Club Red

From 1936 onwards, Soviet citizens were granted a constitutional right to rest in addition to a right to work. However, this leisure was not, at least initially, intended to be “me-time”; rather, it was “we-time1.” It was intertwined with an official ideology of purposeful, rational rest. Sanitoriums were to provide “medically restorative” vacations so citizens could return to work with bodies fit and ready for productivity. Tourism existed to acquaint citizens with the diversity of Soviet lands, peoples and wildlife, in addition to providing recuperation from everyday concerns. Resorts offered concerts and political lectures. In short, vacationing was to be a means to an end: the creation of a new Soviet person. Any pleasure derived from your breakfast on the Black Sea wasn’t a designated end product – it was a byproduct of “rational leisure” done right.

However, as Diane Koenker reminds us in her book Club Red: Vacation Travel and the Soviet Dream, anything can look nice on paper, and things are rarely as straightforward as they seem. Soviet tourism existed in a paradoxical state. On the one hand, the state imposed an ideology of “rational leisure” and monitored citizens’ mobility via rationed access and a passport regime. On the other hand, consumer desires did matter – and trade union tourism administration (the Tourism-Excursion Authority) attempted to respond to it. Koenker uses the case of family vacations to illustrate this point. Family trips didn’t correspond to the ideal of “rational leisure,” since adult workers were supposed to vacation away from family, not with it. Later on, however, popular pressure prompted trade unions to incorporate family vacations into their packages.

Koenker also argues that the state’s collectivist ideology, when imposed onto vacation travel, actually helped to develop individual autonomy. In the eyes of a burgeoning number of vacationers, vacations weren’t just a means to repair body and mind, they were also for “pleasure, satisfaction, and self-identification” (p. 127). Soviet sanitoriums were on their way to becoming holiday resorts as early as the 1930s. After World War II, the medical dimensions of sanitoriums weakened or vanished, and vacation instead became an index of social prestige. It was a place to enjoy new experience, expand one’s knowledge, or perhaps begin a casual affair unbeknownst to one’s spouse.

An uneasy tension (or in Koenker’s words, an “uneasy coalition” [p. 91, 178]) existed between purpose and pleasure. If revitalization was the primary role of prewar vacation in the Soviet Union, then tourist travel with a distinctive element of pleasure came to play an increasingly large role after the war. These competing ideas of what leisure was “for” were neither fully accepted nor rejected. They melded together. The purposeful tourism of old, which emphasized performing physical feats and traveling by one’s own means to diverse places, was met and sometimes supplanted by the view that tourism was a relatively inexpensive way to experience a luxury spa vacation (p. 127). By the 1980s, Koenker argues, “proletarian” and consumerist tourism had converged.

It was also interesting to observe how vacationing was realized under a planned economy. Responding to a growing number of vacationers, the state significantly increased infrastructure between the 1960s and the 1980s. However, supply still fell short of consumer demand. The shortage economy constrained the system; it was too limited and inflexible to meet vacationers’ needs. There were never enough spots at resorts for everyone, yet not all spots were used: people would cancel at the last minute, and the seasonality of some vouchers made it difficult for their recipients to use them. Hoarding occurred in the echelons of union leadership. The travel voucher system, intended to prioritize heavy industry workers, veterans, pregnant women, and people needing medical care, was dysfunctional. Vouchers to the best spas were allocated in large numbers to well-connected party officials and the middle class. The tourist voucher system was similarly broken. They were not subsidized like travel vouchers, which made them too expensive for many workers to use. Peasants and agricultural laborers, who made up more than half of the population and possessed the least resources of all, received a fraction of all vouchers and had no other way to get them. And so it went.

Comparative perspective is a particular strength of Club Red. It focuses primarily on activity in the Soviet Union’s western parts, with forays into the Urals, Siberia and Central Asia. However, Koenker also brings Soviet tourism practices into conversation with those of the Western world. This is quite useful, as it helped me to assess norms and pratices on a global scale. Although the movement of Soviet citizens within and without the USSR was heavily monitored, its system of tourism and leisure did not exist in a vacuum.

