Tag Archives | Soviet Union

It’s (im)material: Packaging, Social Media and Iconic Brands in the New Russia

Graham H. Roberts, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense,




The aim of this contribution is to contribute to the growing literature on material culture and nostalgia in Russia and Eastern Europe.  In particular, I should like to take up the central themes of two articles published recently on Material World by Makarenko and Borgerson (2009) and Glass (2012). I wish to build on these studies in two ways, however.  First, I intend to look at alcohol, at how certain post-Soviet Russian alcohol brands use packaging to appeal to consumers’ patriotism.  Second, I wish to draw parallels between the material culture of packaging on the one hand, and the immaterial culture of social media networks on the other.

It could be argued, of course, that packaging is not ‘material culture’ in the usual sense of the word.  …

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The Material Culture of (N)Ostalgie

[image found here]
A recent article by Vadim Nikitin on nostalgia in Russia for the USSR called my attention to a number of current projects and publications that focus specifically on fond reminiscences of the unique material culture of Soviet life:

The multivolume glossy, expensive books arising from the Namedni project, the latest of which was published in November, feature a grab bag of large color photographs, news clips, interviews and narratives about every year from 1961 to 2005. For instance, 1962 spans physicist Lev Landau winning the Nobel Prize, the launch of milk in plastic bags, the Cuban missile crisis and the Soviet debut of the Hula-Hoop. The books target readers who lived through Soviet times as well as those who, like me, were too young to have experienced the Soviet Union and want to know more about their parents’ generation.

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Karakat – Cars that Skate and Swim

Alla Sirotina (Tallinn University)
Karakat vehicles have huge smooth wheels, equipped with big bolts. Such tyres without any gripping pattern on the outside surface were certainly not made for the asphalt road. Sometimes the car is left standing near the house without any coverage. Other times, tyres are covered with black plastic bags. The carcass of the car is often cut into two halves; the authentic rear is then removed and replaced with a prolonged extension (imagine a limousine) that is made from all sorts of materials – the list of the items used for constructing such a car is limited only by the imagination. One can see these vehicles in eastern Estonia, in and around the town of Kallaste on the edges of Lake Peipsi.…

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