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Economic Rationality and Socio-Technological Fantasy

Soviet Oil and its Geochronological Formation (A. Konchalovsky’s The Siberiade, 1978)

Ilya Kalinin    Princeton University, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies    



The contradictions in the development of the late Soviet oil industrial complex can be described as a gap between the energy concentrated in this natural resource and the entropy it generated in the context of the planned socialist economy of the 1970s and 1980s. The tension that arose from this gap between the modernization potential of oil and the conservative economic and socio-political trends that arose in connection with the growing dependence on resources produced unexpected effects in the space of Soviet culture. These effects were associated with intense mythologizing and fetishization of oil, numerous examples of which can be found in Soviet literature and cinema of that era. In consequence of the enormous pressure that drove ideas and conceptions regarding oil out of official political and economic discourse and into the social imaginary, the products of their cultural refining broke the artistic and ideological norms of official Soviet culture, concentrating in themselves various forms of utopian and mystical, historiosophical and metaphysical meanings. As one of the most powerful symptoms of these phenomena, we analyze the film by Andron Konchalovsky The Siberiade (1978).

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Keywords: Cultural MythologyKonchalovskyOil“The Siberiade”Socialist EposLate USSR

Copyright: © 2023 Ilya Kalinin. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.