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Журнальный клуб Интелрос » Неприкосновенный запас » №5, 2015


The 103rd NZ issue addresses several political, social and cultural problems, each covered in a number of related articles. There are two major themes here, which can be loosely headed as “War and Society” and “The History of Orientalism in Europe and Russia”.

The first section of the issue, Culture of Politics, explores protest –  and, more broadly, social – movements in post-Soviet Russia. Alexandrina Vanke and Maxim Kulaev analyse the image of the “worker” in contemporary Russian TV (“Workers in Russian News TV Discourse: Political Protests Put into Context”), while Olesya Lobanova reviews a number of studies dealing with various protests in Russia over the last 25 years.

The social and economic history of that period is also considered in other sections. In particular, a piece by Alexandra Vasilyeva, “The Rules of the Game in Russian Capitalism: Mechanisms of State Domination and Response Business Strategies” can be seen as some kind of prolegomena to a future study of the post-Soviet market economy set-up. The social aspect of the same story is the subject of Svetlana Stephenson's article “Law unto Themselves: «Tough Guys» and Their Moral Code”, published in Morals and Mores. As suggested by the title, it talks about a well-known phenomenon that is the criminalisation of Russia's social, economic and political life. Stephenson offers a sketch of an “ethical code” typical for a social group that has, to a great extent, shaped post-Soviet everyday life in all its specifics. Another social group, important if somewhat less significant after the collapse of the USSR, is the intelligentsia. The history of its relationships with the authorities is addressed in Kirill Kobrin's short survey “Decaying Aura”, published in his regular column Old World Chronicles.

One of NZ's recurring themes is regional studies, both in and beyond the post-Soviet space. Issue 103 features a selection of articles entitled “Politics of Regions and Regional Politics”. These examine relationships between the federal centre and the regions from both viewpoints. In his survey of the Kremlin's “renewed” electoral politics in the regions, Alexander Kynev concludes that the so-called “new measures” adopted by the authorities are merely a combination of a number of policies attempted by the centre in the past with a view to controlling any developments outside Moscow. A “regional view”, stemming from the need for Russia's regions to develop independently and individually, is given in Elena Tsumarova's article “Unity in Variety, or How Russia's Regions Can Preserve Themselves and Strengthen the Country”. Miguel Beltrán de Felipe, a prominent Spanish expert on constitutional law, professor of Administrative Law and former official of the Constitutional Court of Spain, analyses the constitutional crisis in the country that has resulted from Catalonia's separatist tendencies.

The history of orientalism in Europe and 20th-century European political history are the focus of another major selection featured in the issue –  “West plus East: Oriental Scholars and 20th-Century European Political History. Here we publish unique materials related to biographies of three prominent last-century oriental scholars: the Buddhist scholar Edward Conze, the academic Sanskritist and anthropologist Agehananda Bharati (born Leopold Fischer, he was known under his monastic name) and the Buddhist scholar and philosopher Alexander Piatigorsky. Excerpts from Conze's and Bharati's autobiographies touch upon the lives of the two men, both coming from affluent Central European families, in the 1910s– 1940s, and the way they were influenced by the political atmosphere of the 1920s– 1930s, including the necessity to choose between communism and nazism, etc. None of these books' materials have ever appeared in Russian before, making the NZ publication all the more interesting. A third piece in this section contains three letters from Alexander Piatigorsky to Kirill Kobrin, written in the late 1990s and kept in Kobrin's archive. The prominent Oriental scholar and philosopher talks about his view of history, among other things, and discusses a possibility of a “Buddhist concept of history” –  only to reject it straight away.

This NZ issue includes several pieces focused on various social, economic and cultural aspects of WWI and WWII. Let us mention Anastasia Tumanova's article “«German Domination» and Russia's Fight Against It During the First World War”, which contains many thought-provoking historical facts related to the “surge of patriotism” in Russia between 1914 and 1917. The subject of WWI is further explored in David Raskin's review of Tumanova's book “Civil Society Organizations in Russia during the First World War”, as well as in a detailed account of the main points put forward in “Capital Cities at War: Paris, London, Berlin. 1914– 1919”, a unique international edition published a few years ago and reviewed here by Andrey Lazarev. WWII features in Oleg Beyda's article “Between Neutrality and Complicity: Swiss Medical Missions on the German-Soviet Front, 1941– 1943” (Case Study), a little-studied subject that is virtually unfamiliar to the Russian readership.

There are also a number of separate short studies in the issue. Politics of Culture contains an article by Angelika Artyukh entitled “Cinema Culture and Explosion: Female Directors in Contemporary Russian Cinema” (it is worth mentioning that the title is a play on one of Yuri Lotman's late works, “Culture and Explosion”). Another Case Study piece is an extremely interesting story about the history and fate of ethnic Italians in Crimea (where Genoa was a strong presence in the Middle Ages).

This NZ issue includes two more regular columns, Alexander Kustarev's Political Imaginary and Alexey Levinson's Sociological Lyrics. Kustarev's essay deals with the issue of “new inequality” in European and North American countries, while Levinson discusses the emergence of “mass society” in post-Soviet Russia, pointing out that the process was very different from its predecessor that took place in the West a century ago.

The issue concludes with Russian Intellectual Journals’ Review (by Alexander Pisarev), as well as a New Books section, already touched upon, where Alexander Suslov offers a detailed analysis of “Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West” by the Polish-British journalist and culture historian Agata Pyzik.

- See more at: http://www.nlobooks.ru/node/6670#sthash.oL6xg9Jo.dpuf

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