In this issue, we address a notion of space in which we all live. Russia that used to be called the “One Sixth of the World” is now going through the complicated and painful process of transformation. Is such a vast territory (and its frontiers) maintainable? What is happening with state borders in the age of globalization? What is happening to the Russian territory and land, with all that grows, flows, and lives on it? An array of philosophical, economic, social, and ecological issues involved is touched upon in this not merely geographical but interdisciplinary issue.
In the Point of view section, sociologist Dr Alexander Filippov (Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences) in his “Heterotopology of the Native Expanses” describes the ways in which geography and sociology intertwine. The crisis of domestic social geography, which is a part of a greater crisis in the discipline, is due, as the author states, to the inadequately formulated problem of space. Construing the discipline not as knowledge of space (horology) but as knowledge of acting in space has been suggested as a way of overcoming the crisis. Correlated to the notions of social norm and social marginality are socio-geographic concepts of normal and hetero-topological locales. As the author reviews current social-geographic problems, he also articulates some relevant questions.
Geographer Dr Vladimir Kagansky called his article “The Irresponsible Space”. The author finds that, as nostalgic imperial ideas pervade the Russian society, the country’s self-reflection is blurred by assorted phantasms and delusions. This results in the absence of truly scientific understanding of the country’s terrain. The author asserts that a new discipline has to be founded in Russia that will comprise such established branches of knowledge as geography, sociology, social philosophy, and political science.
Geography remains a traditionally useful tool in political engineering. It is much easier for political experts and analysts to camouflage their hidden stakes under ‘natural’ physical accounts rather than to perform authentic and profound sociological research. Sociologist Alexander Bikbov, Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, points out that complex social reality is commonly oversimplified and misinterpreted for political purposes.
The level of organization of a territory correlates to the level of organization of a society that lives on it. Philosopher Dr Alexander Akhiezer, Senior Research Assistant at the Institute ofEconomic Forecasting, Russian Academy of Sciences in his “Russian Territory As a Subject of Definition” ponders on the alternatives of extensive and intensive terrestrial development.
Russian transition to an open economy alters the provincial landscape. Philosopher Dr Igor Yakovenko, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, in his “Disintegration of the Russian Federation: Scenarios and Outlooks” doubts that the ultimate ‘dissolution of the empire’ is likely to happen. The author finds the milder prospects more probable, but some of Russia’s provinces could be lost.
Philosopher Edward Nadtochii (he is currently doing his doctorate at the Faculte des Lettres at the Universitй de Lausanne, Switzerland) in his “Evolving Tamerlan” argues that the primary origin of the Russian civilization is not so much Byzantine as Mongolian, and is based not so much on agriculture as on nomadic culture. The adoption of Mongolian principles of political construction after the collapse of the Mongolian empire created quite a peculiar relationship between the “center” and the “periphery” that is still maintained in Russia. However, current political rhetoric about East and West is not just misleading but dangerous, since the dichotomy between the two civilizations is fading in the globalizing world. The author articulates some real problems that Russia has to solve in order to survive.
In the Concepts section, Doctor of Ethnic Studies Gassan Gusseinov, Heinrich Heine University, Dusseldorf, reviews different meanings of the term ‘space’ (‘prostranstvo’) in the Russian ideological discourse of 1990-s. Thebroader use of the term after the collapse of the Soviet Union could be the mark of abruptly shifting the coordinates of existence for Russian speakers at this period, Dr Gusseinov states.
Has anything changed in the Russian empire since the late XIX century, or even since10–15 years ago? In the Conversation section, historian Theodore Shanin, Rector of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, and geographer, specialist on Russia, Vladimir Kagansky discuss past, present and future of the “ordinary extraordinary country”. There is also a round-table discussion of Russian ‘physical’ and ‘metaphysical’ domains in the section.
In the Evolution section, you will find a reference on the administrative and territorial division of Russia in XVIII-XX centuries.
The Symbolic Systems section includes articles by philologists Anna Zaliznyak, Irina Levontina, and Dr Alexey Shmelev called “Vast Is My Country”; Yekaterina Degot’s “The Spatial Codes of ‘Russianness’ in the XIX century’s Art” (historian and art critic, Ms Degot teaches at the European University, St.-Petersburg); a piece by geographers Vladimir Kolossov and Dmitri Zayats “Geographical Imagery in the Mirror of Media” (both authors are employed by the Center of Geopolitical Research, Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences); and Nadezhda Zamyatina’s “New Images of the Russian Space” (Ms Zamyatina teaches at the Geography Department, Moscow State University).
The History of the Issue section presents an essay “The St.-Petersburg Crossroads of Russia’s History” by historian Dr Gleb Lebedev and fineart specialist Vera Vityazeva (both work at the St.-Petersburg State University) where the authors describe the network of world cultures typical for St.-Petersburg and evident in the works of the city’s art and science. The section is complemented by references on the Russian cartography and surveying.
The Frontiers section contains an article “The Brinks of Space” by philosopher Dr Sergei Korolev, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, who defines various types of geographical borders and describes processes happening to these borders these days. “The Last Frontier” by sociologist Olga Brednikova, Center of Independent Sociological Research and graduate student at the European University, St.-Petersburg, is about the role of the state border in the Soviet pop-discourse. The title of Edward Kulpin’s “The Borders of Forest and Steppe in Russia’s Fate” speaks for itself. Dr Kulpin is philosopher and economist, Academician (Russian Academy of Natural Sciences), and Senior Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.
