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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2017-18

RUSS 11.03 How the Hammer and Sickle Gave Way to McDonalds

We will explore a wide variety of domestic and foreign media including film, music, jokes, detective novels, and streaming online videos across the Soviet period and into the present time. Artistic disciplines during the Soviet period were firmly entrenched within cultural industries that featured union memberships, the means to control production, distribution, and exhibition. Nonetheless, what was popular throughout Russo-Soviet history did not always emanate from state guided channels. How do we account for what we perceive as “anomalies” in Russian popular culture: why did people listen to American jazz music under Stalin? Why were Bollywood films more popular than Soviet comedies? Why were Brazilian and Mexican telenovelas standard viewing in Soviet homes? How did the presence of foreign texts relate to the multi-ethnic makeup on the Soviet Union? How were founding mythologies of the nation encoded/rejected in domestic texts?   While popular culture encompasses a multitude of media, special attention will be paid to trends in music and cinema, offering students a comprehensive, historical arc of each medium’s development in Russia. The course will seek to establish a working definition of what we actually mean by “Russian popular culture.” Firstly, how do we differentiate between categorizations of mass culture versus popular culture? Secondly, we will challenge the notion of national culture when referring to the terms “Russian” and “Soviet” culture throughout the semester. Each unit is organized around the construct of “svoi” (“ours”) vs. “chuzhoi” (“theirs”), offering the class a point of comparison for how domestically produced culture often rivaled official foreign imports and blackmarket, unofficial distributed products. We will also explore larger, universal questions that revolve around top-bottom and bottom-up models of how popular culture operates. What does popular culture mean in the capitalist market context, and how might that definition change under socialism?

Distributive and/or World Culture

Dist:INT or SOC; WCult:W

The Timetable of Class Meetings contains the most up-to-date information about a course. It includes not only the meeting time and instructor, but also its official distributive and/or world culture designation. This information supersedes any information you may see elsewhere, to include what may appear in this ORC/Catalog or on a department/program website. Note that course attributes may change term to term therefore those in effect are those (only) during the term in which you enroll in the course.


Not offered in the period 2016-18