Late Soviet Temporalities
CEREES Reading Group
‘Late Soviet Temporalities’ critically explores conceptions of time that were developed during the late Soviet period. Between 1964 and 1982, a period labelled as an “Era of Stagnation”, eclectic notions of impermanence, circularity, emptiness, repetition, ritual and death surfaced in Soviet philosophical and artistic discourses. The Reading Group aims to reconstruct how philosophers and artists of the late Soviet underground conceptualised and expressed such notions. We ask how their engagement with temporalities relates to a shift in the ways various social groups experienced and made sense of history and time. Finally, we investigate why such a temporal shift took place and why studying it matters today.
During the academic year 2022-2023, we discussed texts by Alexandre Kojève, Anzhelika Arthyukh, Evald Ilyenkov, Yuri Mamleev and Boris Groys, among others. We listened to music by Valentin Silvestrov and watched films by Vladimir Kobrin, Chantal Akerman and a collective known as the Necrorealists. Based on our discussions of these sources, we discerned a number of factors that shaped the new regimes of time — which we call “late Soviet temporalities” — as well as the time-based cultural products of the underground: the postmodern condition, eschatology, dialectical materialism, Russian mysticism, New Age spirituality, occultism, Orthodox Christianity, non-Western religions and particularly Buddhism, neo-conservatism, and continental philosophy.
Our international and multidisciplinary group aims to globalise and diversify scholarship on the late Soviet period. One way we do that is by emphasising sources from the Caucasus, Central Asia, Siberia, the Baltic states, Ukraine and Belarus, alongside more “canonical” ones from Leningrad and Moscow, and contributions by women.
The group gathers every three weeks on Zoom and the working language is English. Our sessions are interactive and we encourage participants to curate and chair sessions. The group is open to everyone.
Katerina Pavlidi (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University College Dublin)
Isabel Jacobs (PhD candidate, Queen Mary University of London)
‘Late Soviet Temporalities’ is an international reading group. It meets every three weeks on Zoom during the semester. The working language is English.
Late Soviet Temporalities Reading Group
10 October 2023: Late Soviet Boredom
Keti Chukhrov, Practicing the Good: Desire and Boredom in Soviet Socialism (Minnesota UP, 2022), Chapter 3 (pp. 90-117) & Chapter 9 (pp. 200-219)
Keti Chukhrov, ‘Instead of an Introduction’ (pp. 14-23)
Martin Heidegger, Excerpts on Boredom, in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude (Indiana UP, 1995) (pp. 78-175)
31 October 2023: Bakhtin’s Chronotope
Mikhail Bakhtin, ‘Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel: Notes Towards a Historical Poetics’, in Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), pp. 84-258.
21 November 2023: Indigenous Temporalities
12 December 2023: Northern Time
Geidar Dzhemal, Orientation-North (Orientatsiia-Sever)
Maria Engström, ‘Orientation-North: Geidar Dzhemal’s Metaphysics of Politics’: https://therussiaprogram.org/onlinepaper_7
21 February 2023: Alexandre Kojève on Time and the End of History
‘Note on Eternity, Time, and the Concept: Complete Text of the Eighth Lecture of the Academic Year 1938–1939’ (pp. 130–149), including two schemes.
Two footnotes on the End of History, appended to the ‘Complete Text of the Twelfth Lecture of the Academic Year 1938–1939’ in 1946/1948 (pp. 158–162).
7 March 2023: Vladimir Kobrin’s ‘Present Continuous’
Vladimir Kobrin, ‘Present Continuous’ (1989): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRqJqVnfJyI
28 March 2023: Mircea Eliade on the Eternal Return
‘Vozvrashchenie sviashchennogo. Poiski absoliuta. Beseda s Mirche Eliade’ [The Return of the Sacred. In Search of the Absolute. Conversation with Mircea Eliade], 37, no. 20, pp. 98-110: https://samizdatcollections.library.utoronto.ca/islandora/object/samizdat%3A4270
Mircea Eliade, ‘The Regeneration of Time’ in Cosmos and History: The Myth of Eternal Return (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959), pp. 49-73.
18 April 2023: Evald llyenkov’s ‘Cosmology of the Spirit’
Evald llyenkov, ‘Cosmology of the Spirit’: https://stasisjournal.net/index.php/journal/article/view/19/22
9 May 2023: Views on Late Soviet Temporalities from Outside
Chantal Akerman, D’Est (1993)
22 May 2023: The Iuzhinskii Circle I
Evgenii Golovin, Mythomania. Translated by Charlie Smith.
Additional Reading: Maria Engström, ‘Late-Soviet Occulture: Evgenii Golovin and the Iuzhinskii Circle’, in Mark Lipovetsky, and others (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Soviet Underground Culture (online edn, Oxford Academic, 14 July 2021), https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780197508213.013.25
13 June 2023: The Iuzhinskii Circle II
Yuri Mamleev, The Fate of Being. Translated by Charlie Smith.
Additional Reading: Charlie Smith, ‘Yuri Mamleev Considered as an Autarchic Metaphysicist’.
27 June 2023: Necorealist Aesthetics
Selection of shorts by Evgeny Yufit, Evgeny “Debil” Kondratiev and Claus Loser.
- Werewolf-Orderlies” (Санитары-оборотни), 1984, 3:32 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCfSevZqZ5c
- “Woodcutter” (Лесоруб), 1985, 8:14 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIJPsJ1GcWc
- “Spring” (Весна), 1987, 9:56 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JYFKt4Au-o
- “Dreams” (Грезы), 1988, 11:54 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10Y8rZmXTO4
- “Necrology” (Nekrolog), 1985, 6:12 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NK5BfPeysc
Additional Reading: Anzhelika Artyukh, ‘Is There Eros in the World of Thanatos? Discovering Evgeny Yufit’s Late Photography (2013-14)’, East European Film Bulletin 109 (November 2020).
11 July 2023: Valentin Silvestrov
Richard Gillies, Interview with Valentin Silvestrov
Richard Gillies, Singing Soviet Stagnation: Vocal Cycles from the USSR 1964-1985 (Routledge, 2022).
Peter Schmelz, ‘Valentin Silvestrov and the Echoes of Music History,’ The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 31, Issue 2 (2014), pp. 231–271.
25 July 2023: Comrades of Time
Boris Groys, ‘Comrades of Time’, e-flux journal, no. 11 (December 2009).
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