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The Far Eastern Railway in the 1930s

Relations and Reactions to the Repressions in the USSR

Elena Gnatovskaya and Alexander Kim

This article evaluates the relationship among the railroad staff of the Far East during the most dramatic events in the political life of the country at that time—repressions. As a rule, Russian academic literature indicates that few workers perceived the Soviet state’s mechanisms of pressure negatively. This article demonstrates that the railroad staff’s position was far more diverse than traditionally argued, which is a result of the broad variety of social groups working for the railroad in the Far East. The article demonstrates this diversity of opinions by focusing on those events that affected a significant number of railroad workers.

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Siberian Newspapers of the Russian Empire and USSR Periods

Issues of Conservation, Digitization, and Scientific Use

Viacheslav Shevtsov

This report reflects the work that leading academic libraries in Siberia (in Tomsk, Irkutsk, and Krasnoyarsk) have been conducting over the past ten years on digitization of Siberian newspapers published between 1857 and 1991. These newspapers are valuable and often unique sources for the history, ethnography, economy, and everyday life of the Siberian people. Creating a comprehensive and common free-access database of Siberian newspapers promotes their preservation for current and future researchers, introduces them to scientific use. The report contains brief data on already digitized newspapers and on electronic sources where these newspapers can be found. The report shows the challenges, perspectives, and achievements of digitization, as well as possible ways of systematization, search for information and analysis of a large set of various newspaper texts.

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Olga Zdravomyslova and Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova

Girls born between the late 1990s and the early 2000s in the countries of the former USSR and Eastern Europe are fast entering into a particular kind of social life. In contrast to previous generations of girls born and bred under communist regimes, this post-socialist generation has access to the Internet, social networks, and global mass culture. They speak in a different voice, and they raise new issues and seek answers to them.

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Marilyn J. Boxer

Today, to a historian of the relationship of European socialism to feminism, Mihaela Miroiu’s assertion that, despite the existence of ‘islands of feminism’ in communist regimes, there was no ‘communist feminism’ comes as no surprise. But in the heyday of the 1970s women’s liberation movement, very many feminists would have argued otherwise! Although the term ‘communist feminism’ itself was (and is) rarely heard, ‘socialist feminism’ exercised a powerful, formative influence in ‘the West’, as evidenced by the widespread admiration of testimony drawn from Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba, and the USSR of Lenin and his successors.

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Crossing Boundaries

The Case of Wanda Wasilewska and Polish Communism

Agnieszka Mrozik

The article sketches “a personal genealogy” of Wanda Wasilewska (1905–1964): a writer, a devoted communist, and head of Związek Patriotów Polskich (Union of Polish Patriots) in the USSR during World War II. Referring to Michel Foucault’s lectures on “revolution which becomes an existential project,” the author frames Wasilewska neither as a communist icon nor as a symbol of national betrayal, but instead as a living human being, a social actor, a person strongly embedded in the historical and geopolitical context of her era. The author reconstructs the process of shaping the communist identity in prewar Poland, points to the moments of transgressing subsequent boundaries—gender, national, and class—and uncovers a gradual exploring of the limits of the communist transgression by the protagonist.

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Capitalism, Violence and The State

Crime, Corruption and Entrepreneurship in an Indian Company Town

Andrew Sanchez

In the Tata company town of Jamshedpur, incisive popular discourses of corruption posit a mutually beneficial relationship between ‘legitimate’ institutions and organised criminality, a dynamic believed to enable pervasive transformations in the city’s industrial and financial infrastructures. This article situates this local discourse within the wider body of anthropological work on South Asian corruption, noting a discursive departure from the hegemonic, personalised and essentially provincialising corruption models encountered by many researchers. The article interrogates the popular model of crime and corruption in Jamshedpur through a focus upon the business practices of local violent entrepreneurs, exploring the extent to which their negotiations with corrupt institutions and ‘legitimate’ capital may indeed inform their successes. Drawing analytic cues from material on organised crime in the former USSR, this article identifies a mutually beneficial relationship between political influence, violence and industrial capital in an Indian company town.

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Processes of Remembering and Forgetting

Tundra Nenets' Reminiscences of the 1943 Mandalada Rebellions

Roza Laptander

Each political change in the former USSR and Russian Federation has had different influences on the lives of local populations in different areas. Nenets, like many other indigenous people of the Russian North, were not tied to any political situation. The perception was that they always lived independently in the tundra using their traditional and historical knowledge. In reality, when comparing even the most recent past of the Nenets to the present, many differences and contradictions become apparent in the lives of these northern people. This article discusses the role of censorship in the transformation and performance of historical narratives concerning the development of the relationship between the state and the indigenous tundra people, here Nenets. By distorting historical facts, through exaggeration and mythologizing real-life events, people tried to shield themselves against negative emotions and memories of the past.

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William Glenn Gray

This essay explores the relationship between West Germany's “economic miracle” and the goal of reunification in the early postwar decades. It argues that Konrad Adenauer was reluctant to mobilize economic resources on behalf of German unity-instead he sought to win trust by proclaiming unswerving loyalty to the West. Ludwig Erhard, by contrast, made an overt attempt to exchange financial incentives for political concessions-to no avail. Both of these chancellors failed to appreciate how West Germany's increasing prosperity undermined its diplomatic position, at least in the near term, given the jealousies and misgivings it generated in Western capitals and in Moscow. Only a gradual process of normalization would allow all four of the relevant powers-France, Britain, the United States, and the USSR-to develop sufficient trust in the economically dynamic Federal Republic to facilitate the country's eventual unification.

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The Baikal-Amur Mainline

Memories and Emotions of a Socialist Construction Project

Olga Povoroznyuk

The Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM), a railroad in East Siberia and the Russian Far East, became the last large Soviet industrial project. Its construction in the 1970s and 1980s attracted migrants from across the USSR, who formed the bamovtsy, or group of BAM builders. They share a history of working and living along the BAM and constitute the majority population in the region. The article argues that emotionally charged social memory of the BAM construction plays the central role in reproducing and reinforcing the bamovtsy identity in the post-Soviet period. Drawing on in-depth interviews and focus groups, the article examines the dynamics of both individual and collective remembering of the socialist BAM. It forms a vibrant discursive and emotional field, in which memories and identities are reconstructed, relived, and contested. Commemorative ceremonies such as the fortieth anniversary of the BAM serve as forums of public remembering and arenas for the politics of emotions.

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Bella Zisere

Popular public opinion concerning the Jewish community of Latvia is that it is an 'exemplary and well-organised community', which experienced a great revival and has functioned efficiently since Perestroika and particularly since the fall of the USSR. Nevertheless, this assertion can be countered by multiple phenomena, such as the dramatic decrease of the number of Latvian Jewish community members, the abrupt increase of inter-marriages, and the clear transformation of references to self-identification of Latvian Jewry. This article seeks to shed light on different spheres of the Jewish life in post-communist Latvia, in order to analyse the impact of the demise of the Soviet system on the Jewish community in this area.