The 113th NZ issue covers several major topics, all of them, in some way or another, crucial factors in the sociopolitical and sociocultural state of the world today. These include, first of all, the ongoing changes brought on by the global rise of right-wing populism; also among them are the geopolitical and ideological heritage of the Cold War and the courses followed in their development by the former communist countries and the regions once known as “the third world”. The key discussion points of this issue are the influence of the “populist wave” on the transformation of political institutions and international relations, as well as the “history of emotions” and public conscience on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain.
One of the topical sections of this issue is titled “The Soviet Empire of Emotions”. It opens with the article “The Soviet Rhetoric of Sincerity” by Ellen Rutten, Professor of Literature at the University of Amsterdam. Rutten traces the history of “sincerity” in the Soviet culture and public conscience from the early Soviet period to the time of perestroika, demonstrating how this notion and its realisation in political discourse have changed over the years. Rutten is especially interested in the emergence of the perception of sincerity as a feature apparently unique to the Russian culture and Russian conscience. The main theses of Rutten’s article are illustrated in a piece by Vadim Mikhailin and Galina Belyaeva, which considers changes undergone by the perception of the public and the private over the period between the “thaw’ and the 1970s–1980s, taking as an example the film “Not Even in Your Dreams”, popular in the late USSR. The British anthropologist Madeleine Reeves, Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester, analyses the perestroika-era press of Soviet Central Asia, showing the way it portrayed sentiments existing in the society. The main theme of the article is a conflict between a weakening official discourse, with its insistence on any public statement having to be “constructive”, and a popular dissatisfaction growing under increasing interethnic tensions.
The sociopolitical gauging of emotions is further explored in three other articles published in this issue. Morals and Mores features an essay by Olga Serebryanaya on the links between real family stories of Hungarian WWI soldiers, which can be found in letters from the front, and pseudo-nonfictional plots in the mid to late 20th-century Hungarian literature.
In his regular column Old World Chronicles, Kirill Kobrin offers an essay on nostalgia and melancholy, sentiments prevalent in European history in the 20th and 21st centuries, whose nature is no longer personal but social. Kobrin examines deep differences between them, with a particular focus on their relationship with European modernity and the Old World’s attempts to take its public conscience outside of its own cultural paradigms.
Finally, Viktor Shnirelman, writing in Culture of Politics, launches a series of articles on an issue whose importance is hard to overestimate in today’s world: “insulting people’s religious feelings”. Shnirelman studies in great detail the way Orthodox Christian nationalists in Russia have been exploiting this issue to achieve certain political goals. Another example of “social emotions” being manipulated politically is given in Nikolay Mitrokhin’s article on the so-called “case of young Liza” (Culture of Politics). To provoke mass anti-government protests, pro-Putin political social network groups and right-wing radicals in Germany, supported by the official Russian media, used the fabricated story of a Russian-German teenager, who had allegedly been raped by a Muslim migrant. Mitrokhin exposes the mechanism by which Russia employs the media and social networks in its foreign policy towards Germany.
The transformation of present-day institutions and global operating systems under the influence of the populist “politics of emotions”, which has resulted in important shifts in the home and foreign policies pursued by some of the world powers (most importantly, the USA), is considered in another section of 113th issue, as well as in a number of standalone pieces. The section titled “New Configurations of a Changing World” comprises four articles. Tatyana Vorozheykina looks at the changes in America’s democratic institutions over the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency. There are also three pieces on international relations and the position of Russia, whose foreign policy is strongly defined by its domestic political goals, namely its support of the “populist authoritarian” regime. Vasily Zharkov analyses the history of relations between the West and post-Soviet Russia, as well as the role played by geopolitics and by the heritage of the Cold War. The transformations – both on-going and potential – that result from the present-day US foreign policy crisis are considered in Georgy Kutyrev’s article “The USA–Europe–Russia Triangle in the Time of Trump”. Kharinder Sekhon, Senior Fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation, surveys the bilateral relationship between Russia and India in the 21st century, focusing on the global changes that have made it necessary to re-evaluate this relationship.
Case Study features an article by Leonid Isaev and Andrey Zakharov, one of our editors, on the role of Iraqi Kurds in the war that has been going on in Iraq for over a decade. Dmitry Davydov’s theoretical thoughts on the relevance of socialism and the concept of a “capitalist route to communism” can be found in Culture of Politics.
The history of Jews in Europe in the modern era is the subject of two articles in this issue. In “A Hundred Years after the Pale of Settlement: On the Anniversary of Jewish Emancipation in Russia”, Pavel Polyan offers his notes on the history of the Pale of Settlement in Russia from the 18th to the early 20th century. In his regular column Political Imaginary, Alexander Kustarev talks about the history of antisemitism in Europe, as well as the politics and practice of the exclusion of ethnic minorities per se in the “progressive” epoch of national states and industrial revolutions (“Modernisation and the Holocaust”).
Another topical section of this issue, “A Micro-History of the National University”, deals with two historical subjects. The protagonist of Yury Zaretsky’s piece is the Protestant pastor Johann Wigand, Professor of General History at the Moscow University in the late 18th century. Using his subject’s autobiographical notes, Zaretsky paints a complicated picture of university life, in which an important role was played by freemasons belonging to Nikolay Novikov’s circle. In “Self-Evaluation at the Soviet University in the Late Socialist Era”, Anton Sveshnikov relies on archival documents to analyse internal expert review procedures at the University of Omsk in the 1970s. The subject of university is also explored in a conversation between Richard Marshall, Senior Editor at the international webzine “3:AM”, and Tina Fernandes Botts, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at California State University, (Fresno), whose research concentrates on gender and race issues in Western academia.
Vladislav Degtyarev’s essay “Allegory as a Mechanism: The Case of Narbut, the Case of Baroque” (Politics of Culture) looks at Georgy Narbut’s war-themed book illustrations in the context of an unusual relationship between the baroque worldview and the sentiments that prevailed in the Russian society during and after WWI.
Also in this NZ issue are the regular column Sociological Lyrics by Alexey Levinson (“Sanctions”), and the New Books section.