Club Red convincingly demonstrates that the question of leisure under Soviet socialism is inextricably intertwined with broader issues of consumerism, insitutional dynamics, and the lived experience of individuals. Without discounting repression, it draws attention to other aspects of everyday life in the Soviet Union that might otherwise be overlooked. If you’re studying the history of tourism in the Soviet bloc, make sure to include Koenker’s book in your itinerary.

Club Red: Vacation Travel and the Soviet Dream by Diane Koenker. Pub. 2013 by Cornell University Press. Hardcover, 307pp. ISBN13: 9780801451539.

  1. A la Zamyatin’s novel We. I might’ve gambled on a pun and lost.

10 comments

  1. [Raises hand]

    I’ve several of questions:

    “Vouchers to the best spas were allocated in large numbers to well-connected party officials and the middle class. The tourist voucher system was similarly broken. They were not subsidized like travel vouchers, which made them too expensive for many workers to use. Peasants and agricultural laborers, who made up more than half of the population and possessed the least resources of all, received a fraction of all vouchers and had no other way to get them. And so it went.”

    1) What does the author understand by the “middle class” term here?

    2) The author seems to differentiate “peasants” from the “agricultural laborers”. Any explanations/definition of the terms and reasons “why?!”?

    3) What kind of statistics with hard numbers (e.g. “X% of all vouchers went to category Y”) does the author cite?

    4) Does the author map the periodical change of said ration, e.g. different decades, GenSecs etc?

    Like

    • I don’t have notes on this stuff and I’ve already sent the book back. Would be happy to dig up information if you’re willing to wait a couple days.

      Like

    • A couple days later (😅), here are the answers. Thanks for your patience.

      1 – Koenker references the middle class but for the most part does not define it. It seems to be synonymous with интеллигент.

      Tourism created citizens […] who believed they had a right to travel anywhere, who approached travel with curiosity and openness, and who cultivated an ability to locate their own society in terms of broad historical and geographic knowledge. These middle-class travelers distinguished themselves from their aristocratic predecessors […] by emphasizing effort and purpose. (p. 7)

      The new masses by 1960 turned out to be the Soviet middle class, whose name was “intelligentsia.” (p. 9)

      The term “bourgeoisie” retained its stigma of class-war opprobrium, but the late Soviet vacationer and tourist was bourgeois in the descriptive sense of the term, distinguished by an urban culture of prosperity without excess, modestly consumeris, cultured and knowledge-seeking, and expecting comfort, service, and small pleasures as entitlements (p. 9).

      2 – No reason provided. “Peasant” appears a total of 4 times across the whole book. “Agricultural worker” appears 61 times. My guess is that Koenker used the latter because it is a less jaundiced term. (In English, of course. In Russian, “peasant” was a legally defined social class.)

      3 – Trade union Tourist-Excursion Authority:

      In 1937, individual trade unions distributed their vouchers for health spas. Only 20 percent of tourist coupons went to workers (and one half of one percent to collective farm workers). As before, noted the TEU, the largest number of Soviet tourists were teachers – 26 percent in 1937, followed by white-collar workers (20 percent), students (16.5 percent), and technical personnnel (11 percent). (p. 121, data also from Mar. 12 1935 issue of Труд, plus 1938-1940 issues of Путешествия по СССР: Труд)

      In 1926 “workers” consisted of 6.5 percent of the entire income-earning Soviet population, “industrial workers” 2.7 percent. Even in the late 1930s, workers represented less than one-third of the economically active population. (p. 30, Всесоюзная перепись населения 17 декабря 1926 года. Краткие сводки, 1927-1929)

      Also: Маршруты и экскурсии на лето 1929 года; Труд в СССР. Статистический справочник (1936), Отдых (magazine?) (1970), etc., etc.

      4 – Decades – yes; Gensecs – not so much; rations – yes.

      Like

      • OH! There is an answer! Wait… Why I was asking this stuff?

        Oh! Roit!

        First – about good stuff.

