This collection of 42 essays written between 1990 and 1994 is devoted to those cultural innovations that are determining Russia's post-Soviet identity. The background of comparison is provided by two traditionally antagonistic socio-cultural systems: the Soviet Union and the United States. The new Russia is emerging as a mediator between these two oppositional symbolic systems, democracy and totalitarianism. Finding itself "in-between," new Russia often becomes warped by these competing tendencies, ushering in phantasmagoric intersections of incompatible cultural codes. These oddities and paradoxes, proceeding from Russia's intensive "Americanization" and "de-Sovietization," stand as the book's central focus. Whereas the "American" has long occupied an adversarial position in relation to the "Soviet," the new Russian consciousness assimilates American images and ideals in order to transcend its own Soviet past, thus interiorizing what had been held as the archetypal "Other." That is why the book's title situates "American" between "Russian" and "Soviet," to underline the progressive differentiation of these two identities through the assimilation of an alien code.

The essays are informed by the personal impressions of the author, a literary scholar who has found himself at the crossroads of two cultures after his moving from Russia to America in January 1990. Hence the work implements an "auto-cultural" approach, combining elements of research and introspection. The fields of comparison between Russian and American cultures, reflected in the coherence of six sections, include: 1) nature and landscapes; 2) people and the state; 3) cultural symbolism; 4) social rituals; 5) private life; 6) religious beliefs. The topics, organized in a systematic order, range from the meaning of dinosaurs in contemporary American mass culture (as a symbolic substitute for a historic past) to apocalyptic visions in contemporary Russia (as symbolic substitutions for a deteriorating or lost perspective on the future). The book concludes with a meditation on the strangeness of being orphaned by the most recently deceased of history's great civilizations -- and being adopted by the youngest of them.

New York: Slovo/Word Publishers, 1995, 344 pp.

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