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Talk • Everything Was Forever Until It Exploded: Apocalyptic Futures in Late-Soviet Science Fiction

April 26 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

From Leonid Brezhnev’s pharmacological bids for corporeal immortality, to the continued display of Lenin’s (un)dead body in the Mausoleum, official culture in the late Soviet period was at pains to demonstrate its own permanence. Yet novels like the Strugatsky brothers’ Doomed City (1972) or films like Konstantin Lopushansky’s Letters From a Dead Man (1986) called into question the possibility of the survival not merely of individual leaders or the Soviet Union, but of humanity as such. Since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the contradiction between the Russian state’s insistence on its own immutability and cultural documents testifying to the opposite—whether expressed as narratives about supernatural beings, climate change, or pandemics—has only intensified. This talk will be presented by Maya Vinokour who examines the creeping consciousness of human transience in late-Soviet culture and its legacy in the present, focusing on works that thematize human extinction or other apocalyptic scenarios.

Maya Vinokour is an assistant professor in Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University. Her forthcoming book, Work Flows: Stalinist Liquids in Russian Labor Culture (Cornell University Press, 2024), investigates the metaphor of flow as a central figure in Russian labor discourse since 1870. She has written on contemporary Russian politics and culture for the Jordan Center Blog, which she edits; for the Los Angeles Review of Books; and for Foreign Policy. Currently, she and several collaborators are creating a bilingual, public-facing multimedia sourcebook of the post-Soviet 1990s, which charts the rise and fall of Russia’s only independent public sphere to date. This work is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Jordan Center, and an NYU University Research Challenge Fund grant. She is co-editor (with Ainsley Morse and Maria Vassileva) and -translator of Found Life: Poems, Stories, Comics, a Play, and An Interview (Columbia University Press, 2017), a collected volume by the contemporary fiction author and Runet pioneer Linor Goralik. She is also the translator of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Lame Fate | Ugly Swans (Chicago Review Press, 2020).

Co-sponsored by the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities; the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies; and the Russian Flagship Program.


April 26
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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