Cargo Culture


Russia & the West.

Pt. XI: Cargo Culture.

Cargo Culture (Беляши vs The Belyashi)
Беляши vs The Belyashi

As you probably know, I’ve created a blog in Russian titled Armeyskov’s Squatterly Review. I will translate/adapt the most important posts in Russian and share them on this blog (and vice versa). You can find the Russian version here.

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It is obvious that there’s no direct analogue of klyukva in Russia regarding the West. Of course, there are certain stereotypes but they don’t constitute a holistic phenomenon (unlike klyukva) due to the fact that ‘the West’ itself is not a monolithic entity. So it’s pretty hard to come up with a set of stereotypical narratives besides the eternally recurring Fall of the West meme. [That has a double]. As previously mentioned, Russia and the West represent the Ideal Other for each other, mirroring the processes taking place in their opponent, yet in a distorted way.

Russia is focused on the West, which is generating meaning, that is copied and then reproduced within the framework of what can be called a cargo culture. Cargo culture plays a significant role in Russian worldview and identity building, whereas klyukva is just a particular case of ethnocultural stereotypes.

To be more specific, cargo culture is manifested in terms of:

  • worldview (idealization or demonization of the West, xenopatriotism, conspiracy theories, decontextualization of latest Western cultural trends, double consciousness, etc.);
  • various goods, clothes and other products from the West, which brings this aspect of cargo culture closer to classical cargo cults*;
  • language (using non-Russian substitutes for words as often as possible, ‘pidgin Russian’).

In other words, cargo culture is a  process of constructing and redistributing mythologized Western images (patterns), given the latter are overvalued due to their Otherness.

To be continued!

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*To quote one of my posts:

The topic is even more complicated because the ‘West’ plays an important role in the sphere of identity building, self-concept and worldview of Russians. […] The longing  for acceptance in the West was crucial in the decision-making of the late Soviet / post-Soviet nomenklatura. The jeans & bubblegum  ‘cargo cult’ was practiced by many common Soviet citizens and nomenklatura alike. The Western goods raised social status of a person possessing them and had a taste of a forbidden fruit. Of course, they were seen as cool and hip and their owner became cool and hip by association.

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One thought on “Cargo Culture

  1. Pingback: Краткое введение в каргокультурологию — Armeyskov's Squatterly Review

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