Tinatin JaparidzeMar 22, 2022
Nostalgia, Trauma, and Nationalism
Lexington Books 2022
Today I talked to Tinatin Japaridze about her book Stalin's Millennials: Nostalgia, Trauma, and Nationalism (Lexington Books, 2022).
In this timely interview, Japaridze discusses not only the legacy of Stalin, but also her personal reflections in growing up in Georgia during the Cold War, and her experiences in the immediate drama of post Cold-War Moscow. To add to her both personal and professional reflections on legacy and nationalism, she attended an American school where she integrated into the west. Thus her reflections on McDonaldization and its fallout are both driven by an acute level of professional study as well as personal empathy for the individuals who live in the times we come to call historical. This same interest in both the human and the institutional informs her exploration of memory and particularly museums as sites of the construction of nostalgia and shame. In a compelling moment, Japaridze notices a brand new pair of boots in an exhibit that labeled them Stalin's.
She takes us into our universe as the curator shares a secret: they were never worn by Stalin and surely stitched well after his death in 1953. Almost sixty years later, Stalin like these boots, are refashioned, imagined, and put into place as an observable reality for the next generation. And that next generation, her generation, peers through the glass and suspects they are not as they have been neatly labeled by curators of the past. With Russia waging war in Ukraine in a bid that seems driven by a macabre nationalism or fun-house of mirrors Stalinist nostalgia, Japaridze's book is more necessary than ever. What she felt was opaque is now in plain sight, no longer hiding. While Marx, Lenin and Stalin, and those who came after him, had an ideology, however manipulated, Japaridze draws the curtain back on today's empty-rhetoric old-fashioned land grab by Putin.
Victoria Phillips is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics in the Department of International History.