Identity Politics and the Reality of Pandemic-Era Russia: A Clash in the Making

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From the beginning of the pandemic, the Russian government instituted very tight control over all information related to the spread of the coronavirus in Russia. It highlighted Russia’s lower mortality rate and focused on advances in developing and registering the first COVID-19 vaccine. The label of “Sputnik-V” hearkened back to the Cold War-era space race and Soviet achievements in this sphere. Meanwhile, the truth about the spread of the virus in Russia was kept secret. Medical authorities, responding to executive pressure, controlled reporting about the infection, diagnosing many cases of the virus as pneumonia and attributing the causes of death to other, more proximate reasons like cardiovascular or renal failure — even when these causes were spurred by the virus. At the same time, alternative means of getting to the truth about coronavirus spread in Russia demonstrate that, contrary to official reports, the death toll from the pandemic is still rising as localized pockets of infection affect different regions, cities, and localities across the country. As hundreds of thousands of Russians sicken, they inevitably come into contact with the failing healthcare system and must come to terms with the fact that the Russian state does not have social safety mechanisms capable of alleviating the new economic problems the pandemic is causing. The public response to news about the Russian vaccine offers a snapshot of these new trends.

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What Does a Putin Garden Gnome Tell Us About Contemporary Politics?

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I first noticed the 7” hand-cast polymer Putin statue on Etsy.com in November 2017. The listing was delightfully playful in nature but also showed a solid engagement with contemporary politics. It read, “He’s coming to invade your neighbors’ gardens and he might even decide to turn up to the G8 summit in his armored car…yes, by popular request, and with no fear of poisoned umbrellas, I present….Vladimir Putin, the garden gnome.”

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Russia and Marxism in Polish Political Thought, Part II

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The views on Marxism of philosopher and legal theoretician Leszek Nowak were shared by a number of other important political thinkers of the Polish interwar period, including Roman Dmowski, Józef Piłsudski, Jan Kucharzewski, and Adam Ciołkosz. Most of these men had first-hand knowledge of Russia and were not — other than Ciołkosz — sympathetic to Marxism.

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Russians’ “Impressionable Years”

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I argue that Russians’ worldview in the Putin era derives, at least in part, from the lived experience of the years just before and after the Soviet Union’s collapse. The late 1980s and early 1990s ushered in massive changes in the rules governing social organization and, for many Russians, life took a dramatic turn for the worse. That their circumstances during those extraordinary times shaped enduring beliefs as to the building blocks of a good society appears to be reflected in the survey data discussed here and is consistent with research on the lasting effects of economic hardships in other contexts.

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Guns or Butter: How the Public Judges Its Leaders in an Authoritarian Regime

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When economic conditions in a country worsen, the public’s support for elected leaders in office at the time often takes a substantial hit. This relationship between economic health and approval numbers is well-established. For this reason, leaders in democracies the world around live in fear of being held accountable for a painful recession they may have had a hand in allowing to occur.  But what happens to this relationship in countries without full-fledged democratic political systems?

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Catherine the Little and Crimean Puppets: From Vandalism to Voodoo in Ukrainian Popular Culture, Part I

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In the dismemberment and decapitation of monuments, the anthropomorphism of the destroyed object itself can be just as important as the act of destruction. In the process, the emphasis shifts from destroying existing symbolic-iconic signs to the previous creation of artificial, human-like figures of substitution and projection. Anthropomorphism brings performative magic — mimetic mediality — into play. Vandalism, in other words, becomes voodoo.

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Between the Provinces and the World

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Here, I will first explain my personal understanding of the meaning of “the provinces” to Russian Studies, then expound on some aspects of the same concept within Chinese and Russian cultures from a comparative perspective, charting out tantalizing possibilities in that nascent field.

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Utopia Interrupted

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When I was designing “Utopia Interrupted,” my main goal was to foreground the diversity of voices and forms of difference of Soviet and post-Soviet literature and culture that is often missing from Slavic Studies courses in North America, which are typically dominated by a focus on “great” male authors like Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Nabokov, patriarchal political figures like Stalin and Putin, and a disproportionate spotlight on Russia at the expense of other regions that are amalgamated, for better or worse, under the tent of Slavic Studies, such as Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.

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Announcing Upcoming Events Sponsored by 19v, a Working Group on Nineteenth-Century Russian Culture

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Please join us on Zoom Wednesday, June 24, 12-2 pm EST, for an interdisciplinary roundtable on “What Is The 19th Century?” with panelists Alex Martin (University of Notre Dame), Rosalind Polly Blakesley (Cambridge), and Luba Golburt (Berkeley). The panel will be moderated by Sara Dickinson (Università di Genova). Please also mark your calendars for these upcoming 19v Seminars, always held on Wednesdays.

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