Andy Willimott is Lecturer in Modern Russian & Soviet History at the University of Reading specializing in the social and cultural history of revolutionary Russia and the early Soviet state, with a particular interest in the formation and experience of radical ideology. He is the co-editor with Matthias Neumann of Rethinking the Russian Revolution as Historical Divide. His new book is Living the Revolution: Urban Communes & Soviet Socialism, 1917-1931 published Oxford University Press and winner of the BASEES Alexander Nove Book Prize for 2018.
Skinny Puppy, “Cage,” B-Sides Collection, 1999.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
How does a 20 year old girl from Kostroma with no training in fashion design, start her own line of clothing and open a store in Moscow’s swanky GUM? You get Nashi to back you. As Marina Kamenev’s profile of Nashi designer Antonia Shapovalova explains, hooking up with Nashi can take you far. Farther than you ever imagined. Kamenev writes,
Shapovalova started her design career with Nashi three years ago, when the group came to her hometown of Kostroma. Shapovalova knew straight away that she wanted to take part. “They were offering a variety of roles like marketing, economics and education,” she said. “It seemed natural to do design, but I never anticipated this level of success.”
“Lots of journalists ask me if I completely support Nashi,” Shapovalova said. “I think it’s a stupid question. Nashi ideas are basic human principles. They support orphanages, education; they are patriotic, they are anti-fascist. What kind of normal person says they are pro-fascist?”
One shouldn’t be surprised that Shapovalova is a die hard Nashistka. Her Nashi connections, which of course mean government connections, has landed her a rent free space among stores like Dior, Calvin Klein, Zara, Levi’s and other international designers. “I wouldn’t say [Mikhail Kusnirovich, the director of Bosco di Ciliegi, which owns the controlling stake in GUM] is paying for me. It’s a collaboration with GUM and Nashi,” she told Kamenev. It doesn’t hurt to also have mannequins draped with your line throughout GUM, pop stars posing for photo ops, and State Committee of Youth Affairs and Nashi founder Vasili Yakemenko showing up for the store’s opening either.
“I am sure that in three years’ time every tenth young person in Russia will have something from Shapovalova’s collection in their wardrobe,” says Yakemenko. If only the Komsomol had this kind of vision.Post Views: 565
By Sean — 3 years ago
Paul Stronski is a senior associate in Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program, where his research focuses on the relationship between Russia and neighboring countries in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. He is the author of Tashkent: Forging a Soviet City, 1930-1966 and most recently “Uzbek Elections Preordained, the Real Questions Come Later.”Post Views: 1,128
By Sean — 12 years ago
“Bastards! (сволочи!)” For the last week a women who sits in front of me in the reading room has been cursing documents as she thumbed through files of Komsomol protocols and resolutions from the late 1980s. I finally found out what she is working on the other day.
“They are all thieves,” she told me yesterday during tea. “They stole from me and Russia. During Komsomol meetings they were diving up the property of cooperatives, allocating money for projects and themselves.” The “they” are Russia’s oligarchs, many of which have fled the country as exiles. “Khodorkovsky’s name is everywhere,” she told me pointing to a document from 1991 that details funds going to one of the oil cooperatives and banks he “owned.” The protocol in the document allocated to him over a million dollars.
“You know,” I told her “many in the United States consider people like Khodorkovsky are considered heroes of democracy.” “Well, here they are all thieves.” And it was no wonder, she added, because Khodorkovsky was tied to American banks in the early 1990s.
This woman is working on an article she hopes to publish in Der Spiegel. The story of how leading cadres in the Komsomol allocated property to themselves is a fascinating story. It is a perfect picture of what might call primitive capitalist accumulation with all the theft, swindle and blood that goes with it. Everybody knows how elites the Communist Party, like Gazprom’s Viktor Chernomyrdin became instant billionaires. What is less known is how Communist Youth League cooperatives were used in the 1980s as a means to marketize the Soviet economy.
Gorbachev’s idea was good natured but na?ve. By rehabilitating the ideas of Nikolai Bukharin, Gorbachev hoped to revitalize the executed Bolshevik’s slogan “Enrich Yourselves!” and his ideas about socialist competition. Like in the 1920s, Komsomol cooperatives of the 1980s were subjected to market principles to foster competition with state enterprises. The competition, it was believed, would increase productivity and production quality. It is now called Komsomol capitalism.
Komsomol cooperatives were based in two industries: construction and technology. But archival documents might reveal a much wider breath of entrepreneurship. From the few documents, I was shown, the Komsomol was allocating funds to oil, banking, and publishing, all of which were run and later owned by key Komsomol cadres. This of course wasn’t Gorbachev’s idea. His idea was that using the Komsomol to experiment with market reforms was politically safe. The Party pumped funds into the organization for it to set up cooperatives. In the case of technology, it was hard currency since Komsomol members would buy old computer equipment from the West and refurbish it for big profits.
By the time the Soviet system collapsed, the now redundant Komsomol was awash with cash. The players in the organization quickly appropriated it and set up the first banks, and therefore were the first ones that had the ability to give credit. The Komsomol oligarchs also made out big in the privatization scandals of the 1990s where they took privatization shares for loans. The result was that many, like Khodorkovsky, became the owners of recently privatized state enterprises.
“I’ll take these documents to court if I have to,” the woman told me with hopes that an article based on archival documents will bring some justice. In fact, some of the documents she’s looking at were used in Khodorkovsky’s conviction. “The strange thing is that he didn’t believe he was guilty. This is why he didn’t flee to Israel or America like the others. But how could he think he was innocent!? His name is all over these documents. And there were laws on cooperatives that prevented their privatization. And the Komsomol was after all a social organization and therefore not theirs to take.”Post Views: 1,288