The Negative Space in the National Imagination: Russia and the Arctic

Lilya Kaganovsky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter provides an overview of the ways in which the Arctic and Siberia have been imagined through different historical/political moments of the early Soviet period to the present day. In examining these shifts in representation, the author shows how the Arctic in the Russian/Soviet imaginary is not static, but has been consistently reconfigured through various historical and ideological paradigms, each intended to erase or reconceive in some way the historical imaginary that came before. The author addresses Arctic imaginaries in pre-revolutionary Russia, the need for Soviet “expansion” to unite the state, and the notion of Stalinist “exploration” to reveal how the Arctic became a tool in the creation of Soviet and Russian imaginaries through the cinema. The author discusses Vertov’s One Sixth of the World (1926), Erofeev’s Beyond the Arctic Circle (1927), the Vasiliev Brothers’ Heroic Deed Among the Ice (1928), and a documentary on the GULAG, Solovki Power (1988) by Marina Goldovskaya.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArctic Environmental Modernities
Subtitle of host publicationFrom the Age of Polar Exploration to the Era of the Anthropocene
EditorsLill-Ann Körber, Scott MacKenzie, Anna Westerståhl Stenport
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-39116-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-39115-1
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in World Environmental History
ISSN (Print)2730-9746
ISSN (Electronic)2730-9754


  • Arctic Circle
  • labor camp
  • radio operator
  • Solovetsky Island
  • Soviet power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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