The 101st NZ issue develops the national holiday topic, dealing almost exclusively with Russia-related material.
The issue opens with a section that is envisaged to grow into a regular NZ column, The Relevance of the Archive, dedicated to important but neglected works that serve as direct illustrations to past epochs. The new column opens with a series of LEF articles by Sergey Tretyakov, a well-known Soviet avant-gardist – “How to Celebrate the Tenth”, “Assessing the Decoration of the Tenth Anniversary of October” and “Newspaper on Poles” – that talk about the way the celebrations of the October Revolution's tenth anniversary were and could have been decorated.
The first full-length topical section centres on the establishment of the Soviet celebration ritual. It is titled “Revolution Day” and contains four articles. The first, “Truth and Poetry. The Tenth Anniversary of October” by Frederick C. Corney, is an analysis of the first major anniversary of the October Revolution. It is followed by an extract from “The Rites of Rulers: Ritual in Industrial Society – the Soviet Case”. This book by the British sociologist Christel Lane, published in 1981, is based on data collected in the 1970s, the formative days of the current cult of Victory Day and other formal stagnation-era rituals. The chapter published here, “Ritual of the Military-Patriotic Tradition”, is interesting in many ways, primarily as a source of material that introduces the reader to the process where the authorities and the population worked together, almost constantly, on a system of military and patriotic rituals. Equally important is the fact that the book is one of the earliest attempts by a Western Soviet scholar to reflect on sociocultural changes that took place in the Soviet society after the ideas of “proletarian internationalism” had practically been dismissed (hence, not only does this attempt elucidate the subject, it also says a lot about the character of Soviet studies per se). Lane describes the shaping of Soviet national rituals, which gave rise to a process that has now become widespread. “1920s Soviet Celebration in Search of the Masses and Spectacles”, an original study by Emilia Kustova, describes mechanisms by which the canon of mass revolutionary processions and other ceremonial events of the Soviet era was gradually formed. It is linked to a piece by Dmitry Gorin, in which he analyses some aspects of a certain kind of “atheist cosmogony”, a phenomenon he discovered in the celebratory rituals associated with anniversaries of the Great October Revolution, paying special attention to a completely mythological public conscience behind the phenomenon
From Soviet revolutionary celebrations on to Victory Day, a core around which new types of nationalism, Soviet and post-Soviet, have been formed. Alexey Levinson's regular column, Sociological Lyrics, on the perception of Victory Day in present-day Russia, opens a discussion about official practices related to celebrations and collective ideas of Victory Day that have gained popularity in the post-Soviet space.
Victory Day is the subject of five articles included in another topical section edited and introduced by Mikhail Gabovich, as well as several pieces published in other sections. Places where Victory Day rituals are performed (Moscow's Poklonnaya Hill, Eternal Flame memorials, monuments to the Soviet Warrior the Liberator), their spatial structure, functions, political, ideological and psychological contexts are discussed in “Victory Day on Poklonnaya Hill: Space Structure and Rituals” by Natalya Konradova and Natalya Kolyagina; “«Memorial Without Memory»: The First Soviet Eternal Flame” by Anna Yudkina; and “Sofia's Soviet Army Monument: Primary and Subsequent Uses” by Daniela Koleva. The same theme is developed in “Memory Landscapes: Victory Park on Moscow's Poklonnaya Hill”, a short study by the sociologist Alexandrina Vanke, who offers a detailed description of the history of the Victory Park memorial on Poklonnaya Hill and the way it functions (Case Study 1). Postcolonial aspects of Victory Day celebrations are considered in Olga Reznikova's ethnographical notes on Grozny covering the days between the 8th and the 10th of May 2013 (based on the author's field research in Chechnya). Finally, the British anthropologist Judy Brown writes about the same occasion celebrated in Sevastopol, before and immediately after the annexation of Crimea.
National holidays are inextricably linked to the problem of historical memory (and its manipulation). This is the focus of Pavel Polyan's piece, “Historio-Famine: The Structuring of Memory and the Infrastructure of Unconsciousness”, appearing in the Culture of Politics. The invention of Victory Day as a national holiday in newly independent interwar Estonia is the subject of an article by the German historian Karsten Brüggemann titled “Creating the Past Under Authoritarianism: Victory Day Celebrations in Estonia between 1934 and 1939”.
In his regular column Political Economy of the Everyday, editor-in-chief Ilya Kalinin writes about symbolic mechanisms behind the formation of ideas about the boundaries of Russia's political community, reflected in such concepts as “Russian world” or “historical Russia.
Victory Day, an occasion marking the transition from the Soviet to the post-Soviet era, is followed by more recent events as the issue's contributors outline attempts to construct new ceremonies and rituals that recreate the historical narratives of post-Soviet countries. The section “New National Holidays and the Reconstruction of History” contains two articles. In “New Russia's Controversial Holidays”, Andrey Makarkin presents a general analysis of the contemporary holiday spectrum in Russia, while Sergey Markedonov concentrates on another region, the post-Soviet Caucasus. Morals and Mores features an article by Sergey Gogin describing celebratory rituals, sometimes quite exotic, typical for Russian provinces, along with their administrative foundations.
The issue concludes with detailed reviews of several publications: recent studies of the autobiographical genre and two newly published volumes of Vladimir Bibikhin's lecture notes.