chapter  9
Withdrawing from the land
Social and spiritual crisis in the indigenous Russian Arctic
ByPiers Vitebsky
Pages 16

If Tolstoy had set Anna Karenina in a modern community of Tungus or Chukchi reindeer herders, he might have opened by saying that all happy communities are alike, whereas each unhappy one is unhappy in its own way.1

The picture today is one of increasing diversity, with regions and peoples moving further apart, like a galaxy or a universe after a big bang. Yet this diversity has moral implications which are paradoxical and uncomfortable: increasing diversity seems to go hand in hand with increasing unhappiness. This situation justifies the use of ‘postsocialism’, but the last syllable is more tricky. It works for the past: there was an ism called socialism, but now we need to recognize rather a postsocialist field of inchoate possibilities, out of which may arise many possible forms, feelings, structures and discourses. What makes them ‘post’ is that it is the previously existing socialism which has defined the range or scope of those possibilities.