1st Edition

Journeys of Soviet Things Cold War as Lived Experience in Cuba and India

By Sudha Rajagopalan Copyright 2023
    248 Pages 52 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    At the intersection of cultural history, material culture studies, memory studies and feminist geopolitics, Journeys of Soviet Things is an oral history of socialist globalisation constructed around the journeys of Cold War era Soviet objects in India and Cuba. During the Cold War, an important means to perpetuate Soviet ideals of modernisation and anti-imperialist solidarity across the world was the circulation of ‘banal’ objects, produced in the Soviet Union and purchased, awarded, and gifted for use in homes across the world. Based on oral accounts of Indian and Cuban interlocutors, this book examines the itineraries of Soviet objects such as cars, washing machines, cameras, books, nesting dolls, porcelain, and many other things. Explored this way, the Cold War is a matter of personal, affective, everyday experience.

    At the same time, by indicating the cohabitation of things in their home from around the world, interlocutors also go on to undercut simple geopolitical binaries that pit Soviet against American techno-politics. Accounts of Soviet objects in India and Cuba reveal a bricolage of preferences that crisscrossed ideological dualities of East vs West, communist vs capitalist, making for an alternative cosmopolitanism that was in equal measure shaped by personal, local, and national histories and experiences.

    This book will appeal to readers interested in Cold War history, the history of transnational solidarities, and Soviet material culture.

    Journeys of Soviet Things: An Introduction

    1. Geopolitics. Lived Experience. Affect. Objects

    Part 1: Cuba

    2. Cuba’s ‘Soviet period’

    3. Soviet modcons: solidarity and gratitude as geopolitical sentiment

    4. Soviet gifts and souvenirs: sociality and conviviality in everyday diplomacy

    Part 2: India

    5. India in a time of Soviet ‘friendship’

    6. Soviet books: affective, transnational solidarities

    7. Soviet domestic artefacts: sociality and access




    Sudha Rajagopalan is Senior Lecturer in East European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. A historian and contemporary media scholar, her book Indian Films in Soviet Cinemas: the Culture of Moviegoing after Stalin (2009) was a pioneering, ethnohistorical study of Soviet movie reception. Her publications on the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia since then have engaged with television audiences, celebrity cultures, and post-socialist memory. Her work is underpinned by an abiding interest in everyday life and consumption, both historical and contemporary.