The 110th NZ issue covers three major topics. Its first part focuses on one of the most important, if only in the formal sense of the word, event of Russia's political life in 2016: the federal and local legislative elections. The nature of the elections is manifested in the very title of the section, “Predictable Choice: 2016 Electoral Strategies”. If the result of the electoral process was indeed predictable, the methods and mechanisms by which it is managed and implemented – the pragmatic way in which Russian authorities use democratic instruments – all tend to change from one political cycle to the next. Certain characteristics of the period that ended in 2016 are considered in Victor Sheinis's article “The Inter-Election Political Cycle in Russia: 2011–2016”. Alexander Kynev analyses recent election campaign strategies, as well as possible effects of the State Duma election results on Russia's future politics.
Democratic procedures in general and, more specifically, the current crisis of democracy (and “globalisation”, its inevitable counterpart today) are examined in two theoretical pieces. These are the latest instalment of Alexander Kustarev's column Political Imaginary (titled “Brexit as a Mirror of Globalisation”) and “Demo(no)cracy”, an essay by Igor Smirnov (Culture of Politics).
The next section, “Post-Soviet National Identity Politics”, consists of three pieces. In the first part of his major article Georgy Derluguian talks about the relationship between sociocultural and economic processes in Armenia. Andrey Portnov analyses the role of Donbas as the topos of Ukrainian intellectual discourse. The American Slavist Kevin Platt turns to the subject of “the psychohistory of Russian patriotism” to study perceptions of “unity” and “segmentation” of the people in patriotic rhetoric, as well as correlation between them.
The third section of the issue, while being partly experimental, is in keeping with a tradition begun a few years ago. Over the past years, NZ has published articles that stemmed from “Nizhny Novgorod: Attempting a New Description”, a joint project between NZ and “Arsenal” (Nizhny Novgorod's contemporary arts centre). The end products of field research conducted by sociologists, historians, political scientists, artists, and art curators have been published in the journal's topical sections.
2016 saw a similar attempt to describe another town, Kuldiga (Latvia), from different perspectives, reflecting viewpoints of people working in different fields of humanities and social sciences. Four authors – Gustavs Strenga, a Latvian historian, Owen Hatherley, a British architectural critic and essayist, Elena Trubina, a Russian urban scholar, and Kirill Kobrin, an NZ editor – visited the town for a three-week residency programme. Three of the four resulting essays, introduced by Kirill Kobrin (who curated the programme), are published in the section titled “The History of a Town: Ruins and Melancholy”.
Gustavs Strenga gives a brief review of the Kuldiga’s history with an accent on those its aspects, which are important for the locals’ collective consciousness. Owen Hatherley wrote a detailed guide of places harbouring memories of the town's revolutionary past. The genre he chose allowed him to “discover” another Kuldiga: the centre of revolutionary movements, an important spot on the map of radical change in Latvia (and, generally, Eastern Europe), rather than a sleepy, picturesque tourist attraction. Elena Trubina's field research, a survey of locals and visitors, led her to discuss the “historical strategies” chosen by the local authorities to make the town more attractive for tourists and to create a social and economic development strategy for Kuldiga.
This NZ issue also contains several stand-alone pieces. In the Politics of Culture Karsten Jedlitschka, the deputy director of the Archive Department (affiliated with the Federal Commissioner of the Stasi Archive) presents a fact-rich survey of the post-1989 history of the East German security services.
Practices of totalitarianism and related historical documents are further explored by the Georgian archivist Esma Mania, who offers the readers a number of documents belonging to Georgian intellectuals and linked, in some way or another, to Stalin, including those addressed to the “great leader”.
Leonid Isaev writes about the civil war in Yemen, a bloody conflict overshadowed by the events in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan that have been in the focus of the Western and Russian media.
Also worth mentioning is a discussion that has emerged around Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez's article “Hypotheses Become Conclusions: New Facts about Max Eitingon and His Liasions with the USSR”, published in the 91st NZ issue. In this issue the article is criticised by the American historian of science David Holloway (Stanford University), and the biophysicist Alexey Semenov (the grandson of Academician Yuliy Khariton, whose life is touched upon in the original article). Their criticism is followed by both parties exchanging opinions on the subject.
Also in this issue are Alexey Levinson's regular column (Sociological Lyrics), Russian Intellectual Journals’ Review (by Alexander Pisarev) and New Books section which includes Anastasia Tumanova's piece on a recent biography of N. Valentinov, a Russian writer, public figure and politician.
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