Between “Deformers of Historical Memory” and Defenders of a Forgotten Past: Independent Publishers and History in Contemporary Russia

Manufacturing the Historical Narrative
By Bella Ostromooukhova

Among the small publishing houses that claim to be “independent” within the Russian publishing sector, many advocate a view of the past that alternates from the historiography celebrating a glorious past that is defended by official policy. This paper analyses several of these independent initiatives: two publishing houses founded in the early 1990s by former Soviet dissidents, Vozvrachtchenie [The Return] and Novyi Hronograf [The New Chronographer]; a more recent project led by a post-Soviet generation seeking to protect urban heritage, called Moskva, Kotoroi Net [The Moscow that is No Longer]; and lastly, Ad Marginem, a publishing house that enjoyed scandal-driven commercial success in the early 2000s. The complex relationship between the founders of these publishing houses and their own past, the material or ethical constraints they face, and the unforeseen events that disrupt the editorial policies of small publishers – all these factors influence the way of building a historiography that diverges from a heroic view of the past. These publishing initiatives develop a multifaceted, polymorphous approach to history, the product not only of sometimes diverging constructs, but also of the complex relationship with history that each of these publishers has created through his or her own personal background.

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