic Russian poetry with the word: dinosaur, allegedly a manoeuvre he introduced for [for the sake of] his grandson. One example is his rewriting of Pasternak's poem "Hamlet":
Гул затих, Динозавр вышел на подмостки
Прислонясь к дверному косяку
Динозавр ловит в далеких отголосках
Что случится на его веку.
На него наставлен сумрак ночи
Тысячью биноклей на оси
(и так далее)
The hum has died down. The Dinosaur has come out on to the stage
Leaning against the doorframe
The Dinosaur seeks to grasp in the distant echo
What will happen in its life.
The penumbra of night is focused on it
Through a thousand opera glasses
(and so on)
The deconstruction is completed with the words “and so forth” that conclude the work. The poet is so tired of his own poem that he refuses to take it to the end. This "and so forth" also constitutes the end of the whole cycle. Prigov himself justifies this use of old texts as a modern remake, but the effect is still rather provocative:
И напоследок следует помянуть, что подобный прием вполне совпадает со столь современными способами ремейка и аппроприации всякого рода классики. Так что мы с внуком вполне классичны и современны одновременно. И серьезны, искренни и осмысленны в этом. Во всяком случае, не менее, чем многие так называемые ревнители чистоты духовного и культурного наследия.
Finally, it should be mentioned that such a device coincides completely with contemporary remakes and the appropriation of all kinds of classics. So that my grandson and I are at once both entirely classical and contemporary. And we are serious, sincere, and conscious of this. In any case, no less than many so called devotees of the purity of the spiritual and cultural heritage.
Prigov seems to wrest the tools out of the hands of the scholar, trapping us, anticipating us. In the book I mentioned earlier, he is shown regularly photographed with literary scholars from different countries. His comments are not what one would expect from a poet but rather from a scholar studying his poetry and making use of the heavy artillery of different, and in part recently coined, literary terms. What would otherwise be a commentary is then disturbingly integrated into the poetical text itself, thereby destabilizing it.
One constant that develops in his later poetry is the theme of death. This seems to be a mor trustworthy one. He already uses it in his earlier texts-in his obituaries, of classical Russian authors, as in the example on Pushkin. He also wrote such an obituary for himself with similar wording to that employed by Pravda in connection with the deaths of party bosses, but with an unexpected ending. The party does not regret his death, but the fact that he is still living:
The Central Committee of the CPUSSR, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, and the Soviet government with great sorrow announce that on 30 June 1980, in his 40th year, Dmitrij Aleksandrovič Prigov is residing in Moscow.
In this case death is used as sheer deconstruction. The traditional Russian aporia of the relationship between the poet and political power is highlighted when the wish to see the poet dead is framed within a Soviet-style obituary. The poet himself is put in the company of different political leaders who were honoured with such obituaries.
The following text, which reflects the death of his classmates, is more difficult to perceive fully as a deconstruction, although some of the clichés or idyllisations (about the young Octobrists) used here, suggest that this it is still a case of deconstruction:
Я помню нежных октябрят –
Подстрижены под ноль головки
Они как ящерицы ловки
Скользили, прыгали меж парт
И я, и я был среди них
Однако же уже в живых
Осталось, видимо из них
Вот я остался, например, немногий
I remember the tender Octobrists
Their little cropped heads
Nimble as lizards
They would slip and jump between the desks
And me, I was among them
Although it seems not many
Of them are still alive
I, for example, am one of the few who remaining
The deconstruction is cancelled or in any case balanced out, by the constant presence of death and also by the related motif of violence in history as well as in the new Russia, as for example in a poem depicting a small boy viewing the famous painting by Ilja Repin: "Ivan the Terrible's Murder of his Son". The boy becomes so stricken by fear that he feels that he is being drawn into the painting by the Tsar:
Дитя в картине «Иван Грозный
Своего сына убивает»
Подходит близко, замирает
Пугается, хочет бежать, но поздно
The child in the picture Ivan the Terrible
Kills His Son”
Comes close, stops cold
Is frightened, wants to run, but it’s too late
Another poem deals with the violence described every day in the newspapers:
В метрах пяти-шести от берега
Обнаружен был труп местной женщины
С резанно-колотой раной в груди
Господи, сколько их –
По необъятным просторам России
– Ну то-то же
On 18 January
Next to a hole in the ice
Five or six meters from shore
They found the body of a local woman
With a slashing stab wound in her chest
Lord, how many are they—
Stabbed and slashed
Across the unbounded expanse of
Death and violence are not deconstructed in this poem, but the Russianness expressed in the concluding cliché of Russia’s unbounded expanses certainly is. Mark Lipoveckij has seen the use of the theme of death as a deconstruction as well, or even as a comic element. I cannot agree with this: the violence is described seriously; what is deconstructed is the nationalistic discourse and the culture of violence.
