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By Sean — 10 months ago
By Sean — 7 years ago
It’s a notable feat that two of Russia’s most powerful symbols, Vladimir Putin and the Great Patriotic War, could jump the shark on the same day.
Granted it’s possible to argue that Putin jumped the shark a long time ago. The man has so many talents, that the Fonz himself could only awe in amazement. Putin has proved to be a Judo master, jet pilot, tiger wrestler, woodsman, super model, and now, race car driver. All that is needed is for someone to make a Putin action figure with the kung fu grip. Oh wait, someone has already thought of that, though sans the important fighting grip action.
But really, folks. Enough already. What’s next Vladimir Vladimirovich? Is jumping an actual shark on waterskis in your future?
Unfortunately, Putin wasn’t the only Russian symbol that completed the passage from adoration to absurdity.
Yesterday was the 83rd anniversary of the Great October Revolution. Whatever one might think of the outcome of the Revolution, one cannot deny that Lenin and the boys single changed the course of the 20th century when the “stormed” the Winter Palace. Though, any serious student of the Revolution knows that the supposed dramatic storm is a myth.
Sadly, myth-making hasn’t lost its allure.
Indeed, the Revolution remains difficult to sublimate into Russia’s post-Soviet collective memory, and nothing says this more than yesterday’s military parade on Red Square. Since the Revolution remains such a controversial issue, the Russian government can’t commemorate it as such. To do so would give the Communist Party legitimacy as a past modernizing force. Official recognition would renew the “glorify the Soviet past” hailstorm in the press. So what does the Russian government do? Well, it rewrites the Revolution into the only acceptable Soviet historical event: The Great Patriotic War.
As you can see from the Russia Today report, the Revolution, which the original parade commemorated, is silenced. This act as memory revision is the only way I can make sense of this reenactment of the legendary parade held on November 7, 1941. Then, the commemoration of October was defying the Nazi onslaught. It was giving the middle finger to the fascists by saying that we Russians weren’t going to sacrifice the holiest of holy days even though you are some 70 to 100 kilometers outside of Moscow.
But now? While this was all well and good in 1941, in 2010 it just looks like a silly parody. Who exactly is the Russian government defying here? Certainly not the Nazis. The West? If so, I’m sure that gesture fell on deaf ears. Yet another “thank you” to the grandfathers for their sacrifice? Too many thank yous out of context render them hollow. A chance to show off some vintage uniforms and tanks? That’s always pretty cool in a manly sort of way. Or was it an attempt to renarrate an event that tore the nation to pieces by placing it within one that bound it together? That’s my choice. But in sublimating the Revolution into the Great Patriotic War in 2010, the parade made a mockery of the latter. The war’s memory is rendered merely an empty signifier ready to be refilled with an ever malleable, politically expedient kit of signified.
You heard it here. The memory of the Great Patriotic War has officially jumped the shark. So there, “Sit on it!”Post Views: 221
By Sean — 11 years ago
I’m currently reading Alexei Yurchak’s fascinating book, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. Yurchak asks why did the Soviet system’s implosion “seemed so unexpected when it began, and at the same time so unsurprising and fast once it had occurred.” The contains numerous examples of the contradictory nature of Soviet life, where as citizens participated in the ritualized, pro forma ideological discourse, this very discourse allowed them to carve out what they called “normal meaningful life” that went beyond the state’s ideology.
Anyway, I hope to discuss Yurchak’s book in more detail once I finish reading it. What I want to present here is this interesting Komsomol document pictured on the left. The document has been floating around the internet for a while now. Yurchak states that it was published in Novaya gazeta in July 2003, but I didn’t find it in their archive.
Here is a translation:
Workers of the World Unite!
ALL-UNION LENIN COMMUNIST YOUTH LEAGUE NIKOLAEV REGIONAL COMMITTEE OF KOMSOMOL OF UKRAINE.
For internal use only.
To Secretaries of Gorkoms and Raikoms of the Komsomol of Ukraine.
The following is an approximate list of foreign music groups and artists whose repertoires contain ideologically harmful compositions.
This information is recommended for the purpose of intensifying control over the activities of discotheques.
This information must be also provided to all VIA (vocal instrument ensembles) and youth discotheques in the region.
Secretary of the Obkom Komsomol, P. Grishin.
Approximate list of foreign music groups and artists whose repertoires contain ideologically harmful compositions.
Type of Propaganda
1. Sex Pistols
Neofascism, punk, violence
Violence, cult of strong personality, violence, vandalism
9. Iron Maiden
Violence, religious obscurantism
10. Judas Priest
13. Black Sabbath
Violence, religious obscurantism
24. Donna Summer
25. Tina Turner
14. Alice Cooper
26. Junior English (reggae)
Violence, religious mysticism
27. Canned Heat
28. Munich Machine
17. Gengis Khan
30. Van Halen
31. Julio Iglesias
19. Pink Floyd (1983)
Distortion of Soviet foreign policy (‘Soviet aggression in Afghanistan)
33. Depeche Mode
34. Village People
35. Ten CC (10 cc)
20. Talking Heads
Myth of Soviet military threat
Head of the General Department of the Obkom of Komsomol E. Priazhinskaia
10 January 1985
This document is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it shows that Soviet youth were quite in tune to global youth culture. Soviet youth listened to the same metal and punk groups that were popular in the United States and Western Europe. Second, Komsomol moralists and ideologues had similar concerns of their Western counterparts. They were also afraid that rock, punk and metal spread violence, deviance, and sex among its listeners. Still, this list expresses concerns about ideology, specifically what the author’s labels “anticommunism” and “neofascism.” I am not sure what the latter means, but I can guess that it is a synonym for bourgeois ideology.
There are some funny miscategorizations in this list. For example, the Village People are denounced for “violence.” I have no idea where they got that idea. If anything they should have gotten the “homosexuality” label. Also Depeche Mode getting the “violence” label is equally laughable.
I suspect that while the documents shows that Soviet youth were quite hip to global youth culture, Komsomol leaders were not or at least played like they were. My guess this is a generational issue since the age between the Komsomol rank and file and their leaders grew in the postwar period. You could easily have a Komsomol Obkom secretary in his or her thirties, while the rank and file in the teens and twenties.
At any rate, I wanted to offer this document and its translation to readers so they could get a taste of the Soviet past.Post Views: 285