The 104th NZ issue features several sections, each dedicated to its own subject and developing, in one way or another, the main topics covered in the journal over the years. First of all, there are a number of linked pieces on the 30th anniversary of the start of perestroika in the USSR. Although this is a historical section, many of its stories are relevant in present-day Russia. The section begins with an interview with executive director of The Gorbachev Foundation Olga Zdravomyslova, its main subjects including the background for the radical changes that took place in the USSR over the late 1980s; the role Mikhail Gorbachev played in the process; perestroika's context, as manifested in the country's domestic and foreign policy, its results and consequences. The heritage of the perestroika era is analysed in an article by the expert Andrey Ryabov, also of The Gorbachev Foundation. The section concludes with Vasily Zharkov's piece “Kremlin Surprise: «New Political Thinking» and World Politics”, on how “new political thinking” as well as other radical changes in Soviet foreign policy took the leadership of many Western countries unawares.
One of the key topics of NZ – reflections on various aspects of “modernity” and problems related to the “modernisation” of different societies – is further developed in two other sections of this issue. The second topical section, “Modernity Invents Tradition”, is partly based on the now famous 1983 book “The Invention of Tradition”, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. We publish abridged translations of two pieces included in the collection. The first, a review by the great British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, talks about the book's main subject: how and why the 19th and early 20th centuries gave rise to numerous traditions, invented in order to legitimise the values, ideology and political practices of nation states and empires of the time. One of those traditions is the “classic” Highland dress, with its obligatory tartan kilt. This garment, worn by men, is seen as “genuinely Highland”, “genuinely Scottish”. The prominent British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper disproves this viewpoint, showing how the industrial revolution, the needs of imperial British politics and the general cultural atmosphere of romanticism have led to the invention of this Scottish tradition. The tartan line is also considered by Matthew P. Dziennik, a younger-generation historian, in “Whig Tartan: Material Culture and Its Use in the Scottish Highlands, 1746–1815”. Without rejecting Trevor-Roper's main conclusions, Dziennik introduces some changes to the story itself; most importantly, he takes the argument a step further to demonstrate that “the invention of tartan” was a two-player game: it involved not only English industrialists, ideologues and Lowlands writers, but also Highland nobility, a group that benefited greatly from taking part in the process of creating its own “ancient” tradition. This section concludes with an article by the sociologist Mikhail Maslovsky; an overview of various notions of “numerous modernities”.
Russia-themed stories related to “the invention of tradition” – and even, in some sense, to “the invention of modernity” – can be found in the third topical section of the issue. Titled “Inventing Tradition: Case Studies”, it is indeed concerned with individual cases of such inventions. The first of them is the life, fate and works of Ivan Kulibin, a famous Russian self-taught engineer, as well as the modern and contemporary reception of his persona. This is the subject of two of the section's articles, both written as part of collaboration between NZ and Arsenal, the Nizhny Novgorod Contemporary Art Centre. Konstantin Bogdanov offers a short biography of Kulibin, focusing not only on his St Petersburg court career but also on his later years, spent in Nizhny Novgorod, analysing various connections the engineer enjoyed with the authorities and with Russian academics. Evgeny Strelkov complements Bogdanov's material with some little-known stories related to Kulibin's engineering inventions. The third section also explores a historico-cultural plot line best categorised as “stories of the everyday”. Historian Karsten Brüggemann offers an overview of the process by which the area known today as Estonia, a part of the Russian Empire in the 19th century, becomes a “popular tourist destination”. Initially the region makes the metropolitan public dream of its own “Russian Europe”, later turning into an object of Russification, first tentative and then increasingly insistent.
Extending the two sections dealing with the theory and practice of “the invention of tradition”, we run a review of Yaroslav Shimov's book about the mediaeval monarch Charles of Anjou. In his review, the mediaeval scholar Sergey Ivanov offers an essay on the invention of tradition in the Middle Ages, namely a tradition that saw dynasties completely change in a given area or in a given kingdom, with a papal blessing.
Stand-alone articles include Dragan Kujundžić's essay “Against the Stream: The Danube, the Video and Nonbiodegradables of Europe” (Culture of Politics), which interprets Martin Heidegger's work on the Danube and Hölderlin. One of Soviet history's tragic chapters – the 1953 uprising in the Norilsk labour camp – is considered in Elena Ushkova's piece, published in Case Study. Politics of Culture features a new instalment in the chronicles of the present-day history of Russian art activism, “Between Cellars, Courts and Emigration: Art Activism in the Times of Total Mobilisation” by Alek D. Epstein. In Morals and Mores, we publish Stepan Stureyko's article “Museum and Its People: The Crisis of the Local History Museum and an Experience of Its Transformation”, inspired by the author's work at a design agency affiliated with the Belarusian branch of International Council on Monuments and Sites.
This NZ issue also features its regular columns: Alexander Kustarev's Political Imaginary, Alexey Levinson's Sociological Lyrics and Kirill Kobrin's Old World Chronicles. The issue concludes with Alexander Pisarev's Russian Intellectual Journals’ Review and New Books section.