In his regular Political Imaginary column, Alexander Kustarev provides a certain kind of key to the majority of pieces published in issue 86th of NZ. His article “Le style, c’est l’état” discusses two things, democratisation – not only in relation to state, but also to other institutions, including church – and “style of combining” that with some features of non-democracy as the most important constituent of the image – as well as the substance – of any state or institution.
It is no coincidence that the first part of this issue focuses on a theme which, in a way, combines one of democratisation's historical features (with regard to societal and national processes) with stylisation, particularly the style inherent in contemporary national and societal behaviour. The section, titled “Dialectics of Secularisation”, includes four articles. Warren Goldstein, Executive Director of the Center for Critical Research on Religion (Harvard University), analyses the secularisation process in the Iran up until 1979, and then the reverse process that began after the Islamic revolution. Andrzej Brzeziecki writes about the links between democratic movements in communist Poland and the policies of the Catholic Church, as well as their relationship after the fall of communism. The last two articles are dedicated to Soviet and Russian affairs: “Miracles and Policies: The Practice of Orthodox Canonisation in Russia” by Alexey Makarkin and “Sodom and Gomorrah in Kuybyshev: Transformation of the Orthodox Legend” by Ulrike Huhn, a German researcher. The latter article merits special attention as it dissects a most curious story of the birth of an Orthodox myth related to an incident known as “the standing of Zoya”. These works are echoed by Alek D. Epstein's essay on the present-day opposition between “Orthodox radicals” and Russia's contemporary art, which also talks about the different views on negotiations between secular and sacral (“Spiritual Fight: How and Why Did Moscow's Largest Contemporary Art Centre Bolt up Its Doors?” in Events and Comments section).
The following section of this NZ also deals in some sense with the relation between democracy and style, introduced by Alexander Kustarev, but in the reverse order: “style” followed by “democracy”. Titled “Visual Trajectories of Experience”, it comprises four articles. The theme, as the title suggests, is the visual arts: photography (Alexander Pershay's “Alongside the Sensation of Life: On Female Photography, Sexism and the Right for the Everyday Life”); graffiti, that most democratic of the visual arts (“Not Just Banksy: Street Art in the Context of Contemporary Urban Culture” by Natalya Samutina, Oksana Zaporozhets and Varvara Kobyshcha); and cinema (Andrey Gornykh on time in Tarkovsky's films and Igor Smirnov with his “Ten Theses on the Problem of Kitsch and Cinematic Art in the 1920s–1940s”). Style as a powerful weapon with which to democratise (or, more precisely, liberate) conscience is the subject of Kirill Kobrin's historical-culturological essay, written in a personal tone and concerned with “the Soviet 1980s” (Culture of Politics). Finally, to prevent the visual arts from dominating literature, we publish Irina Golovacheva's article “Dangerous Liaisons: Man and Monster in Contemporary Mass-Market Literature” (Politics of Culture).
Among other pieces in NZ-86, a theoretical article by the prominent French sociologist and historian Marcel Gauchet deserves a special mention. “Goals of Political Philosophy” presents an historiographical analysis of what is known as “political philosophy”, discussing the way the idea of setting its goals itself depended on a particular historical context. Morals and Mores section features the next installment in Nikolay Mitrokihn's series on party bureaucracy apparatus in the post-war USSR. This time his interviewee is Alexander Gavrilov, who worked for the Komsomol press in Ukraine and, later, in Moscow.
Our regular column is Alexey Levinson's Sociological Lyrics. The issue ends with Russian Intellectual Journals’ Review and the New Books section.