“Audio-Visual Culture of the Twentieth Century: Representation, Preservation, Education”
Beginning in the late 1920s, the central driving force responsible for the preparation of specialists for work in the Northern, Siberian, and Far Eastern regions of the Russian Federation has been the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St. Petersburg (Herzen University), primarily led by the Institute of the Peoples of the North. Here, linguists are trained in twenty-three languages of Northern indigenous minorities. Notably, several languages of these minority groups—such as Nganasan, Dolgan, Itelmen, Enets, Ul'ta—are taught only here. The university also provides training in the field of traditional cultures of indigenous peoples (methods of traditional applied arts and crafts of the peoples of the North; dance and musical folklore; museology, etc.).
However, not all experts in Northern studies are aware of the educational programs and scientific schools within the Department of Theory and History of Culture at Herzen University, under which the committee for the defense of doctoral and candidate dissertations has been working jointly with the Institute of the Peoples of the North for thirty years. The chairman of the council, doctor of arts, Professor L. M. Mosolova is the founder of the department and the head of the scientific school for the study of the culture of the regions of Russia, the countries of Northern Europe, and Eurasia. A significant amount of research completed by students—from undergraduate to postgraduate levels—is dedicated to the history and current issues of the various regions of Russia, including Siberia, the Far East, and Northern Europe.
Several collective monographs were published to reflect this research, centering on the cultures of various Russian regions, titled “The Multicultural Field of the Russian Federation” (7 vols., research director and editor in chief L. M. Mosolova [St. Petersburg: Petropolis, 2012–2013]). Another three collective monographs from a series on the cultural industry of the Northern Kola Peninsula (associate editor L. M. Mosolova [St. Petersburg: RGPU, 2012–2014]).
Over the last several decades the department has been focusing on pedagogical bachelor degrees in the field of languages and cultures of Northern Europe, namely Finnish, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian in particular. Since 2019 a new 3++ teaching standard has been introduced, in accordance with which a significant number of hours are dedicated to accumulating wide-ranging and diverse practical teaching experience. In line with innovative restructuring brought about in 2020, a new course directed towards students of pedagogy and cultural studies was introduced, within which two groups have chosen to focus on pedagogical education in the field of culture and language of Norway and Finland.
As part of the first introductory educational practice, the department, together with the French Institute in Russia, organized an international conference titled “Audio-Visual Culture Today: New Perspectives?,” which took place on February 3, 2020. At the conference the students were introduced to the French Institute and its activities, as well as the possibility of academic mobility programs offered by French universities. To these ends, they attended lectures by distinguished French scholars and participated in the seminar “Audio-Visual Culture of the Twentieth Century: Representation, Preservation, Education.” Students were invited not only to take part in discussions, but also to write a review of the conference in the form of an essay.
Among those participating in the conference were distinguished French scholars of audio-visual culture within Eastern Europe, (professor of University Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III Kristian Feigelson and researcher of the CNRS Ada Ackerman (THALIM INHA center, Paris). The conference was attended by lecturers from the Department for Theory and History of Culture of Herzen University (prof. A. V. Denisov, prof. M. L. Maguidovitch [project manager], associate professors V. N. Bondareva and E. Slutskaya), the Institute of Peoples of the North (A. A. Petrov), and the Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University (L. A. Sidorova), as well as the consul general of France in St. Petersburg, Hugo de Chavagnac. The presence of the consul at the seminar, as well as his active participation in discussion, served to reaffirm the significance of the event.
A presentation of the translation The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry into the Sakha language to the French consulate became the highlight of the conference. Lena Sidorova's report, “Yakutia through the Eyes of French Filmmakers” provoked considerable interest from the French scholars as well as the student audience. In the report Sidorova successfully dichotomized different ways of perceiving the region as reflected in three French films: Letters from Siberia by Chris Marker (1957), Extreme Cities by David Rosani (2009), and The Wolf by Nicolas Vanier (2009). She demonstrated how the perception of Yakutia is formed through the exoticism attributed to local life, exaggeration of harsh weather conditions, and unforgiving environment, which she summed up with three stereotypical images: “cold, emptiness, remoteness.”