        On average, your typical “educated” Westerner with a taste to actually learn something about other countries, knows jack shit about Russia. Well, except of the obligatory memes and what the punditry is currently running in their “5 minute of hate” segment. Like I said – jack shit.

        This particular book makes a valiant attempt to challenge that ignorant worldview, so that after reading it, your typical Western victim of the local “system of the universal education” might even say: “Wow! I’ve actually learned something new today!”. “Something” in this case will be “a lot”, for your typical Westerner educated or not expects Russia to be a literal Mordor. But the book dares to show them that nope, that was not the case. Hey, look – there’s a smiling well-fed lady on a cover! Surely, all of this gonna run against the typical theme-park version of the “Russian wasteland” and go-to Western smart-ass memetic description of the Russians history “…and then it got worse!” (c)

        So, overall, the book appears challenging, sexy and nonconformist for its intended auditory of the commercial consumers from among the Westerners.

        And that’s all I have to say about this book’s positive qualities. Now about its nearly numberless flaws.

        In a truly dialectic fashion, a lot of it’s most obvious flaws and weak points are merely extrapolations of the original approaches which marked its apparent strengths and merits. This particular book strives to make its point about Soviet tourists being not just real (a revolutionary idea for the Western mind too used to the idea of the “Evil Empire” populated by only evil apparatchiks and long-suffering serfs), but also Western-like in both their aspirations, outlook and culture, ends up wits becoming a avenue of delivering a narrative instead of fact-based scientific work based in a thorough research.

        That’s it – the book falsely falls all over itself to present the Soviet members of intelligentsia as being synonymous to the Westerner members of the so-called “Middle-class” – intended target auditory and consumer base of this book, not to mention, the environment that brought up dear authoress who wrote this book in the first place.

        Equating Soviet Union’s intelligentsia with the Western capitalist so-called “Middle-class” is both irresponsible and deadly wrong. Doing this presents a patently false picture of the world “as is”, thus giving a wave of wrong conclusions based on this basic supposition.

        We’ve already been there – way back in the 1990s. Russian ex-Soviet intelligentsia did learn about the reality, reflecting their real place in it, the hard way. This book shows that the Westerners still did not. Current Western policies and “Loud Opinionated Voices of the Punditry” (c) also show that won’t change anytime soon.

        This book is so much about presenting a particular narrative (“Russians have a middle-class just like us!”) that is willing to butcher all evidence to the contrary. For the commercial product that strives to squeeze every cent from the “target readership”, thus enriching, first of all, publishers and then, maaaaaaaaybe our dear author – well, that’s understandable. For an academic work though there is no excuse.

        Even if we become super-lenient and accept this particular book as a legitimate commercial attempt to profit from a certain category of the readership, thus retiring all “high horse” demands and preconditions of the “proper” academic work – it’s still lacking in so many ways. For one (and I will provide many examples further down the road) it fails to articulate simple truths of reality as it is, that differentiate what the intended Western readership take for granted and don’t think mooch in their everyday’s life with the reality of the Soviet Union back then. Several year’s ago I’ve provided an example of just that “unthinking” Western assumption that gives away an entire system of wrong “cause-effect” reasoning, when I talked at lengths about “that Russian episode” of the Archer animated series, where there were a Russian carrying groceries in a paper bag. This book by either omission or distortion makes its intended Western readership to fall back to their “acceptable default” about Russia, based, in part, about “acceptable default” about themselves… coloured by theme-park version of an “exotic” locale, but, still, using their own preconceptions as the central basis for everything.

        That is so, SOOOOO wrong. And it MUST be said out loud, to kick them out of complacency. For having a distorted “by default” view of the world based solely on their own very, VERY limited experience is a recipe for a disaster.

        The easiest critique for me to make is the focus and “message” of the book. It’s ridiculously easy to dis it for trying oh so hard to give its central message of the “middle-classers of the world – unite!”. It is understandable why dear author chooses this particular message.

        It is also honestly pathetic and wrong.