The section is supplemented by references on the state frontier and borderland conflicts.
Russia that is now going through the protracted process of self-determination, experiences natural difficulties defining its own geographical limits. In the Practice section, architect DrVyacheslav Glazychev (Moscow Architectural Institute) in his “Limes Novum” ponders the new strategies of how to maintain state frontiers. You will also find here pieces about the Orenburg borderland situation by psychologist Dr Yuri Gromyko (he is a Full Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences) and historian DrSergei Gorshenin (Head of Department of International and External Economic Relations of Orenburg oblast administration). You will also find here a relevant excerpt from the old “Otechestvennye Zapiski”, and references on the Russian Federation’s state border legislation and on the settlement of the Russian population.
The Center and Periphery section presents geographical articles “City and Country” by Andrey Treivish and “Cities in the Russian Space” by Dr Georgii Lappo (both researchers work at the Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences). “District Town N: 2002” by architect Vyacheslav Glazychev (see above about the author) is another view on the domestic provincial realm.
In the Firsthand Experience section, political scientist Dr Irina Busygina, Moscow State Institute of International Relations shares her views on provinces and periphery in the Western Europe.
How harmless are Soviet and post-Soviet dachas to the environment? Did they solve the problem of food supply — or lay the foundation of one-storied towns, the future slum of theXXIcentury? The phenomenon of uncontrolled usurpation of suburban Moscow and other Russian territories by dacha builders since the second half of the past century is not yet sufficiently studied. What is obvious is that extensive cottage building has been causing growing damage to the land and the whole environment. In the Neighborhood section, geographer Dr Boris Rodoman denounces the destructiveness of ignorant land tenure, dispels some myths and poses some questions.
In the Publication section, you will find excerpts from Anthony Giddens’ The Third Way and Zygmunt Bauman’s Globalization.
Sociologist Dr Anthony Giddens (Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, or LSE) defines the concept of nation and suggests a way of understanding nationalism in the contemporary world. Today we are witnessing the decay of national identity that finds itself in confrontation with ethnic tribalism, and the collapse of nation states. Nation states that used to be cemented by the antagonism towards others nowadays have to be sustained in the collaboration with these others. As national borders fade, the forms of national identity also need to be reconsidered. Even as the old question, “Who are we?” today sounds yet more problematical, it still has to be answered clearly. Globalization shifts power from nation states to the depoliticized global space. This newly recognized space, however, needs regulation. We (the humankind) need to build a smoothly running system of global governance.
Is a rational and ethically responsible world ready to let the hungry of the world to migrate to the places where food is abundant? Sociologist DrZygmunt Bauman argues on the most painful problems of nation states in the changing world. Dr Bauman is Professor Emeritus at the universities of Leeds and Warsaw.
The Besides segment of the issue contains the Myths and the Discussion sections, the Country of OZ section, and two sections of book reviews — regular and ‘archaeological’ (i. e., of books published long ago).
The Myths section contains pieces by philosopher Svetlana Ban’kovskaya (Senior Researcher at the Center of Fundamental Problems of the Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences) on social marginality and by sociologist Oksana Karpenko (Researcher at the Center of Independent Sociological Research, St.-Petersburg) on the scapegoating of migrants in the domestic bureaucratic discourse.
The Discussion section contains articles that continue the debate started in the previous issues of “OZ”. Historian and translator Alexander Kalinin’s “On the Russian Neotraditionalism and Resistance to Changes” is related to the theme of the Russian conception of the world. Philologist DrGeorgi Khazagerov (he is a full professor at Rostov State University, Senior researcher at the Public Opinion Foundation and Research Fellow at the Institute of the National Model of Economy) examines the impact of cultural concepts and personal images on the popular mentality.
The Country of OZ this time presents three feature stories.
Space, first of all, is a metaphor, writes architect Andrey Baldin, Editor-in-Chief of the Putevoi Zhurnal, in his “Cherepanov’s Law”. Inthe year of 1492 A.D., on the eve of the professed end of the world, Muscovites started to reconstruct their main cathedral, the Uspensky temple. Mr. Baldin tells an absorbing story of not just geometrical but metaphysical construction that was supposed to mold time.
Playwrights Alexander Rodionov and Maxim Kurochkin tell a chronicle of their interviews with Russian (primarily Moscow) homeless people who are called ‘bomzhy’ — journalists coined this term which is an abbreviation for a bureaucratic definition: “a person without a permanent place to live”. The interviews were collected in the framework of the project of the Verbatim theatre, the Russian version of the English documentary theatre whose drama is based on interviews with real people.
A researcher can hardly learn about a Russian peasant real life if he or she lives in Moscow or abroad and visits Russian villages for a short while. Sociologists Galina Yastrebinskaia and Olga Subbotina spent a whole year living with peasants, shared their work and spare time before they wrote an original story of Sergei Vorobjev’s family. The research is performed under the supervision of British scientist Theodore Shanin.