Soviet Journals Reconnected

Mapping the networks of co-publication in the Soviet “thick” journals of the 1960s-80s to show interrelations between cultural forms and social groups

  • Project Director

  • Philip Gleissner
  • Technical Lead

  • Jean Bauer
  • Consultant

  • Natalia Ermolaev
  • Benjamin Hicks
  • Thomas F. Keenan
  • Project Alum

  • Clifford E. Wulfman

The so-called thick journal was one of the central institutions of Soviet culture in the 1960s-1980s. Featuring literary and artistic content, as well as social and political writing, these monthlies had print runs in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. For scholars of Soviet literature, history, and politics thick journals play an important role as the medium, in which the major aesthetic and ideological debates of the time took place. Nearly every literary text of the time found its first publication on the pages of journals, often after significant intervention by the editors. I argue that in the 1960s and 1970s these journals functioned not merely as sites of cultural production, but as actors in Soviet society, shaping to the social organization of Soviet literary culture. They allowed for a diversification of Soviet literature by organizing competing networks of authors with distinct aesthetic or ideological dispositions.

Soviet Journals Reconnected will make possible a completely new kind of insights into the life of thick journals. It maps the networks of co-publication that evolved around a number of journals. Tracing changes over time, the project will show the productive interrelations between the development of cultural forms and the organization of social groups. This project uses digitized bibliographical data, including information on author(s), translator(s), title, page numbers, issue number, year of publication as well as some circumstantial information, such as editors of the journal at the time of publication, print runs, volume (in printer's sheets). This data provides the material for a relational database that I will use to map networks of co-publication and trace career trajectories of Soviet intellectuals within the the literary field. At a later stage, this database can be made accessible through a web interface, providing a traditional catalogue of bibliographical metadata, accessible for the first time for faceted searches.

Soviet Journals Reconnected is a contribution to periodical studies research in the Slavic field. Past research has been largely focused on individual cases, authors, and texts published in journals, which new trends in periodical studies are trying to readjust. This project allows for the first time to take into consideration the huge numbers of authors, and editors involved in the production of Soviet culture. It makes possible sociologically inclined research that uses recent theoretical approaches, such as actor-network-theory that traces the emergence of social communities through document transactions.