Do20Okt201618:00Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, room/lokaal 110.022 (first floor/ eerste verdieping)
Prison as "the midwife of literature" in Russia in the second half of the 19th centuryToon details
Larisa Kangaspuro (University of Helsinki)
A tragic feature of the Russian history is the close connection of its culture with prison, penal labour and exile. The history of prison has turned out to be a part of the history of Russian society.
The chronological frame of this paper begins from the Great reforms of the 1860s with the birth of the popular press and the relative freedom of speech during the reign of Alexander II. It expands to the early 20th century, when the political situation in the Russian Empire began to change dramatically.
The prison question and discussion on prison reforms offer an interesting case on the interaction between the Tsarist regime and the civil society. Literature provided one channel to criticize the authorities. Authors in Russia have always been more than authors. They wrote novels based on either personal experience or personal research on prison and exile. In their days, and later, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and other writers had a vast influence on public opinion. In fact, they probably were the main source of information for the public concerning penitentiary system.
Other writers, such as Count Vladimir Sologub and publicist Nikolai Yadrintsev, also showed their civil initiative by participating in the Commission for the Reorganization of Prisons in Russia.
In the post-emancipation Russia, following the example of mid-19th century Europe, the prison question was fashionable both in legislative assemblies and in literature. In summing up, we can say that civil society influenced significantly to the development of the penitentiary system of Russia during this time.
Do24Nov.201618:00Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, room/lokaal 110.022 (first floor/ eerste verdieping)
Towards Modernity: Roma Awaking in the Interwar Period in Eastern EuropeToon details
Elena Marushiakova & Veselin Popov (University of St. Andrews)
Over the past two decades the Roma issue has become one of the most current topics in European public space and also became especially relevant in academia. Despite of this there are still not researched topics, such as history of the Roma in the period between WWI and WWII, and the appearance and development of social and political projects proposed by Roma themselves. Our presentation has the ambitious goal to fill in this gap. The departing point of the research is the circumstances that Roma are not a hermetically isolated social and cultural system. They exist in two dimensions, both as separate ethnic communities and as a part of the macro-society in which they live within the respective nation-states. Together with members of the macro-society they experienced breakdowns of old Empires (Ottoman, Russian and Austro-Hungarian) and the establishment of national states. On the vast territories of that what would became the Soviet Union they were included in the building of a new political system. In this time span Roma are not only as passive recipients of policy measures but also as active architects of their lives. Our talk will present work and written heritage of Roma visionaries whose activities and texts reflect the main stages in the development of the Roma movement and represent its different aspirations. We will speak about Roma history as an inseparable part of the mainstream history and Roma socio-political visions as part of the history of modern political thought in Eastern Europe.
Din20Dec.201618:00Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, room/lokaal 110.022 (first floor/ eerste verdieping)
Democracy à la russe – a matter of taste?Toon details
Evert van der Zweerde (Radboud University)
It is a commonplace that Russia does not have a strong democratic tradition. While what is usually called “the West” and sometimes “the Atlantic world” usually traces back its democratic history to, on the one hand, the revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries in Great Britain, the USA and France, and, on the other, the gradual extension of the franchise in the 19th and 20th centuries, up to the point where, after World War II, democracy even made it into the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Russia had an entirely different history, both politically and intellectually. A bulwark of autocracy in the 19th C, it switched to a Leninist and later Soviet conception of one-party democratic centralism which, though entailing elements like representation and elections, was generally considered a dictatorship. This changed, the story goes, when Mikhail Gorbachev introduced democracy as one of the elements of his perestroika program. After a brief period of democratic euphoria around 1990, post-Soviet Russia quickly developed a system of manipulated and managed democracy, today officially called sovereign democracy. Today, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin can claim democratic legitimacy in the sense that the vast majority of the Russian population supports him, and it is generally assumed that he would win free elections. At the same time, very few Western observers would qualify present-day Russia as “democratic”.
There are certainly elements of truth in the standard view just summarized. At the same time, three questions can be raised. First, is the story this simple if we look at Russian history? The answer is: no. There is more to the “democratic elements” and episodes than is often assumed, even if we should also steer clear from the tendency to read more into them than there actually is to be found. Second, we may ask if we, as scholars, are not too easily identifying “democracy” with the system of liberal democracy that we know, in the majority of cases, as our own political reality. At least the realization that liberal democracy is a contingent –even if lucky- historical combination of democratic and liberal principles, as has been highlighted by several Western political philosophers (Ch. Mouffe, J. Habermas, N. Bobbio, C. Schmitt, M. Oakeshott), should make us pause and think. Third, we might take the trouble to have a look at what Russian political thinkers, who one way or another were closer to actual Russian political history, have to say about democracy. While being brief on the first two points, the focus of my paper will be on the third issue: which conceptions of democracy do we find in Russian thinkers? Examples will be taken from Vl.S. Solov’ëv, V.I. Lenin, I.A. Ilyin, and contemporary authors like G. Golosov, A. Verkhovskij, T. Lokshina, E.G. Yasin. Thus engaging in comparative political philosophy, it will prove important to avoid both the pitfall of universalism (“They have not understood, and probably never will understand, what democracy is.”) and that of relativism (“They have another, Russian understanding of democracy”). Rather, the aim is to reopen and broaden the field of democratic theory.
