The Post-Soviet Imaginary: Constructing New Russian Fantasies

Oushakine, Serguei (1999). The Post-Soviet Imaginary: Constructing New Russian Fantasies. MPhil thesis The Open University.



"The Post-Soviet Imaginary: Constructing New Russian Fantasies" examines interviews and essays of one hundred seventy eight students (age 15-22), whom I met in April 1996 and April 1997 in Barnaul, Siberia (Russia). Using the texts of the students’ descriptions of such basic notions as “gender,” “nationality,” “man,” “woman,” and “Motherland” as my main source, I tried to understand how the young people in a post-Soviet Siberian city located themselves within the available symbolic representations of gender and national identity.

The interpretation of the students’ texts was rooted in two major theoretical frames: structuralist and post-structuralist analysis on one hand and the psychoanalytic theory on the other. The former illuminated the main narrative mechanisms through which the students expressed their experience. As the first chapter argues, it was the logic of oppositions and binaries, the logic of cognitive inconsistency and supplementary negation that framed the students’ verbal constructions. In turn, the psychoanalytic approach (mostly in the forms of Melanie Klein’s and Julia Kristeva’s versions) was instrumental for grasping one of the key oppositions indicated by the students - the opposition between the new Russian woman and the new Russian man. These two figures were called upon to express the students’ anxiety caused by the loss of the symbolic sign-posts of the Soviet epoch. By using object relations theory, I detected a paranoid structure in the students’ fantasies about the new Russian man and the new Russian woman, which manifested itself first of all in such rhetorical phenomena as splitting, consolidation, and symbolic inhibition. My further analysis of the metaphors and associations used by the students led me to identifying these two models of national and gender identification as the object of abjection (the new Russian woman) and the object of narcissistic identification (the new Russian man).

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