The Everyday Fears of the Country of the Soviets
This review analyses Dangerous Soviet Things: Urban Legends and Fears in the USSR, a book by A. Arkhipova and A. Kirzyuk that was published by the Novoye Literaturnoye Obozrenie publishing house in 2020. The research studies Soviet urban legends from the point of view of their typologisation and the description of the nature of existence and interpretation of the plots presented. The sources of urban folklore are reports of the KGB from the Soviet republics, case investigations, letters from Soviet citizens, and information from the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU. These documents reflect those events that caused the most acute social reaction: this manifested itself in the emergence and spread of folklore plots that caused changes in everyday behaviour. The authors refer to the experience of Western anthropological research and conclude that it is advisable to use a set of scholarly approaches (interpretive, memetic, and operational) that offer their own tools for working with folklore texts: this determines the methodological novelty of the work. Focusing on the definition of the genre of the “urban legend”, Arkhipova and Kirzyuk divide the collected material not only according to wider plots, but also according to the type of actualisation (the authorities’ initiative or “horizontally” spread in society) and functions (prevention, protection, agitation, propaganda). According to the reviewer, the book offers unique folklore material and universal ways to interpret such material.
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