        On my side, it was not some kind of idle curiosity or even trolling to ask, given the quote:

        “Peasants and agricultural laborers, who made up more than half of the population and possessed the least resources of all, received a fraction of all vouchers and had no other way to get them.”

        what our dear authoress meant by either “peasant” or the “agricultural laborers” when she wrote this book, For, you see, it’s just a matter of harsh fact based reality, that the peasantry amounted to some 85+% of population of the pre-Revolutionary Russia. I also have a strong suspicion, that neither dear authoress nor her intended Westerner thoroughly middle-class consumer base have any idea what is “peasantry”, which they don’t know, don’t want to know and already despise as something primitive and beneath them by default. Well, ah… I won’t here make it all easier for them. If they don’t that and, e.g., still equate their typical western “farmer” with the “peasant” – well, they are simply dumbasses. As the expression goes, “medicine is helpless here”.

        [There is NO possible discussion and attempted understanding of the Russian history without understanding Russian agriculture and, therefore peasantry. People have to read “The Great Russian Plowman…” by V.Milov, internalize what they’ve just read and live with it]

        At the same time, the *peasantry* did became *agriculture labourers* as a result of proletarization of the countryside via a wide array of means, including but not limited to the establishment of the kolkhzes. Our dear author, apparently, is either unaware of this fact of reality, or deliberately fails to vocalize it before her intended readership firmly beholden to the set of “default truths” lest… what? Book sales will be affected?

        Things unsaid, as in this example of casual putting “peasants” and “agricultural laborers” (aka stigmatized category of the people in the Western middle-to-high-class worldview) together serves as just one example of distorting the reality (you know, like LYING) by omission. Yeah, I know, that I’m repeating myself, but these thing have to be said – by not saying how the things were in reality you are forcing your intended readership to fall back to the “accepted truths” ™ based on *their* particular experience and worldviews. AKA “everyone’s gonna use paperbag for packing their groceries ‘cuz we use them!” stuff.

        That’s why the quotes that you provide, J.T., are illustrative that’s really the case. Our dear authoress is either blissfully universe or cares not for the reality and allows her auditory to fall into false impressions trap. E.g.:

        “In 1926 “workers” consisted of 6.5 percent of the entire income-earning Soviet population, “industrial workers” 2.7 percent. Even in the late 1930s, workers represented less than one-third of the economically active population.”

        First of all – our dear authoress is cute by half by not providing the exact translation and exact link to the original. No matter how I tried to comb through the original I’ve simply could not find anything relevant that’d correspond to the bold claim made by our dear authoress. BUT!!! If we go on a limb and assume for a change that what she’s claiming is true, that only means that in 1926 (i.e. 9 years after the Revolution and 5 years after the end of the Civil War and the Intervention, just to be clear), the wast majostiry of the income-earning Soviet population had been comprised of [checks the notes] peasantry. I mean, with them constituting same ole’ 85%+ of population even in the 1920s that’s inevitable.

        Any reflection on that undeniable fact on the fact of the authoress? I think not. Likewise, I don’t expect in the book describing the tourism in the Soviet Union by the Westerner to see any mention of another simple and undeniable fact – that all these spas, hotels, resorts, “дома отдыха” had been built from scratched by them [obligatory] Bloody Bolsheviks. Cuz there simply was nothing before that. Yeah, as per, say, Chekhov’s “Lady with a dog” one can learn about the existence of the resorts in the Russians Empire – after all, that’s a prerequisite to having a short story that since then became the epitome of the “курортный роман” trope. That means – and this is really, really important – that in order to have this huge all encompassing tourist system dem “Bloody Bolsheviks” ™ would have to built it. Grounds up. Everything. Absolutely. EVERYTHING. Starting with the roads. Just, heck, use Wikipedia! See for yourself when this or that spa, hotel, tourist point, здравница or what not had appeared! The unspeakable part here would be that it DID appear under the direct orders of the Communist party. The book, obviously, fails to mention in explicitly, leaving its intended readership to the soft comfort of the “assumed default truths” which, obviously, include the All-Mighty Invisible Hand of the Market bestowing its beneficence all across the board world. How else could it be?

