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Russian Miscellany

The Russian Miscellany provides a glimpse of the mosaic of Russia’s diverse and complex culture through the lens of its material culture.

What is material culture? Nearly every instance of culture has a material expression. A poem is written in ink on paper; the revolutionary hands out pamphlets on mimeographed paper; the 18th century astronomer gazes through the glass lens of his brass telescope; and craftsmen cast imperial might in the 216 tons of bronze of the Tsar Bell. Looking at the material reality of ideas is a powerful way to understand culture. It makes us ground our analysis in the production of actual examples of culture. Material culture links cultural production to its socioeconomic context, and can lead to new insights.

Material culture essays by “Things Don’t Like Me” students:

Examples of topic areas:

  • The needle in which is hidden the soul of Koschei the Deathless
  • Svyatogor’s coffin
  • Vassilissa’s doll
  • Ivan the Terrible’s last game of chess
  • Birch kvass
  • Daniil Kharms’ calabash pipe
  • Soviet cartography
  • Valentina Tereshkova’s call sign
  • Abandoned ships in Kamchatka
  • The Kremlin stars
  • Theremin
  • Knout – A dreaded whip
  • Wonder-working icons
  • Faberge eggs (miniature chair sells for $2.8M)
  • Molotov cocktail