Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Barbara Kreiger

Second Advisor

Alan Lelchuk

Third Advisor

Victoria Somoff


he Russian word Samozvanets most directly translates to Imposter in English. However, for this thesis, I have selected the alternative interpretation of Pretender. Imposter implies the taking or assuming of another’s position. Pretender, more personally, carries the meaning of presenting self as something one is not. It is through the lens of the Pretender that I examine the idea of what it means to be a member of a particular ethnicity, and to engage with one’s cultural heritage. I do this through a collection of fictional stories, investigating various lives within the Russian diaspora following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I use this lens to present some of the various ways in which Russians preserve and redefine their sense of self apart from their home country. The collection focuses its attention on themes of identity and nationalism to present the unique challenges faced by a modern diasporic community. Shadows in the Field sets the reader in a remote area of Russia and follows a young man as he attempts to pursue his dream of becoming a tailor in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, eventually leading him to immigrate to the United States. The Distance Between Us brings the reader to a dilapidated porch outside of a house party in Boston, Massachusetts where a Russian adoptee and a runaway discuss what it means to be free from the past and present. What We Keep brings the reader further into the home, following the experience of a private tutor called to work with a traumatized Russian orphan. Moonflower expands on the idea of “the home” by inter-weaving three time periods across Moscow, Boston, and London, into the journey of a young woman iii seeking to overcome the grief of the sudden death of her mother, while attempting to establish independence from her controlling oligarch father. The Pretender concludes the collection with a Russian immigrant’s meditation on masculinity, power, and nationalism in the wake of the Russo-Ukrainian War.