Mediated Post-Soviet Nostalgia

University dissertation from Huddinge : Södertörn University

Abstract: Post-Soviet nostalgia, generally understood as a sentimental longing forthe Soviet past, has penetrated deep into many branches of Russian popular culture in the post-1989 period. The present study investigates how the Soviet past has been mediated in the period between 1991 and 2012 as one element of a prominent structure of feeling in present-day Russian culture.The Soviet past is represented through different mediating arenas – cultural domains and communicative platforms in which meanings are created and circulated. The mediating arenas examined in this study include television, the Internet, fashion, restaurants, museums and theatre. The study of these arenas has identified common ingredients which are elements of a structure of feeling of the period in question. At the same time, the research shows that the representations of the past vary with the nature of the medium and the genre.The analysis of mediations of the Soviet past in Russian contemporary culture reveals that there has been a change in the representations of the Soviet past during the past twenty years, which roughly correspond to the two decades marked by the presidencies of Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s and of Vladimir Putin in the 2000s (including Dmitrii Medvedev's term, 2008–2012). The critical and reflective component that was present in representations of the Soviet past in the 1990s has slowly faded away, making room first for more commercial and then for political exploitations of the past. Building on Svetlana Boym's conceptual framework of reflective and restorative nostalgia, the present study provides an illustration of how reflective nostalgia is being gradually supplanted by restorative nostalgia.Academic research has provided many definitions of nostalgia, from strictly medical explanations to more psychological and socio-cultural perspectives. The present study offers examples of how nostalgia functions as a label in ascribing political and cultural identities to oneself and to others, creating confusion about the term and about what and who can rightly be called nostalgic.

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