A Reflection on Andrei Levkin’s “iHoly eGrail of the Russian Cultural Moment: Literary and Political Strategies in the Modern Russian Context.”

Andrei Levkin

Andrei Levkin, a well-known author, political commentator, and the editor-in-chief of the online magazine polit.ru gave a lecture on Thursday, April 19, 2012 entitled “iHoly eGrail of the Russian Cultural Moment: Literary and Political Strategies in the Modern Russian Context”.  Mr Levkin started his presentation with a brief introduction to the changes in Russian cultural production that have occurred since 1991, a year he defined as important both because of the demise of the Soviet political system as well as the introduction of the internet to the Russian Federation.

According to Mr. Levkin, in the early 1990s the cultural space of the internet was segregated between intellectuals and “average” users who seldom interacted with each other.  Mr. Levkin asserted that many of the quality online cultural products produced during this period were displaced by pop culture artifacts.  This was presented in comparison to the growth of social media networks in the early 2000s.

With the popularity of social networks in Russia, especially vkontakte.ru and facebook.com, there has been a great expression of informal political discourse, Mr. Levkin said. The online format, he stated, allows for many participants, but the downside is that, so far, much of the content in Russia has either been pro-Vladimir Putin, or anti-Vladimir Putin and that this strict bifurcation allowed for little opportunity to discuss real alternatives.

During an engaging question and answer session, with translation provided by REEEC Director Dr. Richard Tempest, Mr. Levkin addressed questions about the differences in social media use for political discourse in Latvia and Russia (Mr. Levkin splits his time between these two countries).  Mr. Levkin pointed out the benefits of internet usage for political discourse, including that it is quite hard to censor comments and that reaction and interaction can happen as quickly as political events themselves change.

Throughout his talk Mr. Levkin identified a problem in the Russian context which many societies around the world are trying to navigate: how to negotiate a need for hard copies of intellectual artifacts in an increasingly digital age.  Mr. Levkin concluded his talk by questioning the life expectancy of the majority of Russian cultural artifacts created in our modern era, since so many of them exist exclusively in an online format.

Nellie Manis is a 2nd year MA student interested in Russian, East European, and Eurasian sociology and law with particular interest in the minority experience and the rights of under-served communities.  She received a BA in History and a BA in International Studies from Penn State University in 2008.  After completing her MA in 2013 she hopes either to pursue an MA in Translation and Interpretation, or pursue a career in the international sphere, while continuing to study Russian, French, and modern Greek.

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