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Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

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Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

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Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
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Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Varvara Chumakova (Higher School of Economics, Russia)

The Patterns of Oral Culture in Russia: The Construction of Social Structure

One of the peculiarities of Russian culture is the significant and influential role of oral tradition. While 'Gutenberg galaxy' dissolved the most of oral tradition in the western picture of view (McLuhan 1962), Russia experienced mix of orality and book culture. Researchers mention the gap between high book culture and folk oral culture in Russia (Kon 1997, Kondakov 2004 etc.) which contributed to retain of the oral tradition. In spite the USSR authorities liquidated illiteracy in the first part of 20th century, the oral culture still exists and even develops by adapting different ideas, images, icons from mass-media.

Marshall McLuhan stressed the difference between oral and book culture (McLuhan 1962, 1964, McLuhan, McLuhan 1992, McLuhan, Powers 1989). If we systematize his ideas, we can list few patterns typical to each of them. These patterns describe the construction of social structure and correspond to oral and book cultures respectively: heterogeneous and homogeneous; networked and hierarchical; non-linear and linear; non-discrete and discrete; closed and open society. In this paper I argue that mentioned list of the patterns of oral culture, which describe social structure, is suitable model for explaining social processes in contemporary Russia. Reading books imposed by USSR propaganda is not actual nowadays, but TV retrieves oral tradition for masses (Chumakova 2015). The construction of heterogeneous, networked, non-linear, non-discrete and closed society is facilitated. This thesis is illustrated by case study of contemporary media products popular in Russia, their audience and public opinion about them. The influence of oral tradition on these media products in reconstructed and the connection between it and social processes is shown.