Dissidents among Dissidents

Dissidents among Dissidents:Ideology, Politics and the Left in Post-Soviet Russia

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How have the fall of the USSR and the long dominance of Putin reshaped Russian politics and culture?

Ilya Budraitskis, one of the country’s most prominent leftist political commentators, explores the strange fusion of free-market ideology and postmodern nationalism that now prevails in Russia, and describes the post-Soviet evolution of its left. He incisively describes the twists and contradictions of the Kremlin’s geopolitical fantasies, which blend up-to-date references to “information wars” with nostalgic celebrations of the tsars of Muscovy. Despite the revival of aggressive Cold War rhetoric, he argues, the Putin regime takes its bearings not from any Soviet inheritance, but from reactionary thinkers such as the White émigré Ivan Ilyin.

Budraitskis makes an invaluable contribution by reconstructing the forgotten history of the USSR’s dissident left, mapping an entire alternative tradition of heterodox Marxist and socialist thought from Khrushchev’s Thaw to Gorbachev’s perestroika. Doubly outsiders, within an intelligentsia dominated by liberal humanists, they offer a potential way out of the impasse between condemnations of the entire Soviet era and blanket nostalgia for Communist Party rule—suggesting new paths for the left to explore.


  • Budraitskis magnificently dismantles several myths. This includes the myth that the entire socialist past can be reduced to the idea of ‘totalitarianism’, and the myth that Russian society is divided in two, between liberals who love freedom and the masses, mired in tradition and thirsting for despotic rule.

    Alexei Yurchak, author of Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More
  • A deep analysis of contemporary Russian reality which deftly dismantles the many myths in which that reality is shrouded. Budraitskis’s writings deal with several themes and periods, but common to them all is a sensitivity to the details of the context and a capacity to question dogmatic certainties. The texts are beautifully written, in a clear, precise, and stylistically fine-tuned prose. This extremely important collection allows us to look at Russian and many other post-socialist societies from a new standpoint.

    Alexei Yurchak, author of Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More
  • Ilya Budraitskis brings immense historical knowledge, moral clarity, and political insight into these crucial essays on twenty-first century Russia. From his critical analyses of Russian culture wars and the "geopoliticization of Russia" to his path-breaking history of socialist dissidence and contemporary Left discontent, Budraitskis proves an adroit guide through the post-Soviet landscape. He directs us not simply to persistent authoritarianism and reaction but also to the unrealized political alternatives that remain to be activated by Left anti-capitalists today.

    Jodi Dean. author of Comrade