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Summary


19 2012

Civil rallies in Russia that have started in late autumn 2011, but for the irritation of a certain social group with the government's policies (and with the very government) are based on the factor that some experts call “delayed modernization”. It is rather about socio-political and socio-cultural modernization than the technical one, perhaps even a kind of modernization of public consciousness in the first place. The so-called “creative class” challenges its place in Russian politics, and (surprisingly for many) gets involved in the public debate; gender problems, issues of minority rights (in particular, sexual minorities) become crucial – which was impossible to imagine few years ago. The very current Russian authority, being perfectly alienated from society, gives reason to compare itself to the Soviet communist establishment; the confusion, it demonstrates in an environment of a growing public discontent, is most logically explained with its circularity and lack of modernization. Finally, the new leaders of public protests, who appeared last year, aspire taking a new look at both the classical problem of “the role of a personality in history” and the discussion about the “personal history” in general. The mentioning of “history” is by no means accidental. The Minister of Culture seat in the new Russian government was given to an amateur historian Vladimir Medinsky, who quite openly admitted being ready to misrepresent the facts of the past in order to better “align” them with a patriotically-right doctrine. Apparently, the Russian humanitarian community is due to face the extreme point of scientific integrity and common sense capitulating to the political situation since the beginning of post-Soviet time.

In this context, the copies gathered in the 83rd NZ volume look more than up to date, also in the political sense. The so-called “city creative class” has become a support for mass protests in Moscow – NZ columnist, Alexander Kustarev attempts to historicize the concept and see how the baton “of the revolutionary class” had been passed on in past. To gender issue is given a section entitled “Gender and the Power... of Traditions”. The magazine publishes a translation of a passage from a book by Sydney University professor R.W. Connell “Gender and Power” (chapter “The Structure of Gender Relations”). Russian implications of the problem can be found in the texts by Olga Zdravomyslova (“Russian Women and Emancipation: An Incomplete Project”) and Olga Shnyrova (“Russian Feminism: Whether to Wait for the New Wave?”). The section is concluded with the article by Irina Kosterina about some trends of modern masculinity. (Note also her review of a book by Anna Rotkirkh “Male Question: Love and Sex of the Three Generations in the Autobiographies of St. Petersburg’s Dwellers” in the bibliography part of the volume.)

A few articles in other sections correspond with the gender agenda. Alec D. Epstein writes about the recent (and continuing at the moment) events around the feminists from the “Pussy Riot” group (“Virgin Mary Called to Colours: Punk Prayers of “Pussy Riot” in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour”). Various issues related to the «minorities» can be found in the Victoria Sukovatova’s article “Another Body: The Invalid, the Ugly and “Disability” Coinages in Contemporary Cultural Criticism”. Alexei Levinson in his regular column writes about Russian’s attitude to the sexual minorities, and civil activist Olga Burmakova presents an overview of American feminist blogs.

The “power mechanism” and the operating principle of the ruling class in the USSR – to this issue is devoted the second thematic section of 83rd NZ volume. American researcher Christopher Monty reconstructs attempts of the Communist Party leaders to enforce control over local party organizations in regions during the New Economic Policy period; Alexander Titov traces the stages of a failed and inconsequent reform of the Central Committee of the CPSU bodies under Khrushchev, and Nikolai Mitrokhin presents the structure of what used to be called “personal connections” – illustrating it by the same Central Committee apparatus. Soviet “historical” theme is continued in Vadim Mikhailin’s and Galina Belyaeva’s analysis of Soviet propaganda posters in the time of Khrushchev’s “thaw”.

The theme of history and historiography goes on in a selection of texts entitled “History, Historiography and Historians”. A part of it is devoted to autobiographies and relevant historical boundaries of the «personality» concept. A classic of French school of autobiography studies Philippe Lejeune recalls the stages of forming his own interest to this kind of material (“From the Autobiography to a Story about Oneself, from the University to the Amateur Association: The Story of a Scholar”), draws his own personal story of a researcher from the personal stories he collects and analyses. Yuri Zaretsky continues the theme with the essay “the history of subjectivity”. A collective report “The Applied History, Or the Public Dimension of the Past” (the authors – researchers and civil activists from Germany Felix Ackermann, Jacob Ackermann, Anne Littke, Jacqueline Nesser and Julian Thomann) deals with the so-called “applied history”, that implies a combination of the knowledge of the past with the skills required for people to transmit the “historical knowledge” to the society. On the “applied” (but in a quite different sense) history, which became such in the field of political engagement – is the article by Vladimir Masliychuk and Andrei Portnov “A Sovietization of Historical Science in Ukrainian”.

In Politics of Culture section one can read an essay of publicist from Ulyanovsk Sergey Gogin about critical in Russia at the moment theme of “Foundations of Religious Cultures” in school curriculum. The issue ends with the Russian Intellectual Journals’ Review (by Vyacheslav Morozov) and the New Books section, with a special «questionnaire», dedicated to the publication of two books of the famous historian of ideas and translator Sergei Zenkin, to be marked among them.