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Visiting Fellows 2011-2012



Alexandra Arkhipova, Russian State University for the Humanities

“Official and Popular Soviet Mythology: Facts, Folklore and Falsifications”
Fellowship period: January 1–February 28, 2012

Dr Alexandra Arkhipova is an associate professor at the Centre for Typological and Semiotic Folklore Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow. She is the author of  the book Jokes about Stalin: Texts, Comments, Analysis (in Russian) and more than 60 papers on folklore studies and anthropology; the origin of new Russian folklore in the Soviet era; anti-Stalin folklore; and the folklore and ethnography of Siberia, Northern and Central Asia.

The project "Official and Popular Soviet Mythology:  Facts, Folklore and Falsifications" is dedicated to studying the phenomenon of Soviet popular mythology in the discursive context of official Soviet mythology.
The main hypothesis of the given project is that during the Soviet era popular beliefs and customs were organized in a semiotic system of myths, taboos and practices that, on the one hand, was based on the traditional, pre-modern Russian worldview and, on the other hand developed in close connection with the official state ideology, even when opposed to it. I expect to find structural similarities between both official and popular Soviet mythology, whether there was any structural isomorphism between them and, hopefully, will be able to explain, whether, how and why both interacted. In this context, I hope to specify the concrete relationship between facts, falsifications and mythology in the genesis of historic mythology. The project calls for an interdisciplinary approach, including both historical and socio-anthropological methods, special skills for historical archive research and ethnological field work.
The main analytical goals of the project consist in interpreting popular Soviet mythology as a. a semioticsystem, analyzing the elements of both verbal and actional codes of culture, using folklore texts, speech genres and customs and; b. a semiotic system,that is analyzing the connections between its seemingly heterogeneous elements, describing a coherent system of meanings which can be related - opposed, correlated - to the system of official Soviet mythology.
The empirical work (in archives) is an essential part of the planned project. It will be necessary to not only find and describe, but also to assess critically the authenticity and reliability of the gathered material.
The practical results of the project will consist of, 1) work with rare émigré documents and newspapers 2) papers for peer-reviewed journals, presenting different types of Soviet popular myths and the system of taboos. The final result will lead to the preparation of a monograph on "Soviet uncensored mythology".

Email: alexandra.arkhipova [at]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sanna Turoma and Katja Koikkalainen