Soviet Life as a Subject of Historical Reconstruction

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Journal Title: Social Sciences

Issue Edition: Vol. 50, No. 4

Author: Elena Zubkova

Soviet Life as a Subject of Historical Reconstruction

Author: Elena Zubkova

Source: Social Sciences, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 21-35



Abstract. The author has offered the “Soviet life” concept as an integral model of future studies of the social history of Russia/the USSR. Development of historical knowledge and response to the challenges of post-Soviet nostalgia and collective memory of the Soviet past are impossible without methodological and subject synthesis in the studies of the “Soviet” phenomenon. This article is an attempt to provide adequate answers to the questions about the criteria most suited for construction/reconstruction of what is called Soviet life, and about the extent to which the past experience of constructing integral models of Soviet socialist reality proved to be successful/unsuccessful. How do they help us assess the prospects of the studies of the “Soviet project” on the whole? This article is an invitation to discussions of the future of the social history of Russia.


Keywords: Russia/USSR, social history, Soviet life, history of everyday life, post-Soviet nostalgia.


E. Zubkova, D. Sc. (History), chief researcher, Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences. E-mail: This article was first published in Russian in the journal Rossiyskaya istoriya (The Russian History. 2019. No. 5, pp. 3-14; DOI: 10.31857/ S0869568700006372-0).

The Soviet project in all its manifestations attracted and continues to attract experts in historical studies, political science, sociology, and culturology. Social history, which reached incredible historiographical heights in the late 1990s, is developing at a fast pace into the branch that studies the phenomenon of the Soviet. Its popularity is explained not only by the wide scope of its subject but also by its receptivity of interdisciplinary methods—highly logical (even if frequently diverging) coexistence of macro- and micro-history, even if it becomes “omnivorous” so to speak when it comes to the source base. The years of rapid development of the social history of Russia of the Soviet period created an impressive body of historiographical works; their comprehensive “inventory” is a separate task. Today, however, it has become clear that its generalization is not enough. It should become a launching pad for new studies needed to accumulate our knowledge of Soviet reality and verify the offered models of its explanation. From this it follows that methodological and subject-related synthesis is the main road of the development of social history of the Soviet.

The importance of strategies of integral research is not limited to the 20th-century social history of Russia. It was back in the late 1990s that Lorina Repina who studies the trends and tendencies of world historiography arrived at a conclusion that an interdisciplinary synthesis as a new orientation of studies of social history was indispensable [52]. Much has been written on the subject (see, for example, [28; 51; 53]); the suggested ideas have been successfully realized by the studies of specific subjects. At the same time, the experiments with subject-related synthesis based on integral subject models used for the studies of the “Soviet” phenomenon remain exceptions rather than a rule. In this context, I deem it necessary to point to three books very different where their conceptions, methodologies and styles are concerned. Aleksey Yurchak [72] relied on the model of synthesis to reconstruct the life of one post-Soviet generation. Yury Slyozkin [59] did practically the same in a wider scope of The House on the Embankment as a microcosm of the Soviet; Natalya Lebina [34; 35] has offered her readers a building set of sorts to create one’s own Soviet world. Today, having agreed that the Soviet should be constructed1 and that its fragments should be gathered together into a single whole, we are living through a period of searching for the ways and means needed to close the gap between the idea and its realization.

This article does not formulate the problem. It is an impulse or even a challenge that offers the Soviet life phenomenon as an integral research model. The idea was born some time ago when the next volume of the Dokumenty sovetskoy istorii (Documents of Soviet History) dealing with Soviet everyday life of the postwar years was prepared for publication. The logic of the source led the collection beyond the usual boundaries of the history of everyday life, while its content offered a much more adequate and multisided picture of social reality of the time—the conditions and the strategies of existence of the country’s citizens. This was how a new term—Soviet life—appeared [63]. As could be expected, this suggested the following questions: To which extent can this concept be conceptualized? Which criteria make it possible to construct/reconstruct Soviet life? To which extent were the previous efforts to create integral models of Soviet social reality successful/unsuccessful? How do they help us assess the prospects of the studies of the Sovietness phenomenon?

