Beyond Nostalgia: How Russia Under Putin Has Imagined Soviet Past
Nostalgia for the Soviet past has been a dominant discourse in the Russian public space starting the 2000s and throughout the 2020s. Indeed, the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 looks like a direct consequence of this universal infatuation with the past which in its radical, militant shape resulted in the aggressive desire for the reconstruction of the Soviet borders. But was this reconstruction fantasy the only way of thinking about the past that Russian culture produced during the last two decades?
This talk will focus on alternative ways of engaging Soviet history and discuss whether they bear any potential of taking us beyond nostalgia, in the direction of processing the demise of the Soviet project. We will look closely at the experimental project Dau presented by the film director Ilya Khrzhanovsky in 2019. Balancing on the border between observational documentary and feature film saga, the project involved non-professional actors who spent up to two years living in a functioning replica of a Soviet scientific institute. I examine how Khrzhanovsky’s multimedia simulation of a Soviet reality presents a chance of critical engagement with the past while offering participants and spectators an opportunity to build one’s own narrative through an affective engagement with Soviet history (an opportunity the context of the post-Soviet nostalgia has always promised but seldom delivered).