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Title:Sites of memory: Soviet myths in post-Soviet culture
Author(s):Kabanova, Daria S.
Director of Research:Kaganovsky, Lilya
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Kaganovsky, Lilya
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Blake, Nancy; Pinkert, Anke; Tempest, Richard
Department / Program:Comparative & World Literature
Discipline:Comparative Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):post-Soviet literature
post-Soviet film
Soviet mythologies
cultural myths
national past
national imaginary
Abstract:Do we treat 1990s as a gap, a rupture between the Soviet past and the post-Soviet present? Post-Soviet film and fiction certainly stage the break up of the Soviet Union and the end of Soviet rule in this way. Post-Soviet culture has left behind a certain set of Soviet cultural myths: the conquest of space, the normal functioning of Soviet life with clear sources of symbolic authority, the Soviet notion of heroism, etc. These myths have not been replaced with anything new. One can sense a real pause in films and texts from the late 80s and early 90s – as ideology, already exhausted by late socialism, takes a break. Eliot Borenstein speaks of the 1990s as a moment of a loss of national identity, of emasculation of Russian culture. Mikhail Epstein argues that the end of socialism created a loop in the time of national history, whereupon the Soviet future (communism) became the post-Soviet past. Aleksei Yurchak has shown that the utopian stability of the Soviet “forever” was lost in late socialism,staging a seemingly cataclysmic break up of the Soviet Union and its ideological constructs. My project seeks to uncover the sites that post-Soviet texts create in order to reflect on the Soviet narratives that came to an end, and on those that can be put in their place. What kinds of myths do post-Soviet texts rely on to construct a notion of continuity that overcomes what was previously discarded or destroyed? What myths are persistent enough to survive the historical gap? I show that the texts from the 1990s already seek a path to re-mythologize the myths of the past. Their goal is to bridge the gap between the where Russia is now with where it had been. The project surveys the major players of the post-Soviet Russian cultural landscape, its most influential writers and filmmakers, to show that those same texts from the late 80s and 90s that seemingly spoke of the rupture, were always speaking about continuity. Svetlana Boym discusses the ways in which post-Communist nostalgia solidifies and stabilizes the mythological space of Soviet culture, providing contemporary Russian culture with a workable past. With the imaginary worlds of Socialism gone upon the system’s downfall, the Soviet past solidifies into the retroactively-produced Žižekian mythical object, the object produced by the loss itself. In this imaginary and imagined past, the two meanings of myth merge: it is a “myth” in a sense that it never existed, its illusory nature exposed by the collapse of Communist ideology and its post- Soviet deconstruction. Yet, it is also a “myth” in the Barthian sense, in a sense that the post- Soviet imagination inflects and expands the meanings attached to the signifiers of the Soviet state. The signs and symbols of the (Soviet) past are invested with other, new meanings,(re)constructed and used to structure and explain the country’s present.
Issue Date:2011-08-25
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Daria S. Kabanova
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-08-25
Date Deposited:2011-08

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