The Many Flavors of Socialism: Modernity and Tradition in Late Soviet Food Culture, 1965-1985 Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Jacobs, Adrianne
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • The first to provide an extensive exploration of late Soviet food culture, this dissertation focuses on the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic ("Soviet Russia") during and immediately after General Secretary L. I. Brezhnev's tenure (1964-82). Here, the food sphere served as an important site for state-society interaction, ideological contestation, and building national and gender identities. Utilizing cooking advice literature, periodicals, memoirs, films, and the archival records of state trade and research organizations, this project addresses three central questions: How was authority structured in the late Soviet kitchen? How did changes in the culinary sphere reflect or influence larger transformations in late Soviet society, culture, and politics? What did late Soviet food culture share with larger global developments? Soviet culinary discourse typically followed a modernizing approach to food that emphasized scientific nutrition and mass production. In the 1960s and after, such efforts encountered competition from an alternative approach to cooking, which relied on history and "tradition." Home cooks and experts used food to explore the national past and build identities that did not depend upon official ideology for their legitimacy. This trend permeated food writing and other forms of popular culture, which celebrated ethnic cookery and championed a "traditional" gendered division of kitchen labor. While officials encouraged such seemingly harmless expressions of national distinctiveness, discussions of food, history, and nation often implicitly critiqued the Soviet system. This suggests that neither "stagnation"--a label often applied to the Brezhnev years--nor "dynamism" alone captures the essence of this period. Rather, these decades saw a turn toward normalization: the appearance in Soviet Russia of cultural patterns similar to those found in the Western societies against which Soviet leaders judged their country's successes. Common concerns permeated food cultures on both sides of the "Iron Curtain," and Soviet social and cultural life came to more closely mirror, for instance, the riotous heterogeneity found in late twentieth-century America. Tracking the emergence of new gastronomic viewpoints and attendant contests for authority in the food sphere, this dissertation uses culinary discourse to provide a critical reexamination of ideology, culture, and social life in late Soviet Russia.
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  • In Copyright
  • Bryant, Chad
  • Raleigh, Donald
  • McReynolds, Louise
  • Reid, Donald
  • Holmgren, Beth
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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