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Abstract: 100 Years of Self Determination

Abstract: 100 Years of Self Determination


Conference: International Research Conference 2022:

100 Years of Self-Determination

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

9 - 12 November 2022

In Summer- Autumn 2022, London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) funded Varvara’s field research trip to Lithuania and her participation in the international research conference ‘100 years of Self-Determination’ that took place between 9-12th November at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. During the conference she presented the findings of her research trip in the format of an academic paper. The conference offered fantastic opportunities not only to present her latest research to both live and online audiences, but also offered extensive exposure to exciting networks of peers, academics, researchers and professionals. Varvara is now working on incorporating my research findings into my PhD material.

‘Difficult Pasts. Connected Worlds’: Lithuanian artistic and cultural struggle for self-determination as a symbol made relevant by the Putin’s war in Ukraine.'

In Putin’s Russia today the ‘brother nation’ myth has been revived, resurrected and given a restoratively nostalgic role (as has been accurately identified by Svetlana Boym in her seminal book ‘ The Future of Nostalgia’).  The notion of the ‘brother nation’ dates back to Stalin’s repressions and originates within the darkest chapters of Soviet totalitarian history. Throughout Stalin’s rule, the cultural domain operated on two fronts: the official and the underground. The official narrative strengthened state control, suppressed dissent and dominated the lives of every Soviet citizen. The other, non-official, non-conformist, underground, rebellious front was led by individuals representing the cultural opposition, or ‘intelligentsia’, including cultural and academic activists that saw their opposition to state terror as a calling, an ultimate sacrifice, even leading to the sacrifice of their own lives.

Today, the individuals who oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine are actively dismantling the ‘brother nation’ myth through creative and artistic opposition to Putin’s regime, whilst also having to exist within Putin’s ‘parallel reality’ that purports to control artistic output and creative content; ultimately all of the messages transmitted to people currently living in Russia. Those who disagree with the rules of Putin’s game and have managed to leave the country are actively engaged in anti-war, anti-Putin cultural campaigns, openly expressing their views through independent social media beyond Putin’s censorship system and his propagandists’ control.

The two worlds exist in perfectly discrete, parallel realities, and ironically, are, to all extents and purposes, entirely disconnected; except for one shared commonality that remains a constant - the Russian language.

Within the warped, colonialist constructs of the ‘Russkii Mir’ (‘Russian World’), developed by Putin and his cronies, these two opposing societal groups exist in shared cultural and geo-political geographies; but although they often share the same or a close time zone, engage in similar professional activities, live in the same country and use the same language, they remain uncompromisingly and irrevocably estranged. Yet it is becoming clear that the existence of this tension, this opposition, for as long as there is at least one group within Russian society that continues to fight for the freedoms of self-determination and for freedom of artistic expression, there is still hope that the diasporic Russian cultural opposition can use the medium of a common language to promote a rebuilding of bridges of understanding, empathy and peace between Russia and the rest of the world.

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