Volume 75 Number 1 Abstracts

Species of Legitimacy: The Rhetoric of Succession around Russian Coins

Jacob Emery

Numismatic advertisements of competing claims to the title of grand prince served as a useful propaganda medium during the Muscovite succession struggles of the 1400s but also yielded a persistent slippage between coins’ function of proclaiming political legitimacy and conferring that legitimacy. This article outlines the mutually symbolizing relation between coinage and succession in the cultural imagination of the Daniilovich dynasty and beyond. It focuses on verbal tropes, succession practices, and economic functions by turns in order to elucidate the rhetorical matrix that identified the legitimacy of the tsar and of money and to sketch out its evolving applications. First, I read passages from Ivan IV’s first letter to Prince Kurbskii to show how the tsar conceived of usurpation as a falsified succession suggestive of falsified coin. Then, I treat early Muscovite coins that articulated family relationships, especially conflicts between primogenitary and collateral principles of inheritance. Finally, I relate the sovereign to the material artifact of money, particularly coins representing him as a mintmaster or as an executioner poised to punish counterfeiters, in order to contextualize efforts by enemies of the state to command numismatic symbols. In all of these contexts, the perception of legitimate succession is intertwined with a currency of signs and the circulation of specie.


Rereading Moscow Conceptualism

Mary A. Nicholas

The most important Russian artistic movement of the end of the twentieth century, Moscow conceptualism has been described as sectarian, esoteric, and self-absorbed, with an affinity for substituting longwinded commentaries for visual images. Such definitions, while compelling for some participants in the movement, fail to describe adequately the work of a number of unofficial Moscow artists from the late Soviet period, particularly the so-called second generation of conceptualists. This is partly the result of a critical tendency to misconstrue the role words actually play in the work of second-generation artists and to conflate their use of painted text with that of other Moscow conceptualists. Closer attention to the kinds of texts these artists include in their pictorial creation and their intent in doing so suggests that they represent a significant but understudied development in this still misunderstood group.


A Struggle for the Soviet Future: The Birth of Scientific Forecasting in the Soviet Union

Egle Rindzevičiute

This article analyzes the development of Soviet scientific future studies after World War II, arguing that the field’s theory and methods undermined the certainty of the communist future and laid the foundations for a new Soviet governmentality that acknowledged the intrinsic uncertainty of future development. The emphasis on uncertainty-but also the need for more data that could freely circulate between different branches of government and hence more transparency (glasnost’)-called for radical revisions to Soviet notions of effective governance. Whereas some used future studies to criticize the actual practices of Soviet economic planning, others used this new type of expertise to extend personal influence and accumulate organizational power. Both cases, however, made it clear that Soviet governance had to accommodate the shift toward new constellations of power/knowledge in which scientific experts would play an ever-increasing role in shaping policy with regard to a fundamentally uncertain future.

Parahistory: History at Play in Russia and Beyond

Jeffrey Brooks and Boris Dralyuk

This essay examines a variety of popular engagements with history made possible by new technologies, namely the Internet and video games. We term these nondisciplinary appropriations of history parahistorical. Parahistory is an international phenomenon, but it is articulated differently in various national contexts. Russian parahistorical pursuits provide insight into both the phenomenon at large and the peculiarities of the Russian state’s and population’s attitudes toward history and historical memory. On the basis of a contextualized survey of Russian parahistory, we argue that historians cannot afford to ignore these uses of history beyond the academy which can teach us a great deal about the nature and broader implications of our discipline.

Yugoslav Protest: Student Rebellion in Belgrade, Zagreb, and Sarajevo in 1968

Madigan Fichter

In June 1968, Yugoslav university students launched strikes and demonstrations condemning police brutality and university conditions and critiquing the apparent failure of self-managing socialism. The “June events” show that the demonstrators were active participants in a global movement but also heavily influenced by local context, practices, and ideas. Whereas Yugoslav youth engaged with, drew from, and ignored the activities of other student movements, authorities reacted to youth rebellion by insisting that the majority of the protesters were showing support for state policies and that the most incorrigible were influenced by, or agents of, foreign entities. Thus, the state reproduced an artificially rigid boundary between east and west as well as between good socialist youth and enemy agents. This article decenters the west as the standard of youth rebellion, considering it in conjunction with but not in comparison to Yugoslavia. It approaches the Cold War world as characterized by the transfer of ideas and practices, not just the clash of civilizations.

Appealing for a Car: Consumption Policies and Entitlement in the USSR, the GDR, and Romania, 1950s-1980s

Luminita Gatejel

In this article, I analyze the correspondence between state authorities and citizens in the USSR, the GDR, and Romania. As the consumerist turn spread across the eastern bloc, an important focus of the populations’ appeals to the authorities concerned the appropriate levels and conditions of consumption. Their letters display growing consumer aspirations, and from the mid-1960s onward a significant number of these petitions expressed the desire to buy a car. However, when state authorities failed to deliver enough cars, they also shaped a new attitude toward consumption. On the one hand, the population asked for automobiles as favors. On the other, a new discourse of entitlement and even “consumer rights” surfaced. Citizens started to expect a certain lifestyle; moreover, they even believed themselves to be entitled to it. As a consequence, their new sense of entitlement diluted the culture of favors and privilege, thereby contributing to the crisis of legitimacy in late socialism.