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Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research

Laboratorium is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal produced by an international group of scholars. The bilingual journal, which comes out three times a year, publishes materials based on empirical social research in Russian and English languages.

The journal is published with the financial support of the Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR), an independent nonprofit organization.*


Current Issue

Rethinking Public and Private in an Acoustic Community: Investigation of Contemporary Russian Village

Elena Bogdanova

This article is an attempt to apply the concept of the soundscape to studying the division between public and private spheres in the contemporary Russian countryside. The empirical basis of the study consists of a series of ethnographic observations made over the course of 15 years in a single village in the Northwestern region of Russia. The analysis of sound production and perception by the local populace shows the village to be an acoustic community, wherein background sounds serve as carriers of socially meaningful information. The study finds that the prominent functionality of the village’s acoustic environment as a means of communication blurs the line between public and private, reducing privacy while simultaneously curtailing publicity. Depending on the situation, the same space may be either private or public. To help differentiate between the public and the private, the acoustic community of this Russian village prescribes specific conventions, shared by the local residents.

“You Are a Mother Forever, but an Artist for Good, As Well”: Creative Work in the Context of Intensive-Extensive Mothering

Mariya Godovannaya, Anna Temkina

This feminist research analyzes the balance of gender roles among contemporary female artists after they become mothers and start combining their art making and maternal practices. Using in-depth interviews and observations we study how women are inscribed into the gendered institution of motherhood and how they find ways to resolve the conflict between the roles. Our focus is on how professional artistic practices of female artists after childbirth coexist with practices of intensive-extensive mothering while also problematizing the gender role balance of the mother artist. The successful combination of these roles directly influences the future careers of female artists and whether they can sustain their work in the arts in general.


Narratives of Not Belonging: The Symbolic and Functional Meaning of Language Use in the Relation of Russian Au Pair Migrants to the Russian-Speaking Community in Germany

Caterina Rohde-Abuba

On the basis of theoretical approaches to ethnic group formation and belonging, this article examines how Russian au pairs in Germany relate to the Russian-speaking migrant community in the context of their migration processes. It shows how au pairs use their bilingual skills as an emblem of identity but also as a tool to establish social relationships. At the beginning of their stay au pairs use their native language to draw on the Russian-speaking community, explore their host city, and get social support during their au pair year. In later stages of settlement au pairs, who may enroll in university or enter highly skilled work, emphasize social relationships with German citizens and migrants of the same socioeconomic background. In biographical narratives they seek to distance themselves from the Russian-speaking community by creating intragroup boundaries and rejecting interest in speaking Russian or socializing with Russian speakers. They use their German-language skills as markers of education and upward mobility in order to position themselves as members of society without any of the negative attributes commonly ascribed to members of the Russian- speaking community.


Mutations of a Modern Myth: How Changing Discourses of Migration, Patriotism, and Personhood Shape Migration Narratives of Foreign-Language Students from Pskov, 1991–2015

Eline Helmer

Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Russian foreign-language students, this article addresses questions of migration, patriotism, and personhood in contemporary Pskov. In this postsocialist city, neoliberal discourse is seen as socially legitimate, and pressures of “marketing oneself” are very real to current students. However, besides viewing mobility as an ”asset” of the “winners” of transition, it is simultaneously associated with the “escape narrative,” ascribed to the students of the 1990s. This logic, reflecting currents of nationalist discourse in Russian society at large, classifies migration to the West as a characteristic of the ”losers” of transition and turns Russian emigrants into the “new others.” Instead of encouraging to improve their CVs through migration, the “escape narrative” dissuades current students from expressing any intention to migrate at all.