Valentina Parisi

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2014/2015
discipline Cultural Studies
Postdoctoral Researcher

Research project

Confined to complementarity? Soviet unofficial culture and its ambivalent self-depiction


My research project aims to a critical repositioning of Soviet unofficial culture as a historical phenomenon into the broader theoretical frame provided by counter-cultural studies. It is common knowledge that all throughout the period of “late socialism” alternative cultural practices have been flourishing in the Ussr. Consumption of self-published literature (samizdat) and of uncensored books published abroad (tamizdat), as well as art exhibitions, readings, lecture series, seminars and concerts organized in private apartments were often depicted as spontaneous, scattered manifestations of free thought and placed against a dark background of repression and standardization. Less known is how unofficial culture articulated itself in relation both to Soviet mass culture and to contemporary Western subcultures. My aim is to contribute to bridging the gap existing in the literature on this topic by placing Soviet unofficial culture into the current debate on countercultural movements. Concentrating on two decades (1970s and 1980s), I will shed light on the little explored contradiction inherent in Soviet unofficial culture as well as in many other counter-cultures: on the one hand, the attempt to create an authoritative alternative to official discourse out of widely differing ideological positions; on the other, the difficulty to go beyond a mere oppositional, nihilist attitude. In this respect, this project will enlarge the perspective of my previous research, focused on the “interpretive community” (Stanley Fish) committed to the production, dissemination and consumption of samizdat/tamizdat literature. By shifting the focus of inquiry to a wider interdisciplinary reconstruction of alternative cultural practices in their social context, I would question whether they implied the existence of a discrete community with a set of shared interests and beliefs, or rather they were expressions of separated groups characterized by a high transience and heterogeneity.  By scrutinizing the invaluable collections accessible at the Research Centre for East European Studies (Forschungsstelle Osteuropa – FSO – Bremen University), I expect myself to be able to question the prevalent interpretation based on often unreliable, self-glorifying recollections, and to provide the first assessment of this phenomenon firmly rooted in archival evidence.




Valentina Parisi holds a Ph.D in Slavic Studies from the University of Milan. She has been a post-doctoral fellow at Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane in Firenze and in the Central European University-Institute for Advanced Study, Budapest. She is also active as a literary translator from Russian, Polish and German and a literary consultant for several leading Italian publishers.


Selected publications


Samizdat. Between Practices and Representations. Lecture series at Open Society Archives, Budapest, February-June 2013, (ed.), IAS Publications no. 1, Central European University, Institute of Advanced Study, Budapest, 2015.


The Exceeding Reader. Soviet Samizdat Journals, 1950s-1990's, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2013. [in Italian]


'Prigovs Alphabete als mediales Ereignis', in B. Obermayr (ed.), Jenseits der Parodie. Das Werk Dmitrij A. Prigovs als neues poetisches Paradigma, Wiener Slawistischer Almanach, Sonderband 81, Wien/München/Berlin, 2013, pp. 334-354.


 ‘The Tamizdat Journal “A-Ja” and Russian Unofficial Arts in the 70s-80s’, in F. Kind Kovács & J. Labov (eds), From Samizdat to Tamizdat: independent media before and after 1989, Berghahn, New York/Oxford, 2013, pp. 190-205. 


’Na poroge nepodcenzurnogo slova. Paratekst samizdata na primere mashinopisnogo zhurnala 'LOB'’, in B. Belenkin, E. Strukova & G. Superfin (eds), Acta samizdatica. Zapiski o samizdate, GPIB Rossii-Memorial, Moscow, 2013, pp. 57-73. [in Russian]


“Das Buch verlassen“: Lew Rubinsteins Künstlerbücher, 1972-1974, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der Universität Bremen, Arbeitspapiere und Materialen, no. 82,  Bremen, 2007.


‘Zwischen Unstimmigkeit und Andersdenken. Inoffizielle sowjetische Kunst auf der Biennale di Venezia 1977’, in A. Raev & I. Wünsche (eds), Kursschwankungen. Russische Kunst im Wertesystem der europäischen Moderne, Lukas Verlag, Berlin, 2007, pp. 158-163.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Urban Studies
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Anthropology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Political Science
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Sociology