To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: Cultural Networks between China and (Post-)Soviet Russia: Translations and Border Crossings
4: Beyond Katiusha: ‘European’ Culture and the Demotic Legacy of Sino-Soviet Friendship in Northeast China
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
University of Manchester, United States
In today’s postsocialist China audiences still enjoy several well-known cultural totems of the 1950s Sino-Soviet Friendship, and the bygone internationalist ambiance they evoke. Sentimental songs such as Katiusha and Moscow Nights entered China under a choreographed state-level Friendship which closely regulated how, when and where ‘foreign’ cultures and ethnic difference were performed and represented. Even in the 1950s Chinese publics enjoyed these works as artefacts of desirable and prestigious ‘European’ culture, but today audiences engage with them in highly eclectic settings which reflect new configurations of cultural hierarchy and approaches to the ‘foreign’. This paper focuses ethnographically on several Sino-Russian borderland spaces where renditions of Katiusha are as likely to appear alongside songs by Shakira, Viktor Tsoi, Jay Chou, Polina Gagarina or the Black Eyed Peas as Moscow Nights. Ranging from still-socialist-style ‘friendship’ events to nightly shows at local bars, these performances, I shall argue, see both geographical and temporal acts of translation at work. In this borderland locale, we see more than just a microcosm of the PRC’s cacophonous contemporary entertainment industry and its thirst for eclectic Western, European and generically foreign material. Amidst constant cross-border contact, the co-presence of multiple stylistic genres and associative resonances are uniquely revealing of how attitudes to Russian people, the Soviet Union, Maoist China and the socialist past figure in contemporary relations between China and Russia. Something more than ‘red’ nostalgia is at play as socialist-era artefacts and frontier cosmopolitanism contextualize new cultural, ethnic and performative hierarchies.