In the first years of the Gorbachev period, Soviet artists seemed preoccupied with historical subjects, both in their artistic works and in their public statements. There seems to have been a consensus, shared with the Soviet population as a whole, that no fundamental reform of the crisisridden Soviet present could be effected without a clearer understanding of the past, and of the threads which connect them. Much of this analysis had, indeed, already been done, and was (in the case of writers for example) either awaiting its moment in desk drawers or published and translated abroad, where it had helped to deepen the Western public's understanding of the Soviet experience. In both their sense of themselves as 'citizens as well as poets' and in getting their works published abroad, Soviet writers were consciously siting themselves in a tradition that went back far further than the Revolution. An added impulse for the artists was a widely held sense that the task of analysis was not being performed by historians, members of perhaps the most ideologised discipline in Soviet scholarship.1