Challenges of Post-Soviet Nostalgia

The current experience of collective studies of the Soviet past has supplied us with a weighty argument: the concept of “Soviet life” should be used to define the subject of historical studies in the context of which post-Soviet nostalgia occupies one of the prominent places. Historical science and collective memory are different formats and different methods of “work.” At the same time, “the historian should keep in mind that the past she is rebuilding was somebody’s “present” [57, p. 5]. The Soviet period is a special territory of cognition in which the past remains so far closely connected with the present; in which recollections are still “hot” and are actively involved in building up the images of retreated reality.

As a rule, they brim with positive meanings. At the turn of the 2000s, sociologists of the Levada Center who studied the attitude of the Russians to the Soviet Union’s disintegration registered the nostalgia for the USSR as a consistent phenomenon. In the early 2000s, the share of those who regretted that the union state had disintegrated was 68-75%. Nearly twenty years later, in November 2018, 66% of the polled gave similar answers (an increase from 58% in the previous year). Today, an “index of nostalgia for the USSR” is used to measure this phenpmenon in different age groups. The causes, rather than the fact that nostalgia exists, are much more interesting. The set of answers offered by the Levada Center is not wide enough and, therefore, dynamics are registered on the basis of earlier polls. At the same time, there is an obvious and typical trend: the share of political (loss of the great country to which Soviet people belonged) and economic (destruction of a single economic system) motivations is slowly but steadily decreasing while the share of arguments related to living conditions and personal relationships is on the rise. Nostalgia remains mainly statist, yet in the picture of Soviet reality as it is constructed in collective memory, the image of state is gradually fading away: yearning for the great power is replaced with yearning for meanings [72]. This probably explains why people who positively assess the Soviet period of history, including their personal histories, do not try to go “back to the USSR.”

This trend is much clearer in the Russian blogosphere; information technologies made the Internet practically the main platform on which images of the Soviet past are created and transmitted; where shared memories tie people into communities [1; 16]. In the virtual space, museumification of the Soviet past was materialized in the form of “people’s museums” [2; 3; 67]. This process is inevitably connected with the selection of the chronological period, events and symbols of the past. In the majority of cases, Internet communities and “people’s museums” concentrate on the 1970-1980s—the territory of the reminiscences of the last Soviet generation. The improvised expositions are steadily increasing, another specific feature of nostalgic museumification. According to Roman Abramov, the enthusiasts are driven by the desire to “identify and describe the typical features of the epoch reflected in everyday life of common Soviet people” [3, p. 4].

The Museum of Socialist Lifestyle, opened in Kazan in 2011, is one of the first and most interesting realizations of the “people’s museum” project. Housed in a former communal apartment, it is an impressive collection of artifacts of the 1970-1980s: objects of everyday use, clothing, toys, perfumery, musical instruments, etc. The founders are convinced that this collection makes it much easier to understand what drove the vast multinational country with the proud name of the USSR. Those who set up a similar project in St. Petersburg have written: “Our aim is not to boast of the achievements of the Soviet period but stir up warm feelings and positive emotions” [41]. The expositions are absolutely true to this: despite the invitation “to tour the bright past,” they are not ideologically charged and are not alien to irony/self-irony: a tunic made of Young Pioneer scarves or a jacket out of covers of Communist Party cards are two examples.

The “people’s museums” as reconstructions of Soviet life are not so much a form of sacralization of the past but, to use Svetlana Boym’s definition, a “common place” of our memory [13] and an exhibition of the reified Soviet world. The names of museums “of socialist everyday life” do not completely reflect the intentions of those who started them and the content of their collections. The English name Museums of Soviet Lifestyle is much more to the point. Even if collections are obviously about the Soviet style/lifestyle, these exhibitions are closer to “old curiosity shops” where visitors can satisfy their curiosity and their interest in “antique objects,” rather than to a more or less complete picture of social reality (about the specifics of “people’s museums” and their virtual analogues see [3]). Their organizers, who are not professionals, never posed themselves this task. Historians are another matter. There is every reason to look closer at this highly interesting phenomenon: in the final analysis, not infrequently a social order of sorts takes shape in the sphere of collective reminiscences that creates a promising objective sphere of historical studies.

