Alexei Yurchak, associate professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley. Sponsored by the Center for Russian and East European Studies.
In the late Soviet period (1970s-80s), certain alternative identities, selves and lifestyles were developing that were quite different from better-known oppositional and dissident ones and yet, they greatly contributed to preparing the unexpected Soviet collapse. These alternative selves and lifestyles were especially widespread among younger intellectual and artistic milieus in Soviet cities. Members of these milieus insisted that they were neither supporters nor dissenters of the Soviet system. They often claimed to be simply unaware of any political ideas and concerns at all. Considering these people's lack of interest in having a political identity, is it possible to think of them in political terms? Since the language of resistance and opposition does not capture their peculiar subject position -- what kind of political language might be necessary to describe it? This paper will investigate this question by focusing on the activities of a group of pranksters that emerged in Leningrad in the early 1980s; this group became famous a decade later under the name of Necrorealists. The paper suggests a political reading for a peculiar form of "necro-aesthetics" that this group developed in its public provocations and everyday activities.