Do23Feb201718:00Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, room/lokaal 160.015 (sixth floor/ zesde verdieping)
The creative explosion of Russian protest language in Moscow (2011-2012)Toon details
Irina Sedakova (Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences)
The presentation sheds light on the political “White Ribbon” (Белая лента) protest rallies in Moscow which took place 5 years ago and became part of contemporary Russian history. The oppositional movement generated a dynamic outburst of creativity expressed in various forms of protest language in the broadest sense. Slogans with or without caricatures, rhymes, metaphors, Internet-memes, as well as material objects, such as the white ribbons themselves, badges, masks and costumes, flowers, balloons and toys, etc. had clear communicative messages and were aimed at making the government see and listen to the protesters’ demands. The expressive means of Russian protest language included puns with the personal names of officials and the name of the country (Russia was shown as Pussia, alluding to the Pussy Riot case), figurative phrases, quotations and quasi-quotations of Russian and world classical literature, folklore, movies and cartoons. Many of protest vocabulary entries lived a very short life, being a hasty response to a new governmental regulation, a comment or a statement made by political leaders. Some of the phrases have, however, remained in the language and gained a resonant axiological depth in public and political discourse.
In conclusion, the major characteristics of the Russian oppositional marches are put into the global political context and some parallels with the Bulgarian rallies are drawn. The development and modification of the Russian protest language after the banning of the marches in the people’s commemoration of Boris Nemtsov after his tragic death in 2015 on the bridge near the Kremlin, and local protests against the extraction of timber for commercial construction, etc., are outlined in brief.
The richness of the protest language and the symbolic usage of time and festivals, space (the White Circle in Moscow) and toponyms (Bolotnaia Square), color, gestures, dynamics / statics typical for Moscow political rallies is illustrated by pictures from the personal archive collected over 15 Moscow protest marches during 2011-2012.
Do16Mar201718:00Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, room/lokaal 160.015 (sixth floor/ zesde verdieping)
Spread of folklore motifs as a proxy for information exchange: contact zones and borderlines in EurasiaToon details
Yuri Berezkin (Museum of Anthropology & Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences; European university at Saint Petersburg)
The aim of this paper is to reveal patterns of areal spread of folklore motifs in Eurasia and to understand their rationale. The distribution of 615 motifs related to adventures and tricks according to 339 Old World traditions was statistically processed using factor analysis. Tendencies in the areal spread of motifs are interpreted as proxies for intensity of information exchange between people. Two regularities in distribution of motifs deserve attention. Western Europe and Mediterranean with adjacent Africa are contrasted with the Caucasus, Central Asia and Mongolia with adjacent Siberia. Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Byelorussian and Ukrainian traditions are strongly “European”, the folklore of the Crimea Tatars and especially of the Bashkir is strongly “Asiatic”, the folklore of the Gagauz, Volga Tatars, Mari, Udmurts and Komi moderately “Asiatic”, the Russians, the Setu, the Karelians and the Mordvinians are slightly on the “European” side while the Chuvash are slightly on the “Asiatic” side. Other set of motifs contrasts Siberian, Eastern European and Baltic traditions with Mediterranean – South Asian ones. The northern set of motifs seems to have origins as deep in time as the early Holocene. The southern one largely correlates with the spread of Islam but can have some roots in the early civilizations of Western Eurasia.
Do27Apr201718:00Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, room/lokaal 160.015 (sixth floor/zesde verdieping)
Multiple lives of one poster. Dmitrii Moor’s Have You Volunteered for the Red Army? (1920) in the Russian historical, Post-modern and new patriotic contextsToon details
Shamil Khayrov (University of Glasgow)
D.Moor’s 'Have You Volunteered for the Red Army? (1920) is without doubt the most celebrated and exploited Russian poster. As no other image it represents the Soviet revolutionary iconography and is discussed in this lecture in a number of aspects:
Its author and his role in the Red propaganda in 1920s;
Its source and relationship to A.Leete’s poster (1915);
Whose face was depicted in this image;
Its remake for the Great Patriotic War (1941-45);
Its Post-modernist revival after the collapse of the USSR and use in the context of the new Russian patriotic doctrine and antimonopoly legislation.