This means that the cognitive potential of nostalgic sentiments should be used for a professional response to the challenge of nostalgia; this is not about following the fashion and adjusting history to it. There is no shortage of publications that turn the past into a “favorite Park of Culture and Rest” [13, p. 295]. In one of her works about the “future of nostalgia,” the author suggested that the theory and practice of “prospective” rather than retrospective nostalgia should be developed when “love of ruins is combined with the quest for freedom while the unrequired past will open new roads in future” [14]. The trajectory of cognition of “perspective nostalgia” in mastering the “unforeseen past” frequently avoids commonly accepted conceptions, methods and, in the first place, binary oppositions.2

Leonid Parfyonov’s media project called Namedni (The Other Day) is one of the first attempts to overcome the binary perception of Soviet social realities. As a response to the “nostalgic challenge,” it outstripped professional historiography. Started in the late 1990s as series of TV films and continued in book and digital variants, it is a “collection of phenomena of the Soviet period and an attempt to identify the main features of this civilization.” The films are based on editing events, people and phenomena selected in full conformity with the specifics of the genre of journalism (“everything without which it is hard to imagine, let alone understand us”) and the format of presentation on TV (“telegenic”) [44]. This means that the project cannot and should not be assessed as a scholarly project. This reconstruction, even if not fully thought through, is much more inclusive and multisided than the majority of historical works. 

This is explained by a combination of different optics of perception and presentation of the Soviet: “big” and “small” history, politics and everyday life, inner life and the world context. In fact, combination of different formats of reality, synchronization of processes and phenomena of different dimensions are typical of the picture of the world and life strategies of a “common” man. He treats the next “historical” congress of the Communist Party or a next international crisis as the background of his own life burdened with problems and filled with joys. As a rule, historians and experts in culture discuss Namedni in the context of the nostalgic discourse even if it is defined as a reflexive (or ironic) nostalgia [13, pp. 301-302; 14, 4, p. 56; 16, pp. 68-69; 22]. We are interested in this project, first and foremost, as an experiment of reconstructing social reality based on synthesis and synchronization.

The attempts at media reconstruction and presentation of “life in the USSR” were made in Soviet times as well. They were exclusively ideological: the Soviet media (the press, radio and TV) spared no effort to create and transfer positive images of our country for the audiences inside and outside it. The Soviet Life journal is the brightest example. It started as The USSR English-language journal in 1956 based on an agreement between the Soviet and American governments; in the 1960s, it changed its name and content to fit the interests of the American audience, who was not so much interested in “big politics” as in the real life of the Soviet people. The “Soviet life” word combination became part of the international vocabulary and led to a comprehensive “exported” image of Sovietness.

Words and Meanings

Today the word combination “Soviet life” is used as a figure of speech (at best) or as a common turn of phrase. When building up a conception of their studies, experts prefer other concepts, “Soviet everyday life” being their favorite. It was chosen by the participants in one of the most interesting recent projects, The Soviet in Everyday Life Past and Present (co-directors: Laura L. Adams and Gulnara Aitpaeva), designed to elaborate integral teaching courses (model kits of sorts) to help students “understand the diversity of Soviet life” (!) [5, p. 5]. Despite the title, its content goes far beyond the frameworks of the history of the routine of everyday life.3

Natalya Lebina uses the concepts “Soviet everyday life” and “trivial life”; Aleksey Yurchak has recreated the integral model of Soviet life as applied to a specific period of history based on the experience of one (the late Soviet) generation. Having elected the concept “Soviet system” (or “system”) as a conceptual framework, he filled it with a different content. He treats the “system” as an intricate combination of relationships, institutions, identifications and meanings that together form the “living space of citizens” [35; 72, pp. 36-37].

