Elena V. Baraban and Stephen M. Norris, eds., The Akunin Project: The Mysteries and Histories of Russia’s Bestselling Author (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021), 372 pp., $46.95 (pb), 9781487525767.
In The Akunin Project: The Mysteries and Histories of Russia’s Bestselling Author, editors Elena V. Baraban and Stephen M. Norris bring together cross-disciplinary perspectives on the literary phenomenon of Boris Akunin, introduce English translations of the writer’s previously untranslated works, and bring up broader question on Russian postmodernism, canon, and authorship.
The volume offers an extensive study of the works and multiple artistic personae created by
To state the obvious, this is a time of great concern for those of us who work in the Soviet and post-Soviet studies communities. I want to take this opportunity to express the journal’s absolute opposition to what the Kremlin euphemistically terms the “special operation” in Ukraine, which is in fact a war not only against the people of Ukraine, but also against the principles of democracy and national self-determination. SPSR states its unwavering support for the people of Ukraine who are currently enduring immense privation and suffering as they stand against the forces of violence and oppression.
Mario Biagioli and Vincent Antonin Lépinay, eds., From Russia with Code: Programming Migrations in Post-Soviet Times (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019), 372 pp., $29.95 (pb), 9781478002994.
Perhaps never has the topic of Russian-speaking cyber forces drawn as much public attention and misunderstanding: especially now, as the world reels at the Russian military’s unprovoked and monstrous invasion of Ukraine, cyber forces throughout the global North are on high alert; Russian-speaking computer scientists, famous for coming from this conflicted region, are everywhere heard about but nowhere studied—nowhere, that is, until this book. In the edited volume From Russian with
Markku Kivinen and Brendan G. Humphreys, eds. Russian Modernization: A New Paradigm (London: Routledge, 2021), 394 pp., $160 (hb), 9780367567255.
The structurationist position—a view in which the individual and societal levels are not only interconnected but mutually constituted—has already been part of mainstream social theory for two or three decades. The social theory school was popularized by Anthony Giddens in the 1980s. Its roots go back to the nineteenth century; we should call to mind Marx’s 1852 notion: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under
Tomas Matza, Shock Therapy: Psychology, Precarity, and Well-Being in Postsocialist Russia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018), 305 pp., $26.95 (pb), 9780822370765.
Reflecting on the rising popularity of psychotherapeutic help in post-Soviet Russia when the so-called shock therapy—a set of neoliberal economic reforms aimed at bringing the country to capitalism—failed so many and left even more in a precarious situation, Tomas Matza notes: “If there was no political-economic ‘therapy,’ there was, at least, psychotherapy” (229). In this book, he explores what he terms the psychotherapeutic turn in post-Soviet Russia, which was evident in the 1990s and 2000s in
This article examines the housing problem of the Soviet civilians who returned from the evacuation to Moscow during the World War II and immediately after it. The reevacuation began in 1942 after the successful counteroffensive of the Red Army near Moscow. It was a priority for the Soviet government to restore the economy of the capital and return workers to the city. However, thousands of square meters of housing in Moscow rendered uninhabitable during the war for different reasons. Based mainly on the archival sources, especially on court materials, this paper examines the magnitude of the housing problem in Moscow and highlights its legal and social aspects. I argue that the authorities at first protected the apartments of evacuees, but then they began to cancel the rights of people to housing and move new residents into the empty apartments. This situation forced reevacuees to start judicial proceedings, which often ended not in their favor.
After the liberation of the western republics of the Soviet Union from the German occupation, armed resistance to Soviet rule started, it forced the state to use significant resources to stabilize the situation. In the article, based on the reporting and management documentation of the NKVD bodies and party control documents, an attempt is made to explore the range of tasks, management methods, and methods of using fighter battalions, which were created in Western Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states immediately after the liberation of these territories. Particular emphasis is placed on the institutional and social history of these units, the personnel composition is analyzed, and the dynamics of its change during the study period is traced. Similar features and differences are revealed in the methods of formation and use of battalions operating in different republics. An attempt is being made to understand the motivation of the servicemen joining the ranks of the battalions, and determine what role personal interest played in their recruitment or acts of violence by the rebels. The study of the identified issues will allow not only to analyze a wide range of issues related to the activities of the NKVD fighter battalions at the final stage of the war, but also to supplement the understanding of how the Soviet state managed to win the civil war in the western borderlands.
In propaganda related to the industrial hero-project of the Krasnoyarsk Dam (built 1956–1972), the Soviet press synthesized a narrative of modern conquest of nature by means of advanced hydrology and hydraulic technology with folklore-like myths that emphasized the often-mysterious greatness of the Yenisei River, the glory of the Soviet state, and the heroic feats of Soviet people. This mythology was a complex mixture of imagery that drew on the Indigenous groups of Central Siberia (the Evenks, Tuvans, and Buryats) that had been displaced and alienated by the Russian state and the historic Russian residents of Siberia. These were the very groups whose worlds and stories had been deemed culturally backward. The mythology also incorporated imperial legends of Siberian conquest and embellished stories of Lenin’s sojourn in pre-revolutionary Siberia. Soviet print literature imaginatively recreated the Yenisei River as Ionessi and Ulug-Khem – “big water” or “big river,” “brother of the ocean,” and a mighty bogatyr (or warrior-hero) cursed to be a river. Such seemingly archaic imagery may seem to contradict the narrative of socialist industrial progress in the Yenisei basin, but this article highlights how such myths were modernized and mobilized in support of late-Soviet mega-engineering projects. It argues that the modernized myths of the Yenisei’s transformation – magical and through time – aimed to show nature in flux. People constantly acted upon it, transformed it, and cooperated with it. Moreover, these myths reflected the popular fascination with the immense, often dangerous and always mysterious, features of the Siberian landscape. Thus, in contrast to Stalinist industrialization, Soviet propagandists of the Cold War era did not always demystify nature; they also built their rhetoric upon folkloric and Indigenous conceptualizations of human-nature interaction and environmental change and created a sense of belonging to the place for the people who voluntarily participated in Siberian development.
Happy New Year! С новым годом! Greetings and welcome to this first issue of SPSR for 2022. This issue contains the second half of the special issue that began in SPSR 48.3 (2021). As promised, our usual offering of book reviews returns in this issue as well. In addition, please be on the lookout for the return of standalone articles in the journal’s second issue of 2022.
Concluding in this issue, the aforementioned special issue is entitled “Studies of the Siberian Anthropocene.” Edited by SPSR Editorial Board member Dr. Andy Bruno of