        This particular book falls all over its head trying to push a singular narrative: “Russians intelligentsia = you, fellow Murikin middle-classers”.

        […]

        There are not that many easier things to do than to prove any given (simplistic by default) propaganda narrative false. Just like this one.

        Again, due to the “resort to the default thinking” this is worth saying, no matter how banal it might’ve sound. By NOT saying it our dear authoress is actually making here point – she wants her intended Middle Class readership to 100% assume that the Soviet intelligentsia had always been just like them – i.e. “middle class”.

        That’s a patented lie, that did cost SO MUCH to my country, that we still have the aftershock these days. These patented bullshit, these brain-rot deserves to die in the most agonizing way possible.

        Once. Again. It has to be said precisely because of the “resort to the Western default” worldview.

        Soviet intelligentsia can’t be “middle-class”. No matter what. Why? Because it is proletarian. It consists of the people who well their skills to the employer in exchange for a salary. Their employer? The State of the Workers and Peasants ™. Just think about it! And, no, the ability to “talk shop” won’t magic(k)ally make them all the same and unite to the common (presupposed – Western) cause. Just imagine – you have a professional mercenary on the one side and noble feudal lord on the other… under whom serve several peasant levies conscripted in this particular Middle Ages scuffle. By virtue of being formally military they all can “talk shop” with each others. But in the end of the day they are enormously different in the outlook at about everything about this particular war, judged by their status, rights, responsibilities, oh, and the way they were actually employed,

        Just because any given Soviet surgeon is perfectly capable to “talk shop” with any given Western private practice doctor doing the same while on a contract. I can go on and one with the examples, but, I hope, my point is clear. It was this false equivalence that hypnothized the Soviet intelligentsia to think about itself as something else which it wasn’t, made them into the bitter enemies of the Soviet government (their sole employer!) to such a degree, that they DID contribute significantly to it’s collapse… And then they’ve found themselves unwanted by the free market reality. Que that Chubais’ quote. The “intelligentsia”, marketed by the Westerners as the “tots like middle class”, found itself gutted – in the most physiologically true way possibly.

        I won’t devote any significant space to how my mere existence serves as an antithesis to the neo-liberal project in the entirety of the Former Soviet Union. That’s way too low hanging fruit. Neither would I use anecdotal evidence of my own friends and acquaintances political worldviews and socio-economic status (plus education). No, nope – nothing like that!

        Can’t recall if I said it before, J.T., but I’ve come from the doctors’ family. That’s, probably, the core reason why I support scientific evidence based approach to learning anything about surrounding reality. Way back when I was a kid I’ve been told a story about a doctor who’d never “sadden” his patients with the potentially nasty diagnosis, instead claiming that everything was just fine. That resulted in his patients dying, even as they were holding their “Dear Doctor” by hand of something totally unexpected to them. They were dying, in short, because of one supposedly professional, lies, who’ve thought it better on their behalf. This book, if it’s true purpose is lazy-ass propaganda of “Russian intelligentsia = Western Middle Class” narrative, belongs to the same category. When the intended readership smartens up and learns that it’s been had for all these years and that reality is different from the propagated one – it would be mortally too late for all sides considered.

        Sorry, I simply can’t endorse poorly wrought supposedly “academicals papers” that fail in just so many ways.

        Not recommending this book makes obvious to me, that there is no currently commercially available book in the West to explain Russia as it is to the Westerners.

        Like

        • Initial thoughts:

          Explaining a culture to another, sufficiently different culture without using any perceived shorthands or stereotypes would be a big ask for any writer working with any two country pairs. Because – to quote another thread here – translators are not stenographers. I don’t want to let Koenker completely off the hook (the peasant-agricultural laborer thing seems…questionable at best, since even undergrad courses in Russian history teach peasantry-as-legally-defined-social-class), but lemme play devil’s advocate.