Whence is the rejection or even fear of the term “Soviet life”? There are several plausible explanations: it is ideologically burdened, its meaningful borders are vague while its mundane perception allegedly deprives it of any “scholarly value.” It is not easy, however, to find a meaningful and ideologically neutral construct (system being an adequate example). Despite the skepticism of its critics and the vagueness of its borders, the history of everyday life has been developing quite successfully. The problem of lack of scholarly meaning of a concept is merely (or in the first place, to be more exact) the problem of language. The language of scholarly studies is not so much the words but the meanings which we put into words. Time has come to move from words to meanings.

In the 1960s, when sociological studies were resumed in the Soviet Union after a period of more than three decades, Yury Levada [37, p. 15] insisted on a systemic approach to social studies. In his lectures on sociology (later described as “seditious”) that produced a strong echo, he spoke of the need to study social life as a system of relationships while its spheres as parts (or attachment points) of this structure. “We all know that nobody lives and acts only in the sphere of labor. Nobody, irrespective of profession or occupation lives only in the sphere of legal or moral relationships in society. Each and every one lives and acts in the production sphere and also in the normative, legal, moral, aesthetic and other spheres.” In the same way, life cannot be divided into public and private, into work and leisure, the spiritual and the material. It is not locked in the mundane: it is in everyday experience and a breakout from it when the usual order of everyday practices is replaced with new experience, impressions and emotions. This explains why specific studies of the history of Soviet everyday life frequently go beyond the frames of everyday life proper.

In an effort to reconstruct Soviet life, we should change, first and foremost, the optics of our perception and move from details to the system. In this case, we are talking about a system in which Soviet society, its groups and individuals lived, and about certain regulated (predetermined) and spontaneous conditions that demonstrated sustained features (consolidated by everyday practices and rituals) and, at the same time, mobile and changing. The system is built on the principle of trans-objective, intercrossing problem fields—spaces/places, practices, subjects, attributes and symbols. They have configurations of their own, which are fairly complicated: spaces are presented by public, private and “third” spheres, common and local formats. There are consumer, labor, leisure, educational, parental, selective (inclusion/exclusion), ritual, control, “normal” (prescribed) and deviating practices. The circle of subjects depends on the criteria of social identification and the methods of studies (demographic analysis, gender approach, generation history, etc.). Elite and marginal groups, women and men, people of different ages (children, the youth and the older generations), members of different peoples can be selected as subjects.

The multitude of spaces, practices and subjects makes it possible to register not only the common features of the conditions and quality of life in the Soviet Union, but also their social, gender, national, cultural and geographic specifics. Life in the capital differed from life in the periphery, as did urban life from life in the countryside, while those who lived in Soviet Uzbekistan and Soviet Estonia existed in different dimensions. The specifics of gender roles and stereotypes determined behavior of the individual at work, in the family and on vacation as well as specifics of communication and outlined the “male” and “female” spaces. Unequal social and economic statuses meant different access to material resources and benefits. It is highly important not to lose in this melee the focus of studies that makes it possible to mark the Sovietness of Soviet life (sic!).

The term “Sovietness” became part of scholarly vocabulary in the late 1990s yet, as Mikhail Guboglo has pointed out there is no more or less clear understanding of it [23, p. 9]. It is used in different contexts, its use determined by different methodological principles.4 In the majority of cases it is used to describe socio-cultural identity—applied either to a general category of “Soviet man” or in a narrower context to the supra-ethnic community of people (the “Soviet people”) and the description of interethnic relations in the USSR and across the post-Soviet space [33; 7; 18; 48]. Yury Pivovarov has offered a systemic analysis of the category “Sovietness” in the historical context of continuity of the institutions and relationships of power, property and society in the USSR and in contemporary Russia [45; 46; 47]. His interpretation of this category perfectly suits the tasks of reconstruction of Soviet specifics: Sovietness as a combination of the corridor of possibilities and limiting frameworks.

