The 107th NZ issue mainly focuses on historical topics, albeit treated broadly from a contemporary humanities perspective. Its purpose is, first and foremost, to analyse certain ideological constructs and practices, the history of ideas, microhistory, as well as the field of cultural studies in general, while also highlighting the political contexts of these subjects.

Before turning to the issue's three topical sections, let us start with its stand-alone pieces which, in a sense, set the theme. An article by Irina Rudik, serves as an interesting comment on the “psychohistory of Russian patriotism”. It talks about a xenophobic “patriotic campaign” that unfolded in the Baltic governorates of the Russian Empire during the First World War, when the Russian press attacked student corporations (most notably those at the University of Tartu), all but accusing them of espionage: the region had long-established German student fraternities, with Russian, Latvian and others appearing later. The current state of affairs in Russia – where “patriotism” now underlies the country's official policies –  is considered in Oksana Moroz's in-depth article “Strategies of Russia's State Cultural Policy: Investigation Experience”.

History and its “reconstruction” in the public and cultural consciousness is the subject of the issue's first topical section. It opens with Svetlana Limanova's piece “«Tsarist Newsreels» and the Screen Image of Nicholas II: Ideological Transformation”, in which the history and ideological uses of the last Russian emperor's cinematic image are traced from late 19th-century royal documentaries to contemporary Russian films. Alexander Suslov offers an interesting article examining the (very pragmatic) use of Henryk Sienkiewicz's novels in public and ideological battles between “traditionalists” and “liberals” in today's Poland. Finally, Fedor Panfilov surveys contemporary computer games as a representation of mediaeval Europe, with its social order, warfare, gender aspects, etc., in “The Medieval Sandbox: Medievalism in Early 21st-Century Computer Games”.

Another topical section of this issue also takes war as its subject, moving from the virtual realm to the real world and from the Middle Ages to the bourgeois era. Here our contributors discuss one of the first “global” conflicts: the Crimean War, which ended 160 years ago this year with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Articles included in this section analyse various aspects of an event whose significance for Russian (and, to an extent, European) history is hard to overestimate. The opening piece of the section, “The Crimean War as a Chrono-Cultural Challenge” by Evgeny Zelenev, posits the event as the end of the Concert of Europe (also known as the Vienna system of international relations) before concluding that “geopolitical at first, war now entered a chrono-cultural phase, where the parties no longer fought over specific territories, but to establish their influence on the seas and in the world as a whole”. Further we publish an excerpt from “Crimea: The Last Crusade”, a 2011 book by the British historian Orlando Figes. Also featured in this section is an article by another British historian, Werner Mosse, “How Russia Made Peace September 1855 to April 1856”, a well-known study of the diplomatic history of the Crimean War, now recognised as a near classic. The American historian Mara Kozelsky turns to a subject that, despite being recondite, is extremely relevant in the current political climate. Her article “Casualties of Conflict: Crimean Tartars during the Crimean War” considers the impact of the war on the future of this ethnic group.

The final topical section of this NZ issue focuses on a subject that has become one of the most salient for our magazine: urbanism and intrinsic links between urban and architectural landscapes, social environment, and modern society's political and cultural consciousness. This section contents constitutes, by the journal's standards, an unusual choice, balancing as it does between academic and fictional reflective writing. Three of its pieces included here are by contemporary French writers, heirs both to the Situationist tradition, with its criticism of the bourgeois city, and to the writing strategies adopted by Georges Perec, who searched for ways to “objectively” portray urban life in fiction. Looking out of a train window, François Beaune captures industrial areas of western France in “The Iron Landscape”; Jacques Réda depicts Rue de Terre-Neuve, a nondescript Parisian street. We also publish a short essay by Danièle Sallenave, “Calcutta, 2 December 1990”, which talks about the “beggar's city”, that consequence of total demodernisation, a process brought about by heinous social injustice. One of our editors, Kirill Kobrin, turns to Soviet material in his analysis of the “urban garage” as one of the most significant phenomena of the late-Soviet “privatisation of urban life”. The section is introduced by Ivan Onosov, who selected and translated the pieces by the French authors.

The themes explored here are echoed by Vladislav Degtyarev in his essay “High Mechanics, Hideous Architecture”, as well as by Owen Hatherley in his polemical response to Catriona Kelly's recent review of his book “Landscapes of Communism”.