2015. Issue 1 (28)

on .

Kolchanova Ju. S. World of things of a soviet engineer in the context of forced modernization in the 1930s (based on the Perm archives) (.pdf)


In order to restore the lifeworld of Soviet engineers in the 1930s, a researcher needs to consider collective aims and practices being formed by the communist paradigm. Self-consciousness of the subject also had a meaning that brought individuality and uniqueness into the analyzed world. For example, money was of great importance for many engineers. They were eager to receive decent wages, corresponding to their high status. To solve the problem, technical specialists developed their own strategies for survival. In practice, it was expressed in the transition to another enterprise with a higher wage, or in conformist behavior. Fight for money sometimes developed into conflicts with the authorities. Those cases occurred despite the fact that the issue of money was considered indecent in the Soviet discourse. The world of things as a research field allows the subjectivity of Soviet engineers to be restored. The analyzed world was hierarchical: the most expensive element of luxury was a car given as a bonus or bought with money. A car as a status thing, inaccessible to most citizens, emphasized the privileged position of honored engineers. In addition to cars, the flats of technical workers with high status contained the things brought from overseas business trips, such as equipment, portable gramophones and radiograms. Many engineers had cameras and therefore liked photography and liked to be photographed. It is possible to find amateur photos of engineers captured with their status things, for example, next to the car. The presence of those “rare” things created the opportunities for engineers’ self-presentation among subordinate workers or other design engineers. A well-ironed suit, tailor-made or store-bought abroad, was also to demonstrate an engineer’s self. As a result, among individual features of the subject represented by a Soviet engineer one can distinguish self-respect, a sense of intellectual freedom and realization of elite position.


Key words: the 1930s, soviet daily routine, lifeworld, Soviet engineer, world of things.


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