Sidorova revealed that the locals often disagree with the interpretation of their life that the director offers and believe that even documentaries created with their participation distort reality and reduce it to simplified clichés. It became clear during the discussions that while French scholars were well acquainted with French films about Siberia, they were completely unknown to the Russian audience, even Marker's masterpiece.
The conference's central initiative was to raise the question of the situation with the audio-visual culture today and its role in the modern world. Despite the fact that the issues of conservation and digitalization of film archives have long been addressed and are being successfully resolved, not enough attention is being paid to the practical problems surrounding the actualization of twentieth-century masterpieces of cinema, radio, and television. In this respect, Ada Ackerman's paper “Exhibition Dedicated to Eisenstein: Methods and Intentions” carried particular weight. Ada is an Eisenstein scholar and curator of the exhibition “Ecstatic Eye: Eisenstein the Filmmaker at the Crossroads of the Arts,” which was held during the conference at the Centre Pompidou-Metz.
The paper addressed the issues of presenting moving images in museums. How does a museum environment influence the perception of a filmmaker's work? What methodological and technical difficulties must be solved through curating the exposition? How can we combine moving images and still shots in the exhibition space? The paper provoked a lively debate, and it became clear that even though most visitors to the French Institute knew the name of the great Soviet film director, not very many students had watched his films.
A. A. Petrov delivered a paper about one of the first Soviet film directors P. P. Petrov-Bytov, comparing his career with that of Eisenstein, and the paper delivered by Professor Andrey Denisov also received great interest. Speaking on the use of screen technologies in modern opera, the renowned scholar and opera critic presented the foremost achievements shown in the world's opera houses throughout recent years. Theatre director E. A. Slutskaya devoted her paper to her own experience of using masterpieces of cinema in theatrical productions and the training of future directors, using A. Gladkov's heroic comedy Once upon a Time and its adaptation in Ryazanov's film The Hussar Ballad as an example. K. Feigelson's paper on the contemporary audio-visual art market summarized the conference.
An analysis of students’ essays brought about some unexpected results. Apart from a detailed analysis of the substance of the papers, the first-year students commented extensively on the conference's format. They mentioned peculiarities of perception of the simultaneous translation, oratory skills and mannerisms, aspects of digital presentations, and so on. The success of the event as well as the students’ essays became an inspiration for designing their next educational practice in the form of a student conference.
The Russian National Student Conference “Cultural Industries of St. Petersburg in the Context of Sustainable Development of the Eurasian North”
The period of lockdown and self-isolation, which began a month after the previous conference, became not simply a psychological test but also created experimental working conditions. The concept of the next joint project served as the basis for organizing a student Zoom conference between the three largest universities in the country: Herzen University, Murmansk Arctic State University (MASU), and the M. K. Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU).
The choice of partner universities was based on the experience of joint research within the framework of scientific schools of the Department of Theory and History of Culture of the Herzen University, associated with the study of regional cultures (head L. M. Mosolova), and sociology of art and cultural industries (head M. L. Maguidovitch). The organizer from NEFU was Associate Professor Lena Sidorova, working jointly with Professor Elena Tereshchenko of MASU, the head of the Department of Arts and Design and graduate of the Herzen University. Throughout the harrowing period of adaptation to new working conditions, the conference played an important role not only in terms of developing professional skills of students and advanced training for teachers, but also served as an effective method for the psychological adaptation of all involved to the digitalization of all inter-university communication channels.
Now in their second year, prospective pedagogues in the field of Norwegian and Finnish culture from the Herzen University and students of partner universities decided to investigate how their northern neighbors in Europe and Russia are coping with the harsh environment and new challenges of the pandemic. Why, for example, did Edvard Munch's The Scream suddenly become a momentarily recognizable emoji and why did yet another cinema craze break out in the midst of the quarantine period?
The Russian National Student Conference “Cultural Industries of St. Petersburg in the Context of Sustainable Development of the Eurasian North” was held on October 31 and created grounds for collaborative scientific projects and new friendships. Students from RGU A. N. Kosygin in Moscow, under the supervision of the candidate of philosophical sciences, Associate Professor Elena Nikolaevna Tolstova, offered a particularly interesting contribution to the discussion.
The second-year students from the Institute of Human Philosophy spoke on the question of activities of cultural industries in St. Petersburg, Norway, and Finland. As a part of their educational practice they (under the supervision of the doctor of social sciences, Professor M. L. Maguidovitch) not only drafted an information letter about the conferences and designed its program, but took on roles on par with the professors, moderating the sessions and acting as interlocutors.
The Herzen students’ research on the role of design, music, creative spaces, and sports in improving the quality of life within Northern territories was highly valued by professors and students from other universities. For the second-year students it became their first experience of an academic conference, and their papers demonstrated the scope of academic interests of current students through chosen topics and proposed research strategies, while the papers presented by senior students from MASU and SVFI showed innovative development strategies in the field of applied research.
The future designers from MASU (under the supervision of Herzen University graduate, Professor E. Y. Tereshchenko) presented projects on creating an accessible university environment for students with disabilities and educating children on the issues concerning endangered animals in their native land. Their research on the role of creative industries in distorting the collective cultural memory of Russians, as well as shaping the perception of the world and young people's values and attitudes, were of particular interest.
The papers presented by NEFU undergraduates (supervisor—the head of the Russian-Korean program, PhD in cultural studies, Associate Professor Lena Alekseevna Sidorova) were hugely inspirational. A number of projects—preserving folk culture through retaining culinary traditions, the creation of a khomus school, the museumification of old ethnographic photographs, designing smartphone apps for learning languages of Siberia's indigenous peoples—were met with applause and stirred lively discussions. The project of creating ecological clothing for permafrost conditions developed by a young Sakha designer in collaboration with a future physicist and an economist sparked great interest among the audience.
As twenty-eight speakers and nineteen participants of round tables showed in their presentations, the pandemic situation in the north of Eurasia is further complicated by severe climatic, economic, and cultural conditions. Those factors not only bring together the residents of Northern Europe and the Russian Federation but can serve in uniting them in solving the most critical problems arising in the regions. Young scientists hope that cultural industries will play an important role in this.
At the final conference meeting, it was concluded that in the current situation surrounding Covid-19, values might be changing rapidly. Proposals were made for the ways of developing cultural industries during quarantines and self-isolation based on active cooperation between universities, teaching staff and students. Chairman of the Program Committee Elena Yuryevna Tereshchenko from the Department of Arts and Design of MASU proposed to make the conference an annual event. It is now included in the Herzen University's action plan.
Over the next few months and throughout the course of education practice, a joint project was proposed and completed: the preparation of the publication of the conference materials, including the papers presented by both undergraduates and PhD students of the department. The publication is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2021.
“Cultural Landscapes of the Northern Regions”
The next stage in the development of a collaborative network between universities was the Russian National research-and-practice online seminar “Cultural Landscapes of the Northern Regions” organized on April 15, 2021 and hosted by MASU. The studies of cultural history, factors influencing the transformation of cultural landscapes of the Northern territories, their impact on regional identity, and cultural reproduction were in the focus of the seminar. The conference was co-organized by Herzen University and NEFU, along with the Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M. V. Lomonosov (Arkhangelsk).
The title of the program broadly referenced the Northern regions, yet the main focus of the forum was on the territories of the Russian Arctic. “Cultural Landscape” theory was announced as the principal theoretical framework, described in detail by the head of the Department of Tourism and Service Industry of Murmansk Arctic State University, philosophy PhD Zoya Zhelnina.
In her paper “Cultural Landscapes: Facets of Research into the Arctic World,” she proposed to consider the phenomena of space and cold as being among the main factors which shape the specifics of Arctic landscapes. According to Zhelnina the cultural landscape could be measured according to three main characteristics—that of proportion, integrity, and development. The Arctic is a cultural landscape with a multilayered history. However, among the semantic images of the Arctic commonly employed by the tourism industry were polar bears, the koch (a small sailing boat traditionally used in Arctic seas), industrialization, motor ships, snowstorms, reindeer, helicopters and the military.
