Nihilism for Oligarchs
What is the state of Russian culture today, and what is its standing on the world stage? The multi-media extravaganza of Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s DAU—a controversy-courting product of the largesse of Russia’s oligarchic class—provides an instructive case study.
Fine-grained reading of the films of Andrei Zvyagintsev, from the abstract allegories of his earlier work to the unsparing portrayals of contemporary Russia in Elena and Leviathan, exemplary of a new social turn in post-Soviet cinema. Reflections of class polarization and fables of power, with Orthodoxy as its prop.
Capitalisms After Communism
A leading Hungarian sociologist revises Weber’s notion of prebendal and patrimonial regimes to classify the new capitalist orders of the former Second World. Are governments from Budapest to Beijing now converging on the same models of politicized economy?
On Re-reading Life and Fate
Against conventional comparisons with War and Peace, Fredric Jameson offers a path-breaking formal reading of Vassily Grossman’s great fiction of the Battle of Stalingrad. The war against Hitler as crucible for a new collectivity, in which freedom finds itself, or as grounds of social—and thus narrative—totality.
With the collisions over Ukraine, the contradictions in Russia’s relations with the West have been sharpened by sanctions and economic crisis. Perry Anderson on the spectre of Great Power status that still informs the post-multinational nation—and why, despite all the Kremlin’s attempts at integration with the US–EU, the country remains indigestible.
Antecedents and aftershocks of the Maidan protests. A Ukrainian sociologist discusses the riven political and ideological landscape laid bare by the fall of Yanukovych, and the tensions being stoked in the country’s east by Russian interference and Kiev’s ongoing military assault.
After decades of connivance with territorial seizures from Palestine to East Timor, the West rediscovers the principle of state sovereignty in Crimea. The actual record of 20th-century land grabs, and the cross-cutting geopolitical pressures bearing down on Ukraine.
Collapse as Crucible
While Russia’s anti-Putin demonstrations have prompted talk of a civic awakening—led by a flat-pack middle class—the country’s overall social landscape remains largely unmapped. Tony Wood surveys its shifting structures since the Soviet collapse, and the consequences of marketization’s advance through the USSR’s ruins.
What are the differences, and the commonalities, between the states that broke away from the USSR in 1991? Russia’s leading expert on the CIS analyses the range of regimes in the Caucasus and Central Asia, on the Baltic and the Black Sea, with a sharp comparative gaze.
A screenplay from 1935, previously unpublished in English, by arguably the greatest Soviet writer. Amid far-reaching social transformation, notions of love, family and desire are also recast—with serious consequences for the simultaneously innocent and world-weary protagonists.
Against Historical Realism
Within the epic sweep of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Hayden White argues, three genres are braided together: historical, novelistic and philosophical. If the former two—and the battles, loves and deaths they recount—continue the line of European realism, in the third Tolstoy presents history as a force beyond human control, in a bid to dismantle ideologies of progress.
A balance-sheet of Russia’s post-Soviet fortunes, placing the devastating collapse of the 1990s and recent revival under Putin in comparative context. Vladimir Popov warns of the dangers—overvalued currency, oil dependence, crumbling infrastructure—on the road ahead.
The Case for Chechnya
Eager to embrace Putin, Western rulers and pundits continue to connive at the Russian occupation of Chechnya, as Moscow’s second murderous war in the Caucasus enters its sixth year. Traditions of resistance, popular demands for sovereignty and Russia’s brutal military response, in Europe’s forgotten colony.
What do the West’s belated plaudits for Putin’s gage to the war against terrorism—the Caucasus as proving-ground for the Hindu Kush—signify for Russia’s future in the world-system? Georgi Derluguian looks at the longue durée, from the Golden Horde to the IMF.
Time Unfrozen: The Films of Aleksei German
Virtually unknown in the West, Aleksei German is regarded by Russians as their most radical and original film director. Tony Wood considers his techniques of disorientation, and the craft of induced paranoia in his latest movie about the Doctors’ Plot of 1953—its title taken from Beria’s triumphant shout to his chauffeur.
When the Party Commits Suicide
“Finally, in the deluge of the conservative-liberal ‘Black Books’ on Stalinist ‘totalitarianism’, a work which not only meets the highest standards of historical research, but also enables us to grasp the unique social dynamics that culminated in the great purges of the 1930s: J. Arch Getty’s and Oleg . . .” read more
Che Guevaras in Turbans
“On 7 August 1999, caravans of well-armed and bearded men, wearing camouflage fatigues and Islamic skullcaps or headbands, crossed from Chechnya into the mountains of Daghestan. They were led by the two most famous field commanders of the recent Chechen war of independence—Shamil Basayev and Khattab. Basayev had . . .” read more
Changing Cities in Post-Soviet Russia
“Since at least 1992, successive Russian governments have been pressed by the imf to cut public spending, and, in particular, to eliminate the large public subsidy to housing inherited from the Soviet-era ‘communal economy’ of housing provision. Indeed, the Yeltsin presidency has witnessed a steady erosion of the . . .” read more
The Strategic Triad: The United States, Russia, and China
“The official end of the Cold War, marked by the growing incapacity and then the collapse of the Soviet Union, inevitably meant a reduction of us military expenditure. This had long been regarded as essential from a strictly economic point of view: the extraordinary prodigality of the . . .” read more
The Unfinished Revolution
“On the topic of the Russian Revolution, it might appear that everythingworth saying has already been said. Both critics and defenders of the revolution repeat again and again what was already being said and written in the 1920s. Throughout the Soviet decades leftists repeatedly cited the pronouncements of . . .” read more
Stalin’s Victims: A Reply to R. W. Davies
“Professor Davies asks me to withdraw estimates of the casualties under Stalinism which I advanced over a quarter of a century ago. I am happy to do so—having done so already on several occasions; but I must also reply to his own re-misstating of those estimates.” read more
Reply to Robert Conquest
“I have looked again at Robert Conquest’s writings of the 1960s and 1970s and I remain of the opinion that at that time he claimed figures for excess deaths amounting to at least 17 million in 1930–38. The section in The Great Terror headed ‘Death in the Camps’ . . .” read more
Nikita Mikhalkov and Burnt by the Sun: A Monarchist Film-Maker Confronts Humane Socialism
“Despite the deep hostility of present-day Russian film-makers to the concept of socialism, a considerable number of films about the Soviet past have been made in Russia during the past decade. For the most part, the directors of these films have sought to outdo one another in depicting . . .” read more
Excess Deaths in the Soviet Union
“I am sure that R.W. Davies, usually a rigorously accurate presenter even of facts which tell against his views, would wish you to correct some of the errors he presents in his article ‘Forced Labour Under Stalin’. I have a reasonable claim to this, for he gives my . . .” read more