Rodologia: Genealogy as Therapy in Post-Soviet Russia

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The article examines how people in post-Soviet Russia learn to interpret Soviet political genealogies as implicated in their own family histories. Based on long-term fieldwork in a large provincial city in Russia, it focuses on a particular form of amateur genealogy called Rodologia (rodstvo = kinship). Informed by a burgeoning self-help culture, Rodologia's followers argue that psychological "self-realization" can be achieved by identifying the effects of state violence on family histories. Using a Lamarckian-like idea of heredity, Rodologia argues that social and political upheavals, such as gulags, collectivization, and wars, "scar" people's genes and shape the behavior, self, and history of their descendants. The article demonstrates how popular attempts to attribute meanings to Soviet state violence are mediated by a surprising alliance of two cultural logics for articulating the self emerging in post-Soviet Russia-a thriving therapeutic "self-help" culture and a form of recollection inspired by genealogical imagination. A flourishing therapeutic culture and amateur genealogy, I show, emerge as a means to both organize one's relation to the Soviet past and to make sense of fundamental changes occurring in meanings of political order in post-Soviet Russia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-164
Number of pages30
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the American Anthropological Association.


  • Genealogy therapy
  • Memory
  • Postsocialism
  • Power


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