Rich with factual and visual information, the report of the chairman of the organizing committee, doctor of culturology, associate professor, head of Arts and Design Department of MASU Elena Yurievna Tereshchenko made a lasting impression. Her paper “Cultural Landscapes of the Murmansk Coast in the Late XIX–Early XX Centuries” was devoted to documentary and artistic attestations of the transformation of the landscapes of the Kola North, as well as the specifics of adaptation of the settlers to the natural landscape. Special attention was also paid to the role that the Holy Trinity Trifonov Pechenga Monastery, the world's northernmost Orthodox monastery founded in 1533, played in the cultural landscape of the Arctic.
In her report “Cultural Codes of Northern Europe in ‘Total Installations’ of A. Reichstein” Maguidovitch showed how the cultural features inherent to both the epic and everyday culture of Sweden and Finland are manifested in style, choice of genres, techniques, and subjects of the Finnish artist Reichstein's “total installations.” This focused on Reichstein's exhibition dedicated to the seventy-fifth anniversary of Tove Jansson's Moomin books (2021, National Museum of Finland), aimed at bringing attention to the renowned characters as well as their ethics, which influenced the cultural characteristics and family values of modern Finns and Swedes.
The theme of Arctic archetypes in visual arts was continued by Tatyana Romanovna Batova, a member of the St. Petersburg Union of Designers, senior lecturer at the Department of Arts and Design at Murmansk Arctic State University. In her report, the multifaceted designer-lecturer and researcher presented the development of design solutions jointly with students within the framework of their project titled “Interpreting Cultural Heritage in Object Design.” In the presented designs of household items, the motifs of the Sámi petroglyphs were employed, as well as plant ornaments and color schemes based on characteristics of the Arctic landscapes.
The paper presented by Grigory Ivanovich Shevchenko (composer, PhD in pedagogical sciences, and associate professor at MASU) was devoted to the work of the Murmansk composer Vladimir Popov and his contribution to the musical culture of the Kola North. According to the speaker, Popov's music reflects the peculiarities of the cultural space of the Soviet era—resounding romantic idealism, enthusiasm, honesty, and sincerity—the attributes reflected in the composer's work which also formed an integral part of his own personality.
MASU associate professor Viktoria Borisovna Bakula made a presentation titled “Newly Written Literature of the Kola Sámi”. According to the speaker, the literature of the Russian Sámi, unlike the oral folklore, first appeared in Russian. This was because the written Sámi language in Russia was not developed until 1979 (the primer textbook was first published only in 1982). Therefore, the literature of the Russian Sámi can rightfully be classified as “newly written literature.” The speaker recalled that there is still no consensus over the Sámi alphabet, as the dispute over its variants has been going on for over 40 years. Currently, the language of the Sámi of the Kola Peninsula is counted as an endangered language. Of the 1,771 Sámi (according to the 2010 census), only 300 are active speakers. The language is not taught within the school curriculum; for many years Sámi classes have been optional and it was only taught orally. As of today, only twenty-six children are learning the Sámi language at one boarding school.
These realities do not aid the preservation and organic development of language and hinder the emergence of Sámi writers who write in their native language. The speaker presented a few examples of Sámi literature published over the last decade, including “Anthology of Sámi literature,” which she compiled together with N. P. Bolshakova (auth. and comp. N. P. Bolshakova, V.B. Bakula, ed. entry art. N. P. Bolshakova [Murmansk, Opimax, 2012]). The anthology compiled the works of all the current Sámi writers of Russia (eighteen authors), as well as articles of literary criticism. Materials from the archives of the Museum of Sámi Literature and Writing named after A. Oktyabrina Voronova were used for the book.
