The 85thNZ issue is mainly concerned with history, its themes being the past, the study of it (or historiography), history as a discursive genre, and the ways it is taught. For all its wide scope, the subject is undoubtedly topical now that modern thought, both in the West and in Russia, has definitively turned from debating “the images of the future” to discussing history, a change that explains many aspects of the present-day world and contemporary public conscience.
The first part of the issue focuses on the theoretical angle of problems related to historic conscience as well as to explorations of history, that is, to historiography per se. This part is centred around a 1976 talk byLouis Althusser entitled “The Transformation of Philosophy”, whose original has recently been found in the philosopher’s archive and translated into Russian specially for NZ. Althusser bases his argument about Marxist philosophy as an historic phenomenon on the indubitable fact that Marxism is by nature closely linked to history, its philosophy being a product of its own interpretation of the past. Althusser’s stance is analyzed by Mladen Dolar, who uses comparisons with psychoanalysis, and by Ilya Matveev, whose article “Althusser: The Politics of Theory” presents the history of the French thinker’s theoretical evolution, as well as existing attitudes towards him. The selection ends with a translated excerpt from Fredric Jameson’s book “The Ideologies of Theory: Essays, 1971–1986”.
Moving from “theory” to “practice”, Morals and Mores section features Olga Edelman’s piece on the construction of an apocryphal “people’s” history, where the author interprets deliberately false memories of Stalin collected from “ordinary Soviet people” during the 1930s–1950s. Issue 85 pays much attention to the ways history is taught, considering this both as a part of “ideological work” and as a means of preserving a society’s historical inheritance, however ambiguous this wording might seem. The focus is, first and foremost, on the role of “history teacher”, a character whose image in post-Stalinist Soviet cinema is thoroughly analyzed by Vadim Mikhailin and Galina Belyaeva in “An Historian in Hysterics. History Teachers in the Soviet Cinema of the Late 1960s and the Early 1970s”. Historical education itself is the subject of a section titled “On the Good of History… and the “Evils” of Historical Education”. Two prominent experts in this field attempt to reflect on the very idea of history as a school discipline and, more specifically, on how the way it is taught is connected to the life of society. Leonid Batkin in his notes considers not so much the “good” of history, but rather its necessity, while Nikolay Koposov answers in detail the question, “Can Historical Education be reformed in Russia” (talking about school and university level courses, as well as about the breeding of the new generation of professional historians). Koposov’s article is complemented by Alexander Chantsev’s conversation with Tamara Eidelman, a well-known history teacher, where they discuss, in particular, school history textbooks. Finally, the role of “the past” and its interpretation, (first of all) in Russian humanities circles, is outlined in “Why Is Russian Culture Primordial?” by Olga Bessmertnaya, whose observations on the significance of “roots” and “origins” in the history of the notion of culture in Russia sound especially interesting.
The issue’s theme of history is complemented by a number of reviews whose subjects include two books on the Russian Civil War (Yaroslav Shimov), a study of the mutual perception of the Baltic states and the USSR before the Second World War (Yulia Aleksandrova), a book on nationalism in Stalin’s ideological policy during the war (Vera Shvedova), and a work dedicated to several historical figures of the first wave of Russian emigration (Lyudmila Klimovich).
Politics of Culture section extends a theme first brought up in 82nd NZ issue, embracing situationism and psychogeography. A psychogeographical essay by French historian Gilbert Vauday talks about one of Lyon’s old districts, while Evgeny Kazakov’s article outlines the history of the situationist movement in FRG during the 1960s–1970s.
Another topic of the issue is the present-day political situation in Russia, its protest movement’s dynamics and causes, “class struggle” (or, more precisely, the surprising absence of it) and, naturally, gender and feminist problems related to the case of the punk group “Pussy Riot”. This agenda is discussed by Elena Gapova (“The Pussy Riot Affair: A Feminist Protest in the Context of Class Struggle”), Alexander Kondakov (“Man and Citizen: Sexuality as a Means of Building Civic Consciousness in Russia”), and by Alexander Kustarev in his The Political Imaginary column.
Elsewhere in the issue Sergey Gogin interviews Mindia Ugrekhelidze, formerly Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia and judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg; Alexey Levinson contributes to his Sociological Lyrics column; Vyacheslav Morozov overviews the Russian intellectual magazines and Olga Burmakova gives the summary of American feminist blogs.