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Article

New Trends in the Museumification of the Soviet Past in Russia (2008–2018)

This article offers a survey of the key tendencies observable in the museumification of the Soviet past in contemporary Russia, based on fieldwork and interviews with museum curators and other staff. The key focus is on aspects of the commodification of and nostalgia for the Soviet era. The article begins by examining repression and the Gulag as objects of museumification in Russia. Special attention is paid to the controversial situation when it comes to museumification of Stalin’s repressions in the Russian context. The next part discusses museumification of the “Thaw” era and the growth in the number of exhibitions devoted to the late 1950s–early 1960s in Russian museums and art galleries, especially in 2016–2017. The Thaw era has begun to be re-imagined as an era defined primarily by upbeat interior design, optimism, “Soviet hipsters,” and a generally positive mood. Nostalgia for the late Soviet period more broadly is becoming a noteworthy phenomenon in modern Russia. The last thirty years of the existence of the USSR are a key preoccupation unifying and driving the “folk museum” movement. This movement is non-expert in nature. Ordinary people are establishing thematic folk museums, and virtual nostalgic communities are devoted to the material world of the late Soviet period. The article goes on to examine patriotic trends in museumification. Museums and exhibitions played a significant role in military-patriotic education in the Soviet period.