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Motherland: Soviet Nostalgia in Post-Soviet Russia Open Access

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Over the course of the past two decades, Russia has undergone a dramatic transformation. On the surface, it appears as if most people view the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as an extinct entity. Yet if one tours the streets of any city in Russia today, they can see that pieces of the USSR remain very much alive. I thus pose the following question: To what extent and why do citizens of the Russian Federation harbor feelings of nostalgia towards the Soviet Union?My dissertation seeks to expand upon academia's inquiry into the politics of memory. To date, scholarly discussion in this field focuses on the role of historical legacies in influencing political outcomes, as well as how politicians "shape" interpretations of historical events for political purposes. In my efforts to complement such studies, I seek to highlight how popular perceptions regarding the differentiation of the past from the present can influence politics today.My dissertation is based on a mixed-methods design, consisting of survey analysis with a fieldwork-based comparative study of three federal subjects in the Russian Federation. In partnering with the Levada Analytical Center to carry out a nationally representative survey, my results reveal nostalgic sentiments to be quite pervasive. Furthermore, my fieldwork indicates that such feelings are largely based on materialistic considerations, namely in how Russians unfavorably compare contemporary public services to that of previous provisions afforded under Soviet rule. In addition, I argue that feelings of nostalgia appear to flourish independently of how the USSR is portrayed in the media and educational system today. Finally, while most Russians do not believe that the Soviet Union will ever be reconstituted, some nonetheless hold out a sense of hope as they contend with the complexities of life in Russia today. Thus, I conclude that such nostalgic sentiments are quite genuine and will likely persist into the foreseeable future.

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