The Depths of Russia — Excerpts from reviews


The book eschews a familiar narrative that frames postsocialism through the advent of neoliberal regimes of value formation in favor of a complex, textured ethnography that attends to the ways in which living with and through oil has shaped both local and state-level culture and politics in Russia … [The] centrality of the region as both analytical and ethnographic frame allows The Depths of Russia to upend familiar representations of the Russian state as over-determined by a top-down homogenous distribution of power, while simultaneously pluralizing and localizing the concept of the corporation.

–Tatiana Chudakova, The Russian Review



Rogers, an anthropologist, is not as interested as most observers in how money, power, and politics mix in Russia and echo in its foreign policy. Rather, he focuses on how things work within oil corporations: how the new oil giants evolved out of Soviet carcasses; how they operate in symbiosis with the state; and, in particular, how they directly shape social and cultural institutions. He zeroes in on a single region, Perm, which drove the Soviet Union’s first oil boom, from 1929 until the 1970s; a single company, Lukoil, which inherited parts of the Soviet conglomerates, including a vast refining operation; and one key sphere of the subsidiary Lukoil-Perm’s social activity, the promotion of local cultural traditions. The intersection of oil, money, and power might be a sexier topic. But the ways in which politicians and corporate bosses redefine and blend roles on the ground—indeed, to the point that Lukoil-Perm assumed the lead in a grand campaign to make the city of Perm a “capital of culture,” competing with St. Petersburg—provide more insight into the real texture of everyday politics.

– Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs



Avoiding easy assumptions about both corporate and state power, Douglas Rogers provides us with a subtle and compelling analysis of the social and political life of oil in post-Soviet Russia. The Depths of Russia demonstrates why an attention to the contingencies of geography, history, and politics is vital for all those concerned with the role of the oil industry in the production of culture.

—Andrew Barry, University College London, author of Material Politics: Disputes along the Pipeline



Oil and gas are central to Russia’s economy and international influence. Yet we have precious few studies of how the oil sector is managed and its impact on Russian society at the grassroots level. Through classic anthropological fieldwork Douglas Rogers has produced a book that will be of interest to all observers of contemporary Russia and to scholars of extraction industries in other countries.”

—Peter Rutland, Wesleyan University, author of The Politics of Economic Stagnation in the Soviet Union


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