The Cultural History of Russian and Ukrainian Americanists
I. B. Tauris 2018
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Eastern European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian Studies July 9, 2019 Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed
Sergei Zhuk’s Soviet Americana: The Cultural History of Russian and Ukrainian Americanists (I.B. Tauris, 2018) offers an insightful investigation of the development of American studies in the Soviet Union, with a specific emphasis on Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine. In spite of ideological differences, the US and the USSR established mutual interests to history and culture studies. One may suggest that this interest was not quite surprising: knowing an opponent’s background helps lead and win confrontations. This might be true in terms of the US—USSR relations. However, as Zhuk’s research demonstrates, the story is much more complicated. One of the decisive factors is the individual who happens to participate in this seemingly antagonistic collaboration of the West and the USSR. Through his personal story, Zhuk traces subtle modifications of ideological indoctrination which transpire when one gets acquainted with the “Other.” While detailing the establishment of American studies in the Soviet Union, Soviet Americana touches upon what ideological changes may occur through the introduction to seemingly alien culture, history, and language. Another innovative aspect of Zhuk’s books is an attempt to describe similarities and differences which characterize American studies as formed by Soviet Russian and Soviet Ukrainian scholars. Zhuk intriguingly notes that Soviet Americanists, when traveling to the US, were discovering (and modifying) not only their Soviet identity, but their Russian and Ukrainian identities as well. Soviet Americana is a complex and multilayered research contributing to the subversion of monolithic representation of Soviet/Russian cultural history.