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Reconstructing the House of Culture: Community, Self, and the Makings of Culture in Russia and Beyond

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Reconstructing the House of Culture

Community, Self, and the Makings of Culture in Russia and Beyond

Edited by Brian Donahoe and Joachim Otto Habeck

348 pages, 30 figures and illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-275-7 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (November 2011)

eISBN 978-0-85745-276-4 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


The result is an edited volume of unusual internal cohesion, which at the same time avoids repetition and uniformity…In addition to presenting a multifaceted discussion of an understudied institution, the research team members also lay out their methodology in a set of appendices. The description of the research design and lists of interview and survey questions make the book a valuable resource for courses on social research methods.  ·  Social Analysis

This text fills a gap in the market regarding eh social and emotional significance of public leisure institutions in Siberia and elsewhere. Its chapters clarify issues of change and continuity in the Siberia, House of Culture paradigm, as well as explaining the international reach and resilience of these institutions.  ·  Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

This book has a clear immediate aim that has not been covered in the anthropology of Russia—to describe and analyse the ‘House of Culture,’ a prominent institution in every Soviet town and village…[It] is a very interesting, ambitious, worthwhile and readable book.  ·  Caroline Humphrey, University of Cambridge

“This is a fascinating and very original book which explores cultures and cultural production in the postsocialist world. Basing their fieldwork in houses of culture (arts centres) allowed the contributors unique opportunities for understanding the recent evolution of local communities across Siberia and beyond.”  ·  Anne White, University of Bath 


Notions of culture, rituals and their meanings, the workings of ideology in everyday life, public representations of tradition and ethnicity, and the social consequences of economic transition— these are critical issues in the social anthropology of Russia and other postsocialist countries. Engaged in the negotiation of all these is the House of Culture, which was the key institution for cultural activities and implementation of state cultural policies in all socialist states. The House of Culture was officially responsible for cultural enlightenment, moral edification, and personal cultivation—in short, for implementing the socialist state’s program of “bringing culture to the masses.” Surprisingly, little is known about its past and present condition. This collection of ethnographically rich accounts examines the social significance and everyday performance of Houses of Culture and how they have changed in recent decades. In the years immediately following the end of the Soviet Union, they underwent a deep economic and symbolic crisis, and many closed. Recently, however, there have been signs of a revitalization of the Houses of Culture and a re-orientation of their missions and programs. The contributions to this volume investigate the changing functions and meanings of these vital institutions for the communities that they serve.

Brian Donahoe is an independent researcher living in Kyzyl, Republic of Tyva. From 2004–2010 he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany. His research interests include the interaction between the Russian legal system and Russia’s indigenous peoples, and the dynamics of constructing, maintaining, and performing ethnic identity and indigeneity through the idioms of “culture and tradition.”

Joachim Otto Habeck is coordinator of the Siberian Studies Centre at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany. He is currently investigating cultural and ethno-cultural events and organizations, popular notions of culture, and gendered spaces of work and leisure. He examines lifestyle concepts as well as how rural and urban inhabitants of Siberia see themselves and want to be seen by others.

Subject: General Anthropology Sociology
Area: Central/Eastern Europe


List of Illustrations
Editors’ Preface
A Note on Transliteration

Introduction: Cultivation, Collective, and the Self
Joachim Otto Habeck

Part I: The Siberian House of Culture in Comparative Perspective

Chapter 1. From Collective Enthusiasm to Individual Self-Realization: History of and Experience in the House of Culture, Anadyr’ (Chukotka)
Virginie Vaté and Galina Diatchkova

Chapter 2. “Thank You for Being”: Neighborhood, Ethno-Culture, and Social Recognition in the House of Culture
Joachim Otto Habeck

Chapter 3. Pokazukha in the House of Culture: The Pattern of Behavior in Kurumkan, Eastern Buriatiia
István Sántha and Tatiana Safonova

Chapter 4. Three Houses of Culture in Kosh-Agach: Accounting for Culture Work in a Changing Political Setting
Agnieszka Halemba

Chapter 5. In the Face of Adversity: Shagonar’s Culture Workers Bear the Torch of Culture
Brian Donahoe

Chapter 6. Constellations of Culture Work in Present-Day Siberia
Joachim Otto Habeck, Brian Donahoe, and Siegfried Gruber

Part II: Expanding the Stage: The House of Culture in Broader Historical and Geographical Context

Chapter 7. The Emergence of the Soviet Houses of Culture in Kyrgyzstan
Ali İğmen

Chapter 8. Palana’s House of Koryak Culture
Alexander D. King

Chapter 9. Transformations of the House of Culture in Civil Society: A Case Study of Rural Women’s Culture Projects in Latvia
Aivita Putnina

Chapter 10. Heritage House-Guarding as Sustainable Development: Community Arts and Architectures within a World Cultural Net(work)
Nadezhda Savova

Epilogue: Recognizing Soviet Culture
Bruce Grant

Appendix I: Research Design and Methodology of the Comparative Research Project “The Social Significance of the House of Culture”
B. Donahoe, J.O. Habeck, A. Halemba, K. Istomin, I. Sántha, and V. Vaté

Appendix II: Survey Form and Instructions
Appendix III: Questionnaire 1 (Q1) and Instructions
Appendix IV: Questionnaire 2 (Q2) and Instructions
Appendix V: Fieldwork Checklist

Notes on Contributors

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