The speaker concluded that representation of the work of Sámi writers in publishing projects today increasingly allows for a more thorough study of Sámi literature. The speaker noted the absence of dramatic works in the literature of the Russian Sámi, but a variety of genres in prose are well represented: the journalistic and artistic essay, folk and literary tales, the short story, the novella, the autobiography, the novel. Different types of poetry are also well presented in Russian Sámi literature: lyrical, pastoral, narrative, philosophical, and so on. The main theme is that of the nature of the homeland, which is typical for newly written forms of literature, as well as the themes of childhood and the loss of one's native home.
Even though literature in the Sámi language is being published routinely, it so far fails to find its audience due to the insufficient knowledge of the language among the Sámi people. On top of that, the aging of Sámi literature is becoming a dangerous trend, as the average age of writers (most of whom are women) is sixty-three, with the youngest being forty-three years old. This gives grounds to the discussion about the lack of continuity in literature. In conclusion, the speaker wanted to stress that despite the fact that many Sámi works of literature are still written in Russian rather than in the Sámi language, Sámi literature is still based on ethnic Sámi values.
The paper titled “Beliefs of the Kola Sámi in a Cross-Border and Multi-Ethnic Cultural Space” presented by Vitaly Nevryuev, a PhD student of Herzen University, complemented the theme of modern Kola Sámi culture perfectly. The speaker emphasized the history of the Sámi as being a useful example highlighting the division of a single cultural space occupied by one of the most studied indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Due to the division of the area of distribution of the culture of reindeer herders, the Sáami now live in the territories of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia, which has created the phenomenon of transboundary ethnic culture. This was reflected in the peculiarities of the religious beliefs of the Kola Sámi. The young scholar spoke about the significance of the translation of biblical texts into the Sámi language for the Christianization of the population. As a result of this missionary work, 23 percent of Sámi today consider themselves Pentecostals, and more than half are Russian Orthodox.
For her presentation, the member of the organizing committee Lena Sidorova spoke about the new forms of religious and spiritual practices among residents of modern Yakutsk. Elena Kotova, chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Sports and Youth Policy of the Administration of the Tikhvin District of the Leningrad Oblast, then demonstrated the role of cultural industries in the development of Northern regions using a specific example. In her report “Calendar of Cultural Events of the Leningrad Oblast: Traditions and Innovations,” she spoke about modern forms of implementation of cultural policy to preserve the distinctive cultural landscape of Tikhvin.
The seminar was also attended by undergraduate students from the Arctic regions, who proved to be active, dynamic, and enthusiastic participants in the student portion of the conference.
Nadezhda Varlamova presented a research paper that reflected one of the most important areas of study of the everyday culture of the modern Arctic: the activities of business institutions on territories inhabited by indigenous peoples. The “Social Responsibility of Business” program concerning specific enterprises within extractive industries, such as “Almazy Anabara” (The Diamonds of Anabar), is a positive example of interaction between businesses and communities of indigenous peoples in the Arctic. The company makes a significant impact on the development of sociocultural life within the village of Zhilinda in the Olenek Evenk national region.
Another example of the economic development of communities of indigenous peoples was examined in the paper “Ecotourism in the Village of Sordonnokh, Oymyakonskii District of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)” presented by master's student Liubov Vasilyeva. Using as an example the history of the growth of a small village in the Oymyakon region, which is an international tourism destination, Vasilyeva showed how narratives of cultural space can affect the development of a tourist destination and become a part of the tourism product in the ecotourist industry.
How modern life in the Arctic territories can become accommodative for students with disabilities was illustrated in the report of Daniila Semyonova, a master's student at the Murmansk Arctic State University, who presented a design project titled “Touching the Arctic: Building an Aesthetic Environment for Visually Impaired People.” Some of the other papers were devoted to the audio-visual component of the cultural landscape of the North. For example, Natalya Mordinova, a postgraduate student at the Russian State Pedagogical University, examined the genre characteristics of contemporary Sakha cinema, highlighting the main soci-cultural factors of the popularity of horror among modern audiences.
