Manzhurin Е. А. Imagined continuity: pre-soviet heraldic heritage in the soviet city symbols (1953–1991) (.pdf)


The paper analyses how the imperial territorial heraldry was used in the Soviet city symbols (emblems and coats of arms) as a grassroots initiative in the post-Stalin USSR. On the examples of local cases (such as Penza (1964), the Soviet Lithuania (1966-1970), Syktyvkar (1978), Sumy (1988), etc.), the author argues that in employing imperial heraldic elements filled with political overtones, the creators of the legally dubious Soviet city arms tried to establish imagined continuity with pre-Soviet (and essentially non-Soviet) history in order to produce alternative local visions of space and time. Those visions emphasized historical continuity rather than rupture and radical change of both symbolic language and vision of time suggested by the centrally manufactured Soviet visuals. City arms combined distinctly the Soviet elements with symbols borrowed from pre-Soviet past, national symbolic repertoires and locally important elements. Such apposition eroded the superiority of the authoritative visual discourse and interpreted the Soviet era as just one more period in multiple local histories. The imagined continuity in the Soviet city symbols served as an instrument of doubt and posed subtle local challenges to the centrally designed symbolic and political order. The paper’s introduction of novel type of sources and its decentralized viewpoint opens new opportunities for studying center-periphery relations, representations of time and space, local and the Soviet identities and subjectivities in the late Soviet Union.


Key words: the late Soviet history, center-periphery relations, representations of time and space, retrospectivism, territorial symbols, heraldry.


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