Not always conceptually articulated, Sovietness (Soviet specifics) is invariably, even if implicitly, present in the studies of Soviet everyday life. In the 2000s, historiography concentrated mainly on the studies of reified world, symbols (brands) of the Soviet, clothing and fashions [34; 35; 39; 64; 8; 74; 73]. Timothy Johnston [30] has made the question of what it meant being Soviet the title of his book about the Soviet society of the 1930-1950s. Juliane Fürst used the tem “Sovietness” in her monograph on the last Stalin generation [17]. The fact that the authors of all reviews of Johnston’s book [15; 27; 32] paid particular attention to his identification of the specifics of Sovietness and deviations from it looks interesting.

At the same time, the conceptual frameworks of Sovietness have not yet been used as a qualification marker of the system of everyday life—Soviet life. The first sketchy attempt to tie together the concepts of “Sovietness” and “Soviet life” belongs to Valery Tishkov. In the context of his deliberations of the ethnography of Sovietness, he has written: “Much was suppressed in Soviet life, civil freedoms and respect for human life in the first place. On the other hand, social collectivism, professional culture and education were encouraged, while inefficient economic management and bad administration made personal wealth, comfortable environment, adequate everyday culture and spatial mobility unattainable” [68].

In reconstructions of Soviet life as an object of studies the concept “Sovietness” fulfills a dual function—socio-cultural as an identification marker and instrumental than makes it possible to build up a system of coordinates of life activities (“corridor of possibilities and limiting frameworks”). Sovietness fixes the specifics, this much is clear yet its nature is more complicated: it registers the “norm” and, at the same time, permits deviations. What has been said and written about the exclusive nature of Soviet life, its spheres and subjects as totally controlled and manageable and about its complete isolation from the main trends of modernity are nothing but historical anachronisms. The development of the sphere of private life in the USSR5 that for a long time was believed to be destroyed in its immanent Sovietness is totally correlated with the evolution of privacy in the West. The post-Soviet perspective gave us a better view of the specifics of Sovietness. It turned out that the frames of Sovietness in public and private life were fairly flexible and penetrable to the extent that they allowed citizens to adjust to the new post-Soviet reality. “It seems that at least a certain segment of public life unfolding within the state-socialist dictatorship helped people adjust to these changes,” concluded the authors of the book about the development of the public sphere in the Soviet Union [65, p. 10].

At the same time, the Soviet Union’s disintegration made it abundantly clear that Sovietness was not dissolved in post-Soviet social realities: it has survived and regularly betrays itself. The level and quality of life have changed considerably while the behavior models, habits and communication formats in many cases remained the same. Sociologists of the Levada Center were the first to identify the trend. For many years they studied “the Soviet man” in its dynamics. The authors of the project, devised in 1988 to register the “vanishing scenery,” had to admit after several decades of studies that “the scenery has not vanished” [43]. The “Soviet man” is reproduced in post-Soviet generations. He no longer stands in queues; no longer hunts for deficit and no longer even seeks consolation at his friend’s kitchen but in many other respects he lives according to the “Soviet patterns.”

Each historical phenomenon has certain chronological limits. The question is, when did life in the Soviet Union become Soviet? I agree with Pivovarov on this point as well [45, p. 61]: Soviet life became “normal,” that is, sustainable, approximately in the mid-1950s. What can we say about the earlier period? The Soviet man as the main subject of Soviet life was an earlier project. Sovietness is inseparable from extreme measures, emergencies and mobilization strategies that remained dominant for a long time. This means that it is historically correct to divide Soviet life into the “extraordinary” (Stalin) and “normal” periods.

Soviet Life: Subjects, Spaces, Tactics

Everyday life of the Soviet citizens had its specifics. Here I want to outline lacunae in historiography, which remains highly choosy. This is true of the chronological periods, subjects and stories. In the last few years, its focus has been shifting toward the postwar and late Soviet period, but the mainstream is still concentrated on the 1920-1930s. “Female” and “child” stories are the main subjects of the studies of Soviet life.6 There is a highly specific historiographical age-ism: the life of the older generations is practically ignored.7 Soviet life is a story of generations in the socio-cultural, rather than demographic, context: post-revolutionary, those who fought in the Great Patriotic War, postwar, the so-called “generation of the Sixties” and the late Soviet generation, each with its own history and its own Soviet life .8

