Russia's Carnival: The Smells, Sights, and Sounds of Transition

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Rowman & Littlefield, 2003 - History - 253 pages
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This colorfully drawn and acutely observed book explores Russia by engaging all our senses. Today's Russia smells different from the Soviet Union. The country looks and sounds different, its touch is different and its food tastes different. Thus, Christoph Neidhart argues, Russia is truly a changed country from the Soviet Union it was, little more than a decade ago. Russian society is rapidly urbanizing and modernizing, as can be perceived by all senses, including the awareness of space and the conception of time. After almost a century, space can be privately owned and freely traded; time too has become commodified. New role models and new ways to express social status are emerging. Russia has become a 'monetized' economy as the old Soviet practice of provision by networking has grown obsolete. Russia thus readies itself gradually to grow into a Western-style, middle-class society with a free market and democratic polity. The author assesses these rapid changes using the evocative metaphor of the carnival to understand the chaotic inversion of the Communist structure of society. He explores the transition's traps and shortcomings--such as the privatization of politics and the looting of the state's assets--and compares this process to the modernization Western society underwent a century earlier.
 

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Contents

Introduction Is Democracy Visible?
1
Carnival or Revolution? When Russia Suspended Time and Space
15
Sight The First Sense
31
To Fake Is to Make Believe
63
Sound Scent Taste and Touch
79
Space The Sixth Sense
117
A New Time for New Times
157
To Buy Is to Be Money Replaces the Fences
183
Mafiosi and Prostitutes The New Role Models
205
Conclusion Ikea or the Furniture for a Modern Russia
221
Selected Bibliography
241
Index
247
About the Author
253
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About the author (2003)

Christoph Neidhart is a senior columnist for Die Weltwoche, Switzerland's leading newsmagazine. As its correspondent, he lived in Russia for almost ten years. He wrote Russia's Carnival as a visiting scholar at Harvard University's Davis Center, and is also the author of the book Nach dem Kollaps [After the Collapse], describing the transition of the former Soviet republics into emerging states.

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