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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

The Soul of Stone: Mineral Symbolism in Vepsian Villages of Karelia

Anna Varfolomeeva

This article is a case study of the northern Vepses, an indigenous group residing in the Republic of Karelia, and their relations with mining industry. As early as the eighteenth century, Vepses in Karelia were involved in the extraction of rare decorative minerals (gabbro-diabase and raspberry quartzite), and this involvement continues today. The article discusses the variety of symbolic meanings stone has for contemporary residents of Vepsian villages, who see it simultaneously as a source of hardship, struggle, and pride. Local residents view nature and stoneworking as interconnected, seeing mining development in the region as a consequence of its natural richness. This case study illustrates that indigenous lifestyles, industrial development, and nature may be perceived as coexisting and interconnected elements.

 

Taking the Spell off of Death:Media as Mourning Ritual in Russia’s Psychic Challenge

Sergei Mokhov

Modern Russian society can be seen as practicing both traditional and modern types of ritual mourning. On the one hand, it is not a traditional community with a shared structure of religious practices. On the other hand, a complex infrastructure of social and psychological support to bereaved people is not available yet. In such circumstances, the functions of mourning rituals—to work out fear of death, rebuild communities, and so forth—are delegated to other agents of discourse. This article argues that in contemporary Russia, one function of mourning rituals—acceptance of death—is performed by a TV show called Psychic Challenge. Following Nick Couldry’s position, I suppose that media can enact ritual. Psychic Challenge takes on the function of working out the fear of death and ritualizing grief. Televised mourning rituals use the basic strategy of working with symbolic immortality and drawing the viewer into their narratives. Psychic Challenge can thus be seen as a mediated ritual of mourning.

 

Distribution of Responsibility in the Field of Reproductive Health: The Perspectives of Obstetrician-Gynecologists

Anastasiia Novkunskaia

This article considers the distribution of responsibility for reproductive health as an issue in sociological theory and as an object of sociological study. The first part of the article develops a theoretical examination of the subjects of responsibility and their interrelations in the field of healthcare in general and of reproductive healthcare in particular. It demonstrates that responsibility has been studied in terms of two-sided relations between doctor and patient, state and citizen, or state and medical institution. At the same time, responsibility in the field of reproductive healthcare can be attributed to several key social actors. The second part of the article examines the plurality of subjects of responsibility, as described by Russian obstetrician-gynecologists in semistructured interviews. Results of the empirical study suggest that there is a lack of clear and defined mutual expectations between different social actors, supporting the thesis of dispersion of responsibility for reproductive health.

 

Soviet Architecture and the West: The Discovery and Assimilation of Western Narratives and Practices in Soviet Architecture in the late 1950s–1960s

Olga Yakushenko

This article deals with the impact of western architecture on Soviet architecture during and after the Thaw and Nikita Khrushchev’s reforms in the spheres of architecture and construction. By the late 1950s international postwar modernism became an official Soviet architectural style. The article explains how Soviet architects discovered and learned this new style: through magazines and books, both translated and in their original languages; through business and tourist trips abroad; and through personal connections and official channels. The main argument is that in the 1960s Soviet architecture became embedded in an international system of architecture but at its far periphery. Moreover, the visual westernizing makeover of Soviet architecture did not change its inner structure and has rather negative implications for the perception and evaluation of the architectural legacy of the post-Stalin era.