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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities


In Search of the Soviet Way of Death

In Search of the Soviet Way of Death

Victoria Smolkin • Wesleyan University

NOVEMBER 20 @ 6 P.M. | Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center

Death was a problem for Soviet Communism. The question of what to do with death as an ideological category, and with the dead as a material reality, demanded an answer that threatened to expose the tensions between the ideological promises of Soviet Communism and the ways these manifested in material reality and lived experience. Indeed, one way we can think about the Communist Revolution—and perhaps revolutions more generally—is as a battle of the living against death and the dead. Ideologically, this was about rejecting the past, tradition, and existing forms of authority and legitimacy. But the battle against death and the dead also took place on a material plane, because many of the debates about the meaning of death, and about what to do with dead bodies, continued—and mirrored—debates about the meaning of life and how to manage the living. This talk will explore the intersections and contradictions of ideological, material, and spiritual concerns in Soviet Communism's efforts to grapple with and manage death, and ask what this story can tell us about the political death of Soviet Communism.

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