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Crisis and the Everyday in Postsocialist Moscow

Olga Shevchenko

Publication Year: 2009

In this ethnography of postsocialist Moscow in the late 1990s, Olga Shevchenko draws on interviews with a cross-section of Muscovites to describe how people made sense of the acute uncertainties of everyday life, and the new identities and competencies that emerged in response to these challenges. Ranging from consumption to daily rhetoric, and from urban geography to health care, this study illuminates the relationship between crisis and normality and adds a new dimension to the debates about postsocialist culture and politics.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-xi

Expressions of gratitude, as Simmel reminds us, always leave an aftertaste of inadequacy. No matter how much one appreciates a favor, there is always one thing that remains impossible to reciprocate: the good will and spontaneity that went into the initial act of kindness. ...

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1. Introduction: Living on a Volcano

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pp. 1-14

In the mornings, Lina’s bedroom serves as a playroom for her granddaughter. In the evenings, it becomes a living room. This is where she and her husband receive guests, socialize, watch TV. Sitting in this modestly furnished room with a view onto a quiet Moscow yard, its hostess, a fifty- five-year-old retired chemical engineer ...

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2. How the Crisis of Socialism Became a Postsocialist Crisis

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pp. 15-34

As is the case with the worlds we all inhabit, the first postsocialist decade was shaped by developments of many decades, indeed centuries, that preceded it. But the turning point that many Russians recognized as particularly critical to the shaping of their present situation occurred in the mid-1980s. Mikhail Gorbachev’s initiatives, ...

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3. A State of Emergency: The Lived Experience of Postsocialist Decline

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pp. 35-61

As one might expect, the face of crisis in everyday life differed markedly from its description on the pages of the printed media. Of course, some points of similarity remained. To start with the most signifi cant, the label of “crisis” was used widely to describe a variety of diverse phenomena whether of a macro-social ...

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4. The Routinization of Crisis, or On the Permanence of Temporary Conditions

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pp. 62-87

One objection to taking the notion of postsocialist crisis in good faith could be the fact that in the course of the 1990s, this notion was applied simply too broadly to be useful. To an extent, this criticism is accurate. After all, not only was krizis a term of choice for describing one’s immediate experiences, but it structured the very logic of assessing ...

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5. Permanent Crisis, Durable Goods

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pp. 88-112

To this point we have pursued a description of the total crisis framework in terms of rhetoric, but we should certainly not dismiss it as “just rhetoric.” The manner in which people discussed and imagined the postsocialist situation mattered deeply. For one, it provided the context in which the need to think and speak of oneself ...

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6. Building Autonomy in Everyday Life

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pp. 113-143

Household appliances were not the only means enlisted in the project of constructing a cocoon of security around the household. A variety of practices from realms as disparate as consumption, health behaviors, informal exchanges, and everyday rituals all provided venues through which the uncertainty of the postsocialist condition ...

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7. What Changes When Life Stands Still

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pp. 144-171

When one talks of coping or adapting, the assumption is that needs and infrastructural deficiencies precede the actual adaptive responses and define the form that they take. But there is every reason to look at what is usually classified as adaptation in a less teleological fashion. While many postsocialist behaviors, indeed, ...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 172-178

This book is based on conversations that took place in the late 1990s, and now, ten years later, this period seems both near and distant. It is near because it has not been too long since my last interview was done; as I know from follow-up phone calls and occasional meetings with some of my contacts, most of them are in the same line of work, ...

Appendix 1. Methodology

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pp. 179-190

Appendix 2. List of Respondents

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pp. 191-194

Appendix 3. List of Interviewed Experts

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pp. 195

Appendix 4. Discussion Topics

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pp. 196-198


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pp. 199-220

Works Cited

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pp. 221-234


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pp. 235-241

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780253002570
E-ISBN-10: 0253002575
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253352484

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 9 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2009