National Identity in Russia from 1961 : Traditions & Deterritorialisation
The rise of nationalism is one of the most prominent and worrying phenomena in modern Russian culture, impacting on diplomatic and trade relations, attitudes to foreigners and migrants, on education, and on cultural politics. However, the background to the problem is often poorly understood, not just in journalism, but in academic work as well. Little so far has been done to investigate the relationship between proclamations of Russian supremacy by politicians and popular attitudes, let alone to investigate Russians’ views of themselves and of Russianness at deeper levels. The proposed project moves beyond ideology, political programmes, and voting patterns in order to examine views of the nation and Russianness among ordinary Russians, and to explore how far these may be traced back to the late Soviet era. The central themes are ‘tradition’, by which we mean cultural memory, a self-consciously recognised relationship with the past, and ‘deterritorialisation’, which refers to the stresses placed on national and personal identity by migrancy, travel, and emigration. The term ‘globalisation’ is often used to describe the impact of non-Russian culture on post-Soviet society, but seems facile, given that much conflict, uncertainty, and ‘cognitive dissonance’ is on display in journalism, intellectual debates, and sometimes just out on the streets.
The period chosen for close study includes the post-Stalin and transition years, which witnessed a thorough-going attempt by the Party authorities to revive what were seen as ‘positive’ traditions, yet at the same time an officially-sponsored depopulation of the Russian village, conventionally seen as the bedrock of national identity, and the granting of mobility rights (albeit in a restricted sense) to ever larger sections of the population.
in collaboration with Russians so that we can explore national identity from the
inside, as well as writing about it from a distance, we will use a wide range of
sources, including previously unexplored archival material, questionnaires, and
interviewing/oral history. We plan to publish a number of pathbreaking studies
on subjects such as the cultural history of identity documents, St Petersburg as
the city of ‘living history’, Russian food as an expression of national
identity, the role of museums in fostering cultural memory, the representation
of the nation in the Russian media, patriotism and attitudes to ‘foreigners’
among skinheads in St Petersburg and Vorkuta, and the lives of Russians living
in Britain. We are also setting up a broader research network that will exchange
views in order to place Russian nationalism of the late twentieth and early
twenty-first centuries in national and international context. Russia is often,
but perhaps wrongly, considered a ‘special case’, so we propose to
investigate similarities and differences between Russian views of the nation and
those in other countries that till recently had a large peasant population and
have a history of authoritarian rule, such as Ireland, Hungary, Greece, and
Italy, as well as comparing the situation in the Russian Federation with that in
other parts of the former Soviet Union.