Material World of Late Soviet Society in the Cold War: Technological Innovations in Production and Representation of Mass Consumer Products
The research project is focused at searching for new approaches to material history of the Soviet society and the Cold War through the history of technological innovations. The project was supported by the Russian Science Foundation in July, 2019.
About the project
The project examines the activities of scientists, designers and engineers who have contributed to the development of
Soviet consumer goods technology and produced consumer goods (milk, bread, beer, clothing, personal protective equipment) and the so-called symbolic products such as caviar, champagne and Finnish cheese. Particular attention is paid to the role of technological transfers for the Soviet industry; the problem of industrial implementation of engineering developments; the problem of supply and consumption of products related to a wide range of food security issues; the question of how to represent and promote Soviet technologies and products in the domestic and international markets, and their importance for both domestic consumption and for the formation of exports.
Studying the interrelations of key participants in the process of inventing, introducing and promoting technological innovations, our research group reconstructs unqiue professional networks that contributed to the development of Soviet industry. The understanding of successes and failures in the development of Soviet technologies as well as the mechanisms of interrelations among scientists, engineers, designers and managers at scientific institutes and industrial enterprises of the Cold War period may become useful for the contemporary managers involved into practical realization of the innovation policy's scenarios.
The research purpose
The purpose of this project is to show the peculiarities of the history of Soviet technological innovations in the field of mass consumption goods production and their importance in the Soviet society in the conditions of the Cold War through the history of material objects.
In order to achieve the goal of the project, three closely interrelated objectives were set, namely:
- To explore the history of Soviet technological innovation in the field of mass consumption goods, tracing the hard way from the project of a new product to its production and distribution;
- Analyze the culture and practices of everyday social consumption in the Soviet Union and the impact of innovation on consumption;
- Investigate the methods and practices of representing Soviet achievements at the national and international levels.
This project will enable to give new interpretations of the history of Soviet society from the point of view of consumer society.
Plans and methodology
The research in the project will be built on different levels:
- local - the activities of specific individuals: engineers, workers, scientists, managers and managers of different ranks;
- institutional, covering the activities of ministries, scientific institutes, and industrial enterprises;
- national, considering the state as a separate actor, especially in the international arena, when it comes to the representation of success and society as a whole, when we consider changing patterns of consumption.
The project will be based on a large number of new archival and published materials. First of all, the materials stored in the Russian State Archive of Economics (RGAE), the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), the Russian State Archive of Scientific and Technical Documentation in St. Petersburg (RGANTD), the Central State Archive of St. Petersburg (TsGA SPb), the Leningrad Oblast Archive in Vyborg (LOGAV) and others will be studied. The materials of oral interviews with engineers and workers of industrial enterprises, as well as consumers of the goods under study and periodicals (thematic journals and newspapers) will also be used.
The main topics of the current research team are:
- Milk and dairy products: meaning, invention and production;
- Beer and dakery;
- Textile industry;
- Personal protective equipment: technologies and representations;
- Symbolic consumer goods: caviar, champagne and Viola cheese;
- Advertising consumer goods in the late USSR;
- The economy of things: materiality of Soviet consumption.
Have you spotted a typo?
Highlight it, click Ctrl+Enter and send us a message. Thank you for your help!
To be used only for spelling or punctuation mistakes.