Eliot Borenstein. Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy after Socialism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019

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Julia Zuber


Eliot Borenstein has contributed a rich and insightful study of conspiratorial narratives in Russian films, media, and fiction to the growing scholarly field of post-Soviet conspiracy theory (Astapova et al. 2020; Gentile and Kragh 2022; Yablokov 2018) describing how these narratives function to construct conceptions of Russia’s statehood, identity, and destiny. As the book’s title—Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy after Socialism—encapsulates, Borenstein identifies attacks against Russia or “Russianness” as the central theme of fictional and nonfictional conspiratorial narratives about Russia’s fate, the so-called Russia narratives. However, the author is quick to assert that his study is neither a “demonization of Putin” (p. ix) nor an expression of Russophobia but the result of years of observation of how ideological fantasies created in the cultural field interact with attempts to formulate a legitimizing myth about “the country’s political destiny” (p. xi). The motivation to write this book stems from the fact that under the current Russian government conspiracy narratives have moved from the fringes closer to the center of the cultural and political scene. Ideological narratives are certainly not unique to Russia, considering that all ideology is an internally consistent fantasy (pp. xi, 13), and are not an invention of President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda department, as Borenstein points out several times; rather they were already circulating in mass culture and rose to prominence during Putin’s third term as president because he was able to seize on prevailing perceptions.

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Plots, Russia, Conspiracy, Literature, Media

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