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Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More

The Last Soviet Generation

by: Alexei Yurchak
published by: Princeton University Press
pp: 352
ISBN: 9780691121178
price: $ 35

"If there is a prize for best title of the year, this book surely deserves it. Alexei Yurchak . . . has written an interesting and provocative book about the way young Soviet Russians talked in the Brezhnev period and what they meant by what they said." - Sheila Fitzpatrick, London Review of Books

Book's frontpage

Soviet socialism was based on paradoxes that were revealed by the peculiar experience of its collapse. To the people who lived in that system the collapse seemed both completely unexpected and completely unsurprising. At the moment of collapse it suddenly became obvious that Soviet life had always seemed simultaneously eternal and stagnating, vigorous and ailing, bleak and full of promise. Although these characteristics may appear mutually exclusive, in fact they were mutually constitutive. This book explores the paradoxes of Soviet life during the period of "late socialism" (1960s-1980s) through the eyes of the last Soviet generation.

Focusing on the major transformation of the 1950s at the level of discourse, ideology, language, and ritual, Alexei Yurchak traces the emergence of multiple unanticipated meanings, communities, relations, ideals, and pursuits that this transformation subsequently enabled. His historical, anthropological, and linguistic analysis draws on rich ethnographic material from Late Socialism and the post-Soviet period.

The model of Soviet socialism that emerges provides an alternative to binary accounts that describe that system as a dichotomy of official culture and unofficial culture, the state and the people, public self and private self, truth and lie--and ignore the crucial fact that, for many Soviet citizens, the fundamental values, ideals, and realities of socialism were genuinely important, although they routinely transgressed and reinterpreted the norms and rules of the socialist state.


Table of contents

Acknowledgments ix

Chapter 1: Late Socialism An Eternal State 1

Chapter 2: Hegemony of Form Stalin's Uncanny Paradigm Shift 36

Chapter 3: Ideology Inside Out Ethics and Poetics 77

Chapter 4: Living "Vnye" Deterritorialized Milieus 126

Chapter 5: Imaginary West The Elsewhere of Late Socialism 158

Chapter 6: True Colors of Communism King Crimson, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd 207

Chapter 7: Dead Irony Necroaesthetics, "Stiob," and the Anekdot 238

Conclusion 282

Bibliography 299

Index 319

About the author

Alexei Yurchak is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

He received his Ph.D. in cultural and linguistic anthropology from Duke University in 1997. He is the author of Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton, 2006), which won the 2007 Vucinich Book Prize for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies from AAASS. His interests and areas of expertise include: Soviet history and post-socialist transformations; political institutions and ideologies in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia; the interface between language, discourse and power; comparative studies of socialism and liberalism; anthropology of art and aesthetics; urban geography and anthropology of space.


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