A Petrovich Inside of Every New Russian: The Disciplinary Regime of the Capitalist “Vanguard Group” at 1990s Kommersant

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Since 1989, Russia’s “first business newspaper,” Kommersant, worked to cultivate a new kind of collective post-socialist subject, a “vanguard group” of “New Russians.” How did Kommersant imagine this subject? Who were its antagonists and why, and how would the New Russian triumph over them? This article examines the 1992–93 issues of Kommersant Daily, its glossy monthly supplement Domovoi, and Kommersant’s recurring cartoon character of the post-Soviet everyman “Petrovich,” drawn by Andrei Bil'zho. Through these examples, I show how the Kommersant team convinced its audience to feel elite superiority over other newly rich Russians, and to feel having morally overcome the brutish egalitarian past shared by the “vanguard class” with its former late Soviet peers among the educated, urbanized masses. I argue that both objectives were achieved through didactic, disciplinary means, integrated both into the messaging of Kommersant and into its style and editorial policies. Moreover, by analyzing Bil'zho’s Petrovich, I conclude that playful, ironic “reflective nostalgia” (Svetlana Boym’s term) vis-à-vis the Soviet past was one such disciplinary tool which helped convince New Russians to maintain power at all costs, and thereby prevent the bloody return of neo-Soviet socialism, which their Petrovich-like neighbors supposedly desired.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalRussian Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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