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Summary


04 2016

The rise of nationalism and xenophobia, the strengthening of authoritarian tendencies in some of the Eastern and Central European states traditionally considered “democratic”, the continuing stalling of post-Soviet transit, and finally, the undeniable victories of irresponsible populism in the countries that would appear to be populism-proof (such as the USA and the UK); these processes contribute to the sociopolitical and sociocultural background against which the narrative of 108th NZ issue unfolds.

Its main themes include authoritarian regimes with their mechanisms, the logic by which they operate and their historical destinies, as well as the phenomenon of homo sovieticus observed in the post-Soviet light. A large part of the issue is given over to various aspects of the history of WWII, from the collective memory to specific historical events.

The issue opens with “The Empire and the People's Rule; or, Why Is Democracy Called Democracy?” (Political Theory and Depolitisation Practices). In this article the historian Dmitry Panchenko traces the development of the notion of democracy in ancient Athens, a city that over time became the pivot of a powerful military and political union comprised of several Greek city states (sometimes referred to as an empire, hence the use of the term in article’s title).

“Authoritarianism” is usually seen as a phenomenon opposing “democracy”, inimical to it, despite the overwhelming majority of authoritarian leaders calling their own regimes “people's republics” or “democratic states”. Different aspects of this phenomenon are discussed in a topical section “Authoritarianism: Dilemmas of Reproduction”. It opens with a piece by the American political scientist Jennifer Gandhi (“The World of Dictatorial Institutions”), a study of different types of dictatorship as a special power mechanism. The subject is further explored by two US political scientists, Erica Frantz and Natasha M. Ezrow, whose article “Dictatorship and Leadership” is concerned with the way institutional differences within dictatorships influence the length of time their leaders stay in power. One particular historical narrative reflecting the circumstances in which a transition from authoritarianism to democracy occurs is given in “Farewell to Authoritarianism: Spanish Lessons”, an article by Tatyana Vorozheykina on the end of Franco's regime in Spain. The same subject, now transferred to another continent, to a state governed by a special federative mechanism, is analysed by Andrey Zakharov, an NZ editor, who turns to Brazil in “Dictatorship and Federation; or, Brazilian Mésalliance”. Finally, Sergey Ryzhenkov brings the subject of authoritarian regimes, their organisation and operation back to the home territory in his article “Russia, Our Times: The Ultima Ratio of the Dictator under the Logic of Countdown”.

Another important topic of this NZ issue is the sociocultural and sociopsychological type that has emerged as the main (some would say) legacy of the USSR: the so-called homo sovieticus. It is covered in a section titled “The Soviet Subject From the Post-Soviet Perspective”, which opens with “«Soviet Modernity»: Stephen Kotkin and Paradoxes of American Historiography”, an article in which the historian Anna Krylova looks at the notion of the “Soviet modernity project” introduced by the American sociologist and historian Stephen Kotkin. Galina Orlova's piece deals with an interesting subject: the history of the so-called “Movement for Communist Labour”, whose spread in the USSR in the 1960s marked an attempt to “return” – if only symbolically – to the utopian Bolshevik goals of the 1920s. This section also features a polemical essay by Vadim Mikhailin, “Ex cinere: The Homo Sovieticus Project Viewed Post Factum”, in which the author sets out to provide his own theoretical grounds for the notion of homo sovieticus, to trace the development of its most significant meanings, and to juxtapose the standard idea of “modernisation” (as applied to the history of the USSR) with a somewhat unorthodox system of definitions. We hope that Mikhailin's piece sparks a discussion among humanities scholars and social scientists, to be continued in these pages.

The third theme of this issue involves some little-studied aspects of WWII, as well as certain characteristics of the present-day memory of it. The Case Study section contains two historical studies. In one of them, the German historian Stefan Lehnstaedt recreates everyday life in Minsk during the Nazi occupation; in the other, Igor Petrov offers a brief history of the so-called Vineta, an organisation founded by the Nazis as a Russian-language propaganda vehicle. Morals and Mores contains “Semiotics of a Theme: A Louse (Pediculus Humanus Corporis) in Lotman's Non-Memoirs and in War-Time Russian Prose”, a study by Evgeny Bershtein. In a piece published in Culture of Politics, the German-American historian Jochen Hellbeck and his co-author Dmitry Titarenko discuss the Victory Day celebrations in Ukraine, examining their contents and ideological messages. The subject of the memory of the war is closely linked to that of the memory of the Stalinist repressions, addressed in this issue in a piece by Darya Buteiko and Evgeny Shtorn, “Fighting Over the Restricted Space of Memory in the Solovki” (Politics of Culture).

Regular columns in this issue are represented by Alexey Levinson's Sociological Lyrics, offering an article titled “Children-Loving People”, and Kirill Kobrin's Old World Chronicles with a piece “Notes on the Art of the Late Capitalist Era”.

The 108th NZ issue concludes with the New Books section in which we can highlight the reviews by Olga Gulina (of Slavoj Žižek's “Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours”), and by Andrey Zakharov (of John L. Esposito's “The Future of Islam”).

- See more at: http://www.nlobooks.ru/node/7622#sthash.VesYSEja.dpuf