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Not by Bread Alone

Not by Bread Alone: Social Support in the New Russia

Melissa L. Caldwell
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 257
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  • Book Info
    Not by Bread Alone
    Book Description:

    What Muscovites get in a soup kitchen run by the Christian Church of Moscow is something far more subtle and complex-if no less necessary and nourishing-than the food that feeds their hunger. InNot by Bread Alone,the first full-length ethnographic study of poverty and social welfare in the postsocialist world, Melissa L. Caldwell focuses on the everyday operations and civil transactions at CCM soup kitchens to reveal the new realities, the enduring features, and the intriguing subtext of social support in Russia today. In an international food aid community, Caldwell explores how Muscovites employ a number of improvisational tactics to satisfy their material needs. She shows how the relationships that develop among members of this community-elderly Muscovite recipients, Russian aid workers, African student volunteers, and North American and European donors and volunteers-provide forms of social support that are highly valued and ultimately far more important than material resources. InNot by Bread Alonewe see how the soup kitchens become sites of social stability and refuge for all who interact there-not just those with limited financial means-and how Muscovites articulate definitions of hunger and poverty that depend far more on the extent of one's social contacts than on material factors. By rethinking the ways in which relationships between social and economic practices are theorized-by identifying social relations and social status as Russia's true economic currency-this book challenges prevailing ideas about the role of the state, the nature of poverty and welfare, the feasibility of Western-style reforms, and the primacy of social connections in the daily lives of ordinary people in post-Soviet Russia.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93725-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Transnational Soup
    (pp. 1-31)

    No matter the time of year, mornings are busy in Moscow. From the center to the outskirts of the city, subways and buses are crammed with jostling passengers on their way to work, school, and the markets. Although there is a certain homogeneity to the morning commute all across Moscow, the specific stories that are related in this book converge at the Park Kul’tury (Culture Park) metro station (figure 1), centrally located just a few stops from the Kremlin, the Bolshoi Theater, and Moscow State University. During rush hour, the train cars that arrive at Park Kul’tury are packed so...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Making Do Everyday Survival in a Shortage Society
    (pp. 32-59)

    Within a rich tradition of joking and storytelling, riddles such as the one shown in the epigraph poke fun at the naïveté and backwardness of rural Russians who visit the city and desperately load up with food products and other commodities.¹ At a deeper level, however, the numerous quips and anecdotes that circulate in Russians’ conversations have been important forms of social and political commentary, both for the state and for its citizens. During the Soviet period, forms of satire, such as those found in the popular journalKrokodilor in circus acts, became vehicles for cultivating national values.² At...

  8. CHAPTER 3 From Hand to Hand Informal Networks
    (pp. 60-99)

    During my fieldwork in 1997–1998, I became close with Vera, a seventy-five-year-old retired artist who had been a recipient at the soup kitchen since the program’s inception. For the first several months of my research, Vera and I had chatted briefly and formally about the weather or the quality of the food when I delivered her meal. It was not until my parents came to Moscow in September that our relationship blossomed. During my parents’ visit I brought them to the soup kitchen and introduced them to the volunteers and recipients. The soup kitchen was festively chaotic that day:...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Forest Feeds Us Organic Exchange
    (pp. 100-126)

    The feel of everyday life in Moscow changes dramatically during the summer months. The frantic pace that marks urban life slows down noticeably, and the institutional drabness that characterizes winter gives way to the bright greens of trees and grass. Outdoor cafés spring up along busy sidewalks,shashlyk(shish kebab) stands make their first appearance, and the heavy bean-based soups and pureed potatoes that are the staple of the CCM cafeterias are replaced by vegetable salads, berry jams, and cold soups. Recipients switch their heavy coats and neatly pressed clothes with faded and patched gardening clothes, and people of all ages...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Strategic Intimacy Communities of Assistance
    (pp. 127-155)

    Personal strategies of inclusion and exclusion are part of everyday life in the CCM soup kitchens. The protocol of friendships and familial ties dictates who is offered admission to the program, who sits with whom, and who gets extra servings behind the scenes. In chapter 3 I described the feud that erupted between Aleksandra Petrovna and Oksana over the ways in which informal networks were mobilized to distribute scarce resources. Although this disagreement originated in the soup kitchen, it acquired additional complexity, because it filtered through the CCM congregation and pitted congregants, recipients, and volunteers against one another. The divisiveness...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Mythology of Hunger
    (pp. 156-194)

    A conclusion often heard in international circles is that Russia’s chronic food shortages, unstable economy, and the number of soup kitchens and food aid programs currently operating throughout the country can be seen as compelling evidence that hunger is a pervasive problem in Russia and other former Soviet states (see also Giroux 2001). Similar to the representations of “starving Armenians” described by Barsegian (2000) and the recurring stereotypes of “hungry Africans,” images of “hungry Russians” and stories about desperate Russians who have resorted to thievery, “subsistence” gardening, or general hopelessness circulate throughout international policy and media discourses. In many ways...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Socialism Revisited
    (pp. 195-204)

    During the course of my research, many people have appealed to me to tell “the truth” about what it is like to live in Moscow today. Both inside and outside the soup kitchen community, Muscovites have disagreed strongly with the conclusions about Russian society that have been reached in foreign political and economic analyses and disseminated to a global audience. The disproportionate weight that has been given to macrolevel perspectives on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has eclipsed the complexities and contradictions that appear only with the extreme detail that is the hallmark of ethnography. Too often, ethnography...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 205-208)

    Because I have been fortunate to return to Moscow every summer since my original fieldwork in 1997–1998, I have been able to keep current with the changes that have taken place in my field site and among my friends and acquaintances. In many ways, things have stayed the same. Aleksandra Petrovna’s birthday parties in 2000, 2001, and 2002 were wellattended, festive affairs. Veronika was still moving back and forth among apartments and jobs, dropping out of contact for months at a time, only to reappear suddenly via e-mail. Several CCM coordinators had returned home to Africa, while others were...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 209-218)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 219-234)
  16. Index
    (pp. 235-242)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-243)