The last NZ issue of 2018 has at its focus three historical periods: the 1848 national revolutions; the end of World War One, with its attendant complete transformation of Europe into a conglomerate of nation states; and the revolutionary surge of 1968, which swept over national and geopolitical boundaries. These events as a subject of historical reflection constitute the main theme of NZ-122.
The issue begins with Alexander Kustarev’s regular column (Political Imaginary) marking the centenary of Oswald Spengler’s famous work “The Decline of the West”. Here its message, rendered timely again in our era but stripped of its pessimistic pathos, acquires an unexpected new meaning.
The next section, Political Theory and Depolitisation Practices, contains two articles. “People or Multitudes” by the French political philosopher Jacques Rancière, a polemical response to the widely known concept of multitude introduced by Antonio Negri, vindicates “people” as a notion that brings back the political dimension of modernity. The French political scientist Gil Delannoi, although building on a different theoretical foundation, draws largely similar conclusions in his article, pointing out that the idea of nations no longer being part of the historical picture — an idea typical for the post-1968 intellectual climate — is premature.
The first of the issue’s topics is a discussion of the outcome of World War One. In this section, the Russian political scientist Alexei Makarkin analyses the effects of the war on the future of political elites in the defeated countries. The American historian Michael Neiberg develops the theme in a piece describing the political controversies and struggles between conflicting interests that manifested themselves in the run-up to a peace conference intended to end the war. The section concludes with a chapter translated from a book by another American historian, Sean McMeekin, outlining the vicissitudes that affected the relationship between Germany and the Bolshevik government, which culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. A further variation on the same theme can be found in our regular Case Study section, featuring an article by Liliya Baiguzhina and Leonid Isaev, “Why the Kurds Failed to Create Their Own State”.
Writing in Culture of Politics, the Belarusian historian Ivan Zhigal shifts the historical viewpoint half a century forward to cover the 1968 student protests in Poland, a movement overshadowed by the events that took place in Paris, Prague and West Berlin in the same year. In the final installment of his long-standing column Old-World Chronicles, Kirill Kobrin, in his turn, takes the latest Gorillaz album as a starting point to talk about the ongoing temporal shift, a process currently changing the relationship between the present, the past and the future that characterized the period between 1848 and 1968.
The socio-cultural shifts we are witnessing today are further explored in the interviews section. Richard Marshall, a regular NZ contributor, talks to the American philosopher Benjamin Schupmann about Carl Schmitt and his philosophy of law, addressing the question of how it can be applied when analysing the present-day crisis of liberal democracy. A conversation between Olga Kirillova and Alexander Sekatsky revolves around challenges faced by philosophical mind in the era of digital media and social networks.
The Case Study and Politics of Culture sections include a number of specific historical examples. Investigating the eccentric circumstances of Sergei Taboritsky’s life, Igor Petrov describes the situation in which many Russian émigrés found themselves in the interwar period and during the war, when they had to choose between communism and Nazism. Another Russian historian, Evgeny Kazakov, offers a detailed analysis of rhetorical and ideological strategies employed by Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda.
The second topical section of this issue, centred on Soviet culture, particularly considered as a subject of post-Soviet reflection, consists of “Gesamtkunstwerk Groys” by Nadya Plungyan and two responses to it, by Mark Lipovetsky and Petr Safronov. The section is linked to an article in which the philosopher and cultural historian Igor Kobylin analyses late Soviet social practices along with their inherent types of rationality and ways of shaping communities.
In his Sociological Lyrics column, Alexei Levinson discusses transformations undergone in the Soviet and post-Soviet times by civic society and by various perceptions of it.
A piece by Viktor Shnirelman, “National Holiday: Society Consolidated or Split”, concludes an earlier conversation about anniversaries and significant historical dates, basing his analysis on the National Unity Day and “Russian Marches” organised by national-patriotic groups to mark it.
The issue is traditionally concluded by the New Books section. This longer-form reviews merit a special mention. Alexander Bobrakov talks about new Czech publications featuring travelogues by Czechoslovakian intellectuals who visited Soviet Russia. Olga Serebryanaya introduces two Hungarian novels about the Bolshevik revolution, recently translated into Russian. Ivan Onosov reviews an autobiographical book by Jean-Pierre Le Goff that presents the socio-cultural history of France in the period between 1950 and 1968 through the author’s personal development story.