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Reconstructing the House of Culture

Reconstructing the House of Culture: Community, Self, and the Makings of Culture in Russia and Beyond

Brian Donahoe
Joachim Otto Habeck
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 348
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  • Book Info
    Reconstructing the House of Culture
    Book Description:

    Notions of culture, rituals and their meanings, the workings of ideology in everyday life, public representations of tradition and ethnicity, and the social consequences of economic transition- these are critical issues in the social anthropology of Russia and other postsocialist countries. Engaged in the negotiation of all these is the House of Culture, which was the key institution for cultural activities and implementation of state cultural policies in all socialist states. The House of Culture was officially responsible for cultural enlightenment, moral edification, and personal cultivation-in short, for implementing the socialist state's program of "bringing culture to the masses." Surprisingly, little is known about its past and present condition. This collection of ethnographically rich accounts examines the social significance and everyday performance of Houses of Culture and how they have changed in recent decades. In the years immediately following the end of the Soviet Union, they underwent a deep economic and symbolic crisis, and many closed. Recently, however, there have been signs of a revitalization of the Houses of Culture and a re-orientation of their missions and programs. The contributions to this volume investigate the changing functions and meanings of these vital institutions for the communities that they serve.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-276-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Editors’ Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. Introduction. Cultivation, Collective, and the Self
    (pp. 1-26)
    Joachim Otto Habeck

    Let me start with an excerpt from the diploma thesis of a culture worker:

    At present, a significant proportion of the population suffers from a grave deficit of culture—the residents of many regions are starving on a meager cultural ration, and they are unable to satisfy their spiritual needs.

    Yes, we are suffering today from asyndrome of cultural deficit, to put it in sociological terms. Unique works of literature and art created by great artists are relegated to the margins of society, while there is a green light for “artistic mass consumption.”

    It is alarming that young people,...

  7. Part I. The Siberian House of Culture in Comparative Perspective

    • 1 From Collective Enthusiasm to Individual Self-Realization: History of and Experience in the House of Culture, Anadyr’ (Chukotka)
      (pp. 29-54)
      Virginie Vaté and Galina Diatchkova

      Anne White has observed that

      cultural enlightenment, ... as an activity organized by the regime in Soviet-type systems, ... is an area of ideological work. It involves the socialization of adults and children in their spare time through participation in non-professional arts and other cultural activities. ... Its three basic principles are belief in the need to equalize access to culture, belief that such access can change human behaviour, and belief that the party can and must control the nature of the culture which is created and provided. (1990: 1)

      One might assume that, ater the end of the Soviet...

    • 2 “Thank You for Being”: Neighborhood, Ethno-Culture, and Social Recognition in the House of Culture
      (pp. 55-74)
      Joachim Otto Habeck

      When conducting research in Houses of Culture, I was puzzled by the countless occasions when gratitude is expressed formally. Often this gratitude takes the material form of diplomas or certificates, sometimes of bunches of flowers or prizes. In this chapter, I identify important social functions of Houses of Culture, and I argue that the public expression of recognition is key to understanding many of them. A comparison of two case studies in and around Novosibirsk—the House of Culture “Tochmashevets” in a low-income suburb of Novosibirsk, and the House of Culture in Kolyvan’, a small town on the outskirts of...

    • 3 Pokazukha in the House of Culture: The Pattern of Behavior in Kurumkan, Eastern Buriatiia
      (pp. 75-96)
      István Sántha and Tatiana Safonova

      In this chapter we analyze the strategies, options, and skills of representatives of local culture in the public sphere. On the basis of fieldwork in the House of Culture in Kurumkan, Republic of Buriatiia, we found thatpokazukhaconstitutes the main pattern of public behavior in this district. The Russian wordpokazukharefers to putting on a false show to cover up the actual state of affairs. It is a strategy to manipulate the impressions and opinions of strangers. We address two research questions: (1) What is the context forpokazukhaand how does it reflect and modify local relationships?...

    • 4 Three Houses of Culture in Kosh-Agach: Accounting for Culture Work in a Changing Political Setting
      (pp. 97-116)
      Agnieszka Halemba

      On hearing that my research concerns the House of Culture in Kosh-Agach, a district center with approximately seven thousand inhabitants in the Republic of Altai, the initial reaction of many of the respondents to our survey was to declare quite simply that there is no House of Culture in Kosh-Agach. The above excerpt, from an interview with a man in his fifties, is characteristic of this perceived absence. Furthermore, from his words we learn that there arekul’trabotniki(culture workers) in Kosh-Agach and there is a small, shabby building in which they work, but that this building is not really...

    • 5 In the Face of Adversity: Shagonar’s Culture Workers Bear the Torch of Culture
      (pp. 117-136)
      Brian Donahoe

      Shagonar is a town of about 11,700 on the banks of the Yenisei River in central Tyva (more commonly spelled “Tuva”).¹ It was first established in 1888 as a trading post for Russian Cossacks coming in search of furs and gold. It was actually one of the first settlements in the territory now known as the Republic of Tyva, which at that time was still a remote outpost of the Manchu empire, known as the Uriankhai Territory. Even the present capital of Tyva, Kyzyl, was not founded until 1914.

