Friday, November 12, 2010

Soviet Studies Supernova

Sometimes I'm ashamed that I can't speak a lick of Russian. Yet how would one possibly keep up with the flood of new books if one tried to cover more than English language trends? Readers of this blog will know that under normal circumstances I scrupulously avoid anything other than self-advertisements. But out your University of Pittsburgh Press' 2011 catalog of new and recent titles in the field of Russian, Central Asian, and East European Studies, only one of dozens if not hundreds of worthy publishing houses with something to say about the Soviet experience.

How impressive is the list of new books coming out this year alone in this single press? We've got Ruthchild's book on women's rights between 1905 and 1917, and the links between women's right and the Russian revolutionary tradition. Gyorgy Peteri's book on the socialist battle with the West over health care, human rights, architecture, culture, and, most importantly, consumer products. And this especially tantalizing book, Other Animals, in which Jane Costlow and Amy Nelson edited a collection of essays on how Russian and Soviet culture has conceptualized the relationship between humans and animals. Apparently the interdisciplinary book demonstrates Levi-Strauss' promiscuous assertion that "animals are good to think with." With reference to Soviet Roulette, one is curious to read those essays which talk about how animal-human "hierarchies and categories" are upended during revolutionary periods.

Other 2011 University of Pittsburgh books include Duhamel's book on the KGB's 1980s campaign against corruption, Christopher Ward's monograph on Brezhnev's disastrous campaign to build the Baikal-Amur Mainline Railway (BAM), "one of the largest public works projects of all time," Gorshkov's book on Russia's child factory employees, Iagal Halfin's look into Stalinist terror within Leningrad Communist University (his earlier book From Darkness to Light on the concept of revolutionary salvation also seems worthy of attention), Eric Landis' book on the Antonov peasant uprising movement during the Russian Civil War, and the list goes on.

One can only wonder at the variety of depth of scholarship on Russia and Soviet Russian in particular. Other fascinating books could be mentioned, including ones on Russian drinking, Soviet manhood, the Russian Silver Age, the collapse of rural Russia, Russian nuclear power, Soviet sex, poetry and prose related to the Siege of Leningrad, Soviet feminism, urban-rural relationships during the communist era, Russian politics, Soviet ecological perspectives, the Soviet dissident movement, and the rise of Soviet Tashkent.

Even judging from the vantage point of a single 2011 press brochure, the Soviet experience is now recognized as something complex and multi-fascinated, much more than the history of Joseph Stalin or Soviet political economy, as fascinating as these topics can be.

No comments:

Post a Comment