Andrei Zavadski Successfully Defends Doctoral Thesis

Andrei Zavadski, member of the Emmy Noether Research Group (2015-2019), has successfully completed his doctoral examinations at Freie Universität Berlin. He defended his thesis on January 23, 2020,  with members of the doctoral committee including Dr. Florian Toepfl (supervisor), Prof. Carola Richter (second reviewer), Prof. Margreth Lünenborg, Prof. Astrid Erll (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main), and Dr. Anna Litvinenko. The overall grade of magna cum laude has been awarded to Mr. Zavadski. The doctoral certificate and the academic degree "doctor philosophiae" (Dr. phil.) in Media and Communication Studies will be conferred upon the publication of the doctoral thesis.  


Titled "Mnemonic Counterpublics: Challenging the Political Regime in Russia with Memories of the 1990s",  Mr. Zavadski's dissertation examines mnemonic dissent in non-democratic contexts. Set at the intersection of communication studies and memory studies, it looks at how shared memories of the past can become a constituent element of counterpublic spheres emerging in authoritarian regimes.


The work proposes, theorises and employs the concept of “mnemonic counterpublics.” Conceptualised as collectives that recognise their own exclusion from dominant publics with regard to particular ways of remembering the past and seek to overcome that exclusion, mnemonic counterpublics facilitate the articulation of alternative and dissenting discourses within a country’s multiple public sphere. In contexts with an overarching historical politics that instrumentalises the past in order to legitimise and stabilise authoritarian rule, such efforts are able to challenge not only the dominant ways of remembrance, but also the political status quo more broadly.


Designed as a critical case study, this dissertation examines the emergence of mnemonic counterpublics in the multiple public sphere of Russia. At the heart of the analysed counterpublics are memories of the 1990s that run counter to the country’s official memory politics. The Russian authorities have reduced the remembrance of the first post-Soviet decade to the narrative of likhie 90-e (“turbulent, rowdy 90s”), which presents the 1990s almost exclusively as a time of political chaos, economic downfall and criminal violence. Omitting the decade’s unprecedented freedoms and other positive aspects, it unfavourably compares the 1990s to the time after Vladimir Putin came to power and thus contributes to the legitimisation and stabilisation of his rule. This analysis dissects efforts that resist such an imposed view of the decade. It examines a number of offline and online media projects that actualise countermemories of the Russian 1990s and thus not only challenge the authorities’ historical politics, but also question Russia’s political present.