Ways of Seeing New Colonialisms

Introduction by Nikolay Oleynikov, series editor

How can we analyse Russia’s renewed colonialism and global expansionism that affects the geopolitical tectonic shifts of today?

Is Putin the successor of the USSR or of Tsarist Russia? How can we read the imperial language being imposed with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the ongoing warfare on Ukrainian territories, and the attacks in Syria in 2016?

We asked some of the most active artists, thinkers, and culture practitioners working experimentally in several former Soviet republics to explain contemporary Russian colonialist policies through their own lenses, perspectives, and constituencies. This investigation into the connections between past and present forms of imperialism and colonialism in post-Soviet territories is undertaken by several prominent contemporary public intellectuals who are processing their ways of seeing global and local geopolitical changes from where they are and what they stand for.

Historian, artist, publicist, and political activist Ilya Budraitskis (Moscow) comments on the contemporary resurgence of national identity in Putin’s Russia, and how the concept of “national values” is used to keep the status quo and reinforce the establishment of the state.

Artist Nikita Kadan (Kyiv) will offer his observation of the newest cultural phenomena of de-communization that is taking place all over Ukraine and manifests itself with a massive demolition of Soviet symbols, including Lenin’s statues or monuments to Ukrainian revolutionaries.

In their essay, theorist, cultural activist, and curatorial duo, STAB – Oksana Shatalova and Georgy Mamedov (Bishkek), speculate on the roots of queer culture and language in the late Soviet Middle-East republics. They will scrutinize the premises of queer dialectics based on the writing of Ewald Ilyenkov, a very influential Soviet philosopher and experimental pedagogue who has been rediscovered recently.

Through the analysis of artist and critic Kestutis Shapoka (Vilnius) we will learn how the originally progressive notion of “national-based modernism” that appeared in late Soviet cultural politics is used in contemporary Lithuania to support the neo-nationalist policies of the state.

The team of emergent sociologists, PS Lab (St-Petersburg, Moscow), will shed light on how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting micro-politics and the way citizens perceive their reality, through the results of a field research they conducted right after the 2014 upheaval on the post-Maidan state.

Besides these five attempts to trace the contours of new Russian colonialism, there are many other interpretations and perspectives—and definitely many other voices. There’s much more to observe, and other places and cases to examine in relation to these topics. This series aims just to begin a conversation, drawing on local perspectives to deepen the reflections in response to other reports and lines of inquiries, especially on colonialism and decolonization, unfolding throughout ArtsEverywhere.

Against Simple Answers: The Queer-Communist Theory of Evald Ilyenkov and Alexander Suvorov

Georgy Mamedov & Oksana Shatalova, Bishkek 

The following essay was written in today’s Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, one of the Central Asian republics of the former USSR. It was translated by Giuliano Vivaldi, and was written by our colleagues, Georgy Mamedov, Oksana Shatalova. Cultural activists and organizers, Mamedov and Shatalova initiated a hub for radical...

The Game of Non-Distinction

Nikita Kadan, Kyiv 

As an ideological reaction to the ongoing invasion of Russian troops, separatist attacks in Eastern Ukraine, and the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and as a gesture towards establishing a new ideology to replace the Soviet one, the so-called Decommunization Laws were approved by the president and parliament of Ukraine...

Forget the “Event”: Contemporary Radical Thought, the Legacy of 1917 and post-Soviet Politics

Alexei Penzin, London/Moscow 
Chto Delat, St. Petersberg 

The editors of ArtsEverywhere recommend that you read Nikolay Oleynikov’s “Ways of Seeing the New Russian Colonialisms: Writing on and from Post-Soviet Territories” for an introduction to the history of Tsarist, Soviet, and Post-Soviet Russia. Oleynikov’s investigation into the connections between past and present forms of imperialism and colonialism in...

The Spectres of Munich

Ilya Budraitskis, Moscow 

This essay is the first in a series entitled Ways of Seeing the New Russian Colonialisms: Writing on and from Post-Soviet Territories, curated by Nikolay Oleynikov for ArtsEverywhere. A series description and full list of essays can be found here. The Spectres of Munich The Official Language of Russia: reading between...

Ways of Seeing New Colonialisms: Writing on and from Post-Soviet Territories

Nikolay Oleynikov, St. Petersburg 

Summary How can we analyse Russia’s renewed colonialism and global expansionism that affects the geopolitical tectonic shifts of today?  Is Putin the successor of the USSR or of Tsarist Russia? How can we read the imperial language being imposed with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the ongoing warfare on...