Russian science fiction in the Genre of Alternative History as a Reflection of Mass Consciousness: Sociological Approaches

Russian science fiction in the Genre of Alternative History as a Reflection of Mass Consciousness:
Sociological Approaches

Аbramov R.N.

Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Professor Department of Sociology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Leading Research Fellow of the International Laboratory for Social Integration Research NRU HSE; Senior fellow Institute of Sociology of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia, Moscow

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Аbramov R.N. Russian science fiction in the Genre of Alternative History as a Reflection of Mass Consciousness: Sociological Approaches. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2023. No 4. P. 106-116


In Russia, fiction in the genre of alternative history has become popular over the past ten years. Book series of this kind are actively published and have a significant readership. This genre is part of ideological and utopian landscape of the Russian mass consciousness. It helps to understand imperial historical traumas, nostalgia for the Soviet past, and a high level of anxiety about the present and future. The theoretical part of the analysis is based on the G. Rosenfeld ideas about a close connection of this genre with the experience of the present and about ontological pluralization of the past. The article also includes M. Laruelle’s thesis about the ideological function of this genre and its role in ideological mobilization. The concept of E. Shatsky’s utopia as a chronic escapism is an important element in the analysis of this genre in Russia. Russian science fiction in the genre of alternative history mirrors ideological and utopian unconscious, which articulates affective historical traumas of society. Alternative history novels actively experiment with genres, and it contains elements of a political detective story, adventure and spy novel, conspiracy theories, personal nostalgic memoirs about childhood and adolescence, mysticism, military action movie, romance, crypto-fiction. Many authors perceive their novels as a historical experiment, and they are concerned with problematizing the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The modern Russian wave of science fiction in the genre of alternative history is a more painful reaction of a part of society to the deep historical faults associated with the collapse of the USSR. The source of the analysis is the materials of interviews with the authors of works in the genre of alternative history, readers’ reviews on thematic online platforms and the content of the works.

ressentiment; mass consciousness; alternative history; ideology; nostalgia


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Content No 4, 2023