David Lewis’s recent book Russia’s New Authoritarianism: Putin and the Politics of Order takes a new conceptual approach to understanding the nature of the Putinist regime in Russia. The book explores how illiberal ideas have shaped Russia’s political debates and influenced both domestic and foreign policy. It highlights the affinity of many aspects of Russian illiberalism with the ideas of the controversial jurist and Nazi supporter Carl Schmitt, particularly the ideas of sovereignty and exceptionality, which are illustrated in the book by case-studies of Russia’s judicial system and the annexation of Crimea. In foreign policy, the book discusses the importance of spheres of influence in Russia’s worldview, and explores the messianic elements involved in Russian policy in Syria. It concludes with a discussion of how Russia’s authoritarian turn fits within a wider global trend towards illiberal politics and authoritarianism.
David G. Lewis is Associate Professor of International Relations in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter. Before joining the University of Exeter, David held academic posts in the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, and worked for the International Crisis Group in Central Asia and in Sri Lanka. He has written extensively on politics and security in Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and on different aspects of international relations and peace and conflict studies. His books include The Temptations of Tyranny in Central Asia (Hurst, 2008) and Russia’s New Authoritarianism: Putin and the Politics of Order (Edinburgh University Press, 2020). His recent research has been on the rise of illiberal ideas and authoritarian practices in global politics, particularly in relation to conflict management and peace-making. He is currently (2019-2021) on part-time secondment as an ESRC-AHRC Research Fellow at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.
Wednesday, December 9th
Zoom Meeting link:
Meeting ID: 944 1355 9725
Dr Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic
Department of Anthropology
University of St. Andrews
The Name and the Number of the Dead in Memory Activism in Moscow
Every fortnight, anti-Stalinist activists in Moscow install name plaques on the façades of houses where someone was arrested in the period between 1937 and the early 1950s. On October 29, on the eve of the official day of commemoration of victims of political repressions, thousands of Muscovites participate in the annual name reading ceremony at the Solovetsky stone, a monument to the victims of political repressions, placed outside the Federal Security Services headquarters (previously, NKVD and KGB) on Lubyanka square. Daily, memory activists and volunteers rake through archives and attics in a relentless quest for forgotten names and diaries, and record these names in memory books and catalogues, as well as copy, multiply, digitise and publish them in online archives.
The impetus for my key argument is an ethnographic observation that the memory activists I met in today’s Moscow give primacy to the singular names of each victim over the final total number of people executed during Stalin’s reign. Such activities reflect a familiar but largely unacknowledged and undertheorized propensity to document, catalogue and speak out the names of victims of atrocities, be it a military conflict or acts of political terror. Arranged as an alphabetical or random sequence, the names are guarded against statistical reason, or the “mania for exact numbers” (Merridale 2000:5) of the official national historiography in Russia. Importantly, the lists of names do not differentiate between a victim and an executioner, between an atheist and a devout priest, or between a Russian and a Jew. This way, the names do not contribute to boundary-policing of sovereignties, national mourning, and aspirations to national unity. Instead, the activists simultaneously assign each name a value of singularity and collect the names into infinitely long registers that establish an undifferentiated, nonnumerical kind of totality: a multitude of the living and the dead. I will argue that the practices of collecting and monumentalizing names of the dead afford an understanding of how the relationship to an unwitnessed historical mass murder and its absent subjects is instituted.
The CEES Seminar Series is kindly supported by the Macfie Bequest.
Thanks to Gabriel Levy and CISR for the heads-up. || TRR