The spaces of Soviet life have been studied in the same highly “choosy” way which is true of the public, private and third sphere (“third places” for Ray Oldenburg [43]). The latter played an extremely important role in the conditions of strictly controlled public and private life. As a special place of communication, it had started with “Blue Danubes” of the postwar years, the last shelter of the war veterans; it continued as youth cafes of the “thaw” period and was reformatted into mini-spaces—“kitchens,” “garages” and “weight-lifting gyms.” Aleksey Golubev [21] has pointed to the role played by these mini-places—courtyards, entrance halls and cellars of apartment houses. Much has already been written about the communal apartments that for a long time shaped the Soviet lifeworld as well as about “Khrushchevkas” that replaced them [20; 36; 40; 69; 12; 19; 42; 50]. The majority of the mini-places, however, so far remain outside the spheres of historians’ interest.

The specific nature of Soviet life was graphically represented in Soviet practices: the rituals of admittance to Young Pioneers, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol) and to the Communist Party; selection of candidates for trips abroad; Komsomol and Communist party meetings. Purges, an inevitable feature of the Communist Party life in the 1920-1930, survived in different forms (reprehensions of “amoral behavior”) as part of the mechanism designed to preserve (or imitated preservation of) social order.

Consumer practices constitute a subject of studies in their own right. To which extent and to which periods is the “Western” term consumerism applicable to Soviet realities? Was the Soviet man a “consumer” in the sense which Jean Baudrillard had in mind in his works? (see [9; 10]). Was homo soveticus a homo consumens, and to what extent? Alexis Berelowitch [11, p. 64] has written in this respect that in the 1970s, Soviet society “had resolved the problem of physiological survival to become if not a consumer society than a society that wanted to consume.” Consumer society in the context of deficit is another phenomenon the studies of which have hardly begun.9 On December 24, 1953, Soviet newspapers informed their readers that Lavrenty Beria had been executed and that GUM, the country’s main department store, had been opened. This coincidence spoke volumes, which the foreign press did not miss. Several years later, German weekly Der Spiegel wrote about the “road to GUM” as a message of the “thaw,” that is, return to “normality” [66].

The Soviet leisure spaces and practices of the late Soviet period, in the first place, are another terra incognita of sorts. Work and leisure were tied together: the access to many leisure, let alone recreational, facilities depended on the person’s achievements at work and, to a much greater extent, on personal contacts. Stephen Lovell [38, p. 149] offered time as another parameter of the Soviet: “If you want to understand leisure, you should also investigate how your historical subjects understood work … how they divided up their time … what you find is not smooth switches between work and leisure, but a complex interplay between many different senses of time.”

Soviet life constitutes part of personal experience for some people and is terra incognita for the post-Soviet generations. In any case, this means that we should look more closely at this highly interesting phenomenon.

In Lieu of a Conclusion

For two years, I taught the course Soviet Life: Spaces, Subjects, Practices for MA students of the Higher School of Economics. Conventionally, my audience was divided into those who studied the history of not necessarily Russia up to the 20th century and those who made history of Russia of the 20th and 21st century the subject of their studies. At our seminars, I noticed that the latter found it much easier to analyze, while their colleagues who studied earlier periods much better coped with synthesis of the past and making whole out of components. As could be expected, those who studied Russia’s history of the 20th and 21st centuries were more familiar with historiography, but having already analyzed Soviet life in detail, has not yet offered a reconstruction strategy. The first group, not burdened by “details” of professional historiography, was much freer. Both groups learned a lot from family friends and relatives who shared with them their personal experience of Soviet life. We tried to put together bits and pieces of this construction set and partly succeeded and partly failed: the project was highly ambitious and highly unpredictable.

This article is not an analysis of what has already been written on the subject and not assembly instructions. This is an invitation to a discussion of what looks like an important and prospective problem.


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33.          Kucherenko O. Little Soldiers. How Soviet Children Went to War. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011.

34.          Lebina N. B. Encyclopedia of Banalities. Soviet Everyday Life: Outlines, Symbols, Signs. St. Petersburg: Dmitriy Bulanov, 2006. (In Russian.)

