The 92nd NZ issue differs from the earlier ones in that it is rich in interviews where, rather than talking to people who approach history as researchers, interpreting its events and facts, we turn to those who take part in it, acting as its subjects. Three interviews marking the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution make up most of the first topical section of the issue. It opens with an article by Stanislav Stanskikh, the head of the Centre for Constitutional History, titled “Constitutionality in Crisis?” (the question being rhetorical). It is followed by a conversation with one of the authors of the current Russian Constitution, Viktor Sheinis, who is concerned with certain politicians' and public figures' call for the country to adopt a new set of governing laws. His point is challenged by the title of the next piece, “Constitution in Need of Major «Refurbishmenе»”, where we talk to Oleg Rumyantsev, another author of the 1993 Constitution. The section concludes with an interview in which Mikhail Mityukov, a lawyer who was politically active in the 1990s, agrees with the view that Russia has a fully functioning Constitution, adding: “The 1993 Constitution has, in fact, been accepted by the majority of the population; even those who used to ostracise it, questioning the legitimacy of its adoption, now live by its principles.”
Another historical topic of this issue goes back to the Soviet era. The subject is the notion of trust seen as some kind of a social institution, a mechanism that determines the texture of a social fabric. Different periods of Soviet history were characterised by a great amount of discourse on trust – be it the question of a Soviet person trusting the Soviet regime or that of the authorities trusting or distrusting an individual – which was, essentially, a part of official propaganda. How did the “trust machine” work, how did its operation vary from one historical period to another? This is the subject of four articles included in the issue's second topical section, titled “«Comrades» and «Enemies» – Trust in Soviet Society”. It starts with a short conceptual study by the prominent British historian Geoffrey Hosking, “Trust and Distrust in the USSR: An Overview”. Alexey Tikhomirov considers the phenomenon of the so-called “forced trust” between the 1917 October Revolution and the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. Cynthia Hooper, an American researcher, analyses the same issue in the context of Soviet cadre policy, while Yoram Gorlizky, a British historian and political scientist, turns to post-Stalinist times to study the Soviet concept of trust.
From the past we move on to the present day, and to one of the main components of what is known as the post-industrial era. The third topical section focuses on the creative economy that has replaced the classical industry of the modern period. It was this economy that was once billed as a panacea for the ills caused by the destruction of traditional industry as well as the social system built on its economic foundation; on the other hand, it has recently come under increasing criticism, both from the left and from the right. These problems, as well as some cultural and political aspects of the creative economy, are considered in “Ideological Assets of the Creative Economy”, which consists of two articles. “The Creativity Fix” by Jamie Peck presents a critical analysis of contemporary perceptions of this phenomenon, while Elena Trubina's “A Tram Full ofWi-Fi: On the Reception of Richard Florida's Ideas in Russia” extends this critique, demonstrating some opportunities for using the creative economy model in developing countries.
This section is complemented by an essay by NZ editor-in-chief Ilya Kalinin, published in his regular column Political Economy of the Everyday. The author discusses the compensatory nature of the creative economy, a vehicle designed to attenuate problems stemming from deindustrialization, before proposing to turn the historical tables by means of a radical artistic gesture: to convert contemporary art museums and galleries, often based in disused factories and warehouses, back into industrial sites.
The issue contains two further pieces related to the era when industry still reigned the world, the dawn of the modern period that was the 19th century. In his Europe-focused column Old-World Chronicles Kirill Kobrin analyses several short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, interpreting their plot as a dramatic struggle between “agents of the modern era” – whose role is played by young women – and retrograde Victorians. Maria Chernysheva tries to understand Charles Baudelaire's attitude towards the poor, perceived as scandalous by adherents of conventional humanist morality, discovering an important historical and cultural context behind the poet's provocative arguments.
Two articles in this issue talk of events that have acquired a high profile in Russia. In their collaborative piece Alek D. Epstein, a scholar, and Nika Maksimyuk, a photographer, explore action art that has recently become an important means of political self-expression. The other story, more prosaic yet typical for Putin's Russia, concerns the construction of a new football stadium in St. Petersburg; this notorious project is dissected in an article by Olga Chepurnaya published in Case Study section.
As is traditional for NZ, the issue includes two regular columns, Alexey Levinson'sSociological Lyrics and Alexander Kustarev's Political Imaginary, as well as a reviews section with one of its highlights, Andrey Makarychev's survey of foreign experts' views on the current situation with the Russian state and society.