Grounding post-socialism in the Urals Region

Authors: Megan Dixon*, The College of Idaho
Topics: Eurasia, Resources, Russia
Keywords: post-socialism, geopolitics, Russia, resources
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Definitions of capitalism/socialism and thus post-socialism seem to turn on economic and political mechanisms. The endeavor to re-imagine post-socialist geographies and the very term ‘post-socialist’ itself may depend in part on observing and analyzing other mechanisms, as this session suggests. Inspired by the ongoing conversation, the literature cited by the co-organizers, and the paradigm-shifting work of Tony Fry, Anna Tsing, and Amitav Ghosh, this paper observes and analyzes the Urals region as a fulcrum of resource use, precarious non-scalable political resistance, and views from beyond the metropole. On one hand, information about past and present landscapes of extraction and outflows of mined resources will be mapped and compared; as broader conceptual context, the multi-genre works of writer Alexei Ivanov will be examined as a way of thinking post-socialism outside the geopolitical frame of East-West competition. Both types of evidence push a discussion of post-socialism into broader patterns of rent-seeking and relationships between ‘metropoles’ and their hinterlands.

In particular, Ivanov’s reinvigorated imagination of the Russian world around the Perm-Yekaterinburg axis suggests an alternative material grounding for the post-socialist realm. His works Heart of Parma, Message: Chusovaya, The Geographer Drank His Globe Away, and Tobol reveal the interaction between indigenous peoples and the landscape yielding to their displacement by Muscovite and then Petrine efforts to establish a mining empire in the southern Urals. The contemporary context shows vectors of connection out to the rest of the world based both in continued mining activity and efforts to create an urban post-industrial scene.

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