35.          Lebina N. B. Sausage Train Passengers. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2019. (In Russian.)

36.          Lebina N. B. Soviet Everyday Life. Norms and Anomalies. From War Communist to Grand Style. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2018. (In Russian.)

37.          Levada Yu. A. Writings. Compiled by T. V. Levada. Moscow: Ye. V. Karpov, 2011. (In Russian.)

38.          Lovell S. Leisure in Russia: “Free” Time and Its Uses. Forum for Anthropology and Culture. 2005. No. 2, pp. 123-154.

39.          Made in USSR: Symbols of the Soviet Epoch. Ed. by V. Ozkan. Moscow: AST, 2013. (In Russian.)

40.          Meerovich M. P. Punishing by Housing: Housing Policy in the USSR as an Instrument of Manipulation. Moscow: ROSSPEN; Yeltsin Presidential Center, 2008. (In Russian.)

41.          Museum of Soviet Lifestyle. Available at:

42.          Obertreis J. Tränen des Sozialismus: Wohnen in Leningrad zwischen Alltag und Utopie 1917-1937. Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 2004.

43.          Oldenburg R. The Third Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2014. (In Russian.)

44.          Parfyonov L. G. “Our History Is Rich…” Interview. Otechestvenniye zapiski. 2004. No. 5. Available at:

45.          Pivovarov Yu. S. “...And the Century Lies in Ruins.” Politicheskiye issledovaniya. 2011. No. 6, pp. 52-77. (In Russian.)

46.          Pivovarov Yu. S. On the “Soviet” and How to Overcome It (first article). The Soviet über alles. Politicheskiye issledovaniya. 2014. No. 1, pp. 60-82. (In Russian.)

47.          Pivovarov Yu. S. On the “Soviet” and How to Overcome It (second article). What is to be Done? Politicheskiye issledovaniya. 2014. No. 2, pp. 31-60. (In Russian.)

48.          Popov M. Ye. Metamorphoses of Supraethnic Identity: Sovietness, Ethnicity and the Russian Civilian Nation. National Identity of Russia and the Demographic Crisis. Moscow: Nauchniy ekspert, 2007, pp. 607-617. (In Russian.)

49.          Raleigh D. J. Soviet Baby Boomers: Post-war Generation Talks about Themselves and their Country. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2015. (In Russian.)

50.          Reid S. E. The Meaning of Home: “The Only Bit of the World You Can Have to Yourself.” Borders of Socialism. Private Spheres of Soviet Russia. Ed. by L. H. Siegelbaum. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, pp. 145-170.

51.          Repina L. P. “New Science of History” and Social History. Moscow: LKI, 2009. (In Russian.)

52.          Repina L. P. The Change of Cognitive Orientations and Metamorphoses of Social History. Part 2. Social History. An Annual 1998-1999. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1999, pp. 7-38. (In Russian.)

53.          Repina L. P. New Research Strategies in Russian and World Historiography. Moscow: GU VShE, 2008. (In Russian.)

54.          Romashova M. V. “Deficit” of Grans: Soviet Discourse of Old Age and Scenarios of Ageing. Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie. 2015. No. 5, pp. 55-65. Available at: (In Russian.)

55.          Romashova M. V. World History of Ageing: From Antiquity to Our Days. Vestnik Permskogo universiteta (Herald of Perm University). 2017. No. 1, pp. 189-197. (In Russian.)

56.          Rozhkov A. Yu. Among Contemporaries. The Lifeworld of a Young Man in Soviet Russia of the 1920s. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2015. (In Russian.)

57.          Savelyeva I. M., Poletayev A. V. Knowledge about the Past: Theory and History. Vol. 1: Constructing the Past. St. Petersburg: Nauka Publishers, 2003. (In Russian.)