The Christian Motif
Another theme that is not deconstructed in his poetry, or only partially deconstructed, is the Christian motif that runs through his all poetry. We noticed it already in the poem about household work. Another example is his early poemogram, "stichogramma", "Svet vo t'me svetit", "The light shines in the darkness", with a passage from the Bible used in a text collage.
Another example is one of his most famous poems from the late 1980s:
Бог меня немножечко осудит
А потом немножечко простит
Прямо из Москвы меня, отсюда
Он к себе на небо пригласит
Строгий, бородатый и усатый
Грозно глянет он из-под бровей:
— Неужели сам все написал ты?
— Что ты, что ты — с помощью Твоей!
— Ну то-то же
God judges me a teeny bit
And then He forgives me a teeny bit
Straight from Moscow
He invites me into heaven
Severe, bearded and mustached
He glances menacingly at me from beneath his eyebrows:
“Did you really write all this yourself?”
“What are you saying, what are you saying—with Thy help!
“Well, there you are.”
The destabilizing elements are too few to allow the poem to qualify as a deconstruction—perhaps only "usatyj", or perhaps the tone of an overly childish attitude toward Christianity that imagines God as some sort of Santa Claus.
In another work of art, he raises not the authoritarian but the possible spiritual content of a Malevich-styled square. The artwork shows two black squares, one in the bottom left of the canvas and one in the top right, with a broken ladder, perhaps a celestial ladder, between them. Next to it is a cup of wine with a clear Eucharistic connotation. Again, there is a humorous tone and an implied religious message, and after all, the heavenly ladder is broken.
In a very late article, written in 2006, Prigov also problematizes the religious motif: "Верим ли мы, что мы верим, во что мы верим" in typical Prigovian fashion. In his usual way, Prigov himself answers our question, as to whether there is a spiritual constant developing in Russian modern culture (and then presumably also in his own works)
Думается, что это путь медленный (без всяких гарантий) посредством последовательных этапов тематизации именно нередуцируемых оснований самого процесса творчества и обнаруживания его референтов в области онтологии и трансцендентного.
И да поможет нам Бог...
It seems that this is a slow journey (with no guarantees) by means of successive stages of thematizing precisely the irreducible foundations of the very process of creation and discovering its referents in the sphere of ontology and the transcendental. And God help us..
This "slow process" of the development of irreducible foundations in the creative process ...is very similar to what we have been able to observe [detect] in his own work.
However, we may perceive that he is using not the discourse of a poet but the discourse of a critic. This, as well as the pun in the title of the article, somewhat undermines the statement, but it does not deconstruct it.
In an article, Mark Lipoveckij argues that the work of Prigov as a whole is directed against sacralisation, of both the Soviet and Orthodox kinds. The examples given here, however, I am convinced, suggest a different interpretation of the work of Prigov. The deconstruction of the discourse of Christianity and the dignity of human life is of a different order than all other deconstructions. A value system is being expressed.
Two movements can be seen here. On the one hand, a deconstruction of these discourses is being made by the poet himself. Often, as in Derrida, deconstruction is an operation meant to be performed by the critic and not by the author. In the case of Prigov, as we have seen, the poet assumes the role of his own critic, it is a case of auto-deconstruction. In this way he is deconstructing not only his own texts or discourses, but also the discourses of literary criticism. On the other hand, there is one more opening left and that is the possibility for the critic to go one step further even and deconstruct Prigov. Another notion, which may be appropriate to introduce in this context, is Lyotard’s notion of delegitimation, used in the sense of applying various operations to delegitimate different kinds of metadiscourse in our society in the time of postmodernism. That is exactly what Prigov is doing, but there is still nevertheless a process of creating meaning and values, especially in his later work.