          Maybe it would be a good time to introduce a concept from translation theory: domestication vs foreignization. It was developed in regards to literary translators, but I think it’s also useful for talking about the work of historians, commentators, Moscow correspondents, etc.

          Basically, people who use the domestication strategy strive to make their chosen text maximally accessible and palatable to their readers. This often involves speaking to readers in their own language. Say I’m translating a story set in the zastoi and a character is walking around with an avos’ka. That avos’ka might become a just-in-case bag, or simply a shopping bag. Or if I’m doing a piece about the intelligentsia, I might just use the word intellectuals. A papirosa would become a cigarette, a матрос a sailor, a marshrutka a shuttle bus, and so on. It might strip away some of what makes these things uniquely Russian (or at least uniquely non-Anglo), but it has the benefit of being immediately understandable. It’s pelmeni without the dill and sour cream.

          People who choose foreignization preserve as much of the original text’s “flavor” as possible, bringing the reader to the text instead of the other way around. Words that don’t have a direct translation into the TL are left as they are. An avos’ka is an avos’ka, an intelligent an intelligent, a marshrutka a marshrutka, and you’ll just have to figure out what these mean on your own. It’s pelmeni with the works.

          The main point I’m trying to get across is that cross-cultural communication demands tradeoffs. Both domestication and foreignization are legitimate strategies, and the decision rests on the individual writer and their circumstances. Sometimes you have to go with what’s most expedient. Sometimes you have to serve bare naked pelmeni, not because it’s right, but because it’s light.

          There’s this stereotype of academics as hopelessly in love with jargon, but most of them value clarity of argument. Koenker’s book seems to be one that’s trying to straddle academic and general interest. I’m not in her head, and I’ve never spoken to her, but maybe in her specific balancing act, she thought “middle class” would help her readers understand.

          That might explain *why* Koenker prefers “agricultural laborer” or uses “intelligentsia” and “middle class” interchangeably, but *how* she settled upon her equivocations is another issue. Like, one big counterargument to my argument is that Koenker is writing primarily to other Russia historians, who should probably already know what peasants and intelligentsia are in their Russian sense.

          ***

          […] your typical Westerner educated or not expects Russia to be a literal Mordor.

          I disagree but don’t have the time or mental energy to debate it, so I’ll just “hmm” in my normal manner and move on…

          Not recommending this book makes obvious to me, that there is no currently commercially available book in the West to explain Russia as it is to the Westerners.

          Sounds like someone – preferably a Russian – needs to get a-writing.

          Like

          • “Basically, people who use the domestication strategy strive to make their chosen text maximally accessible and palatable to their readers… It might strip away some of what makes these things uniquely Russian…, but it has the benefit of being immediately understandable.”

            That’s what I said. Such approach treats the “text” as a commodity to be literally sold to the audience, going to great lengths to pander to its tastes.

            It’s good to be honest and self-aware about that fact on the part of the author – and the audience. Meaning – that the “text” from the get go does not strive to reflect the objective reality as it is and is very undemanding for the intended readership, not striving to challenge its core assumptions or require extra “homework”. It’s all about reinforcing already existing narrative(s) then.

            Such approach, obviously, means that there won’t be greater understanding of Russia as it is on the part of the Westerners any time soon.

            “People who choose foreignization preserve as much of the original text’s “flavor” as possible, bringing the reader to the text instead of the other way around”

            This method had been used in the filigree translation used by the great late Evgeny Waisbrot of the “Witcher” book cycles. “Peasants” there are not “крестьяне” – they are “кметы”. Likewise, village’s headman is not a “староста”, but “солтыс”, gallows are “щибеница”, country road is “шлях”, etc, etc. This is done very deliberately to show the “Polishness” of the original and, therefore, to highlight its difference from other fantasy settings in the most memorable even *essential* way.

            It also requires a bare minimum of the homework done on behalf of the readers, who’d have a learn couple of things about Polish culture and language in the process of the getting through the book-cycle. E.g., one of the short stories name in the original Polish literally means “Where the Devil say goodnight”. That’s a colloquial Polish expression for the “middle of nowhere”. And guess what? [Mild spoiler alert] that short story takes place in very remote region, does feature a “devil” (satyr, actually) who, in the end, does wish a goodnight to Geralt and Jaskier.

