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EAST-WEST-RESEARCH  September 2003

EAST-WEST-RESEARCH September 2003

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Subject:

DEBATES ON POLITICS AND CULTURE: a joint issue with Osteuropa is out (#30)

From:

"Serguei Alex. Oushakine" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Serguei Alex. Oushakine

Date:

Mon, 8 Sep 2003 14:23:37 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (208 lines)

NZ:DEBATES ON POLITICS AND CULTURE

http://www.nz-online.ru/index.phtml?cid=5000074

This special issue of NZ is a joint venture with the German monthly journal
Osteuropa presenting a variety of Russian, German and other points of view
on Russia as a European country. The Russian and German versions are
published simultaneously and, though different in structure, are mostly
identical in content.

After a joint editorial introduction, the Russian edition starts, as usual,
with the Liberal Heritage section. In this issue we present an abridged
translation of a book chapter by German intellectual historian Herfried
Munkler entitled Europe as a Political Idea. Pointing out that Europe has
not been very popular as a political idea in the 20th century among either
left- or right-wing intellectuals, Munkler traces different conceptions of
Europe in political thought from Antiquity to the present day. His
conclusion is that in order to provide a viable identity for the continent
today, our conception of Europe needs to focus on such historically grown
features as diversity and the absence of a single political centre.

The first thematic section is entitled Last Excursion to Europe? It starts
with a questionnaire that our joint editorial team put to historians of
Russia (Dietrich Beyrau, Wolfgang Eichwede, Egbert Jahn, Alexander Kamensky,
Andreas Kappeler, Larry Wolff, and Andrei Zorin), and their answers on such
topics as Russia and the EU, the present-day applicability of historical
stereotypes on Russia’s relationship to Europe, or the Russian influence on
the rest of the European continent (Russia and Europe as Seen by
Historians). This section’s first full-length article is Vyacheslav Morozov’
s In Search of Europe: Russian political discourse and the Surrounding
World. Morozov, a specialist in international politics, analyses conceptions
of Europe in the discourse of the post-Soviet Russian political elite, and
points out several peculiarities, such as the intriguing difference between
the ‘West’ and ‘Europe’ in their writings and speeches. While the ‘West’ is
often depicted as a hostile force, ‘Europe’, though mostly seen as distinct
from Russia, may appear as a bride to be courted and to be protected from
the aggressive ‘West’. Political scientist Andrei Zakharov reflects upon
European Federalism in the Light of the Russian

Experience, and while he dismisses the idea that there may be much to learn
from the Soviet federal experience for the European Union, he comes to the
conclusion that there is much more in common between West European and
Russian federalist models than is usually supposed, since both are
essentially imposed from the top, to the difference of American federalism,
which has grown up from the grassroots. Sergei Filatov, a sociologist of
religion, has penned a passionate yet well documented essay on the way in
which the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church fosters an anti-democratic
and anti-European consciousness in Russia. Filatov traces the roots of this
ideology to a centuries-long history of subservience to the state. However,
he argues, since even nominally Orthodox Russians are mostly much more
democratic and more European in their attitudes towards politics and
religion than the church hierarchy, the latter’s hostility towards democracy
will not be able to slow down Russia’s development towards a kind of society
not too different from that of other European countries (Will the Third Rome
Realise its Kinship with the First Rome?). Political scientist Klaus Muller,
in Russia’ Stony Path to Europe, compares the results of Russia’s political
and economic transformation since the collapse of the Soviet Union with
those of other post-Communist countries, and presents a cautiously
optimistic view of the current regime’s efforts to strengthen the Russian
state, even though he insists that political reforms will come to naught if
they do not open up and democratise the political system as a whole.