Prigov’s poetry thus displays continuity with the traditional Russian preoccupation with the themes of violence, death and faith. Something like a value system is peeping through. What is lacking in his poetry is the theme of love. There is a saying that the death of a poet is his last creative act. He died in the Moscow metro, and he wished for an Orthodox burial. On his grave a wooden cross has been erected of the same kind as is found on the tombs of Russian Orthodox monks. Is this a continuity and an end to a development that is in search of constancy and values, as I would claim, or is it just another part of the project Dmitrij Alexandrovič Prigov?
 “Dmitrij Aleksandrovič Prigov otvečaet na voprosy Dmitrija Babil´skogo”, 1996, Topos: literaturno-filosofskij žurnal, http://topos.ru/article/5671, 10-09-2010.
 E. Dobrenko i dr. (red.), Nekanoniceskij klassik: Dmitrij Aleksandrovic Prigov: sbornik statej i materialov, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Moskva, 2010.
 D. A. Prigov, “Azbuka 1”, 1980, Dmitrij Aleksandrovič Prigov: Oficial´nyj sajt, http://prigov.com/azbuki/469/, 10-09-2010.
 D. A. Prigov, “Azbuka 69”, 1992, Dmitrij Aleksandrovič Prigov: Oficial´nyj sajt, http://prigov.com/azbuki/127/, 10-09-2010.
 D. A. Prigov, “Stichotvorenija”, Šokovaja terapija: biblioteka literaturnogo adrenalina: Dmitrij Prigov, http://www.shock-terapia.net/author/prigov, 10-09-2010.
 D. A. Prigov, “Po materialam pressy”, Dmitrij Aleksandrivič Prigov: bukvy, http://www.prigov.ru/bukva/pressa.php, 10-09-2010.
 D. A. Prigov, “Napisannoe s 1975 po 1989”, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Moskva, 1997, Lib.Ru: Dmitrij Aleksandrovič Prigov, http://lib.ru/ANEKDOTY/PRIGOW/prigov.txt, 10-09-2010.
 Andrej Monastyrskij (sost.), “Slovar´ terminov moskovskoj konceptual´noj školy”, Moskva, 1999, Slava Janko: biblioteka Fort/Da, http://yanko.lib.ru/books/dictionary/m-k-sh/slovar-m-k-sh.htm, 10-09-2010.
 Дмитрий Александрович ПРИГОВ
D.A. Prigov, Neložnye motivy: Stichi, Tver' 2002.
 D. A. Prigov, “Dlja džordžika”, Dmitrij Aleksandrivič Prigov: bukvy, http://www.prigov.ru/bukva/stixi_djorjika.php, 10-09-2010.
 D. A. Prigov, “Chotelos´ by polučše, da…”, 1997, Dmitrij Aleksandrovič Prigov: Oficial´nyj sajt http://prigov.com/poetry/111/, 10-09-2010.
 D. A. Prigov, “Po materialam pressy”, op. cit.
 Mark Lipoveckij, "Prigov i Bataj: ėsteika sistemnoj rastraty", in: E. Dobrenko i dr., op. cit., p.345.
 D. A. Prigov, “Napisannoe s 1975 po 1989: V. Vzaimootnošenija s vysokim”, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Moskva, 1997, Vavilon: sovremennaja russkaja literatura, http://www.vavilon.ru/texts/prigov4-5.html, 10-09-2010.
 D. A. Prigov, “Verim li my, čto my verim, vo čto my verim?”, Chudožestvennyj žurnal: Moscow Art Magazin, no. 63, avg. 2006, http://xz.gif.ru/numbers/63/prigov/, 10-09-2010.
 Mark Lipoveckij, "Prigov i Bataj: ėsteika sistemnoj rastraty", in: E. Dobrenko i dr., op. cit., pp. 328-348..
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