      Il’ia Alekseevich Mokhov, a Khakass/Tyvan accordionist, has been working in the...

    • 6 Constellations of Culture Work in Present-Day Siberia
      (pp. 137-160)
      Joachim Otto Habeck, Brian Donahoe and Siegfried Gruber

      The great variety in the preceding chapters represents the diversity not only of research sites, but also of approaches and visions of the individual anthropologists who conducted the research. This is to be expected from research that is broadly based on such qualitative methods as participant observation and interviewing techniques. However, the reader will recall from the introduction that one of the goals behind this research project was to do acomparativeproject with all researchers using the same research instruments that had been jointly developed prior to the fieldwork. While these instruments guided and structured the research in all...

  8. Part II. Expanding the Stage:: The House of Culture in Broader Historical and Geographical Context

    • 7 The Emergence of Soviet Houses of Culture in Kyrgyzstan
      (pp. 163-188)
      Ali F. İğmen

      In this excerpt from the short story Gulsarat, Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov’s (1928–2008) character Tanabai Bakasov, a former Kyrgyz Komsomol leader, kolkhoz worker, ardent believer in communist ideals, and war veteran, expresses his conflicting sentiments about his own heritage. Like many Kyrgyz people of his generation who matured during the Bolshevik Revolution, Tanabai believed in the Soviet Cultural Revolution.¹ But like many of his countrymen, he was torn between the constructive and destructive effects of such a revolution. Aitmatov gives voice to Kyrgyz people like Tanabai who, while initially believing in the promises of the Cultural Revolution, eventually became...

    • 8 Palana’s House of Koryak Culture
      (pp. 189-212)
      Alexander D. King

      One can find a House of Culture orklubin every town and village in Kamchatka, and most of these were active, fun places in the 1990s. Typically, theklubhas a stage for theater, dance, and music performances, and other rooms for everything from children’s crafts and folk art to exhibitions of local painters’ and sculptors’ works. Often the library is attached to or is located near the klub. In short, a town’s House of Culture is the place for everything concerning the creative arts (tvorchestvo). At first glance, this institutional community arts center seems to be no more...

    • 9 Transformations of the House of Culture in Civil Society: A Case Study of Rural Women’s Culture Projects in Latvia
      (pp. 213-236)
      Aivita Putniņa

      This quote comes from a rural woman I interviewed a couple of years ago while I was investigating the meanings of masculinity. The “loss of culture” was blamed for virtually all social problems. It was held responsible for reckless driving habits, domestic violence, and political irresponsibility.¹ Maiga, quoted above, reflected on isolation, the fragmentation of human relationships, and social insecurity that independence and freedom had brought to people’s lives in her village. Her village still had a House of Culture (in Latvian, kultūras nams) and a person employed to do culture work. However, life had changed profoundly. The local culture...

    • 10 Heritage House Guarding as Sustainable Development: Community Arts and Architectures within a World Cultural Net(work)
      (pp. 237-262)
      Nadezhda D. Savova

      Puffs of dust escaped through the cracks in the wooden floor with every jump. The young men and women swirled in circles, tuning quotidian jokes to the beats, careful not to tumble over the two-year-old boy mimicking them on the side. A family and a few older women formed the improvised audience, commenting and keeping tempo with their walking sticks. Backstage, a faded piano served to hold two bottles of brandy and a box of chocolates.

      After a few dances, everyone rushed to the other room: the tradition was to celebrate at thechitalishte, the community cultural center, when a...

  9. Epilogue. Recognizing Soviet Culture
    (pp. 263-276)
    Bruce Grant

    Where do anthropologists look for culture? The British dean of the field, Edward Tylor, once eased the way by suggesting a rather mechanistic definition that many historians of the discipline could likely rehearse from memory: “Culture, or Civilization taken in its widest sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, morals, art, belief, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (1920: 1). By Tylor’s program, one went on the hunt for distinctive trappings of material life and, in turn, extrapolated a program of belief to which all Kulturträger, or culture-bearers, were...

  10. APPENDIX 1. Research Design and Methodology of the Comparative Research Project “The Social Significance of the House of Culture”
    (pp. 277-292)
    Brian Donahoe, Joachim Otto Habeck, Agnieszka Halemba, Kirill Istomin, István Sántha and Virginie Vaté
  11. APPENDIX 2. Survey Form and Instructions
    (pp. 293-304)
  12. APPENDIX 3. Questionnaire 1 (Q1) and Instructions
    (pp. 305-308)
  13. APPENDIX 4. Questionnaire 2 (Q2) and Instructions
    (pp. 309-312)
  14. APPENDIX 5. Fieldwork Checklist
    (pp. 313-317)
  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 319-322)
  16. Index
    (pp. 323-336)