Technology, Culture, and Society in the Eurasian Space, 2019

Anna Sokolova, Ekaterina Kurilova and Ekaterina Emeliantseva Koller participated in the Conference „Technology, Culture, and Society in the Eurasian Space“ at the University of Helsinki.

Panel: Form­ing In­fra­struc­ture – Trans­form­ing Society: Late So­viet Vil­lage and New Tech­no­lo­gies

Friday, October 25, 2019
Hall 6, 3rd Floor

Chair: Anna Klimova, U of Helsinki

Papers: Ekaterina Emeliantseva Koller, University of Zurich: A TV in a Late Soviet Village House: An Object and a Thing Between „Rural“ and „Urban“ Life Styles
Svetlana Adonyeva, The Propp Centre for Humanities-based research in the Sphere of Traditional Culture, St. Petersburg: Dynamic Relations of a Figure and the Background: Amateur Photographers in Soviet Villages, 1970-1980
Anna Sokolova, University of Zurich & Institute of Anthropology and Ethnography, Russian Academy of Sciences: Late Soviet Timber Production Settlements: Between Technologies and Nature
Ekaterina Kurilova, U of Zurich: A View from Inside: Everyday Life in the Late Soviet Village Through the Eyes of the Local Amateur Filmmaker

Discussiant: Ekaterina Melnikova, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russia & European University at St. Petersburg

The panel can be watched below (© Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki).

The panel description below can be found on the homepage of the University of Helsinki.

Panel description

The aim of the panel is to discuss the influence of new technologies on the late Soviet society and late Soviet vernacular practices by focusing on experiences in rural-urban continuum in the Russian North-Western periphery.

After WWII, new technologies were introduced in various spheres of Soviet society. Mechanization, new technological design, including ‘izobretatelstvo’ (inventive do-it-yourself practices), and optimizing processes of all kinds in production – all these aimed primarily at increasing the overall labor productivity in Soviet economy. However, technological advancement affected not only industrial manufacturing and agricultural production but also the social fabric and everyday practices (Brian Larkin etc.), i.e. these technologies radically changed the vernacular practices of Soviet people. Gradual decline of manual production under the pressure of mechanization gave rise in the 1950s-70s, to new settlements attached to production sites outside the big Soviet industrial centers, as for example, to timber and other raw material manufacturing sites. Simultaneously however, this ‘modernizing pressure’ lead to an oversupply of labor and a rapid social and infrastructural decline of smaller production settlements which has profoundly changed the local rural landscapes of the late Soviet hinterland (‘glubinka’). The latter finally became a non-rural / non-urban interzone in which diverse and contradictory practices brought about specific social experiences and subjectivities that had been largely neglected by scholarly research.

Although the influence of technologies on vernacular practices became recently a vibrant field of research in Soviet studies, which include the spread of television (Kirsten Bönker), DIY-practicfes (Zinaida Vasiljeva, Alexey Golubev, Olga Smolyak), Soviet design (Serguei A. Oushakin, Yulia Karpova), mass housing (Christine Varga-Harris, Steven E. Harris) etc. These researches, however, mostly focusses on urban communities. The proposed panel will close this gap by discussing the influence of the technologies on the villagers and analyzing specific intermediate social groups which lead a peculiar semi-rural / semi-urban way of life outside the big industrial centers.

The analysis of the impact of new technologies on the everyday life and vernacular practices in rural areas will contribute to a more deep understanding of the late Soviet society, late Soviet village and the Soviet project in general.

The panel papers will address late Soviet rural peculiarities vis-à-vis techonological advancement from diverse methodological angles by using archival materials, oral-history interviews for their case studies. How the technologies of visual arts, such as photography and filmmaking, constructed the vision of rural society? How the TV broadcast changed village houses? And how the very villages were created under the influence of new production technologies? These are the case studies to be analyzed in the papers.

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