The early twenty-first-century Russia still calls itself, and is called, “post-Soviet.” But this term increasingly sounds like a purposeful euphemism, which both insiders and observers from outside are using to conceal the novelty of Putinism. Though Putinism is entirely different from Stalinism, post-Soviet Russia still defines itself in contrast to its Soviet past, with all the ambiguity that the prefix post entails. Looking at a number of cultural texts that explicitly address the issues of memory, mourning, and atonement, this essay expands this argument by connecting it to Russia’s political economy. The oil curse is a self-imposed condition, a contingent political process that depends on unique choices of authorities and the population. The oil curse does not determine Russia’s arrested development; it only provides conditions that are eagerly used by the group in power. For Russia’s hyperextractive state, the population is superfluous. Introducing the concept of magical historicism, the essay aims at an intrinsic analysis of cultural change. It uses fictional texts, such as Dmitry Bykov’s and Vladimir Sorokin’s recent novels, to explore political, gender, and cultural results of synergy between the oil and gas trade and security services. This hyperextractive synergy creates an overmasculine, cynical, and misogynistic culture—petromachismo, as I prefer to call it.
Alexander Etkind; Post-Soviet Russia: The Land of the Oil Curse, Pussy Riot, and Magical Historicism. boundary 2 1 February 2014; 41 (1): 153–170. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2409712
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