The Culture of Politics section presents two opposing views in the ongoing
debate about the institutional framework for co-operation and integration be
tween Russia and the European Union. Legal scholar Otto Luchterhandt gives a
critical overall account of Russia’s stance towards the two pan-European
institutions of which it is a member, the OSCE and the Council of Europe,
and maintains that instead of creating new institutions or inviting Russia
into the EU, more use should be made of existing frameworks such as the
Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the European Union and Russia
(Russia in Europe: The Institutional Dimension). Political scientist Nadia
Arbatova, on the other hand, argues that the European Commission’s recent
document on the stance to be taken towards the EU’s ‘neighbours’ doesn’t
take into account Russia’s special importance for the EU. Rather than
placing the Russian Federation at a distance from the European Union in the
long run, she proposes for the EU to deepen pan-European integration by
granting Russia a special associate status (Another Take on Russia and
‘Greater Europe’).

Alexei Levinson devotes his Sociological Notes to a comparison between West
and Central European’s European identity as revealed by the Eurobarometer
surveys, and similar data from Russia. He points out an intriguing result:
while relatively few Russians are prepared to say they feel European, many
more answer that they think of themselves as European. Levinson interprets
this Eurosis as an indicator that the simplistic binary ideological schemes
that Russian politicians try to impose on citizens leave room for
alternative modes of identification.

The Morals and Mores section presents personal images of Russia. Ukrainian
writer Yuri Andrukhovych, in ...But with a Strange Love, balances the
positive elements in his image of Russia against the negative ones, and
comes to the conclusion that he would like to see Russia’s anarchic features
take upper hand against its despotic tendencies. In a comment on
Andrukhovych entitled Russia as a Matter of Taste, Minsk-based philosopher
Andrei Gornykh places the latter’s essay into the wider context of
post-Soviet nationalisms and argues that in texts such as Andrukhovych’s,
‘Russia’ is used as a passive ‘Thing’ stimulating emotions and ideas, rather
than as a concept aimed at grasping reality. Another perspective on Russia’s
Europeanness is provided by Igor’ Knyazev, a politician from Irkutsk who, in
Siberia -- Russia -- Europe, argues that Siberia not only is European by
virtue of a strong liberal tradition, but may also become a factor pushing
Russia towards greater integration with the European Union and other
pan-European organisations.

The second thematic section is devoted to the Russian Economic Landscape and
European Economic Space. It opens with an analysis of On Russia’s Economic
Strategy in the European Union by Vladimir Mau and Vadim Novikov. Mau and
Novikov take the officially consecrated yet rather vague concept of a
‘Common European Economic Area’ as their starting point for a description of
what, in their view, such an area should look like in order to respond to
Russia’s interests. Their conclusion is that while greater integration with
the EU is desirable, Russia should also keep open options of economic
integration and co-operation with other regions, such as East Asia and the
USA. Economist Leonid Grigoriev argues that Russia’s Greatest Wealth -- Its
People -- Has Never Left Europe. By drawing on a great range of social and
economic indicators, Grigoriev shows that Russia is currently in a hybrid
position, whereby socially it is a European country though economically, in
some respects, it is more comparable to countries such as Brazil. Roland
Gotz analyses Russia’s current status as one of Western Europe’s main
sources of oil and gas in Positive and Negative Aspects of Economic
Co-Operation: The Example of the Energy Partnership Between Russia and the
European Union, and concludes that the Russian state would be best advised
to follow Norway’s example and invest the financial surplus from oil and gas
export into funds that would ensure the prosperity of future generations.
Tobias Munchmeyer, a Greenpeace activist and expert on atomic energy who has
been barred from entering Russia by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for
several years, recounts how the Russian government has agreed for Russia to
become a global nuclear waste dump despite massive protests from citizens
and NGOs, and draws attention to Western governments’ responsibility in
mitigating the effects of this disastrous policy (Russia’s ‘Nuclear
Prostitution’).

