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Plots against Russia: Conspiracy, Sincerity, and Propaganda

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Conspiracy theories have been a perennial feature of Russian life in the past hundred years, but the forms they take and the concerns they reflect are inextricably linked with the ways in which information circulate at a given time.

In Russia over the last fifty years or so, we find three particular information ecosystems that give rise to three distinct phases of conspiracy theory: the first is late socialism, the second is roughly coextensive with perestroika and the Yeltsin years, and the third is today’s era of Putinist conservatism and the rise of social media. How has conspiracy moved froth marginal to the mainstream, and what do conspiracies tell us about the world view covered by the Russian media?

Eliot Borenstein is Professor of Russian & Slavic Studies, Collegiate Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Acting Chair of East Asian Studies, and Senior Academic Convenor for the Global Network at New York University. Before coming to NYU , Borenstein directed the Fulbright Program for the Russian Federation and taught at the University of Virginia. His first book, Men without Women: Masculinity and Revolution in Russian Fiction, 1917-1919, won the AATSEEL award for best work in literary scholarship in 2000. In 2007, he published Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture, which received the AWSS award for best book in Slavic Gender Studies in 2008. A 2009 Guggenheim recipient, Borenstein has completed a monograph entitled Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy after Socialism; originally presented in blog form it will be published in March by Cornell University Press. Borenstein founded the Jordan Center’s All the Russias blog in 2012, and has been its primary contributor. One of his current books in progress, Russia’s Alien Nations: The Secret Identities of Postsocialism, is being serialized on All the Russias and at He has also begun a new series on the Jordan Center blog, called “Rereading Akunin.” His next book, Pussy Riot: Speaking Punk to Power, will be published in 2020 by Bloomsbury Press.

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