            AFAIK the English (and other) translations lack that… which robs the books of some of their less tangible essence, presenting them instead as “just another run-of-the-mill fantasy setting”… kinda less rape-y and dragonesque “version” of the ASoIaF.

            “Like, one big counterargument to my argument is that Koenker is writing primarily to other Russia historians, who should probably already know what peasants and intelligentsia are in their Russian sense.”

            […]

            The “text” does not appear seriously academic for that.

            Or, if true, it’s quite telling about the quality of these “Russia historians”.

            […]

            In the end, it all boils down to the choice between perishing of thirst via total “Russia ignorance” or quenching it by partaking from the poisoned well of the “mainstream Russia narrative”. Koenker on her part contributed several buckets of undrinkable water to this well.

            The book seemingly gleefully takes potshot at official enemy of the USA and the capitalist system, not even trying to challenge intended readership core assumptions about, say, the state and its obligations before the citizens. By failing to articulate these questions the book, therefore, allows the audience to “fill out the gaps” by falling back to the established narrative.

            Judging by what I can gleam from that “text”, it lacks in saying the obvious. That the whole Soviet system of tourism had been a part of the so-called “Group «А»” – i.e. production of the means of production. Because human being is the most rare and complex mean of production of the means of production, the state must do its utmost on their preservation and strive to increase their number. That’s how it derives its legitimacy, really. That means, that Group «А»” would include such things as System of Education and a Healthcare System, of which “sanatorial-resort” infrastructure had been an integral part.

            There. All of it appears so obvious as to be a “no brainer”, but it must be said for, as it happens all too often, people show incredible capacity of ignoring the most obvious. Such obvious things, like that Russia still has this system in place in addition to the modern capitalist system of entrepreneurial tourist industry.

            The obvious question (which the book fails to ask) is whether this system of the state provided tourist infrastructure worth adopting by other states. But daring to ask this question would run against the central narrative, aka “The West is the Best”, “commies suuuuuuck” and “everyone we like is secretly our fellow middle-class member”.

            P.S. As for the “middle-calssness of the intelligentsia” due to its “consumerism”… There is a reason, why the concept of “мещанство” is a swear word among the intelligentsia members.

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            • No, domestication is not “about” reinforcing pre-existing narratives. That’s a side effect of choosing that strategy. But it’s not what most translators set out to do.

              The “text” does not appear seriously academic for that.

              Maybe you should…read a bit of it then? Like, a chapter? A single person’s review and a few select passages is a small sample on which to base one’s conclusions.

              Also, is there a reason why you put “text” in quotation marks?

              Like

              • “Also, is there a reason why you put “text” in quotation marks?”

                That’s the most neutral term for this book. It *is* a text.

                P.S.
                Oh, wow! Turns out I’ve half-remembered something right!

                Exhibit A (2018)

                “…The Kremlin Ball follows journalist Curzio Malaparte’s (mis)adventures in Soviet Moscow, observing a “communist nobility” living under the shadow of the End (i.e. purges).

                …Which makes it difficult for me to tell whether Malaparte is deliberately misrepresenting Bolshevik ideas or simply doesn’t understand the underlying Marxist theory: at one point he claims unequivocally that the main goal of communism is stateless society, but that’s only part of the picture. (What about the removal of exploitation and class antagonisms?) Why does Malaparte say the Soviet elite was brought to power on the backs of dumb, unsophisticated workers when the working class behind the 1917 revolution was well-educated?”

                Exhibit B (2019)

                “The editors and contributors address the dual identity of history teachers: both as members of a state elite specialized in conveying patterns of giving meaning to the past, and as private individuals with their own personal memories.”

                *Sigh*

                One time is a coincidence. Several times by different authors writing on different topics? Lets admit, that Russia-adjacent contentmongers have Russian intelligentsia presentation problem.

                Like

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