Reinventing the Soviet Self: Media and Social Change in the Former Soviet Union

Article excerpt

Jennifer Turpin. Reinventing the Soviet Self: Media and Social Change in the Former Soviet Union. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995. x, 154 pp. Bibliography. Index. $49.95, cloth.

During the peak of communism, propaganda in the Soviet Union was utilized in an Orwellian fashion. Periodicals as well as other media made a concerted effort to portray the Soviet lifestyle as absolutely devoid of such social ills as unemployment and crime. In Reinventing the Soviet Self: Media and Social Change in the Former Soviet Union, Jennifer Turpin offers an in-depth analysis of the English-language Soviet media during the height of propaganda as well as during the transition to a more realistic and open press during the late 1980s. Relying on ethnographic methods, Turpin examines these two distinct historic periods by analyzing two English language periodicals (i.e., Moscow News and Soviet Life) during the height of the Cold War under Brezhnev as well as at the pinnacle of radical change under Gorbachev.

Turpin structures Reinventing the Soviet Self in eight chapters. Chapter one provides the reader with an introduction to media studies. Chapter 2 provides a brief (i.e., five pages) introduction into Soviet political communications during the period of the "old Soviets" as well as "new Soviets." Chapter 3 offers insight into the history of the Moscow News, Soviet Life, as well as the Novosti Press Agency. In chapters 4 and 5, she deals separately with the periodical Soviet Life as published under Brezhnev and Gorbachev. She observes this pattern in chapters 6 and 7 with a separate examination of Moscow News. The concluding chapter offers further insight into changes during the transition period as well as the author's prognostication of the future of the post-Soviet media.

Chapters four through seven comprise the most intriguing content of the book. In each chapter Turpin examines the style and content of the Moscow News and Soviet Life under Brezhnev's as well as Gorbachev's tenures. She chooses to analyze each periodical from 1972 to 1974 as well as from 1988 to 1990 in an effort to distinguish the direction of the media under the reign of the "old Soviets" from that of the "new Soviets. …