Slot:       30C–3          Dec. 30, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.                                                

Title:       Crime and Consumption: The Construction of the Soviet Self

Chair:     TBA


Title:       Crimes of Omission: Censorship and Self-Fashioning

Author:   Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Barnard-Columbia

Self-fashioning is generally construed as an active, performative process of staging the self for the outside world.  What happens, however, when we re-imagine self-fashioning as being constituted by silence, by what is “left out.”  In this paper, I will argue that textual omissions were key to the construction and self-presentation of the Soviet writer.  Of course, tracking voluntary textual exclusions (self-censorship), as opposed to rewritings mandated by “social command” or institutions of censorship, is a tricky business to say the least.  I will therefore take as my paradigmatic example one of the most intriguing and trackable case studies of the Soviet period:  the case of Sinyavsky-Tertz.  I will take as my starting point the contention that we see Andrei Sinyavsky’s writings published in the Soviet Union in a fruitful new light when we think of the writings he published abroad under the pseudonym Abram Tertz specifically as omissions from his Soviet corpus.  The level of anger that greeted Sinyavsky’s unmasking as Abram Tertz testifies to the level of investment the cultural system perceived itself as having in Sinyavsky’s omission of Tertz from his public Soviet persona.  It is therefore precisely revelation that turns omission into crime.  To add a further level of complexity, I will consider in this context the recent posthumous publication of Sinyavsky’s personal correspondence with his wife while incarcerated in a labor camp against his earlier published “epistolary” camp memoir, A Voice from the Chorus, a work that explicitly addresses the incorporation of silence and omission into the literary text as an invitation to transgression. 



Anatoly Gladilin, The Making and Unmaking of the Soviet Writer.

Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-fashioning.

Andrei Siniavskii, 127 pisem o liubvi (Vols. 1-3).

Abram Tertz, A Voice From the Chorus, and other works by Sinyavsky and Tertz.



Title:       A Cosmopolitan Apparatchik: Global Exchanges of Late Socialism in Siberia

Author:   Serguei Oushakine, Princeton University

The lives of Communist apparatchiks did little to inspire: dull, predictable, and narrow-minded.  Yet, the public perception of these people was rarely indifferent. Envy, mockery, or hostility were the main framing contexts within which jokes, rumors, and underground literature endowed the Soviet party elite with identities.  Based on archival materials and publications, collected in Barnaul (Siberia, Russia), I explore a particular case-study of such identity construction.  The paper is focused on a “personal case” (lichnoe delo) of a local party secretary who was accused in the late 1980s of misusing his authority to gain access through a local state-owned restaurant to what was perceived then as ultimate luxury items: Czech beer, canned instant coffee from India, tins of Baltic sprats, etc. When local newspapers published several articles about the apparatchik, the regional committee of Party Control was flooded with letters from ordinary people, demanding an investigation. Following the uproar, local authorities conducted a string of meetings, after which the apparatchik was fired.

Despite the case’s banality, minutes of meetings, letters to regional party committees, and newspaper publications helpfully outline several important vectors through which late Soviet identity was constructed and contested. As in many other societies, the socio-political hierarchy here was also perceived as a hierarchy of consumption (Bourdieu 1984). However, to produce the desired effect of distinction, this late Soviet hierarchy of tastes had to undermine itself by creating within the closed field of the Soviet planned economy an area of quasi-cosmopolitan, non-Soviet life-styles (Yurchak 2006). By drawing parallels with such groups as styliagi (Slavkin 1996) and dissidents (Tertz 1960), who also structured their practices of distinction by deploying non-Soviet material objects and/or artistic practices, in the paper, I trace closely how material exchanges empowered by the Party’s authority produced an unusual Soviet identity of the cosmopolitan apparatchik  (Erofeev 2004).



Bourdieu, P. Distinction : A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984.

Erofeev, V. Khoroshii Stalin. Moscow, 2004.

Slavkin, V. Pamiatnik neizvestnomy stiliage. Moscow, 1996.

Tertz, A. On socialist realism. New York, 1960.

Yurchak, A. Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More. Princeton UP, 2006.



Title:       Constructing the Soviet Criminal and His/Her Spectator in the Early Thirties

Author:   Cristina Vatulescu, New York University

This paper explores the image of the criminal put forth in the most famous 1930s Soviet representation of the camps: the Belomor project. My analysis will draw attention to the previously ignored role of cinema in this multimedia project; furthermore, we will consider cinema’s position vis-à-vis other means of representation employed to exhibit the Soviet criminal, such as photography, painting, and literature. Next to a documentary film by Alexander Lemberg, we will focus on the seemingly incongruous inclusion of Mikhail Zoshchenko’s “The Story of a Reforging” in the official eulogy to the camps co-edited by Maksim Gorkii and GPU camp commander Simion Firin, Belomorsko-Baltiiskii kanal imeni Stalina, as well as on the lavish illustrations that accompany the volume.  I will trace the ways in which the official representation of the criminal, and in particular the representation of the woman criminal was defined against 1920s Soviet renderings of deviance. Last, I will interrogate the role assigned to the audience in these criminal spectacles.



Bertillon, Alphonse. Identification anthropométrique: instructions signalétiques. Melun: Typographie-lithographie administrative, 1885.

Clark, Katerina. The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Gorky, Maksim. "V. Solovki." In Sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh, 201-32. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo, 1952.

Gorky, Maksim, L. Averbakh, and S. G. Firin. Belomorsko-Baltiiskii kanal imeni Stalina: istoriia stroitelstva. Moscow: Gos. izd-vo "Istoriia fabrik i zavodov", 1934.

Gorky, Maksim, L. Averbakh, S. G. Firin, and Annabel Williams-Ellis. Belomor: An Account of the Construction of the New Canal between the White Sea and the Baltic Sea. New York: H. Smith and R. Haas, 1935.

Phéline, Christian. "L'image accusatrice." Les Cahiers de la Photographie 17 (1985): 1-169.

Piatakov, G. USSR in Construction. English ed. Vol. 12. Moscow: State Publishing House of the RSFSR, 1933.

Poliakov, Iu. , and S. Drobashenko. Sovetskaya kinokhronika: 1918-1925. Vol. 1. Moscow: Tsentral'nyi arkhiv fotodokumentov, 1965.

Ruder, Cynthia Ann. Making History for Stalin: The Story of the Belomor Canal. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998.

Tolczyk, Dariusz. "The Glory of the Gulag: Stalin's Camps as Social Medicine." In See No Evil: Literary Cover-Ups and Discoveries of the Soviet Camp Experience, 93-184. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

Zhdanov, A. A. Essays on Literature, Philosophy, and Music. Translated by Eleanor Fox, Stella Jackson and Harold C. Feldt. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1950.

Zorich, A. "From Volkhovstroi." In Dnieprostroi: The Biggest Dam in the World, edited by D. Saslavsky. Moscow: International Press, 1932.

Zoshchenko, Mikhail. "Istoriia odnoi perekovki." In Belomorsko-Baltiiskii kanal imeni Stalina: istoriia stroitel'stva, edited by Maksim Gorky, L. Averbakh and S. G. Firin. Moscow: Gos. izd-vo "Istoriia fabrik i zavodov", 1934. 323-44.



Belomorskoe-Baltiiskii vodnyi put’ (The Belomor-Baltic Canal), A. Lemberg, 1932.

Belomorkanal (The White Sea Canal), A. Lemberg, 1936(?).

Belomorstroi raportuet (Belomorstroi Reports), A. Lemberg, 1933.