My latest collection of essays, co-edited with Katalin Miklossy (University of Helsinki, Finland) was published by Routledge in August. The book is one of the outcomes of a three-year international collaborative project funded by the Academy of Finland from 2010 to 2012, and supported by the University of Helsinki. The project was hosted at the Aleksanteri Institute (the Finnish Centre for Russian and East European Studies in Helsinki). Contributors to the project are based not only in Finland and the UK, but also in France, Germany and Romania.
The book examines the ways in which competitive practices, more often associated with capitalist market economies, operated in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Individual chapters look at indigenous forms of ‘socialist’ competition as well as the ways in which market strategies and ‘competition’ were adopted and adapted in the Eastern bloc countries. Contributions look at the outcomes of economic reform and modernisation strategies, and the ways in which ‘competition’ operated in the international cultural sphere during the Cold War.
My own chapter explores the Soviet-era beauty contests that took place during the years of Gorbachev’s opening of the Soviet Union to Western influences in the late 1980s. With the advent of glasnost’, there also came a series of regional and national beauty contests. The most widely publicised of these internationally was the first ‘Moscow Beauty’ contest staged in 1988, though a number of local competitions had already taken place the previous year. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, three ‘Miss USSR’ winners were crowned, with competitors going on to represent the Soviet Union in, amongst others, the Miss World and Miss Universe contests.
This has been a fascinating topic for me to research, and, I’m pleased to report, it offers a great deal of scope for future development!