The Politics of Culture section takes stock of the state of the Russian book
market and literary life just before this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, where
Russia will be a special guest. Boris Khlebnikov provides an international
framework in The Book Market: Some German Background for Russia, providing a
detailed description of the system of book distribution in Germany and
arguing that the absence of a unified nation-wide bookselling system
throttles the development of the market for books in Russia, and makes
official statistics mostly worthless. Sociologist Boris Dubin presents a
pessimistic analysis of publishers’ and readers’ strategies in
post-Communist Russia, dwelling especially on the predominance of mass
culture and the weakness of autonomous intellectual life (Between Canon and
Topicality, Scandal and Fashion: Literature and Publishing in Russia in a
Changed Social Space). Finally, literary scholar Birgit Menzel writes on
Changes in Russian Literary Criticism as Viewed Through a German Telescope.
Menzel defines three ideal types of literary criticism and analyses the
development of Russian literary criticism with reference to theses types and
to the situation in Germany. In particular, she draws attention to the
potentially dangerous coalition between post-modernist literary critics and
ultra-nationalist writers that has dominated the Russian literary scene over
the past year or so.

The third thematic section presents a ‘bottom-up’ view of Russia as European
country by focusing on The European City as Will and Presentation. It starts
with an essay by philosopher Boris Groys entitled The City in the Era of Its
Touristic Reproducibility. Groys shows how modern mass tourism has
transformed the modern city from the utopian project that it once was into a
mix of features drawn from across the planet. Historian Karl Schlogel tells
the tale of Moscow and Berlin in the 20th Century -- Two Cities, Two Fates,
and shows how closely certain milieus from Berlin and Moscow were
intertwined in the period before the First World War, which meant that
meetings between Russian emigres and Germans in Berlin after the October
Revolution were often meetings of old friends. Moscow and Berlin, Schlogel
writes, epitomised 20th century modernity before dropping out of it due to
Stalinism and Nazism, and now, after the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the
Soviet Union, both are fast becoming global cities. Vladimir Paperny shows
how West European intellectuals could get lost in the ideological maze of
Stalinist Moscow, in Faith and Truth: Andre Gide and Lion Feuchtwanger in
Moscow. Moving to Saint-Petersburg, art critic Stanislav Savitsky casts an
ironic glance upon the recent tender to find a new outfit for the legendary
Mariinsky Opera House, and critically reviews Saint-Petersburg’s attitudes
to historical memory as expressed in urban architecture (A One-Prompter
Play: Notes on The Modernisation of a Museum City). Musical historian
Dorothea Redepenning, in Saint-Petersburg as Musical City: Reflections on
the Dialogue of Cultures, shows how Russian music, from the beginning, was,
firstly, a Saint-Petersburg phenomenon and, secondly, thoroughly European
precisely in its traits seen as most authentically Russian. Delving deeper
into Russian history, Larisa Ivanova-Veen and Oleg Kharkhordin present
Novgorod as a res publica: The Bridge to Greatness. Presenting detailed
written and pictorial evidence, Ivanova-Veen and Kharkhordin show that,
contrary to received opinion, the central political institution of
republican Novgorod was not the city assembly, or Veche, but the bridge
across the Volkhov river, which may prompt us to reconsider the importance
of public things, res publicae, in the life of the body politic. Finally,
political scientist Vladimir Gel’man gives an account of the current reform
of municipal self-government in Russia, and shows that rather than giving
greater power to local communities, the so-called Kozak reform is likely to
curb their autonomy even further since it is based on the idea of
municipalities as simply the lowest level of a centralised administrative
hierarchy (The End of Local Autonomy?).

Yevgeny Saburov makes the same point in a more emotional vein in his Humane
Economics column through a reflection upon different models of municipal
self-government, and upon the flawed ways in which foreign models have been
imported into Russia in recent years (Communal Coma).

The Journals Review section features a survey by political scientist
Svetlana Pogorelskaya, entitled Russia in Germany: A Review of the Russian
Press and Academic Journals in 2003. Pogorelskaya notes that the discourse
on Russia in the German press is still haunted by stereotypes, however, she
notes, there is a much deeper understanding of political realities in
academic debates. This section also contains a presentation of our partner
journal, Osteuropa, by its editor-in-chief, Manfred Sapper.

Finally, the New Books rubric contains a dozen reviews of recent Russian and
German books about cities, architecture, urban history, and Europe.

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