58.          Sedov L. A. Nostalgia for the USSR. Available at: 2007/12/23/l-a-sedov-nostalgiya-po-sssr. (In Russian.)

59.          Slyozkin Yu. The Government Building. The Saga of Russian Revolution. Moscow: Corpus, 2019. (In Russian.)

60.          Smirnova T. M. Children of the Soviet Country: From State Policy to the Realities of Everyday Life. 1917-1940. Moscow; St. Petersburg: IRI RAN; Tsentr gumanitarnykh initsiativ, 2015.

61.          Somov V. A. Phenomenon of the Sovietness. Historical and Cultural Aspect. Sotsiologicheskiye issledovaniya. 2015. No. 2, pp. 12-20. (In Russian.)

62.          The Soviet Everyday Life. Available at: verydaylife. (In Russian.)

63.          The Soviet Life. 1945-1953. Compiled by E. Yu. Zubkova, L. P. Kosheleva, G. A. Kuznetsova, A. I. Minyuk, L. A. Rogovaya. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2003. (In Russian.)

64.          The Soviet Things: Friends, Enemies, Betrayers. Available at: https://www. (In Russian.)

65.          Sphären von Öffentlichkeit in Gesellschaften sowjetischen Typs: Zwischen partei-staatlicher Selbstinszenierung und kirchlichen Gegenwelten. Hrsg. G. Rittersporn, M. Rolf, J. Behrends. Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 2003.

66.          Die Straße zu “Gum.” Der Spiegel. 1957. No. 29, pp. 28-35.

67.          Timofeyev T. Yu. Museumification of the USSR. Labirint. 2014. No. 5, pp. 25-33. (In Russian.)

68.          Tishkov V. A. Ethnography of Sovietness. Algorithms of Humanity. An Experience in Anthropological Studies. Comp. and ed. by M. N. Guboglo. Mos-cow: Institut etnografii i antropologii RAN, 2018, pp. 32-44. (In Russian.)

69.          Utekhin I. Sketches of Communal Life. Moscow: O.G.I., 2001. (In Russian.)

70.          Utopian Islands: Pedagogical and Social Design of Post-War School (1940-1980). Ed. by I. Kukulin, M. Mayofis, P. Safronov. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2015. (In Russian.)

71.          Vail P., Genis A. The 1960s. The World of the Soviet Man. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 1996. (In Russian.)

72.          Yurchak A. This Was Forever, Until It Ended. The Last Soviet Generation. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2014. (In Russian.)

73.          Zakharova L. Soviet Fashion in the 1950-1960s: Regimentation, Western Influences, and Consumption Strategies. The Thaw: Soviet Society and Culture during the 1950s and 1960s. Ed. by D. Kozlov, E. Gilburd. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 2013, pp. 402-435.

74.          Zhuravlyov S. V., Gronow U. Fashion According to Plan: History of Fashion and Fashion Design in the USSR. 1917-1991. Moscow: IRI RAN, 2013. (In Russian.)

75.          Zubkova E. Yu. Private Life in the Soviet Epoch: Historiographical Rehabilitation and Prospects of Further Studies. Rossiyskaya istoriya (The Russian History). 2011. No. 3, pp. 157-167. (In Russian.)

76.          Zubok V. Zhivago’s Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia. Cambridge; London: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2009.





1              Since 2007, the European University at St. Petersburg has been organizing annual conferences within the project “Building up the Soviet? Political Consciousness, Everyday Practices, New Identities.” What is especially important is the fact that the project attracts young post-graduate students and young academics born and socialized in post-Soviet Russia and for whom Soviet experience is no longer a territory of “personal” history.

2              More on criticism of binary oppositions used to describe Soviet reality see [72, pp. 38-44].

3              The project can be found on The Soviet Everyday Life website [62].

4              For the survey of the man positions on the subject see [23; 61].

5              For more detail of historiography of private life see [75].

6              I deem it necessary to point to the following books on “child” history, which I consider most important [70; 60; 31; 33].

7              Publications by Maria Romashova (in particular [54; 55]) stand aside.

8              So far, the books that present Soviet life as histories of different generations are few and far between: [71; 49; 56; 72; 26; 17; 76].

9              Anna Ivanova has written one of the most interesting works about this [29].

Translated by Valentina Levina