The 95th NZ issue focuses for the most part on two important topics, one of them academic, the other political and ideological. The authors' approach to them is special in that problems that appear to be purely academic, related as they are to humanities, are put into a highly topical context and thus linked to politics and ideology, while the political and ideological theme is considered from an academic angle. Further, the main topics of the issue both stem from the same source, a conversation about power in its various manifestations.
The academic topic is historiography or, more precisely, the mechanisms of historical writing and their relationship to the past that is being described by the historian. Description is, of course, an act of communication and, at the same time, that of establishing power; this is where the two main themes come together. Hence the title of the first major section of the issue is “History, Writing and Communication”.
It opens with an excerpt from “L’ecriture de l’histoire”, a book by the prominent French historian, anthropologist and social philosopher Michel de Certeau, accompanied by Boris Dubin's piece on the work. Nikolay Koposov offers a new interpretation of the history of the concept of “collective identity”, discussing its emergence and development, as well as its influence on historiography and political theories of the 19th and 20th centuries. Historiography from the communication theory point of view is the subject of a mini study by John Durham Peters, whose ideas are analysed by Igor Kobylin in his critical article “«Communicative Turn» and the Problem of the Universal”. The section concludes with an in-depth essay by Kirill Kobrin, where he attempts to analyse the mechanism of historical writing introduced by the renowned scholar of mediaeval history Ernst Kantorowicz, putting his celebrated work “The King's Two Bodies” into the cultural, political and ideological context that prevailed in Germany during the first three decades of the 20th century.
The first section of 95th issue is complemented by a number of pieces that bridge the gap between what may appear to be purely academic problems and the topical political questions of the second part.
First of all, there is another instalment of Alexander Kustarev's regular column (Political Imaginary), where the author continues his essay marking the 500th anniversary of Niccolò Machiavelli 's “The Prince” (“When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Politician”). The national aspect of problems characteristic of political power, presented in various historical contexts, is dealt with in an excerpt from a book by Pierre Manent, a French philosopher and a student of Raymond Aron.
The political meets the historical in stories told by Oleg Beida, Jochen Hellbeck, Leonid Isaev and Marianna Ozherelieva. Beida considers a dramatic chapter in the history of the first wave of Russian emigration, looking at its reaction to the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War. Another, an even more vivid example showing the importance of interpretations of the past realised in the course of “the fight over historical discourse”, is given by Hellbeck in his article about Victory Day celebrations in today’s Ukraine. Finally, Isaev and Ozherelieva comment on the end of the “Arab Spring”, its outcome and the possibility of the “Arab Autumn”. An interesting observation here concerns the way Western political language is applied to the post-colonial Middle East and North Africa.
Igor Smirnov in his article “Revenge of the Place: Memories of the Present” (Politics of Culture) talks about “St. Petersburg imperial conscience” imprinted in Leningrad's great literary and artistic underground movement and about the unexpected recurrence of this conscience, embodied in present-day ideological policies in Russia, where the so-called “Petersburg people” dominate the power structures.
The second section, “Natural Resource and Political Order”, contains responses to “Petromacho”, a provocative essay by Alexander Etkind published in the 88th NZ issue, and the author's comments on them. Here academic methods used in humanities over the last 30 to 35 years are employed to analyse the kind of political system that has emerged in Russia, among other countries, after 2000. Nikita Lomagin, Tony Wood, Maria Snegovaya, Ilya Kalinin and Artemy Magun focus on the political, economic and ideological consequences of the fact that the authorities control a vast raw-material base.
This NZ issue also includes several stand-alone pieces related to its main themes in an indirect way. Among them is an interview with Anatoly Kovler, formerly a judge in the European Court of Human Rights, and Alexey Levinson's regular column (Sociological Lyrics). The issue concludes with a traditional Russian Intellectual Journals’ Review by Vyacheslav Morozov, review of the international Slavonic studies by Andrey Makarychev, and the New Books section.