Memory in the Disciplines at Stony Brook Presents Daria Khlevnyuk

Digital Conspiratorial Memory of the USSR’s Dissolution: CIA, Zionists, and Other Suspects

Wednesday, March 29, 1-2:20 PM Eastern Time | Online and In Person

The dissolution of the USSR and the following decade (commonly referred to as ‘the 90s’) were difficult for many Russians. Economic and political crises, vast social changes, loss of work and social status, and many other transformations affected communities across the country. The genuine challenges of ‘the 90s’ then became a source for a complicated memory actively used by the current political regime. As Gulnaz Sharafutdinova (2020) notes, Putin and his government portray ‘the 90s’ as turbulent and unstable times in contrast to Putin’s period of stability. These memories resonate with the Russian public: surveys show that the Russians perceive ‘the 1990s’ as a difficult period (FOM 2015). In interviews, adolescents regret the dissolution of the USSR due to several factors, including the economic decline, the increase in crime, and the worsening of community relations (Nikolayenko 2008:251), analysis of the Russian National Language corpus, a vast library of Russian-language texts, also shows that ‘the 90s’ is a highly charged emotional symbol with multiple interpretations (Bonch-Osmolovskaya 2018).

The dissatisfaction with the current regime and situation created nostalgic feelings towards the USSR as well as critical attitudes towards the narrative that its dissolution was necessary and inevitable. Consequently, we witness a rise of conspiratorial memory narratives that tie the dissolution of the USSR with external factors and internal treachery. The paper is based on an explanatory study of conspiratorial memory narrative on Russian language Facebook. Based on qualitative analysis of posts mentioning Gorbachev, it outlines a typology of conspiratorial plots, the interrelations of memory narratives, and common tropes.

Location: New York, Stony Brook University – SBS Room N-403 and on zoom (Click HERE to register)

Daria Khlevnyuk’s (University of Amsterdam) current research engages with the ‘old left’ memory culture in Russia, pro-Soviet memory communities, difficult pasts and contested collective memories. She has published on museum exhibitions on the Soviet repressions in Russian regions and online memories.

Memory in the Disciplines is an initiative of the Departments of Sociology and English – Stony Brook University, with support from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences