Solovyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village

New Book Released by Woodrow Wilson Center Press Depicts Life in a Russian Village during the Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras

Jan 27, 2006

Woodrow Wilson Center Press has published a new book, Solovyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village by Margaret Paxson, senior associate of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute. It is copublished with Indiana University Press.

Solovyovo is a small village beside a reed-lined lake in the Russian north, where a cluster of farmers has lived for centuries-—in the time of tsars and feudal landlords; Bolsheviks and civil wars; collectivization and socialism; perestroika and open markets. Based on extensive anthropological fieldwork in that single village, this volume shows how villagers configure, transmit, and enact social memory through narrative genres, religious practice, social organization, commemoration, and the symbolism of space.

Margaret Paxson relates present-day beliefs, rituals, and practices to the remembered traditions articulated by her informants. She brings to life the everyday social and agricultural routines of the villagers as well as holiday observances, religious practices, cosmology, beliefs and practices surrounding health and illness, the melding of Orthodox and communist traditions and their post-Soviet evolution, and the role of the yearly calendar in regulating village lives. The result is a compelling ethnography of a Russian village, the first of its kind in modern, North American anthropology.

"Paxson makes a huge contribution to our knowledge of the Russian village, an ancient human institution whose uniqueness has survived wars and revolutions for centuries. One's sense of Russia will never be quite the same after reading her book," said Robert G. Kaiser, author of Russia: The People and the Power, and Why Gorbachev Happened.

"Through intensive, careful ethnographic conversations and participant observation over several years, Margaret Paxson has uncovered a stunning cosmology that frames both ritual and everyday practices in a contemporary Russian village….Scholars and students of Russian folklore, literature, culture, and sociology will find great value in this groundbreaking and beautifully written work,"
wrote Nancy Ries of Colgate University.

Margaret Paxson is senior associate at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She has published articles in The Washington Post Sunday Magazine and the Wilson Quarterly. The author is available for interviews; please contact Sharon McCarter at
202-691-4016 or sharon.mccarter@wilsoncenter.org.

Solovyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village is distributed by Indiana University Press, http://www.indiana.edu, or telephone 1-800-842-6796. The price is $65.00 for hardcover and $24.95 for paperback.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living, national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study of national and world affairs.

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