The European Subject and the ‘Homo sovieticus’

This project investigated the discursive strategies and practices of the cultural production of specific European subjects with regards to the construction of »Homo sovieticus« (A. Sinov’ev).
The Soviet culture views European subjectivity as problematic. In light of new research, a controversial debate regarding such figuration emerges: Is one justified in employing the distinctions such as »Soviet subject« or »Soviet subjectivity«?
Based on Hannah Arendt’s proposition of the »absolute atomization of the Russian mass society«, there is on the one hand the assertion of the impossibility of the figuration of the individual as »Wertstruktur« or the result of the »process of subjectivity-displacement« (B. Dubin). In a similar vein, O. Charchordin diagnoses the Soviet Union as a land »forcedly individualistic.« On the other hand, there is the engagement with autobiographical texts, diaries, letters and other documents of »works on self-identity« (most notably those of the 1920–1930’s) as a kind of laboratory of »Soviet subjectivity« (J. Hellbeck, I. Halfin and others). In recent years, historical and cultural research has increasingly employed analyses of the interaction between singularity and controlled, politically-powered identity figurations. Such an approach emerges from the backdrop of historical circumstances that portray the Soviet culture as a genuinely collective, utopian project founded upon the people’s mobilization.

The specific interest of this project builded upon this research trajectory, investigating salient examples of Georgian-Soviet and Russian-Soviet perspectives and their interplay. The project elucidated two topics:

  1. The cultural figuration of the Soviet hero
    The meaningful and mobilizing function of the Soviet hero for the cultural production of the »new Soviet people« will be questioned in particular. This investigation follows upon past research of Soviet modernization in rapport with national discourse. In addition, it develops principal reflections upon the Soviet hero as a figure, in which one observes the configuration of political-ideological as well as sacred features in various historical-cultural and media constellations (Workshop 2010). Media-specific strategies of hero-figuration were thereby be examined as the legacy of antique models or figures (like Prometheus).
  2. Forms and practices of a Soviet Éducation sentimentale
    Also belonging to the cultural research of the »Soviet subject« was the investigation of the employed systematic supervision and conversion of emotional energies, such as that of tragedy to triumph (in particular the tragedy of the sacrifice of war to the optimism and pathos-formula of pride). This Soviet form of Éducation sentimentale has yet to be extensively researched. The constitution of the emotional world of »Homo sovieticus« had been accordingly examined, along with the operations with which »Soviet« emotions are mediated, reared, practiced and represented.

The investigations are structured by the following central questions: How is the »Soviet subject« conceptualized and represented in literature and film (posters)? With which attributes, emotions and spheres of influence is it endowed? How does it differ from the concept of the »new people«? With which practices and operations should singularity be exercised to become a »new Soviet people«? How does singularity evade itself in autobiographical personal testimonies, in the face of a culture that identifies itself outwardly (in the realm of the publicly visible) with triumph, jubilation, happiness and optimism?

Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2011–2013
Head researcher(s): Franziska Thun-Hohenstein
Associate Researcher(s): Giorgi Maisuradze, Matthias Schwartz


Zaal Andronikashvili, Giorgi Maisuradze, Matthias Schwartz, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein (ed./eds.)

Genealogien. Konstellationen. Praktiken

LiteraturForschung Vol. 28
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2017, 644 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-316-8
Zaal Andronikashvili, Susanne Frank, Giorgi Maisuradze, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein, Stefan Willer

Konzepte und Praktiken in der Sowjetunion und im kulturellen Vergleich

Interjekte 2
2011, 47 pages
DOI 10.13151/IJ.2011.02


15 Jun 2012 – 16 Jun 2012

Von Trauer zu Triumph. Praktiken einer sowjetischen Éducation sentimentale im kulturellen Vergleich

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Seminarraum 303

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10 Oct 2011 – 11 Oct 2011 · 10.00 am

Freundschaft. Konzepte und Praktiken in der Sowjetunion und im kulturellen Vergleich

Staatliche Ilia-Universität Tbilissi, Kakutsa Cholokashvili 3/5, Tbilissi 0162, Georgien

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