In conclusion, it can be emphasized that the seminar highlighted certain problems and pointed out directions for further theoretical and applied research:
- 1.The different historical contexts of the development of the cultural landscape in the Western and Eastern parts of the Russian North calls for different strategies for the development of territories.
- 2.The multilayered cultural landscape of the Arctic today manifests itself through the interconnections of various cultural communities: indigenous peoples, settlers, industrialists, all of whom ultimately create a single cultural space in the Arctic.
- 3.The very formulation of the topic of the seminar with a variety of themes and styles of presentation reflects the distinctiveness of the cultural landscape of North Eurasia: its diversity and integrity and the emotional attachments people form to their place of residence.
Based on the results of the seminar, a monograph is being put together, the launch of which is scheduled for 2021.
“The Foresight Icebreaker: The Students’ Vision of the Present and the Future of the Arctic”
While teaching staff, PhD, and master's students were preparing for the seminar, undergraduate students who participated in the first conferences took part in the competition for a trip to Murmansk. There, from April 27 to April 29, 2021, the Institute of Creative Industries and Entrepreneurship of the Murmansk Arctic State University, with the support of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh), hosted a “‘Foresight Icebreaker’: The Students’ Vision of the Present and the Future of the Arctic.” According to the results of the research paper competition, four second-year students from the Institute of Human Philosophy (Alexandra Bychkova, Danis Sharifullin, Natalia Kairo, and Yana Veresova) were invited to take part in the educational program “Arctic Tourism: Images, Stereotypes, Projects.” The quartet of cultural theorists was supervised by the doctor of social sciences and professor at the Department of Theory and History of Culture Marina Maguidovitch.
More than fifty out of one hundred forum participants came from various universities within the Northwestern Federal District (Arkhangelsk, Vologda, Petrozavodsk, Pskov, St. Petersburg, Syktyvkar, Cherepovets), as well as Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and Yakutsk. In addition to attending lectures of well-known experts, the RSPU group took part in the team building exercise “Tomorrow Starts Today: Innovative Design of Arctic Fashion,” where they designed “Arctic-style” sneakers. They also participated in a masterclass “Arctic Tourism: Images, Stereotypes, Projects,” during which they developed and defended a project about the year-round tourist routes in the Murmansk region.
Despite the program's busy schedule, students found time to visit the port of Murmansk, the memorial to the Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during World War II, the “Waiting” monument, and the nuclear icebreaker Lenin. We include below the comments of some of the participants.
Alexandra Bychkova: “The road to Murmansk was not easy, but it was definitely worth it! Despite the cold, Murmansk welcomed us warmly. We did not just learn a lot about the city itself, but also met interesting people from all over Russia. The forum not only provided a platform for the implementation of creative ideas, but also served as an impetus for further cooperation of students from different cities. We hope that the projects that were developed within the framework of the forum will soon be realized, and we will be happy to visit Murmansk again!”
Danis Sharifullin: “Everything went great. I enjoyed the guided tours the most. The atomic icebreaker Lenin is a symbol of the Murmansk region, along with the monument to Alyosha, so I was happy to visit those legendary places. As for the “Foresight Icebreaker,” this event left a very pleasant impression. During work at the Arctic tourism site, I met creative people who helped me to understand the peculiarities of this fascinating Northern region better. I am confident that the projects we put so much effort into will be realized and will prove useful. I thank Murmansk for the warm hospitality and hope to be coming here again!”
Natalya Kairo: “I have the most positive impressions of the trip to Murmansk! Excellent organization, a busy events schedule, interesting master classes, full immersion in the atmosphere of the city during the guided tours, and productive communication with MASU students! Thanks for the unforgettable experience!”
In conclusion, we would like to note that regular network interaction of teachers and students of all stages of education from the Northern regions of the Russian Federation under harsh pandemic conditions was made possible due to the mutual psychological support of university teaching staff and introduction of the new formats of online communication. This was what made the offline meeting and collaborative effort of students from across Russian universities in the Kola North possible and fostered this focus on new projects dedicated to the study and development of the culture of the Northern and Arctic territories.