The dissolution of the Soviet Union liberated Russian historians from the shackles of a state-directed politics of history. However, in the early 2000s, during Putin’s presidency, the Russian state’s drive to instrumentalize history resurfaced. Programmes for «patriotic upbringing», government-sponsored history textbooks and a presidential commission to combat «falsification of history» are indicators of this trend. The article discusses the nature and methods of Putinist politics of history, examines responses to it and assesses its causes, impact and future perspectives. It is argued that at one level, popular demands for national pride as well as domestic and foreign policy interests can explain Putinist politics of history. On a more fundamental level, a key to its understanding is held to be the relative weakness of a democratic meta-narrative in contemporary Russia.
Keywords: politics of history, collective memory, Putin, Russia, post-Soviet identity, patriotism
This article examines continuity, change and adaptation of blat, a Soviet-time informal economic transaction network, in today’s Ukraine and Belarus. The analysis is based on 33 in-depth interviews, and the main focus is the descriptions, justifications and explanations of on-going informal participation in contemporary forms of blat. Theories on informal institutions, path dependence and the relationship between individuals and the post-Soviet state are elaborated to highlight the characteristics of contemporary blat transactions. The continued presence of blat, re-adapted to the new socio-economic circumstances, is highlighted – for instance the increased use of money in blat transactions and the growing number of autonomous bribe collectors demanding bribes in interaction with civil servants. Today’s blat is a channel for giving bribes and a guarantee for good social services. Individuals justify their participation in these informal activities by placing the blame on dysfunctional laws, heavy bureaucracy, lack of state control, illicit acts by other citizens or state officials, and on low identification with an (immoral) state. Respondents also display a preference for informal solutions, which are seen as a better way of solving many everyday problems.
Keywords: Informal economy, corruption, blat, transition, Soviet inheritance, Ukraine, Belarus
Drawing on interviews with Russian women living in Norway, the article discusses the social construction of identity and belonging in a multicultural context, and analyses how Russian women speak about their identity and belonging in light of their Russian past and Norwegian present. Cultural discourses from both countries contribute to their identity constructions. The article sees Russian women’s sense of belonging to Russia as part of their ethnic identity. «Russianness» is imagined as a cultural community with a shared mentality and spirituality (the «Russian soul»). The women position themselves as «Russian women» who like living in Norway. They refuse to call themselves Norwegian, although they speak about being «Norwegianized». The article discusses this in the light of Norwegian discourses about «peace and quiet». The question of belonging is also discussed in connection with the concept of «home». Russian women have a sense of belonging to both Norway and Russia, which implies that they feel alienated in both countries. They are not completely Russian anymore, nor are they Norwegian.
Keywords: Russian women, discourse, identity, belonging, Norway, Russia