Natalia Poltavtseva


1. The correlation of the notions of “cultural gap’ and ‘post-modernism’ in contemporary Russian culture.

The situation in today’sRussiais marked by dramatic changes in life-style, caused by profound changes in the social, political, economic and Weltanschauung structures of life, changes which in professional discourse are referred to as shifting cultural paradigms. As a result, Russian culture and modus vivendi are in a state that may be designated as a ‘cultural gap’ or ‘interval’, (a term proposed by this author) i.e., a temporal space that is marginal in nature.

What are the salient features of the ‘cultural gap’? First and foremost, this situation is marked by dramatic changes in man’s perceptions and behavior.  The most apt description of the ‘cultural gap’ man is provided by the terms used the cultural ideology of post modernism: he is a man who inhabits a world totally lacking the chief postulates of the ‘Project of Modernity’ (Habermas), such as the metaphysics of causality, objective truth, and historical progress. In the post modern world, man is but’ an included observer’ who is simultaneously inside and outside any given situation, who watches the world from different angles and is modifying his angle of view all the time. This stereoscopic way of observation engenders multiplicity of answers, metaphysical attitude. With such a Worldanschauung characterizing the post modern world, man become what Heisinga designates as ‘Homo Ludens’. By starting a certain game (often quite cruel) with the world, man does in effect try on ever new cultural and cognitive possibilities.

The ‘cultural gap’ period, which began in Russia in the late 1980s, saw the sharp and dramatic fall in the number of people wishing to watch theatrical productions or the movies – as real life became much more theatrical, inveigling the Russian citizens in an on-going post-modernistic performance, which demanded exceptional improvisation skills. Those not adaptable enough to become ‘homo ludens’, perceived the end of the habitual paradigm as the end of the world and life in general – with all the ensuing socio-cultural consequences.

 2. The present cultural situation in Russia as a situation of cultural indetermination,  or incertitude, i.e., stressful. Types of human behavior under stress.

It goes without saying that the current situation inRussia, with its high degree of cultural indetermination is highly stressful. Several types of behavior are observed in duress: (1) the ‘traditional’, or a passive-destructive reaction to the cultural situation in the context of cultural indetermination (the overcoming of this state is seen in the past, old, well-known cultural models and patterns, the basic values of the bygone epochs – Soviet, Brezhnev, Stalinist, monarchic, Stolypin, etc. Actors of social action are members of the national-patriotic parties, monarchists, communists, the ‘new pochvenniki’, or ‘fundamentalists’, and people oriented towards authoritarian religious beliefs;

(2) the aggressive or active-destructive (the overcoming is related to the destruction of the culturally innovative elements that cannon be assimilated on account of poor adaptability). The actors are all those who, due to their rigidity, cannot ‘fit’ new realities of life into the old schemes; great numbers of people fitting this type account for growing aggressiveness in interpersonal relations and encompassing conflicts and wars all over the post-Soviet and post-communist space);

(3) the adaptive type, a behavior oriented towards constructive assimilation of the new and unassimilated. Ways out of problem situations may be non-trivial, and the absence of rigid cultural norms is perceived as a opportunity to form new cultural norms and patterns. The actors include adaptive and successful people of the ‘Homo Ludens’ type.

 3. The marginalism of the ‘cultural gap’ man

The term ‘marginal’ designates individuals and social groups that do not fit in the rigid social structure of a stable and successful society, and not regulated or legalized by the dominant culture. The ‘unfitness’ of this group is partly made up by mobility and adaptability, which are characteristics of the third, constructive type of reaction to the stressful situation of cultural indetermination. Hence, far-sighted politicians and sociologists of culture exhibit a keener interest in marginal groups and subcultures (such as the Cossacks and members of religious sects) in transitional epochs.

The marginals may find themselves in a state consolidated with the dominant culture, modify their old status, discard or re-acquire it again. The Russian marginals are represented by the first, traditional, types (socially ‘uprooted’ refugees, migrants, or the unemployed), and the other types, such as cultural minorities striving to establish their cultures, or subcultures (national, sexual, or musical), as stable and possessing meaningful values and norms for others. Often, due to mechanism of cultural compensation, this process takes the second course of aggressive-destructive reaction.

But no matter whether the type of reaction is first, second or third, ‘cultural gap’ men are marginals by nature, different only in their attitudes to the forfeited norms of cultural regulation and in their appraisal of the newly emerging norms. But the most popular marginal of the post-modern period is an individual of the third type, a man endowed with a remarkable capacity for tolerance and a latitude of views, a cultural oikumenism of sorts, which, unfortunately, is not to be found in all instances.

 4. Russian post-modernism and artistic culture

The ‘pure’ post-modern situation in Russiaarose in the late 1980s-early 1990s, even though the process had its beginning back in the 1970s in the context of public awareness that ‘the State would not help you’ (It was an instance of unique cultural marginalism, when entire society became marginal vis-à-vis its own socio-cultural functions. The most vivid manifestation of this phenomenon was the dissident movement.) It was then that the new theater, new drama and new prose also had their beginnings. Rigidly restricted by the State in all his manifestations, an individual began to break away from this regimentation and to a space of utterly absurdist freedom (as in works by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Vladimir Pietsukh, and the ‘new Moscowwave’). The new literature recorded in its own manner this foretaste of post-modernism, and prepared the reading public to situational ethics and situational behavior. The ensuing flexibility and adaptability proved a great demerit for the old readers, however. The famous Russian phrase ‘Everything is permissible’, which a variant of the Nietzschean ‘The God (that is, ‘old cultural values’) is dead’, which in Russia had led to a sweeping political and cultural drama in the 20th century, poses no questions whatsoever in the post-modernist context; it is neither a problem, nor a tragedy; it is just a given.

Still, the Russian version of the situation suggests a certain regret at the loss of old-time values. Such authors as V. Sorokin, V. Yerofeyev, Ye. Popov, and E. Limonov, even when engaged in the cruel games with the world, still feel pity for themselves and their readers – because the world is so cruel. The ‘playful’ version of post-modernism in Russian literature is most vivid in the works of Viktor Pelevin (the Russian Umberto Echo, so to speak), who pits ‘mature’ post-modernism and marginalism against the formerly dominant mimetic artistic tradition.

 For all that, one sees today signs that the ‘cultural gap’ in Russian artistic culture is drawing to an end and that a new period is about to manifest itself. In any case, art as the litmus tester of culture lets it be known that new ideologies are coming, ideologies that are less ethically ambiguous, more rigorous, and more masterly. And this means that the ‘cultural gap’ period in Russia is coming to a close.

 Whether this is good or bad is not for us to judge, because culture evolves according to its own laws and is geared by its own mechanisms run by its own heroes. What this period of approaching change does mean is that life-styles, as well as cultural patterns and cultural values will certainly be undergoing changes before long. Or, to quote Plato, ‘Beauty is difficult’.

Ключові слова

shifts of life-style; ‘cultural gap’; changes of cultural paradigms; stressful situation; adaptation; marginalism of the ‘cultural gap’ man

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Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T., The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Garden City. – NY: Anchor Books, 1966. – 219 р.

Castells M. The information age: Economy, society and culture. Vol. II, The power of identity. – Malden: Blackwell, 1997. – 461 p.

Ionin L. G. Sotsiologiya kultury / L. G. Ionin. – M.: Logos, 1996. – 278 s. (in Russian).


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