New book: The Things of Life: Materiality in Late Soviet Russia by Alexey Golubev

Alexey Golubev's picture

The Things of Life represents a new perspective on material culture in the fomer Second World through a social and cultural history of material objects and spaces during the late socialist era. It traces the biographies of Soviet things, examining how the material world of the late Soviet period influenced Soviet people's gender roles, habitual choices, social trajectories, and imaginary aspirations. Instead of seeing political structures and discursive frameworks as the only mechanisms for shaping Soviet citizens, Alexey Golubev explores how Soviet people used objects and spaces to substantiate their individual and collective selves. In doing so, Golubev rediscovers what helped Soviet citizens make sense of their selves and the world around them, ranging from space rockets and model aircraft to heritage buildings, and from home gyms to the hallways and basements of post-Stalinist housing. Through these various materialist fascinations, The Things of Life considers the ways in which many Soviet people subverted the efforts of the Communist regime to transform them into a rationally organized, disciplined, and easily controllable community.

Alexey Golubev is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Houston. During the current academic year, he serves as a Joy Foundation Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Elemental Materialism in Soviet Culture and Society

Chapter 1. Techno-Utopian Visions of Soviet Intellectuals after Stalin

Machine as the Essence fo Socialism
TRIZ: Genrikh Altshuller's Vernacular of Soviet Techno-Utopianism
Flexible Materiality in Soviet Do-It-Yourself Magazines

Chapter 2. Time in 1:72 Scale: The Plastic Historicity of Soviet Models

Censoring Objects of Modelling
The Fetishism of Detail
Historicities of Scale Model Collections

Chapter 3. History in Wood: The Search for Historical Authenticity in North Russia

Lyrical Landscapes of Socialism
Aleksandr Opolovnikov’s Making of Kizhi
Accretions of History
Identities under Sail

Chapter 4. When Spaces of Transit Fail Their Designers: Social Antagonisms of Soviet Stairwells and Streets

Exposition: The Soviet Stairwell
Sex on Stairs
Containing the Stairwell
Traces on the Walls

Chapter 5. The Men of Steel: Repairing and Empowering Soviet Bodies with Iron

Iron as Medicine
In a Gray Zone of Soviet Sport
Basements, Filthy and Clean
Cultural Bodies, Hybrid Selves

Chapter 6. Ordinary and Paranormal: The Soviet Television Set

The Voyeuristic Revolution of Soviet Apartment Interiors
New Rhythms of Life
Paranormalists on TV

Conclusions: Soviet Objects and Socialist Modernity