“Utopia”, “political pragmatics” and “social stigma” – the seemingly unrelated concepts are discussed in different contexts in the 81st issue of NZ. In fact, there is a connection between them and that is not so unobvious: “political pragmatics” thrives on the ruins of “utopias” and “social stigmas” can be of both the former-utopian and the ever-living political origin.
In this sense, the high-profile feature of this issue is Nadya Plungyan’s reaction to the book by a well-known journalist Masha Gessen about Grigory Perelman, the mathematician. The text gives analysis of the “autism” social stigma in the historical context of the collapse of the highly-utopian “Soviet science” (“Soviet mathematics”). As for the motives that aspired Gessen to write a biography of the scientist, the author herself represents them in the light of pragmatics. Being polemic “The History of the Discredit” caused a storm of emotions, when it was published on the website of the NLO publishing house. We think the debate will continue – also on the pages of NZ.
“Political pragmatics” vs. political principles that is the cross-cutting theme of several related stories of this issue. Culture of Politics section contains the article written by Scottish political scientist, specializing on Russia Cameron Ross (“Parties in Russia’s Regions: A Dying Breed?” – a kind of a brief insight into the history of the matter in the last twenty years), and Alexander Kynev’s text “Regional Reforms of Putin under President Medvedev: Centralization Continues,” whose title speaks for itself (this mini-study is particularly relevant in light of the newly announced liberalization of the Kremlin regional policy). The section sides with Comparative Studies. NZ editor Andrei Zakharov writes about the similarities and differences in the experience of federalism in Russia and Malaysia; a political project of “the Brazilian nation” is the theme of the historical essay by Elena Pavlova (it’s very interesting to look at this point from the angle of combining “utopia” and “pragmatics”).
Another important topic of this issue – is a historical one. Australian historian Judith Keene writes about the “first wave” Russian immigrants, who – due to the understandable political loathing to the “Reds” – fought on the side of Franco during the Spanish Civil War (the theme is also extremely interesting as a mixture of pragmatics and utopianism). Pavel Polyan gives a historical and geographical sketch of the Black Sea region, but only in a specific context – as an arena of deportations and genocide (of Armenians, Jews, Greeks, and many others).
The historical theme is followed by the Politics of Culture section. Pragmatics of propaganda and the ideology of utopia, for which propaganda actually serves – along with the fictitious analysis – became the theme of a joint study by Vadim Mikhailin and Galina Belyaeva “The Political Poster: Its Impact and Perception Borders”. The text ends at the transition of Stalin and Khrushchev eras. NZ intends to continue the theme and analyze late-time Soviet posters in next issues. On the representation of the Soviet past in post-Soviet cinema writes Andrei Scherbenok (“ “I Know, But Anyway…”: The Post-Soviet Cinema and the Soviet Past”), and Dmitry Gorin in his turn focuses on the post-Soviet period – more specifically, on how the post-Soviet reality is represented in terms of body and “bodiness”.
Unexpected for such magazine as NZ is the main topic of the most voluminous section referring to pop music as a social tool, and even “an instrument of class struggle.” This section is titled “Pop Music: The End of Utopia?” And, in many ways it focuses on a book “Uncommon” written by British architectural critic, essayist and journalist Owen Hatherley, devoted to some social aspects of works of the “Pulp” band. In this section there are also an interview by Anna Aslanyan with Owen Hatherley, Kirill Kobrin’s essay on sex, rock-n-roll and class war. Pop music theme continues Natalia Samutina (“Island-of-Plastic Utopia. A Multimedia Project “Gorillaz” and the Modern Musical Culture”) and German cultural analyst Annett Jubara with her study of a famous music band “Rammstein” and its strategy on the Russian cultural scene (and the reception of the band in Russia). Also we publish the Max Dunbar’s review of the “Uncommon” book (in the New Books section).
As usual, in this NZ issue there are the columns by Ilya Kalinin (Daily Political Economy), Alexander Kustarev (Political Imaginary) and Alexey Levinson (Sociological Lyrics). The issue ends with the traditional Russian Intellectual Journals’ Review (by Vyacheslav Morozov) and the New Books section.