The cultural logic of late socialism

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Looking at Vladimir Men'shov’s Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (1979), as well as other ‘stagnation’ era films, this article considers the cultural paradigms of ‘late socialism’ in their double context: the ‘sad comedies’ of the Brezhnev era on the one hand, and recent attempts to represent the final decades of the Soviet regime, on the other. The Brezhnev era paid for its relative stability with economic and cultural stagnation. No longer promising a ‘bright future’, Brezhnev-era films eradicated desire and taught the audience to be satisfied with the status quo. In this context, Men'shov’s Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears stands apart, because here desire itself is made visible, exposed as a force that constructs the subject and promises a future, that remains in play after the demand (of the state, of the Other) has been satisfied. In opposition to the films that came before it (such as Autumn Marathon and Irony of Fate) as well as the films that came after (such as The Vanished Empire and Cargo 200), Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears acknowledges the necessity of desire itself, its continuous movement toward an object always out of reach. In the cultural logic of late socialism, we might think of this as a futile attempt to undo the economic fetters of stagnation, to continue to search for an object that promises a future that may in fact be different from the eternity of the Soviet present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-199
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Russian and Soviet Cinema
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2009


  • Desire
  • Late socialism
  • Moscow does not believe in tears
  • Nostalgia
  • Stagnation
  • The vanished empire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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