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Updated: Jul 5, 2019

IAS Talking Points Seminar/ Power Vertical #4

Unedited audio recording available here.

Russia's Retrofuturistic (Anti-) Utopia: The Case of Eduard Limonov

🥒Professor Andrei Rogatchevski, IAS Visiting Research Fellow


🥒Peter Duncan (Senior Lecturer in Russian Foreign Policy, UCL SSEES)

🥒Sarah Wilson (Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Eduard Limonov is a controversial yet influential Russian author and politician who was an underground poet in the USSR in the late 1960s – early 1970s and an exile in the West (mostly the USA and France) in the mid-1970s – early 1990s. He returned to Russia after the collapse of the USSR to pursue an anti-capitalist and nationalist agenda, chiefly by non-parliamentary means. in 1993 Limonov co-founded the extremist National Bolshevik Party (NBP). At its height, it numbered over 50,000 very active and highly visible members. The NBP was banned in 2007 and subsequently regrouped under a new name, The Other Russia.

The Other Russia (Drugaia Rossiia) is also the title of Limonov’s 2003 book outlining his views on what is wrong with society in Russia and elsewhere, and how these wrongs should be righted. It describes what Limonov believes is a genuine alternative to both capitalism and communism, encapsulating his own personal vision of Russia’s desirable future. Among other things, the book advocates a move to the countryside, and to new territories, to establish a civilisation of nomad warriors. An accelerated nation-building is envisaged, by means of special selection and intensive procreation with the help of polygamy, promiscuity and anti-abortionism; women’s chief role, before they reach 35 years of age, is to have at least four children. The preferred society structure would consist of armed communes with common property and common sexual partners, ruled by the Council of Communes. At the same time (as Limonov empasises in another, more recent book, partially functioning as a detailed auto-commentary to Drugaia Rossiia), his ideas should not be interpreted as a ‘sermon against scientific progress and a struggle against clever and handy technological achievements. No. We’ll be developing internet and genetics, as well as new, superior forms of television. Television and internet will be linking armed communes together into a united civilisation of free citizens’ (Neo-Bolshevism, 2014).

This bizarre retrofuturistic vision may well be implemented sooner rather than later. Several attempts to this effect have already been made. in 2001-03, Limonov served time in various Russian penitentiaries for gun running with a view to inciting separatism among Russian speakers in Northern Kazakhstan (Limonov’s biographer Andrei Dmitriev, an NBP member, characterises this goal as ‘seemingly utopian’). In Spring 2015, the media reported the formation of a military detachment called the People’s Republic of Kharkiv, made up of the Other Russia volunteers, who took part in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, planning to ‘liberate’ Kharkiv (where Limonov grew up) from the Kyiv rule and turn Eastern Ukraine into a ‘utopian state’ (

Professor Andrei Rogatchevski presents and discusses Limonov’s thoughts on what such a state should be like and where and how it could be established; on the vertical/horizontal relationships and structures in such a state; and on the role of political aesthetics in it. Rogatchevski contextualises Limonov’s utopia (which can also be justifiably called an anti-utopia) within the Russian and European (anti-) Utopian and countercultural tradition, according to four parameters described by Dennis Bramwell Neuenschwander in his pioneering work Themes in Russian Utopian Fiction (1974): “the utopian concept of man, of his environment (principally involving the city), of social institutions, and, lastly, of science and technology”.



Please find below a few photographs from PV#4, which featured Andrei Rogatchevski in conversation with Sarah Wilson and Pete Duncan. Audio is available here:

We discussed ruined cities, Scythians, full-sized sculptures as high as proletarians and other nomad warriors. Limonov, Sarah pointed out, is a *grande horizontale* who wants to be a *grande verticale*. On the question of styob or not-styob, Pete said that Limonov and Pussy Riot are the same in that they both do performance art with a last-instance serious (or sincere) message - but their messages are diametrically opposed to each other.

23.11.2018, UCL IAS. 6pm-8pm.

Dramaturgia: on Russian Machiavellianism as exportable political strategy

A Friday talk by Denis Maksimov.



The current outpouring of analyses of Russian internal and foreign politics give rise to a feeling of déjà vu, bringing to mind Cold War-era American Sovietology. Amidst assorted Novichoks, Brexits, Trumps and Bolsonaros, political science seems to be in global methodological trouble as predictions and foresights are consistently being proven wrong to the shock of both the think tanks and the public. Meanwhile in Russia, the key principles of the "dramaturgical" design of political space, introduced in Moscow in the early 2000s, are today floating on the surface sans masque. So what are the politics and aesthetics of Russian Dramaturgia?

Political theorist and curator Denis Maksimov will speak about Russian political ‘greyness’ - an engineered ambience, whose purpose it is to make it impossible to establish trust among actors - and its exportability. His talk will build on Avenir Institute’s transdisciplinary research of political auteurship. A former insider of several political near-Kremlin think tanks, Maksimov will look at the highly ambivalent work and thought of two crucial theorists of Russian political Dramaturgia: the former (2000-2004) head of the Expert Department of the Administration of the Russian President Simon Kordonsky's interdisciplinary analysis of Russian ‘administrative markets'; and the former Deputy Chief of Staff (1999-2011) of the same institution Vladislav Surkov’s interest in theatre and fiction.


Denis Maksimov is a political theorist, praxeologist, independent curator and creative consultant. His transdisciplinary research and design span across the intersections of metaphysics, socio-political history, Ancient Greek and comparative mythography, regimes of power, ideology, visual and rhetoric ideography, aesthetics, critical theory, geopolitics, futures studies, fashion and style. In 2015 he co-founded a think tank and creative studio Avenir Institute with nodes in Brussels, Berlin, London and Athens. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of Sandbox Network.


Updated: Jul 5, 2019

2.11.2018, UCL IAS. 6pm-8pm.

The Universality of Culture: Totalitarianism or Emancipation?

A talk by Keti Chukhrov


Un-edited audio recording available here.

Culture has long been accused of not living up to expectations of novelty in art, science and theory. Modernism and the avant-garde treated culture as a civilizational homeostasis and an obstacle to any dynamic artistic process, development of thought, or revolutionary political agency.

In Freud’s programmatic text “Civilization and its Discontents” (1930), culture is defined as a universalizing institution of constraint, which inhibits desire, psychical drives and sexuality. In post-structuralism (Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Foucault) a ferocious criticism of culture is complemented with the critique of language and its metaphysical dimension; culture is regarded as an obstacle hampering the access to the unthinkable, the ineffable, to the Real - i.e. access to something truly material that can only produce the conditions for political or creative subversion.

In post and de-colonial critique, culture as a universal category is seen as a tool of colonial and class domination dispersing into a multiplicity of subcultures and identitarian habits. This counter-universalist critique is, interestingly, perfectly inscribed into the quasi-democratic illusions of both critical theory and the pop-industry.

In Soviet aesthetics, philosophy or psychology (E. Ilyenkov, L. Vygotsky, A. Leontyev) we encounter a converse treatment of both the issue of culture as well as of language. Culture is seen as a generic form of labor that deals with timeless and non-localized human activity; it is possessed of the capability to exceed any confrontation between the old and the new. The talk will inquire into the paradoxes of such an idealist perspective on cultural universality.


Keti Chukhrov is an associate professor at the Department of Сultural Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow. In 2012-2017 she has been the head of Theory and Research department at the National Center of Contemporary Art, Moscow. Chukhrov has authored numerous texts on art theory, culture, politics, and philosophy. Her postdoctoral dissertation dealt with the anthropology and ontology of performativity. Her full-length books include: To Be—To Perform. ‘Theatre’ in Philosophic Critique of Art (Saint Petersburg: European University, 2011), and Pound &£ (Logos, 1999) and a volume of dramatic writing: Just Humans (2010).

Currently she is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at The University of Wolverhampton. Her present research interests and publications deal with: the impact of the Soviet economy on the ethical epistemes of historical socialism; performance studies; and neo-humanism in the conditions of post-human theory. With her video-play “Love-machines” she participated at the Bergen Assembly and “Specters of Communism” (James Gallery, CUNY, NY, 2015). Her Latest video-play “Communion” was in the program of the Kansk video film festival (Moscow, 2016) and at the Ljubljana Triennial U-3 “Beyond the Globe (2016, curated by Boris Groys).



Power Vertical #2 took place last Friday evening at UCL Institute of Advanced Studies. Art theorist and philosopher Keti Chukhrov, Associate Professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, gave a thought-provoking, thoughtful and provocative talk on the aesthetics and political economy of cultural universality. For Evald Ilyenkov and other post-war Soviet philosophers and pedagogues, the haptic and the affective realms were not pre-social or extra-social; they were an inherent part of social life already, they were forms of labour and - crucially - they were de-privatised and commonly-owned, Keti argued.

A few pictures from the talk are below, and you can find an un-edited audio recording of the talk and discussion here:

The film, from which Keti showed an excerpt - Talking Hands by Swedish artist Emanuel Almborg - examines the school for deaf and blind children established by Ilyenkov in Zagorsk in the 1960s. You can find a short excerpt here:

Many thanks to UCL SSEES and The Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art (UCL Art History) for support and propagation.

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